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China Built the Worlds Largest Telescope. Then Came the Tourists

Credit Intentionally Withheld The day before, Stierwalt had traveled from Southern California to Pingtang Astronomy Town for a conference hosted by scientists from the world’s largest telescope. It was a new designation: China’s Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, had been completed just a year before, in September 2016. Wandering, tipsy, around this shrine to the stars, the 40 or so other foreign astronomers had come to China to collaborate on the superlative-snatching instrument. VCG/Getty Images China spent $180 million to create the telescope, which officials have repeatedly said…

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How to Show That the Earth Orbits the Sun

One of my favorite classes to teach is Physics for Elementary Education. It's a physics class designed to address the needs of future elementary school teachers—grades 1 through 6 or so. To guide the class, I've been using a version of Next Gen Physical Science and Everyday Thinking for a long time, maybe 13 years or so, and it is super awesome. One of the major goals in this course is to help students understand the nature of science—in particular the idea that science is all about building and testing…

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Figure Out Where You Are With Nothing But a Watch and Protractor

In a recent episode of MacGyver, Angus (yes, that's his first name) finds his location in the desert using only a string, a protractor, and a watch. Is this actually possible? Basically, yes. (At least that's what I told the show-runners as the technical consultant for the show.) But you can do this, too. So now, for your super basic introduction to navigating the world. And don't worry—this won't be a full blown semester course on navigation, it's just the basics. Longitude If you want to find out where you…

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Odds and Ends 

Incredible! We Asked These Astronauts What Its Like To Be In Space

What’s it like to float hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface? We asked seven astronauts to tell us everything. Eugene Cernan “It’s so inspiring to see the entire globe shimmering below you and realize that this is where prog rock started.” Eileen Collins “I was looking forward to being weightless, but gravity still works for me in space. It kind of sucks seeing all the other astronauts floating around while I’m stuck on the floor.” Barry Wilmore “You never know true beauty until you see Earth from space, or…

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Dont Call It a Blood Moon. Or Supermoon. Or Blue Moon

On Wednesday, humanity will be treated to a celestial trifecta: A supermoon (meaning it’s relatively close to Earth), but also simultaneously a blood moon (it’ll be orange or red), but also simultaneously a blue moon (the second full moon in one calendar month) will pass in the shadow of Earth, for a total lunar eclipse. It’s going to be righteous. But supermoon? Blue moon? Blood moon? Yeah, let’s go ahead and pump the brakes on those terms, because the first was created by an astrologer, the second is highly subjective,…

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The Astrophysicist Who Wants to Help Solve Baltimore’s Urban Blight

Vacant buildings have their own sort of gravitational pull. When a home gets boarded up on one block, you can almost bet another will follow nearby. Often, they pull whole neighborhoods into their orbit, driving down the local housing market in ever-expanding clusters. Which at least begins to explain why Baltimore has tapped Tamás Budavári, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, to study their patterns. Budavári has spent most of his career modeling the universe, studying galaxies and how they tend to cluster. He contributed research to the Sloan Digital…

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In search of the neutrino, ghost particle of the universe

A huge, extraordinary machine will soon begin to study an elusive particle in a bid to reveal some of the deep secrets of the cosmos On the outskirts of Karlsruhe, in south-west Germany, engineers have buried a giant, stainless steel device, bigger than a blue whale, inside the towns institute of technology. The machine looks for all the world like a grounded zeppelin or a buried blimp. In fact, the apparatus is one of the worlds biggest vacuum chambers. Air pressure inside it is lower than that on the surface…

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Odds and Ends 

Amazon is refunding purchases of unverifiable eclipse eyewear

Amazon is issuing refunds for those whove purchased possibly fake solar eclipse glasses on the site in anticipation of this summers big solar eclipse event. A lot of folks have been gearing up for the event that will depending on where you are either totally block out the sun or partially block it as the eclipse moves across the North American hemisphere on August 21st. Many of these same people have turned to the ease of Amazon for ordering the protective eyewear needed to look directly up at the sky…

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Perseid meteor shower: everything you need to know to see it

The annual meteor shower will fill the night sky with glowing streaks this weekend, as the Earth travels through debris shed by comet Swift-Tuttle From piquing the interest of astronomers to fuelling the musings of poets, meteor showers have left a trail of inspiration in their wake since humanity first peered up into the sky. Now inspiration is set to strike once more. This weekend the night sky will be filled with glowing streaks as the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak, with the best views in the northern…

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We are all made of stars: half our bodies’ atoms ‘formed beyond the Milky Way’

Simulations reveal that up to half the material in our galaxy arrived from smaller galactic neighbours, as a result of powerful supernova explosions Nearly half of the atoms that make up our bodies may have formed beyond the Milky Way and travelled to the solar system on intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars, astronomers claim. The dramatic conclusion emerges from computer simulations that reveal how galaxies grow over aeons by absorbing huge amounts of material that is blasted out of neighbouring galaxies when stars explode at the end of…

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Happy Asteroid Day! A conversation about peaceful, global scientific collaboration

Today is the 3rd annual Asteroid Day, and the first to be presented under the auspices of the United Nations, with live global broadcasts raising awareness about asteroids Today, more than 1,000 local events in around 200 countries are being organised to celebrate Asteroid Day. Sanctioned by the United Nations in 2016, it is a global day of education to raise awareness about asteroids. In addition to the local events, a day-long broadcast will be transmitted from around the world, with a six-hour live stretch coming from Luxembourg. This is…

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