Another Earth

I just had breakfast and it made me sick. I had a yoghurt and some cherries. The bones of the cherries now sit in a bowl, together with those of the apricots I had for dinner yesterday. Later, when I go out for a walk by the lake, I’ll let them slide from the bowl down in the compost bin, to join the green rests of the other households around mine.

The yoghurt pot sits in the trash bag: when it joins the trash bags of the other people living in my condo it’ll make a trip to a landfill and be dumped there, not so many kilometers from where I live but enough to be out of sight and out of mind.

I’m filling land with my waste, I’m hiding stuff just below the surface of my planet, as if it will never come back to me. I guess that’s the rule of the game: if you don’t see it with your eyes, it doesn’t exists, ergo it’s not a problem.

This is what makes me sick. Every time I unpack food there’s something to be thrown “away”. I feel it like a shadow that persistently walks behind me: at every toss it grows, so I should notice better, instead I let it grow larger and larger … sooner or later it’ll cover a sizable part of the planet where I live, the most beautiful planet we know of, Earth.

A couple weeks ago NASA shared a new catalog of planets discovered beyond our cosmic backyard. Earlier on, they told us about the discovery of a planet that could be our big brother or cousin: called Kepler 452-b, it’s just a bit older and larger than Earth but otherwise very similar. One of the tweets I reposted about that announcement said:

“Hopefully aliens on Kepler 452-b have telescopes that have just discovered Earth, and are very excited to have found Kepler 452-b’s twin!

If these aliens exist, I wonder how they live, if they have established a more considerate way to exist on their home planet, taking responsibility for their actions, making choices for the future of their environment, where their descendants will live after these decisions have been taken by someone else on their behalf.

I hope they are not oblivious to these implications just because they are not the ones who’ll have to deal with them. I wonder if they are living as hypnotized as we are, formatted to think that what we have been given as habitudes are the right ones just because everyone else does like this and it’s always been this way … or because it’s too annoying to think so deep: everyday life already has its problems.

2085_53_psoj318-5-22_screen

Make sure you visit the other options at the Exoplanet Travel Bureau.

That’s what my mom and sister tell me, when I suggest them to consider behaving differently toward our planet. I try to remind them that it’s not just our planet, it’s everyone’s! it’s where our little niece will grow up: what will we answer them when they ask: “you knew you were screwing my world, why didn’t you do anything? how could you be so lazy and selfish?”

I think they feel obliged to comply to some impersonal diktat; on the contrary, I feel empowered: each of us can do so much to live in a better equilibrium with the world that supports us and feeds us, as it’s done with those who came before us; how would we feel if they had left us what we are preparing for our sons and daughters? what would we think of them?
A friend recently reminded me that evolution is morally blind: while from a scientific point of view I know this is true, I still dream of humans inhabiting Earth for deeper reasons than natural selection, like this young guy is doing

Reflections on a black mirror

blackmirrortitlecard

If I ever wrote a novel “Reflections on a black mirror” would be a tempting title. In the meantime it is the typical title of an entry in the “gr-qc” bulletin, which comes out Monday to Friday, holidays permitting, and lets you find out what’s up in the world of “General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology” research.

You would think it is too much of an arcane world to be interesting to the uninitiated and you wouldn’t be wrong. However this research is done by men and women that live in the same world as we do. It just so happens then that sometimes researchers express esoteric concepts by appealing to common language and expressions from the pop culture.  Here you are a few peculiar entries in this sense for your own surprise and amusement: I’d like them to serve as an entry door for you to this branch of physics. Pick the most tempting title and go read the relative abstract; then feel free to ask me to expand on your favorite one.

To conclude, I’d like to show you an example that best encapsulates the take-away message from this post: science is an open business, where even gravity is still up for a deeper explanation! The example I chose is among the plainest I could find. It relates on the nature of gravity, and uses many topical expressions of the research world, such as: perspective, concordance, implications, evidence, approach, attempts, problem, solution, (mis)understanding, alternative. This is how the research community let the Universe speak through gravitational waves, this is how humanity will get to the conquests of tomorrow, both scientific and technological: with such brainstorming as the one daily hosted on the “gr-qc” bulletin.

Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When a new virus appears … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When Einstein wants to be vindicated … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When climate seems to go crazy … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When a new planet seems to be lurking in the Solar System … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need robots to enter nuclear plants … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When antibiotics are not effective anymore … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to know how red the Red Planet is … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need a machine that cracks numbers quicker than you can … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to optimize traffic … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need safer cars … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want energy for the future … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need clean water for the poor … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want to reinforce the bones of the elderly … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need to communicate faster … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you want light rays to scan your body … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

When you need particle beams to cure your tumors … Who you gonna call? Researchers!

Ghostbusters

RESEARCH SPINOFFS 

Review paper on the physics of proton therapy: http://t.co/K70SdQEIg6

The Atlantic highlights some cool health-based spinoffs: http://t.co/UDYUSj3byI

High Speed Camera Used In Space Adapted To Scan Skin Cells http://t.co/W7Ealz5vh8

wi-fi and astronomy:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2015/03/05/4183467.htm

Eye-tracking technology developed for ISS research now being used in laser eye surgery http://t.co/w5fG9Y0Sd8 http://t.co/z6GoSBt72z

This is how the camera in your phone came to be.  The invention and early history of the CCD http://t.co/JBpD4388bg

To teachers

A few days separate us from The Global Teacher Prize 2016 Winner Announcement and I’ve discovered this personal endorsement from Stephen Hawking:

His words are very passionate and the account personal; these two excerpts have touched me in a particularly deep way:

“ … for each mind to achieve its full potential, it needs a spark. The spark of enquiry, excitement, and passion. Often that spark comes from a teacher. [ … ]

I wasn’t the easiest person to teach: I was slow to learn to read and my handwriting was untidy. But at the age of 14, my teacher, Dikran Tahta, showed me how to harness my energy and encouraged me to think creatively about Maths. He made me wonder, he made me curious, he opened up new worlds to me … that is what a great teacher can do. ”

To teachers!!!

Outrageous Outreach

You might have noticed that I’m still very excited about the discovery of gravitational waves … judging from the media I’m not the only one. This week gravitational waves hit the Late Show with Stephen Colbert 

This was not the first time science made it to tv shows: the Hubble Space Telescope was featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: and not just once but twice!

 
Astronomy is so cool that it can be featured on the covers of music albums, such as Joy Divison’s or Megadeth’s:
Megadeth_LHC_album

Megadeth “Super Collider” album cover

Other than in music, science can end up in poems: you can find examples here on my blog or on Sam Illingworth’s
A master of outrageous outreach is certainly Stephen Hawking: he’s a regular at the Big Bang Theory tv show, has played quantum chess with actor Paul Rudd and, last but not least, appeared in holographic form to console a teenager saddened by One Direction’s split.

 

In another post I told you about CERN being featured at Rio Carnival but science looks good on dresses, too.
Make sure you check all of Shenova’s work as well as Startorialist‘s.
A welcome incursion in people’s everyday life is the installation of cosmic rays detector in one of Naples metro stations by the Italian Narional Institute for Nuclear Physics. 
NOTE
The term Outrageous Outreach was coined in this paper about unconventional ways of bringing science to the wide public by meeting people where they are on the basis of their interests; a similar approach is the one I dubbed “Marketing Strategy” in my white paper about how to popularize science today

Warped Space

Have I celebrated the discovery of gravitational waves too much?
I can’t see straight!😉

I have forgotten to write down where this pic was taken: if you have relative info, please tell me.

I have forgotten to write down where this pic was taken: if you have relative info, please tell me.

 

BH_in_front_of_Building

This is a simulation of what  you’d see if a black hole passed in front of a building such as this one: I think it is a research institute in Germany but I’m not sure, so whatever info you may have please share it.

 

While I’m at it, let me post the coolest car plate I’ve found so far: it belongs to one of LIGO scientists but you’re welcome to get inspiration by her.

GW_car_plate

Why so genius?

My apologies for insisting with Einstein’s stuff but the celebrations for the discovery of gravitational waves have to go on!

Take a look at this search on eBay for t-shirt with Einstein as a subject: this is so awesome! Special thanks to Andrea for stirring me to this! If you guys know of other cool stuff like this, just whistle!

On a related note, LISA Pathfinder is going great!