Monday, October 30, 2006

Rose-tinted Spectacle?

In a few billion years, our local, friendly sun will slowly redden and expand to lovingly engulf our planet in a glorious fiery final embrace.

Might seem harsh, but it's only fair - it's been very good to us, and it's got its own stuff to deal with. We've been given a lot of notice, and we're perfectly free to choose what to do about it. We can take up the challenge to move on, taking our creativity and our sense of purpose with us to some less doomed place, or we can stay fixed, romantic, imaginatively bounded yet poetically freed in devotion and loyalty to our home, and go down with the ship.

Let's say we move on. What then?

The last decade or so has witnessed a flurry of astrophysical observations with Big Implications for our long-term future. The result has been that the majority of modern-day cosmologists now view a model of expansion accelerated by dark energy as by far the most convincing picture. Which means...

Well I found this stirring, wee 15 minute program about it on radio 4. If you like everything to be nice, probably best not to listen.

The presenter is Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, who seems to me a truly remarkable man.

And his name looks like it should mean 'with big sun', which is fitting. It's not quite an anagram of Cosmologian, but it is, wonderfully, an anagram of Gloom Canons. (Where else would one turn for Catholic guidance on the apocalypse?)

More here.

He's also on the case here (if you have 30 mins) looking for goldilocks worlds for us.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Would you know, chuck?

Q1. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Q2. How many woodchucks would a woodchuck-chucker chuck if a woodchuck-chucker could chuck woodchucks?

Q3. How many woodchuck-chuckers would a woodchuck-chucker-chucker chuck if a woodchuck-chucker-chucker could chuck woodchuck-chuckers?

Q4. How many woodchuck-chucker-chuckers would a woodchuck-chucker-chucker-chucker chuck if a woodchuck-chucker-chucker-chucker could chuck woodchuck-chucker-chuckers?

Q5. How many woodchuck-chucker-chucker-chuckers would a woodchuck-chucker-chucker-chucker-chucker chuck if a woodchuck-chucker-chucker-chucker-chucker could chuck woodchuck-chucker-chucker-chuckers?