This is great -- Pup Ponders the Heat Death of the Universe -- is a side-scrolling cartoon, illustratiing a view of the 'verse kind of like the Powers of Ten, but teh funny. Well, it's funny in a way that I like, with a carpe diem message and all that. Pup is a philosophical dog, the creation of Drew Weing, a talented artist from Georgia. Great stuff this. I wish there was more like this.
Remember the lyric of that great Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime, which asks, "How did I get here?" That's a great question for this blog; it's been asked down the centuries, of course. Now modern astronomers have begun to answer in greater and greater detail. The History Channel delivers a superb video about the formation of the universe.
On Thursday, March 3rd, I had the chance to hear a lecture by John Dobson, founder of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers Association, and all around cantankerous cosmologist, sponsored by the Minnesota Astronomical Society. His lecture was quite a trip, and well worth driving around the MN State High School Hockey Championship crowds filling the streets of downtown St. Paul.
Dobson is 89 years old yet quite spry, and has spent most of his life helping people discover the wonders of astronomy and the night sky.
He is also a former Vedanta monk who was asked to leave his order for doing astronomy rather than the sanctioned holy work.
His "Bang Free Cosmology" refers to his contention that Big Bang theory is a complete waste of effort, while his own "theory" seems rather short of proof and long on the supernatural explanation. He's cadgy about mentioning "god" or "gods" and instead refers to the Sanskrit physicists from 4,000 years ago as being on the right track.
I wasn't convinced of much, primarily becasue his major rhetorical device was to SHOUT VERY LOUDLY when he was trying to help us break through to his version of numerous theoretical positions. Usually he just played very fast and loose with his numbers and his formulas. I'd have preferred if he had talked more about telescope building. Oh well.
Most of the Minnesota Astronomical Society membership is a bit more sophisiticated than what he seemed to imply, so I'm not sure that his theory convinced anyone.
But I wouldn't have missed seeing the telescope maker whose name graces one of the most popular telescope designs of the last 30 years. It was fun.
Cosmic Evolution: From Big Bang to Humankind by Eric J. Chaisson, Wright Center for Science Education at Tufts University.
"The arrow of time, from origin of the Universe to the present and beyond, spans several major epochs throughout all of history. Cosmic evolution is the study of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of energy, matter, and life in the thinning and cooling Universe."
The Very First Stars by Andy Howell
"What was the universe like when the first stars turned on? When these first stars condensed out of the clouds of the primordial universe, were they arranged as they are today in huge galaxies of billions of stars? Or did stars form first, and later collect into galaxies? Or was the situation something in between? . . . in this one picture we can see more than ten billion years of cosmic history. At once we see today's modern galaxies, and thanks to the focusing power of their gravity, we also see their origins as tiny conglomerations of the very first stars."
Before the Big Bang, There Was . . . What? by Dennis Overbye
"What was God doing before he created the world? The philosopher and writer (and later saint) Augustine posed the question in his "Confessions" in the fourth century, and then came up with a strikingly modern answer: before God created the world there was no time and thus no "before." To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there was no "then" then." [New York Times link -- registration required]
An Atlas of the Universe by Richard Powell
"This web page is designed to give everyone an idea of what our universe actually looks like. There are nine main maps on this web page, each one approximately ten times the scale of the previous one. The first map shows the nearest stars and then the other maps slowly expand out until we have reached the scale of the entire visible universe."
Powers of Ten by Michael W. Davidson
"View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons."