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Monday, March 21, 2011

Things that amaze me most: Part IX

As I told you before, there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing.  So far:

Part I:    THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Part II:   BIG NUMBERS
Part III: THE YOUNG: Babies, toddlers and teens
Part IV:  LAUGHTER: A peek into the soul
Part V:   NATURE: Her splendor and fury
PART VI: THE POWER OF 1
PART VII: THE NATURAL LAWS OF PHYSICS
PART VIII: US HUMANS

PART IX: THE HEAVENS


You know how nuts I am about space, the sun and the entire universe. Well, thanks to the incredible Hubble telescope, now in its 20th year in orbit, we can see some amazing, incredible things... like this mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.

Our Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years wide... and as we look into tonight's sky, we are actually looking in the past--millions of years into the past. As Marilyn vos Savant, The super-smart (I.Q. 185 +/-) Parade Magazine columnist tells us, "Say a certain star will live for 5 million years, but it's so far away that its light takes 10 million years to reach us. By the time we can see it for the first time, it has already been gone for 5 million years."

Light echos from red supergiant star v838 monocerotis
Using new technology, scientists scanning a small portion of the sky have just discovered 54 planets in orbit around other suns that are located, like earth,  in a "Goldilocks zone"--temperatures not too hot and not too cold-- but just right to hold water and life... like our own. They estimate that a broader scan of our Milky Way galaxy alone might find 400,000 more... enough like us to think E.T. would need a galactic phone book to get the right number and area code to phone home.

In a New York Times interview of Brian Greene, a Colombia University physicist, the question was asked: In your forthcoming book, The Hidden Reality, you ponder the possibility of a 'multiuniverse' composed of many universes. But what kind of worlds are we talking about? Clumps of subatomic particles in space? Or universes with restaurants and museums?

His astounding answer: Some might have museums and restaurants. Some might have copies of you and me having a conversation similar to this one. Yet other universes would be vastly different. They might involve a gigantic expanseive space that might be filled with other forms of matter governed by other kinds of physical laws. In one such universe, when the apple is released by a tree, it might go up instead of down.

Yep. Wild stuff for wild imaginations filled with big, big numbers and almost unfathomable images. Check 'em out at the Hubble site, highlighted above. Gosh, who would have thought that Flash Gordon, Commander Kirk, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker would prove to be intergalactic pikers when it comes to real life?

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