Category: Miscellany

DonorsChoose 2012

By Sean Carroll | October 25, 2012 6:32 am

DonorsChoose is a great program that lets people give small (or large, if that’s how they roll) charitable donations targeted at specific classrooms and educational programs around the country. We have participated frequently in the past, but this year we didn’t quite get our act together. But it doesn’t matter who sets up the donors page, there are many great programs out there looking for support.

So instead, this year we’re pointing people to Aatish Bhatia’s donor page. You might remember Aatish as the winner of this year’s 3 Quarks Daily blogging prize. Now he’s assembled a collection of worthy science education projects. Go throw a few bucks and feel good about yourself and the world!



By Julianne Dalcanton | October 4, 2012 10:23 pm

If you’ve ever spent much time around astronomers, you’ll know that they tend to like their theme wear — space ties, galaxy t-shirts, satellite lapel pins, etc.

To this list, I am thrilled beyond measure to add space clogs. Yes, space clogs. Dansko has come out with a limited edition “Stargazer” version of their standard “Professional” line clog, and I was compelled to pre-order them because… well… they’re space clogs.

They just arrived today, and they’re even more magnificent that I’d hoped.  Not only do they have an extremely realistic star field on them (with diffraction spikes and everything), but the left shoe even hosts a young stellar cluster near the toe (click on the image for a better look).  Besides being simply AWESOME, young stellar clusters are something that members of my research team are studying right now. In short, we are currently analyzing data that looks like my shoes.

(PS. Gotta give a shout out to Jerry at Little’s Shoes in Pittsburgh, who helped make this possible!)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellany, Space

The Invader

By Sean Carroll | August 19, 2012 2:53 pm

Opening panels of a wordless and moving story about a young Space Invader. Worth a click. Via Zack Stentz.


Introduction to the Higgs Boson

By John Conway | July 2, 2012 11:03 pm

Who was that guy?

Rereading this gave me the willies, actually…



By Sean Carroll | June 11, 2012 10:58 am

Astronomy at the Philadelphia Science Festival

By Mark Trodden | April 30, 2012 5:48 pm

I should have advertised this ahead of time, but even though I’m late to it, I wanted to mention that the Philadelphia Science Festival was going on all last week. It’s been great to see science taking its rightful place among the other cultural attractions of Philadelphia, and in particular, it was nice that astronomy was prominently featured.

Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences has been posting about our involvement on its facebook page, where you can see my colleague Gary Bernstein delivering a lecture on planets at Astronomy Night

and attendees observing planets in Perelman Quadrangle.


Predictions for 2012

By Sean Carroll | January 1, 2012 10:57 am

So you don’t enter the new year completely unprepared, here are my most secure predictions for 2012. Unlike other prognostication websites, these predictions are based on Science!

1. Freely-falling objects will accelerate toward the ground at an approximately constant rate, up to corrections due to air resistance.

2. Of all the Radium-226 nuclei on the Earth today, 0.04% will decay by the end of the year.

3. A line drawn between any planet (or even dwarf planet) and the Sun will sweep out equal areas in equal times.

4. Hurricanes in the Northern hemisphere will rotate counterclockwise as seen from above.

5. The pressure of a gas squeezed in a piston will rise inversely with the change in volume.

6. Electric charges in motion will give rise to magnetic fields.

7. The energy of an object at rest whose mass decreases will also decrease, by the change in mass times the speed of light squared.

8. The content of the world’s genomes will gradually evolve in ways determined by fitness in a given environment, sexual selection, and random chance.

9. The entropy of closed systems will increase.

10. People will do many stupid things, and some surprisingly smart ones.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Happy Holidays!

By Sean Carroll | December 24, 2011 6:23 pm

Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate, everybody. And if you don’t choose to celebrate for any particular reason, feel free to celebrate for no reason at all.

Here’s a legitimately touching Xmas song, Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun (indirectly via Balloon Juice). As an Australian, he has a warmer image of the season than we Northerners. This isn’t the one that got censored from British TV, which is more amusing than heartwarming, but also worth a listen.


Donor's Choose 2011

By Risa Wechsler | October 20, 2011 2:57 pm

So, it’s an annual tradition here at Cosmic Variance to participate in the Science Blogger’s Donor’s Choose event.

Donors Choose Science Blog Challenge

Donor’s Choose is an awesome non-profit that allows public school teachers to post their needs for educational materials for their students, and allows donors to choose which projects get funding. This year, like the last three years, science bloggers are participating

A list of projects we suggest is here:

Cosmic Variance Donor’s Choose Page

I’ve chosen a list of physics and astronomy focused projects in low income school districts —
chip in a few bucks (you can donate as little as $5 or as much as you like!), and make a difference inspiring the next generation of scientists!

Last year 26 of you donated more than $3500, which directly impacted 1,485 students (super impressively, the year before we managed to raise $12,000!) This is our 4th year of participating, but I was woefully slow putting this post up and getting the ball starting. I hope you dear readers will pick up the slack anyways, and give generously to these awesome projects. Luckily, between now and midnight on Saturday, there is a special bonus: the Donor’s Choose Board of Directors is matching all donations with a gift card that you can use to support any project of your choosing, so your money will go double in the next few days. Let’s see if we can beat last year’s numbers in the next 3 days, and help some students get the tools they need to learn science!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cosmic Variance, Miscellany

APS Prize For Young Particle Theorists

By Sean Carroll | July 25, 2011 12:07 pm

The Division of Particles and Fields of the American Physical Society, wisely realizing that the future belongs to the young, has instituted a new prize for the best Ph.D. dissertation in theoretical particle physics. It’s brand new, so we’re helping to spread the word. Official notice below.

Note that this is not because particle theorists are especially prizeworthy; this new award joins a host of other dissertation prizes in other subfields of physics. Advisors everywhere, take note!

Message to members of the American Physical Society’s DPF, Authorized by Alice Bean, Secretary/Treasurer of DPF
Dissertation Award in Theoretical Particle Physics

Starting this year, the Division of Particles and Fields has established a Dissertation Award in Theoretical Particle Physics. The Award recognizes exceptional young scientists who have performed original doctoral thesis work of outstanding scientific quality and achievement in the area of theoretical particle physics. The annual Award consists of $1,500, a certificate citing the accomplishments of the recipient, and an allowance of up to $1,000 for travel to attend a meeting of the DPF or APS, where the Award will be presented.

Nominations will be accepted for any doctoral student studying at a college or university in the United States or in an education abroad program of a college or university in the United States for dissertation research carried out in the field of theoretical particle physics. The work to be considered must have been completed as part of the requirements for a doctoral degree. Nominees for the 2012 Award must have passed their thesis defense between September 16, 2010 and September 15, 2011.

The deadline for submission of nominations for the 2012 prize is October 1, 2011. For detailed guidelines and to submit a nomination, see


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