Big News in Science and Other Links


The first evidence for cosmic inflation–i.e., the Big Bang–was discovered this week.

Megan Garber at The Atlantic, “What It’s Like to be Right About the Big Bang?”

The search for Flight MH370 is revealing one thing: the ocean is filled with garbage.

Kim Stanley Robinson alert: Paul Rosenfeld, “Would You Take a One-Way Ticket to Mars?”

And as part of his forthcoming 3 million page novel, Breeze Avenue (2015), Richard Grossman has buried a crystal ball deep inside of Princeton Mountain in Colorado. The ball, “made of synthetic sapphire, which is almost as indestructible as diamond,” has the Ten Commandments inscribed on it in Hebrew, and in “20 million years, as a result of natural forces carefully calculated by the geologists, the Torah Ball will emerge from its eroded resting place and bear the Ten Commandments down the mountain.” Hyperarchivalists of the deep future rejoice!

Richard Grossman, The Torah Ball (Synthetic Sapphire, Princeton Mountain, 20 Million Years of Erosion, 2011).

Richard Grossman, The Torah Ball (Synthetic Sapphire, Princeton Mountain, 20 Million Years of Erosion, 2011).

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On the Beginning (a rare subject)

io9 has two new articles re: the beginning of the universe. The first is on the James Webb Telescope, to be completed by 2018. According to Michael Shara “[The James Webb Space Telescope] has, in many ways, 100 times the capabilities that the Hubble Space Telescope does. We’re actually going to be able to see the first stars forming, the first galaxies forming after the Big Bang. We’re also going to be able to — we think — directly image planets orbiting other stars.” The James Webb Telescope may allow astrophysicists to observe the very beginnings of the universe, something that (at least I) thought was as impossible as seeing the end of the universe. Perhaps Frank Kermode’s statement that humans live in “the middest,” w/o access to our beginnings or endings, will have to be revised if we actually can observe the origin of the universe. (And what if there’s a little dude wearing a fig leaf waving at us when we observe events shortly following the Big Bang?)

Second (speaking of the Big Bang), physicists are now theorizing that “the start of the universe should not be modeled as a Big Bang, but rather like a Big Freeze — akin to water transforming into ice.”