Dec 30, 2011

Isaac Asimov on Creationists and Evolution.

“Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night."
Isaac Asimov(1919- 1992) wrote great novels like the Foundation Series, Robot series or Empire series. Asimov's science fiction. He is a well-known Atheist, Humanist and Rationalist. His Science Fiction has inspired millions. I highly suggest checking out his short story Nightfall. Nightfall's plot revolves around a planet with many suns, and they will finally all set at the same time. What evil is in store?

Dec 29, 2011

James Randi Speaks: Nazareth Did Not Exist During Jesus' Lifetime.

In a controversial video, James Randi, atheist, former magician, and arch-apostle of skepticism, has vigorously endorsed the position that Nazareth did not yet exist when Jesus was supposedly alive (above). "The amazing Randi" thus supports a growing number of experts who suspect that Jesus was no more than a fiction. In his remarks, Randi highlights René Salm's recent book, "The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus". In that book, Salm accuses Christian pseudo-archaeologists such as B. Bagatti, C. Kopp, and E. Richmond of changing and even fabricating evidence to support the fantastic story of "Jesus of Nazareth" portrayed in the gospels. For more information, see Salm's web site,

Christian apologists are lining up to try to refute Salm's meticulously researched book that conclusively demonstrates that the town now known as Nazareth was not inhabited at the time that "Jesus of Nazareth" was supposed to have been living there, and it is clear that they must succeed in refuting this book if Christianity is to survive. Without a Nazareth, "Jesus of Nazareth" becomes a close cousin of The Wizard of Oz.

According to Frank Zindler, the managing editor of American Atheist Press, Nazareth isn't the only geographical fiction in the New Testament. In his article "Where Jesus Never Walked" he showed that such places as Capernaum, Bethany, and Enon are also literary inventions.

Dec 24, 2011

Childish superstition: Einstein's letter makes view of religion relatively clear

Scientist's reply to sell for up to £8,000, and stoke debate over his beliefs
Albert Einstein
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." So said Albert Einstein, and his famous aphorism has been the source of endless debate between believers and non-believers wanting to claim the greatest scientist of the 20th century as their own.

A little known letter written by him, however, may help to settle the argument - or at least provoke further controversy about his views.

Due to be auctioned this week in London after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, the document leaves no doubt that the theoretical physicist was no supporter of religious beliefs, which he regarded as "childish superstitions".

Einstein penned the letter on January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The letter went on public sale a year later and has remained in private hands ever since.

In the letter, he states: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."
Einstein, who was Jewish and who declined an offer to be the state of Israel's second president, also rejected the idea that the Jews are God's favoured people.

"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

The letter will go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair on Thursday and is expected to fetch up to £8,000. The handwritten piece, in German, is not listed in the source material of the most authoritative academic text on the subject, Max Jammer's book Einstein and Religion.
One of the country's leading experts on the scientist, John Brooke of Oxford University, admitted he had not heard of it.

Einstein is best known for his theories of relativity and for the famous E=mc2 equation that describes the equivalence of mass and energy, but his thoughts on religion have long attracted conjecture.
His parents were not religious but he attended a Catholic primary school and at the same time received private tuition in Judaism. This prompted what he later called, his "religious paradise of youth", during which he observed religious rules such as not eating pork. This did not last long though and by 12 he was questioning the truth of many biblical stories.

"The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression," he later wrote.
In his later years he referred to a "cosmic religious feeling" that permeated and sustained his scientific work. In 1954, a year before his death, he spoke of wishing to "experience the universe as a single cosmic whole". He was also fond of using religious flourishes, in 1926 declaring that "He [God] does not throw dice" when referring to randomness thrown up by quantum theory.
His position on God has been widely misrepresented by people on both sides of the atheism/religion divide but he always resisted easy stereotyping on the subject.

"Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him," said Brooke. "It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions ... but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion."

Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote. "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

Dec 20, 2011

Atheism, Communism, and Kim jong Il

There is a common misunderstanding about atheism in communist dictatorships such as those found in North Korea, the former USSR, China, etc. This has become more visible recently after the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.  The religious perpetuate the notion that atheism leads to violent totalitarian regeimes.  This is a confusion of cause and circumstance, and it's a (disingenuous) tactic religious leaders have intentionally used to mislead the faithful for decades.

These political systems do not arise from some kind of atheist "doctrine" or atheist influence.  Often, religion is outlawed (and by that token it could be said that atheism is enforced) because organized religions create their own communities and hierarchies and eventually gain power. Something authoritarian dictatorships dislike. 

Throughout the dark ages for example, the catholic church's power rivaled that of any nation in Europe. That's something China, N. Korea, and the former USSR want to avoid, even in small scale. Totalitarianism does not arise from atheism, but religion does complicate things for dictators, for reasons unrelated to the virtues/vices of religion itself.  The regime isn't a result of a lack of religion, it is rather that these regimes cannot afford to have their populace worship anything but themselves.

Dec 19, 2011

In remembrance of Christopher Hitchens. A video collection.

As I am certain you are all acutely aware, We've recently lost a great humanist and ally on the side of reason, Christopher Hitchens, to esophageal cancer. Hitchens was an amazing man with an amazing intellect, and he will surely be missed by those who would want a more responsible, reasonable world.

Hitchens had an uncanny mastery of the English language and amazing flexibility and adaptability of thought. In remembrance of his legacy, I have amassed a collection of videos exemplifying just how amazing he was at what he did best. It is by no means a comprehensive collection, but it is a collection of many of my personal favorites.


A Christopher Hitchens Video Collection:

Intelligence Squared Debate - Is Catholic church a force for good in the world? (Nov 2009)

CNN Lou Dobbs - UN Wants to Regulate Free Speech (Feb 2009)

ABC News - The Rise of Atheism (Jan 2009)

Connecticut Forum - God: What difference does it make? (Jan 2009)

Larry King Live with Paula Begala on Clinton as Sec. of State (Nov 2008)

Hitchens on Hardball with Chris Matthews on Hilary Clinton as Sec. of State (Nov 2008)

Christopher Hitchens with Laura Ingraham on voting for Obama (Oct 2008)

Watch Christopher Hitchens get waterboarded (August 2008)

Hitchens on the 2008 election with Lateline's Tony Jones (April 2008)

Tim Russert with Guests Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan (April 05 2008)

Christopher Hitchens vs. Peter Hitchens (April 2008)

Hitchens on Barack Obama and race in the 2008 elections (Jan 2008)

The Four Horseman: Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris Hour 1 (Google Video)

The Four Horseman: Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris Hour 2 (Google Video)

Christopher Hitchens on MSNBC Morning Joe Dec 03 2007

Christopher Hitchens discusses Mitt Romney's Religion with Neil Cavuto Nov 2007

Christopher Hitchens on Saul Below BookTV Oct 24 2007

Christopher Hitchens and Tom Delay at the 2007 Hill Book Fair

Christopher Hitchens speaks at the Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention Oct 10, 2007

Hitchens on NPR discussing death of soldier in Iraq Mark Daily (audio) October 8 2007

Hardball: Christopher Hitchens on Princess Diana: 10 Years Later

ABC Lateline: Christopher Hitchens on the Patraeus Report - September 2007

Authors@Google: Christopher Hitchens - August 16, 2007

Book TV In Depth: Christopher Hitchens - September 02, 2007

Debating the existance of God on Hannity & Colmes May 2007

Christopher Hitchens lecture at Seattle's Town Hall Center lecture

Chirstopher Hitchens on Question Time June 2007

Christopher Hitchens debates the Rev. Al Sharpton on Hardball

Christopher Hitchens on Frost Over The World

Hitchens debates Al Sharpton at the NY Public Library (

Christopher Hitchens talks with Bill Maher on god is not Great

Lou Dobbs Interviews Christopher Hitchens on god is not Great

Christopher Hitchens interviewed on The Hour

Christopher Hitchens on Charlie Rose May 2007

Christopher Hitchens discusses Jerry Falwell on Hannity and Colmes

Christopher Hitchens on FOX's Red Eye

Christopher Hitchens discusses terrorism with Tucker Carlson

Charlie Rose with Christopher Hitchen on Thomas Jefferson: Author of America

Christopher Hitchens discusses the Passion of the Christ on Charlie Rose February 2004

Christopher Hitchens - Scarborough Country - The War On Christmas

Dec 10, 2011

11 cheap gifts guaranteed to impress science geeks

11 cheap gifts guaranteed to impress science geeks
Science comes up with a lot of awesome stuff, and you don’t need a Ph.D, a secret lab, or government funding to get your hands on some of the coolest discoveries. We’ve got a list of 11 mostly affordable gifts that are guaranteed to blow your mind, whether or not you’re a science geek.


1. Aerogel

Also known as frozen smoke, Aerogel is the world’s lowest density solid, clocking in at 96% air. It’s basically just a gel made from silicon, except all the liquid has been taken out and replaced with gas instead. If you hold a small piece in your hand, it’s practically impossible to either see or feel, but if you poke it, it’s like styrofoam.
Aerogel isn’t just neat, it’s useful. It supports up to 4,000 times its own weight and can apparently withstand a direct blast from two pounds of dynamite. It’s also the best insulator in existence, which is why we don’t have Aerogel jackets: it works so well that people were complaining about overheating on Mt. Everest.
Price: $35


2. EcoSphere

Inside these sealed glass balls live shrimp, algae, and bacteria, all swimming around in filtered seawater. Put it somewhere with some light, and this little ecosystem will chug along happily for years, no feeding or cleaning necessary, totally oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world exists outside.
EcoSpheres came out of research looking at ways to develop self-contained ecosystems for long duration space travel. They’re like little microcosms for the entire world, man. But ask yourself: are we the shrimp, or the algae?
Price: $80


3. Mars Rock

NASA has been trying to figure out how to get a sample of rock back from Mars for a while now. You can beat them to the punch and pick up a little piece of the red planet without having to travel a hundred million miles, by just taking advantage of all the rocks Mars sends our way.
Every once in a while, a meteorite smashes into Mars hard enough to eject some rocks out into orbit around the sun. And every once in a while, one of these rocks lands on Earth. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and whoever finds the meteorite is allowed to cut it up into bits and sell it to people who want to have their very own piece of another planet.
Price: $70+


4. Gömböc

The Gömböc is a self-righting object, which means that no matter which way you put it down, it stands itself back up. It’s like a Weeble, except it doesn’t cheat by having a weight at the bottom, and it’s the only shape that can do this.
The existence of a shape with these properties was conjectured in 1995, but it took ten years for someone to figure out how to actually make one that worked. And then everyone was embarrassed when it turned out that turtles had evolved this same basic shape in their shells a long time ago, to make it easier for them to roll themselves back over if they get flipped.
Price: $150


5. Violet Laser Pointer

It’s no longer geeky enough to have a red laser pointer, or a green laser pointer, or even a blue laser pointer. Keep moving up the spectrum until you get to violet, and you’ll find the new hotness at 405 nanometers.
So what’s next year’s new color going to be? It’s looking like orange, but they’re not quite what I’d call affordable yet. Something to look forward to for next year, especially if you’re going for your own personal laser rainbow.
Price: $110


6. Gallium

Gallium is a silvery metal with atomic number 31. It’s used in semiconductors and LEDs, but the cool thing about it is its melting point, which is only about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you hold a solid gallium crystal in your hand, your body heat will cause it to slowly melt into a silvery metallic puddle. Pour it into a dish, and it freezes back into a solid.
While you probably shouldn’t lick your fingers after playing with it, gallium isn’t toxic and won’t make you crazy like mercury does. And if you get tired of it, you can melt it onto glass and make yourself a mirror.
Price: $80


7. Miracle Berries

By themselves, Miracle berries don’t taste like much. The reason to eat them is that they contain a chemical called miraculin that binds to the sweet taste receptors on your tongue, changing their shape and making them respond to sour and acidic foods.
The upshot of this effect is that some things you eat taste spectacularly different. Straight Tabasco sauce tastes like donut glaze. Guinness tastes like a chocolate malt. Goat cheese tastes like cheesecake. After about an hour of craziness, your taste buds go back to normal, no harm done.
Price: $15


8. DNA Genotyping

There’s nothing more personal than someone’s own DNA. And there are ways to give the gift DNA that won’t get you children or arrested. With just a little bit of spit, you can get an genotype analysis that will reveal fun insights about longevity, intelligence, susceptibility to diseases, and even food preferences.
While the technology hasn’t reached the point where you can affordably get a complete sequence of an entire genome, looking at specific markers is still good enough to suggest some things worth looking out for while spurring a lively nature versus nurture debate.
Price: $100


9. Klein Bottle

If you want to give a mathematician something to try to wrap their head around, a Klein bottle is a good place to start. A real Klein bottle is an object with no inside and no outside that can only exist in four dimensions. These glass models exist in three, which means that unlike the real thing, they can actually hold liquid.
The difference between the models and the real thing is that by adding an extra dimension, you can make it so that the neck of the bottle doesn’t actually intersect the side of the bottle. Take a couple aspirin and try to picture that in your head.
Price: $35


10. Giant Plush Microbes

They’re cute! They’re fuzzy! They’re potentially deadly! All of the microbes, bacteria, and viruses that you know and love (or maybe not) are available in huggable forms about a million times larger than real life. In the picture are gonorrhea, syphilis, mono, and herpes.
These giant plushes are the perfect way to make the holidays even more awkward, when you present your friends with a variety of adorable STDs. Microbiologists, at least, will appreciate that they’re more or less anatomically correct, too.
Price: $9


11. Ferrofluid

Magnetic particles suspended in oil never looked so sexy. That’s all a ferrofluid is, and it looks pretty gross until you put it in close proximity to a magnet, at which point it grows spikes all over the place as the fluid flows out along magnetic force lines.
Ferrofluids are found in everything from speakers to hard drives, but it’s much more fun to play with when when you’ve got a puddle of it naked and out in the open.
Price: $40

Dec 2, 2011

Must Watch: Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pamela Gay, and Lawrence Krauss discuss our future in space

I'll come right out and say it: you need to watch this video. It's a bit on the long side, but the weekend is almost here, and you owe it to yourself to set aside 53 minutes to watch a veritable scientific dream team talk about humanity's future in space.
The video, originally shot back in July at TAM 2011 Las Vegas, is of a panel featuring Bill Nye, astronomers Neil DeGrasse Tyson & Pamela Gay, and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss—and the entire discussion is moderated by Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait. The subjects raised are consequential, the discussions thought provoking, and the opinions of the panelists refreshingly diverse (and often conflicting).

Nov 10, 2011

The Latest Symphony of Science Video Starring Neil deGrasse Tyson, Plus A Birthday Shout To Carl Sagan

That’s John Boswell’s latest Symphony of Science installment, “Onward to the Edge!” It includes Neil deGrasse Tyson, as heard on the latest Nerdist Podcast, plus bits of Brian Cox narrating the BBC’s Wonders of the Solar System and a TED Talk by Carolyn Porco.  These things are genius, in more ways than one.

There’s also Cox reading a line from the late, great Carl Sagan in there. Today would have been Sagan’s 77th birthday. His influence on countless young minds is incalcuable. (Insert “billions” reference here)  That’s worth celebrating.  And as we've heard recently, Sagan’s epic Cosmos is getting a sequel series on Fox, hosted by… Neil deGrasse Tyson. Everything’s connected.

Nov 5, 2011

Reasonably Certain.

A great video illustrating what it's like to be an atheist in a world full of believers; accutely aware of that which all others seem to be so oblivious.

Nov 4, 2011

Obama's comments on fundamentalism.

For those of you wondering about Obama's opinion on religion, this is a video of his stance made before he was elected. Very well stated.

Oct 25, 2011

For Sale: The Future

In 1903, the first powered flight took place and covered just 37 meters.  20 years later the first non-stop flight from NY to Paris took place (5800km).  In 1969, only a scant 42 years later, we landed a man on the moon 350,000 km away.  After another 42 years, just imagine what we will accomplish!

What a travesty.

Oct 9, 2011

Welcome To This World

A fantastic video about what is expected of us of our heavenly father from the moment we are born.

Welcome to this world.

Sep 30, 2011

Carl Sagan Ponders Time Travel

Carl Sagan, the astronomer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and legendary popularizer of science, gave this interview in the mid-1990s during the making of NOVA's program "Time Travel." True to form, he discusses arcane aspects of the field—from how you define time to what it might look like inside a wormhole—with flair and a refreshing dash of humor.

Here Sagan stands near a model of the Voyager 2 spacecraft in January, 1986, soon after the release of his novel Contact, which toyed with the notion of time travel. Enlarge Photo credit: AP Photo/Lennox McLendon

The Nature of Time

NOVA: Let's start with the crux of the matter: What, for you, is time?

Carl Sagan: Ever since St. Augustine, people have wrestled with this, and there are all sorts of things it isn't. It isn't a flow of something, because what does it flow past? We use time to measure flow. How could we use time to measure time? We are stuck in it, each of us time travels into the future, one year, every year. None of us to any significant precision does otherwise. If we could travel close to the speed of light, then we could travel further into the future in a given amount of time. It is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition.
"It might be that you can build a time machine to go into the future, but not into the past."


Do you think that backwards time travel will ever be possible?

Such questions are purely a matter of evidence, and if the evidence is inconsistent or insufficient, then we withhold judgment until there is better evidence. Right now we're in one of those classic, wonderfully evocative moments in science when we don't know, when there are those on both sides of the debate, and when what is at stake is very mystifying and very profound.
If we could travel into the past, it's mind-boggling what would be possible. For one thing, history would become an experimental science, which it certainly isn't today. The possible insights into our own past and nature and origins would be dazzling. For another, we would be facing the deep paradoxes of interfering with the scheme of causality that has led to our own time and ourselves. I have no idea whether it's possible, but it's certainly worth exploring.


Would you like it to be possible?

I have mixed feelings. The explorer and experimentalist in me would very much like it to be possible. But the idea that going into the past could wipe me out so that I would have never lived is somewhat disquieting.


On that note, can you describe the "grandfather paradox?"

The grandfather paradox is a very simple, science-fiction-based apparent inconsistency at the very heart of the idea of time travel into the past. It's very simply that you travel into the past and murder your own grandfather before he sires your mother or your father, and where does that then leave you? Do you instantly pop out of existence because you were never made? Or are you in a new causality scheme in which, since you are there you are there, and the events in the future leading to your adult life are now very different? The heart of the paradox is the apparent existence of you, the murderer of your own grandfather, when the very act of you murdering your own grandfather eliminates the possibility of you ever coming into existence.
Among the claimed solutions are that you can't murder your grandfather. You shoot him, but at the critical moment he bends over to tie his shoelace, or the gun jams, or somehow nature contrives to prevent the act that interrupts the causality scheme leading to your own existence.


Do you find it easy to believe the world might work that way—that is, self-consistently—or do you think it's more likely that that there are parallel universes?

It's still somewhat of a heretical ideal to suggest that every interference with an event in the past leads to a fork, a branch in causality. You have two equally valid universes: one, the one that we all know and love, and the other, which is brought about by the act of time travel. I know the idea of the universe having to work out a self-consistent causality is appealing to a great many physicists, but I don't find the argument for it so compelling. I think inconsistencies might very well be consistent with the universe.
"Maybe backward time travel is possible, but only up to the moment that time travel is invented."


As a physicist, what do you make of Stephen Hawking's chronological protection conjecture [which holds that the laws of physics disallow time machines]?

There have been some toy experiments in which, at just the moment that the time machine is actuated, the universe conspires to blow it up, which has led Hawking and others to conclude that nature will contrive it so that time travel never in fact occurs. But no one actually knows that this is the case, and it cannot be known until we have a full theory of quantum gravity, which we do not seem to be on the verge of yet.
One of Hawking's arguments in the conjecture is that we are not awash in thousands of time travelers from the future, and therefore time travel is impossible. This argument I find very dubious, and it reminds me very much of the argument that there cannot be intelligences elsewhere in space, because otherwise the Earth would be awash in aliens. I can think half a dozen ways in which we could not be awash in time travelers, and still time travel is possible.


Such as?

First of all, it might be that you can build a time machine to go into the future, but not into the past, and we don't know about it because we haven't yet invented that time machine. Secondly, it might be that time travel into the past is possible, but they haven't gotten to our time yet, they're very far in the future and the further back in time you go, the more expensive it is. Thirdly, maybe backward time travel is possible, but only up to the moment that time travel is invented. We haven't invented it yet, so they can't come to us. They can come to as far back as whatever it would be, say A.D. 2300, but not further back in time.
Then there's the possibility that they're here alright, but we don't see them. They have perfect invisibility cloaks or something. If they have such highly developed technology, then why not? Then there's the possibility that they're here and we do see them, but we call them something else—UFOs or ghosts or hobgoblins or fairies or something like that. Finally, there's the possibility that time travel is perfectly possible, but it requires a great advance in our technology, and human civilization will destroy itself before time travelers invent it.
I'm sure there are other possibilities as well, but if you just think of that range of possibilities, I don't think the fact that we're not obviously being visited by time travelers shows that time travel is impossible.
"Time travel into the indefinite future is consistent with the laws of nature."


How is the speed of light connected to time travel?

A profound consequence of Einstein's special theory of relativity is that no material object can travel as fast as light. It is forbidden. There is a commandment: Thou shalt not travel at the speed of light, and there's nothing we can do to travel that fast.
The reason this is connected with time travel is because another consequence of special relativity is that time, as measured by the speeding space traveler, slows down compared to time as measured by a friend left home on Earth. This is sometimes described as the "twin paradox": two identical twins, one of whom goes off on a voyage close to the speed of light, and the other one stays home. When the space-traveling twin returns home, he or she has aged only a little, while the twin who has remained at home has aged at the regular pace. So we have two identical twins who may be decades apart in age. Or maybe the traveling twin returns in the far future, if you go close enough to the speed of light, and everybody he knows, everybody he ever heard of has died, and it's a very different civilization.
It's an intriguing idea, and it underscores the fact that time travel into the indefinite future is consistent with the laws of nature. It's only travel backwards in time that is the source of the debate and the tingling sensations that physicists and science-fiction readers delight in.

Sagan's 1985 novel sparked not only a Hollywood film but also a slew of scientific papers speculating on the possibility of time travel. Enlarge


A marvellous possibility

In your novel Contact, your main character Eleanor Arroway travels through a wormhole. Can you describe a wormhole?

Let's imagine that we live in a two-dimensional space. We wish to go from spot A to spot B. But A and B are so far apart that at the speed of light it would take much longer than a generational time or two to get there as measured back on world A. Instead, you have a kind of tunnel that goes through an otherwise inaccessible third dimension and connects A and B. You can go much faster through the tunnel, and so you get from A to B without covering the intervening space, which is somewhat mind-boggling but consistent with the laws of nature. And [the theoretical physicist] Kip Thorne found that if we imagine an indefinitely advanced technical civilization, such a wormhole is consistent with the laws of physics.
It's very different from saying that we ourselves could construct such a wormhole. One of the basic ideas of how to do it is that there are fantastically minute wormholes that are forming and decaying all the time at the quantum level, and the idea is to grab one of those and keep it permanently open. Our high-energy particle accelerators don't have enough energy to even detect the phenomenon at that scale, much less do anything like holding a wormhole open. But it did seem in principle possible, so I reconfigured the book so that Eleanor Arroway successfully makes it through the center of the galaxy via a wormhole.
"This innocent inquiry in the context of writing a science-fiction novel has sparked a whole field of physics."


What do you think it would be like to travel through a wormhole?

Nobody really knows, but what Thorne has taught me is that say, for example, you were going through a wormhole from point A to point B. Suppose point B was in orbit around some bright star. The moment you were in the wormhole, near your point of origin A, you would see that star. And it would be very bright; it wouldn't be a tiny point in the distance. On the other hand, if you look sideways, you would not see out of the wormhole, you would be in that fourth physical dimension. What the walls of the wormhole would be is deeply mysterious. And the possibility was also raised that if you looked backwards in the wormhole you would see the very place on world A that you had left. And that would be true even as you emerged out of the wormhole near the star B. You would see in space a kind of black sphere, in which would be an image of the place you had left on Earth, just floating in the blackness of space. Very Alice in Wonderland.


Your inquiries about space travel for Contact sparked a whole new direction in research on time travel. How does that make you feel?

I find it marvellous, I mean literally marvellous, full of marvel, that this innocent inquiry in the context of writing a science-fiction novel has sparked a whole field of physics and dozens of scientific papers by some of the best physicists in the world. I'm so pleased to have played this catalytic role not just in fast spaceflight but in the idea of time travel.


How do you feel being responsible for bringing time travel perhaps a step closer?

I don't know that I've brought time travel a step closer. If anyone has it's Kip Thorne. But maybe the joint effort of all those involved in this debate has at least increased the respectability of serious consideration of the possibility of time travel. As a youngster who was fascinated by the possibility of time travel in the science-fiction novels of H.G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, and others, to be in any way involved in the possible actualization of time travel—well, it just brings goose bumps. Of course we're not really at that stage; we don't know that time travel is even possible, and if it is, we certainly haven't developed the time machine. But it's a stunning fact that we have now reached a stage in our understanding of nature where this is even a bare possibility.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Time Travel.

Steven Colbert and Steve Carell on Christianity vs. Islam

Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell debate the merits of Christianity and Islam in a classic segment of "Even Stephens"

Secret search and seizure of your PC.

Goddamn right...

Sep 29, 2011

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out was filmed in 1981 and will delight and inspire anyone who would like to share something of the joys of scientific discovery. Feynman is a master storyteller, and his tales – about childhood, Los Alamos, or how he won a Nobel Prize – are a vivid and entertaining insight into the mind of a great scientist at work and play.

In this candid interview Feynman touches on a wide array of topics from the beauty of nature to particle physics. He explains things that are hard to grasp in layman’s terms much like Carl Sagan did in the cosmos series. His explanation of the scientific method covers what we know, why we know it and most importantly, what we don’t know and the pleasure of figuring it out.

While the video quality is less than desirable the content of this program more than makes up for it. Professor Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Prize for Chemistry said “The 1981 Feynman Horizon is the best science program I have ever seen. This is not just my opinion – it is also the opinion of many of the best scientists that I know who have seen the program… It should be mandatory viewing for all students whether they be science or arts students.”

Sep 23, 2011

If a marshmallow traveled at 99.99 percent the speed of light hit the Earth, what would happen?

The relativistic factor is:
   gamma =  -------------       = 70.7
                       2  1/2
            ( 1 - (v/c)  )

and the total energy is then
  E = gamma x m c

A marshmallow weighs about 10 grams, so the total energy is about 70.7 x 10 x ( 30,000,000,000)^2 = 6.4 x 10^23 ergs. I think this is equal in energy to a few dozen good-sized hydrogen bombs. It makes a mess on the surface, but has no effect on the orbit of the earth. Please, do not attempt this experiment yourself. Consult professionals first!!

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All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the NASA Astronomy Cafe, part of the NASA Education and Public Outreach program.

From Stanford University's "Gravity Probe B"

Special & General Relativity Questions and Answers

Can space exist by itself without matter or energy around?

No. Experiments continue to show that there is no 'space' that stands apart from space-time arena in which matter, energy and gravity operate which is not affected by matter, energy and gravity. General relativity tells us that what we call space is just another feature of the gravitational field of the universe, so space and space-time can and do not exist apart from the matter and energy that creates the gravitational field. This is not speculation, but sound observation.

Return to the Special & General Relativity Questions and Answers page.
All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the NASA Astronomy Cafe, part of the NASA Education and Public Outreach program.