Bowler Hat Science

astronomy physics and dapper hats

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To Mars and beyond

To Mars and beyond

Mars, as seen by India's Mangalyaan orbiter. [Credit: Indian Space Research Organization]

Mars, as seen by India’s Mangalyaan orbiter. [Credit: Indian Space Research Organization]

Last week, not one but two orbiters arrived at Mars: NASA’s MAVEN and the Indian Space Research Organization’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). These projects are very different in scope and purpose. MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN)is a sophisticated chemistry lab packaged inside a space probe,…

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Filed under Mars planetary science Space exploration

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You can’t get rid of black holes that easily

You can’t get rid of black holes that easily

The first black hole ever discovered: Cygnus X-1. We're seeing X-ray emission from plasma stripped from a companion star as it falls onto the black hole. [Credit: Chandra X-ray observatory/NASA]

The first black hole ever discovered: Cygnus X-1. We’re seeing X-ray emission from plasma stripped from a companion star as it falls onto the black hole. [Credit: Chandra X-ray observatory/NASA]

I’m occasionally faced with a conundrum as a science writer with a research background. When someone writes a paper making a suspicious claim, it’s never enough for me to just reject it and move on: I need…

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Filed under black holes gravitation Hawking radiation

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In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ‘tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.

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Not a day goes by

Not a day goes by when I don’t feel like quitting writing. It’s not because I hate writing — I love writing, and am incredibly privileged to be able to make a living doing it. But when I’m trying to figure out if I have enough articles lined up for the next month, going through the umpteenth revision on a single damn article, and people ask me to cover some dubious scientific paper that’s getting more press than it deserves, I just get tired. (I wish I could write more about dubious science papers to combat their outsize influence, but few publications want to pay for that kind of piece.)

The failure of my book project, the struggle to keep a productive working schedule, and the isolation from friends and colleagues all contribute to my feelings of exhaustion over freelancing. So, maybe it’s time to look for other work. I’m pretty much committed to continuing through the National Association of Science Writers conference in October, but past that, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s time to move on.

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Why I am still unimpressed with the Space Station dark matter search

Why I am still unimpressed with the Space Station dark matter search

Plot of the latest AMS-02 results (red) compared with other experiments. [Credit: CERN]

Plot of the latest AMS-02 results (red) compared with other experiments. Though these data are clearer than other experiments, I still fail to see a major trend indicating dark matter detection, as some are claiming. [Credit: CERN]

I want to find dark matter as much as anybody. But strong desires in science should always be coupled with patience, caution, and skepticism about your own wishes.…

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Filed under AMS dark matter dark matter detectors International Space Station particle physics