Happy Birthday Hubble!

hubble_in_orbit1Last month, the Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 24th birthday. And in honor of this occasion, NASA has released a video entitled “Evaporating Peaks – Pillars in the Monkey Head Nebula”. This video, which showcases visible and infrared light views of a collection of pillars along one edge of the Monkey Head Nebula (also known as NGC 2174) is just the latest in series of simulations that attempt to recreate what it would be like to step into a major stellar body.

Like all nebulas, NGC 2174 is a star-forming region in which bright, newborn stars near the center of the nebula illuminate the surrounding gas, creating the brilliant images we see in the video. The radiation from these stars, combined with strong stellar winds, also erode areas of lower density gases, which in turn causes pockets of higher density gas to turn into visible formations. This is what leads to the creation of the pillars and peaks of gas that run along the inner edge of this roughly circular cloud.

The sequence begins with a view of the night sky near the constellation of Gemini and Orion and then zooms through observations from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 to reveal a Hubble Space Telescope visible light view of the top of this region of pillars.

universetoday.com, hubblesite.org

Evidence for the Big Bang

planck-attnotated-580x372The Big Bang Theory has been the dominant cosmological model for over half a century. According to the theory, the universe was created approximately 14 billion years ago from an extremely hot, dense state and then began expanding rapidly. After the initial expansion, the Universe cooled and began to form various subatomic particles and basic elements. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars, galaxies, and eventually planets.

And while it has its detractors, most of whom subscribe to the alternate Steady State Theory – which claims that new matter is continuously created as the universe expands – it has come to represent the scientific consensus as to how the universe came to be. And as usual, my ol’ pal and mentor in all things digital, Fraser Cain, recently released a video with the help of Universe Today discussing the particulars of it.

big_bangAddressing the particulars of the Big Bang Theory, Cain lists the many contributions made over the past century that has led this so-called theory to become the scientific consensus has come to exist. They are, in a nutshell:

  1. Cosmic Expanion: In 1912, astronomer Vesto Slipher calculated the speed and distance of “spiral nebulae” (galaxies) by measuring the light coming from them. He determined most were moving away. In 1924, Edwin Hubble determined that these galaxies were outside the Milky Way. He postulates that the motion of galaxies away from our own indicates a common point of origin.
  2. Abundance of Elements: Immediately after the big bang, only hydrogen existed and compressed into a tiny area of space under incredible heat and pressure. Like a star, this turned hydrogen into helium and other basic elements. Looking out into the universe (and hence back in time) scientists have found that great distances, the ratios of hydrogen to basic elements is consistent with what is found in star’s interiors.
  3. Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Radiation: In the 1960’s, using a radiotelescope, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered a background radio emission coming from every direction in the sky, day or night. This was consistent with the Big Bang Theory, which predicted that after the Big Bang, there would have been a release of radiation which then expanded billions of light years in all directions and cooled to the point that it shifted to invisible, microwave radiation.
  4. Large Scale Structure: The formation of galaxies and the large-scale structure of the cosmos are very similar. This is consistent with belief that after the initial Big Bang, the matter created would have cooled and began to coalesce into large collections, which is what galaxies, local galactic groups, and super-clusters are.

These are the four pillars of the Big Bang Theory, but they are no means the only points in its favor. In addition, there are numerous observational clues, such as how we have yet to observe a stars in the universe older than 13 billion years old, and fluctuations in the CMB that indicate a lack of uniformity. On top of that, there is the ongoing research into the existence of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which are sure to bear fruit in the near future if all goes well.

big_bang1In short, scientists have a pretty good idea of how the universe came to be and the evidence all seems to confirm it. And some mysteries remain, we can be relatively confident that ongoing experimentation and research will come up with new and creative ways to shed light on the final unknowns. Little reason then why the Big Bang Theory enjoys such widespread support, much like Evolution, Gravity, and General Relativity.

Be sure to check out the full video, and subscribe to Universe Today for additional informative videos, podcasts, and articles. As someone who used to write for them, I can tell you that it’s a pretty good time, and very enlightening!

Futurama does 3D Printing!

benderIt’s a good day when a show like Futurama begins turning out new episodes. This past week’s featured a story where Bender began taking advantage of 3D printing to create a famous folk singer’s one-of-a-kind guitar. Naturally, things got out of control, and the story was chock full of social commentary and the concept that the printing revolution might actually be ushering an age where artificial replicas could infringe on the real thing.

For the life of me, I can’t find clips of this episode anywhere. Guess it’s too soon to expect anyone to upload it to Youtube, lazy piraters! But I found the next best thing: a time-lapse video of a Bender figurine being printed out on a Maker Bot. It’s set to the extended cut of Futurama’s theme, and the result is a pretty cool replica of the jive-talking, amoral alcoholic robot himself!

Plurality: A Concept Movie

Just found this on IO9, a new 14 minute concept movie about the future of New York City. According to the film, it’s 2023, and the introduction of a brand new technology – the Betham Grid – has made things like credit cards, ID cards, and keys obsolete. In essence, the Grid is a massive DNA scanner and social network, with readouts on every public surface in the city. Touch a door, a hand rail, or even a wall, and the Grid reads your DNA, identifies you and pinpoints your location.

Naturally, this has simplified life in many respects. In others, it turned NYC into something of a “Big Brother” state. Crime has dropped to previously unheard of levels, identity theft has become impossible, but the right to privacy remains in a state of limbo. And befitting all potentially dystopian scenarios, there’s a twist, which is alluded to in the name. Ultimately, the question remains, what is the ultimate cost of safety?

Take a look, and take note of all the attention to detail that runs throughout. Director Dennis Lui was sure to incorporate as many examples of futuristic technology as possible, from holographic display glass, to cars with Heads-Up Displays, to augmented reality glasses. The production values are also very impressive.