Essay by Steven Soter, Scientist-in-Residence in the Center for Ancient Studies at New York University. Gedanken experiments, which have been used for hundreds of years by scientists and philosophers to ponder thorny problems, rely on the power of one's imagination to project these scenarios to logical conclusions. They do not involve lab equipment or, often, even experimental data. They can be thought of as focused daydreams. Yet, as in the famous case of Einstein's Gedanken experiments about what it would be like to hitch a ride on a light wave, they have often led to important scientific breakthroughs.
Our cosmos was "bruised" in collisions with other universes. Now astronomers have found the first evidence of these impacts in the cosmic microwave background. There's something exciting afoot in the world of cosmology. Last month, Roger Penrose at the University of Oxford and Vahe Gurzadyan at Yerevan State University in Armenia announced that they had found patterns of concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background, the echo of the Big Bang.
On September 22, 2010, with the departure of the Expedition 23 crew, Colonel Douglas H. Wheelock assumed command of the International Space Station and the Expedition 25 crew. He is also known as @Astro_Wheels on twitter, where he has been tweeting pictures to his followers since he arrived at the space station. The images bring breathtaking views from our only off planet Vista point. The captions are all his own words.
Astronomy is experiencing a golden era. The past decade alone has brought amazing discoveries that have excited people from all walks of life, from the first planets orbiting other stars to the accelerating Universe, dominated by the still-enigmatic dark matter and dark energy. Europe is at the forefront of all areas of contemporary astronomy, thanks in particular to the flagship ground-based facilities operated by ESO, the pre-eminent intergovernmental science and technology organisation in astronomy. The challenge is to consolidate and strengthen this position for the future.
Hold the front page: the big bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. Or indeed, as the front page of the London Times put it: "Hawking: God did not create universe". Media furore over Stephen Hawking's new book, The Grand Design, has made it the biggest science news story of the day. But it's not like Hawking has suddenly given up a religious belief – let alone proved that God doesn't exist.
In February, 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced the little understood phenomenon sometimes called the “Overview Effect”. He describes being completely engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness. Without warning, he says, a feeing of bliss, timelessness, and connectedness began to overwhelm him. He describes becoming instantly and profoundly aware that each of his constituent atoms were connected to the fragile planet he saw in the window and to every other atom in the Universe. He described experiencing an intense awareness that Earth, with its humans, other animal species, and systems were all one synergistic whole. He says the feeling that rushed over him was a sense of interconnected euphoria. He was not the first—nor the last—to experience this strange “cosmic connection”.
Back in the summer of 1962, the U.S. blew up a hydrogen bomb in outer space, some 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean. It was a weapons test, but one that created a man-made light show that has never been equaled — and hopefully never will.
An international research team, lead by French astrophysicists from the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Toulouse-Tarbes, has detected a magnetic field at the surface of the supergiant star Betelgeuse. This observational result, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, demonstrates that, in spite of the theoretical framework usually proposed to account for the magnetism of astrophysical bodies like the Earth or the Sun, the rotation of cosmic objects is not a necessary ingredient to trigger the efficient generation of a magnetic field.
"Some UFOs are intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft, and this is the biggest story of the millennium." These words are not the rantings of a deranged individual looking for attention or a comfortable straitjacket. Stanton Friedman is a maverick of sorts. Employed for 14 years as a nuclear physicist for companies like General Electric, General Motors, Westinghouse and Aerojet General Nucleonics, he worked on highly classified programs involving nuclear aircraft, fission and fusion rockets.
Einstein-Rosen Bridges (ERBs), or wormholes, are a popular feature in science fiction. They were featured prominently in shows such as Star Trek: Voyager and Sliders. These portals have their basis in Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. A wormhole exists at the center of a black hole. A black hole is a star which has collapsed; its massive gravitational field sucks in everything which passes the boundary, called the event horizon.