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Build your own star!

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  2 hours ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Want to kill the rest of your weekend? Games like 1024 have taken the app world by storm, so why not take the next logical step into geekdom and do what two RPI students have done: make a version that allows you to fuse elements in stars? Going all the way up to Iron, this addictive game is actually pretty good as far as getting most of the science right. Enjoy (and play) Fe[26] here!"

There's got to be more than the Standard Model

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  2 days ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "The Standard Model of particle physics is perhaps the most successful physical theory of our Universe, and with the discovery and measurement of the Higgs boson, may be all there is as far as fundamental particles accessible through terrestrial accelerator physics. But there are at least five verified observations we've made, many in a variety of ways, that demonstrably show that the Standard Model cannot be all there is to the Universe. Here are the top 5 signs of new physics."

How the Sun really shines

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  3 days ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Sure, you might know that the Sun gets its energy from fusing hydrogen into helium, but did you ever stop to think that's only part of the story? As it turns out, there are more reactions that fuse hydrogen into hydrogen or helium into helium than there are those that produce helium from hydrogen, and you'd never get anywhere if it weren't for the bizarre diproton consisting of two protons and no neutrons! Go learn the nuclear physics details you never got in school."

Is Germany raising a generation of illiterates?

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about a week ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Over at Starts With A Bang, the weekly question comes in from Germany, where we're informed:

'In Germany, many teachers have adopted a new way of teaching children to write properly. The way is called “Writing by Reading” and essentially says: Write as you wish, you’re not bound by any rules. [] [R]ecently, this way of teaching has been heavily criticized [link in German], but not before it has been “tested” on several years of school children.'

The reading wars have been going on in the US, too, but will this wind up having a negative outcome? Or, as this piece argues, is it likely to be a wash?"


The Lives and Deaths of Sun-Like Stars

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about two weeks ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "You might look up at our Sun in the sky, delighted at its brilliance and thankful for all it’s brought to our world. But it won’t live forever, and will someday burn through its fuel and die. As it turns out, the Sun is a very common type of star, and shares certain properties with the vast majority of them. In fact, Sun-like stars have a pretty universal story as far as where they came from, how they live, the different stages they go through and what happens to them as they end their lives. It’s a story nearly as old as the Universe itself, and a story that will continue to go on for trillions of years. Go and enjoy it for yourself."

Incredibly rare "back-to-back" maximum eclipses are coming!

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about two weeks ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "The Moon orbits the Earth and the Moon-Earth system orbits the Sun: simple enough. Because the Moon's orbit around the Earth is slightly inclined (by about 5 degrees) to the Earth-Sun orbital plane, eclipses are rare, happening only about four times a year on average, as it's only when the Moon-Earth-Sun nodes align at the right time that they can occur. Normally, this orbital motion prevents a total (or annular) solar eclipse from immediately following or preceding a total lunar eclipse, something you can see if you compare the list of lunar eclipses with the list of total-and-annular solar eclipses. But sometimes, things work out just right. This April 15th and then 29th, get ready for back-to-back maximal eclipses, with a total lunar eclipse immediately followed by an annular solar eclipse!"

Why are we made of matter?

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about two weeks ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "The Universe began with equal amounts of matter and antimatter after the Big Bang, and yet when we look out at today's Universe, we find that, even on the largest scales, it's made of at least 99.999%+ matter and not antimatter. The problem of how we went from a matter-antimatter-symmetric Universe to the matter-dominated one we have today is known as baryogenesis, and is one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics. Where are we on the quest to understand it as of April, 2014? A wonderful and comprehensive recap is here."

The Multiverse is not the answer

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about two weeks ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "

The Multiverse may exist to the best of our knowledge; we have very good reasons to think it probably does. But that does not mean—not by any stretch—that there are parallel Universes out there with wildly different physical constants, interactions or properties in general.

A statement or admission of our own ignorance, that we do not understand the dynamics that gave rise to the constants of our Universe, does not mean that there are none, that all values are taken on somewhere in some Universe, and that ours just happens to have the values it does, which are serendipitous to our existence.

That line of thinking not only isn’t even science, it’s a cop-out, and a distraction from those who are actually seeking scientific answers to the hardest of scientific problems out there.

Ever wonder why the fundamental constants of the Universe have the values that they do? It's a wonderful question to ask, and one of the hardest to answer in modern science. But if you think "the Multiverse" potentially holds the answer, think again."


Why there are (at most) eight planets in the Solar System

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about three weeks ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "The Plutophiles are at it again, spreading around their case for Pluto — or a possible world beyond it — to be granted planetary status. (And news that it's already happened has been spreading in the form of April Fools' jokes.) But it's never going to happen, for reasons that have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the science of the Solar System's history and formation. This classification scheme can neatly be applied to all other solar systems in our galaxy as well!"

Have we found our last fundamental particle?

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about three weeks ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "In July 2012, the CMS and ATLAS collaborations jointly announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, now confirmed at more than 6- to be between 125 and 126 GeV. But years earlier, in 2009, it was calculated what mass the Higgs would need to be in order to keep the standard model stable, so that there would be no need for new particles all the way up to the Planck scale. The prediction? 126 GeV. If this is reasoning is correct, the Higgs boson will be the last new fundamental particle ever discovered by humanity."

What is the Multiverse, and why do we think it exists?

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about three weeks ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "You might think that you're significant, but on a cosmic scale, you're not even an atom compared to the observable Universe. And the entirety of the observable Universe is just a small fraction of what the unobservable Universe must consist of, but it gets worse. In the aftermath of the BICEP2 results, confirming that our Universe underwent a period of cosmic inflation which set up the hot Big Bang, the laws of physics lead us to the conclusion that the Multiverse is real. But prospects for the next holy grail — figuring out what the properties of this Multiverse are — appear grim."

All about Cosmic Inflation

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about 1 month ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "On Monday, the BICEP2 collaboration announced their discovery of an imprint of gravitational waves on the cosmic microwave background, a smoking gun for a period of cosmological inflation that came before the Big Bang. But why does it mean that, and what can this result tell us about what type of inflation occurred? For those of you who like details, images and graphs with your long-form reads, this piece that's all about inflation is for you."

Our supermassive black hole opens its jaws

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about a month ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "As far as supermassive black holes go, the one at the center of our galaxy usually finds itself on the boring end. While many galaxies have black holes with tens or hundreds of millions of times the mass of our Sun, and a few even reach into the billions, ours sits humbly at a mere four million solar masses. And while many black holes emit huge amounts of X-ray energy, ours sits quietly, virtually devoid of fuel. But what if a molecular gas cloud were to come along and feed it? Believe it or not, this is about to happen! Here's what we can expect. (Spoiler: no doom.)"

Where do lithium, beryllium and boron come from?

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about a month ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "You've all learned about the periodic table of the elements: the 92 naturally occurring atoms (and their isotopes) found in the Solar System, plus some man-made ones that we've created here on Earth. If we look at how these elements came to be, though, the lightest ones come to us from the Big Bang, while all the atoms that are carbon-and-heavier come from the insides of stars. But the elements in between helium and carbon are actually destroyed by stars, and yet they exist in quite significant abundance here on Earth. Where do they come from? Surprisingly, black holes and cosmic rays play a huge role!"

Why the world needs Cosmos

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about a month ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Yes, yes, he's not Carl Sagan, and if the first episode of Neil de Grasse Tyson's Cosmos was at all indicative of what's to come, it seems there be a slanted version of history presented. But there's a compelling case to be made that the world needs Cosmos now, and not just for social, political or scientific reasons, but for very personal ones that are relevant to us all."

Can Science ever be "Settled"?

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about a month and a half ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "From physics to biology, from health and medicine to environmental and climate science, you'll frequently hear claims that the science is settled. Meanwhile, those who disagree with the conclusions will clamor that science can never be "settled," and then the name-calling from "alarmist" to "denier" ensues. But can science legitimately ever be considered settled, and if so, what does that mean? We consider gravitation, evolution, the Big Bang, germ theory and global warming in an effort to find out."

The Rise and Fall of Supersymmetry

StartsWithABang StartsWithABang writes  |  about a month and a half ago

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Have you ever wondered why the masses of the fundamental particles have the small values that they do, compared to, say, the Planck scale? Whether the fundamental forces all unify at some high energy? And whether there's a natural, compelling particle candidate for dark matter? Well, in theory supersymmetry (or SUSY, for short) could have solve all three of these problems. In fact, if it solves the first one alone, there will be definitive experimental signatures for it at the Large Hadron Collider. Well, the LHC has completed its first run, and found nothing. What does this mean for theoretical physics, for SUSY in particular, and what are the implications for string theory? A very clear explanation is given here; it might be time to start hammering in those coffin nails."


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