Science Matters


The date for the Science March on Washington (and like a billion other places) has finally been announced and everything about it looks lit

On Wednesday, the March for Science Twitter account posted an announcement stating that the march would take place on April 22 — which also happens to be Earth Day. Here’s everything you need to know to make sue you show up in force no matter what.

Happy Earth Day everyone. Remember this year we march for science, so wherever you are, however you can, please get involved. Science serves us all, it protects our air and water, preserves our planet, saves lives, creates new industries, puts food on our tables, educates the next generation, and safeguards our future. We all have a voice and we can only bring about change if we band together to use it.

What we don’t know about dark matter:

Dark matter takes up about 84.5% of all mass in the universe, and we practically have no idea what it is. Dark matter doesn’t interact via electromagnetism, meaning that you can’t see it, feel it, or interact with it in almost any way possible. If you held a lump of it in your hand, it would just fall straight through without you ever noticing it was there to start with. So, if it’s almost perfectly invisible, how do we even know it exists at all?

When looking at a galaxy, you can estimate how much matter is in it by what you see through a telescope, and you can use this to predict how fast the galaxy should be spinning. However, there’s a problem. Galaxies always appear to be spinning much faster than they should be. In order to be spinning as fast as they are, galaxies need a lot more mass than what we’re seeing. Even when we account for things that are a lot harder to see, like planets, dust clouds, neutrinos, and black holes, the numbers just don’t add up. So, this leaves us with two options; either Einstein’s theory of gravitation is wrong, or there is a new, invisible type of matter filling up galaxies.

Since Einstein’s theories seem to be extremely robust under any other circumstance, we are left with the possibility of a new type of matter that can only interact through gravity. Although we can figure out how much dark matter is in the universe, and where it is mainly located, we are nearly clueless on the details. After all, you can’t just look at a clump of dark matter through a microscope.

Since it’s possible that dark matter could also interact via the weak nuclear force, there have been several super-sensitive detectors built to look for extremely rare dark matter interactions, but none have been able to find anything significant yet. If dark matter is a new particle, there’s a chance it could be created at the Large Hadron Collider, or we could at least see its effects on other particles, but the LHC hasn’t seen anything out of the ordinary yet either.

So, although we have a good idea of what dark matter is doing to our universe, we have almost no idea about what it actually is. Whenever we do finally figure out the true nature of dark matter, it will surely be the discovery of the century.

Where I imagine Science Officer Kirk argues with Captain Spock ALL the TIME. Except then they start to agree with each other.


since Science Officer Jim is still fundamentally Jim


7 reasons why solarpunk is the most important speculative fiction movement in the last 20 years
  1. It’s hopeful. Solarpunk doesn’t require an apocalypse. It’s a world in which humans haven’t destroyed ourselves and our environment, where we’ve pulled back just in time to stop the slow destruction of our planet. We’ve learned to use science wisely, for the betterment of ourselves and our planet. We’re no longer overlords. We’re caretakers. We’re gardeners.
  2. Scientists are heroes again. And not just physicists and astronomers. Knowledge of biology and earth sciences matter, they’re the building blocks for a future on Earth. Scientific literacy isn’t just for academics – it’s part of daily life. People know how the things they use work, and if they don’t, they can access that information. 
  3. It’s diverse. Solarpunk is rooted in using the environment, so it looks different in different places. Alternative energy is best when specific to place (I imagine geothermal, wind, tidal, and hydroelectric energy sources are still used in certain places) so no overarching government system is needed. Communities can organize themselves, taking their own location and needs and history into account. Brazilian, Inuit, Egyptian, Pacific Northwest, and New Zealand solarpunk can all look very different, but be unified in resourceful, intentional, low impact living.
  4. Individuality still matters. In a post-scarcity society, ingenuity and self-expression are not sacrificed on the altar of survival. With solar power there’s no reason not to go off grid, if that’s what you want to do. Communities can self-organize. You can find a community that suits you, or go live by yourself if that floats your boat.
  5. There’s room for spirituality and science to coexist. Solarpunk is rooted in a deep understanding and reverence for natural processes. There’s room for spirituality there, be it pagan, Buddhist, Sufi, Transcendentalism – anything. There’s so much to explore, from nature worship to organized monotheistic religions, and how they interact with solarpunk.
  6. It’s beautiful. The most common solarpunk aesthetic is art nouveau, but again there’s room for diversity, incorporating art styles from multiple cultures in respectful, non-appropriative ways. The most important aspect of solarpunk aesthetic is the melding of art and utility. The idea of intentional living is strong in art nouveau, but it’s not the only art movement with that philosophy.
  7. We can make it happen. Now. Earthships. Permaculture. Aquaponics. Algae lighting. Compostable products that turn into fields of flowers. Buy Nothing organizations. Tiny, beautiful, efficient homes. Solar power cells you can see through. That’s all happening now. Solarpunk is within our grasp, at least on a personal level. I’m not saying there aren’t still big, ugly infrastructures devoted to unethical consumption, but we can start to tear them down. We can build a solarpunk world with stories and small changes. And small changes lead to big changes. That’s the real beauty of solarpunk. It’s not a post-apocalyptic power fantasy. It’s not a wistful daydream, or an elite future only for physicists. It’s something we can work towards right now. It’s tangible.

The Youngest, Most Massive Black Hole Is A Puzzle For Astronomy

“Recently, a new black hole, J1342+0928, was discovered to originate from 13.1 billion years ago: when the Universe was 690 million years old, just 5% of its current age. It has a mass of 800 million Suns, an exceedingly high figure for such early times. Even if this black hole formed from the very first stars, it would have to accrete matter and grow at the maximum rate possible — the Eddington limit — to reach this size so rapidly. Fortunately, there are other ways to grow a supermassive black hole.”

We did it! We found our most massive, most distant quasar of all-time, telling us we’ve got a supermassive black hole that’s 800 million times as massive as our Sun when the Universe was just 5% of its current age. Even factoring in all we know about the formation and growth of black holes, from the early Universe and throughout all of time, we expect that there will only be around 20 black holes this large existing this early. Are there going to be more? Will we have to revise our current theories of cosmology and structure formation? Or is this simply an indication that we’re beginning to discover the brightest, most massive objects that are out there at any distance at all? As always, more and better data will decide, but here’s what we know so far. 

Come get the full story, and some spectacular visuals (and video!) on today’s Mostly Mute Monday.


Digital Harmony: On the Complementarity of Music and Visual Art 

“Computer technology has been available to a few artists for less than
two decades. At the same time that computers are becoming household
utensils, a mixture of high expectation and stubborn opposition surrounds
the tentative use of these instruments for art. About the computer’s
applicability in art there will be much more to say throughout the book.
The purpose of this book, then, is to define, as much as I understand
them, the principles of harmony as they apply to graphic manipulation of
dynamic motion-pattern by computer. Whether my efforts constitute a
final valid grammar is irrelevant. The purpose is to document my own approach and to propose the seminal idea of making an approach.”
- John Whitney

Everyone can be an asshole

Straight people can be assholes

Gay people can be assholes

Bisexual people can be assholes

Asexual people can be assholes

Demisexual people can be assholes

Polyamorous people can be assholes

Pansexual people can be assholes

Trans people can be assholes

Cis people can be assholes

Non-binary people can be assholes

Genderfluid people can be assholes

White people can be assholes

Black people can be assholes

Asian people can be assholes

Mixed people can be assholes

Girls can be assholes

Boys can be assholes

Everything in between can be assholes

Rich people can be assholes

Poor people can be assholes

Smart people can be assholes

Doctors can be assholes

Teachers can be assholes

Fangirls can be assholes

Mothers can be assholes

Fathers can be assholes

Rens can be assholes

Everyone no matter where they’re from or who they are, can be an asshole

(We’d appreciate if you weren’t an asshole but that’s ur own fucking problem)

Could we create dark matter?

85% of the matter in our universe is a mystery. We don’t know what it’s made of, which is why we call it dark matter. But we know it’s out there because we can observe its gravitational attraction on galaxies and other celestial objects. 

We’ve yet to directly observe dark matter, but scientists theorize that we may actually be able to create it in the most powerful particle collider in the world. That’s the 27 kilometer-long Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland.

So how would that work? In the LHC, two proton beams move in opposite directions and are accelerated to near the speed of light. At four collision points, the beams cross and protons smash into each other.

Protons are made of much smaller components called quarks and gluons. 

In most ordinary collisions, the two protons pass through each other without any significant outcome.

However, in about one in a million collisions, two components hit each other so violently, that most of the collision energy is set free producing thousands of new particles. 

It’s only in these collisions that very massive particles, like the theorized dark matter, can be produced.

So it takes quadrillions of collisions combined with theoretical models to even start to look for dark matter. That’s what the LHC is currently doing. By generating a mountain of data, scientists at CERN are hoping to find more tiny bumps in graphs that will provide evidence for yet unknown particles, like dark matter. Or maybe what they’ll find won’t be dark matter, but something else that would reshape our understanding of how the universe works entirely. 

And that’s part of the fun at this point. We have no idea what they’re going to find.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Could we create dark matter? - Rolf Landua

Animation by Lazy Chief


Geometry at work: Orbital Resonance, Sound and Water

Richard Proctor, Old and New Astronomy, 1892

What men recognized then in the movements of the heavenly bodies is true now and true for all time. And even in dealing with the limited knowledge and the imperfect methods of ancient astronomers, we need not hesitate to consider these movements as they are now recognized and understood.

Ernst Chladni, Die Akustic, 1802

Nodal lines of vibrating circular or polygonal  plates, according to Chladni and Savart.The breakthrough work acquired a status of foundational work of a new scientific field and earned him a title of “father of acoustics”. It was the first systematic description of the vibrations of elastic bodies.

Snowflake Man

Wilson Alwyn “Snowflake” Bentley (February 7, 1865 – December 23, 1931), is one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He perfected a process of catching flakes on black velvet in such a way that their images could be captured before they either melted or sublimated.

Ready to rep at the Science March in DC tomorrow!