Astronomical Songs

Something like minus seventh magnitude. Give Me a Supernova Sung to Give My Regards to Broadway The stars go nova one by one. KA-BOOM, KA-BOOM Nucleosynthesis is done, KA-BOOM, KA-BOOM And the stars go nova in the galaxy. The heavy elements are born. KA-BOOM, KA-BOOM And from the stellar cores are torn. KA-BOOM, KA-BOOM Shells of gas are strewn through space Distributing matter all over the place And the spiral arms are littered with debris. Do galaxies in space collide KA-BOOM, KA-BOOM It...

Space

If I am at the extremity of the heaven of the fixed stars, can I stretch outwards my hand or staff It is absurd to suppose that I could not and if I can, what is outside must be either body or space. We may then in the same way get to the outside of that again, and so on and if there is always a new place to which the staff may be held out, this clearly involves extension without limit. In H.A.L. Fisher and Others (eds) Essays in Honor of Gilbert Murray The Invention of Space (p. 233) A sea...

Astronomer

When astronomers express dissatisfaction with both the Big Bang and the Steady State concepts of the universe, they are in trouble, because it is hard to imagine radical alternatives. The Violent Universe Chapter III (pp. 121-2) Today's astronomers live and die by journals and conferences. Sky and Telescope The Baron and His Celestial Police (p. 271) Volume 75, Number 3, March 1988 If then th' Astronomers, whereas they spie A new-found Starre, their Opticks magnifie, How brave are those, who...

Mind

Our minds soar with instant connection, but our feet are stuck in temporal boots. It appears to me that the tendency of mind to infiltrate and control matter is a law of nature. The infiltration of mind into the universe will not be permanently halted by any catastrophe or by any barrier that I can imagine. If our species does not choose to lead the way, others will do so, or may have already done so. If our species is extinguished, others will be wiser or luckier. Mind is patient. Mind has...

Telescope

Telescope (n) A device having a relation to the eye similar to that of a telephone to the ear, enabling distant objects to plague us with a multitude of needless details. The sight of a planet through a telescope is worth all the course on astronomy Essays Second Series New England Reformers Holmes, Oliver Wendell I love all sights of earth and skies, From flowers that grow to stars that shine The comet and the penny show, All curious things above, below But most I love the tube that spies The...

Extraterrestrial Life

Quoth he Th' Inhabitants o' the Moon, Who when the Sun shines hot at Noon, Do live in Cellars underground Of eight Miles deep and eighty round (In which at once they fortify Against the Sun and th' Enemy) Which they count towns and Cities there, Because their People's civiler Than those rude Peasants, that are found To live upon the upper Ground, Call'd Privolvans, with whom they are Perpetually at open War. In Rene Lamar (ed.) Satires and Miscellaneous Prose The Elephant in the Moon So you,...

Meteor

This hairy meteor did denounce The fall of Scepters and of Crowns Hudibras First Part Canto I, L. 245-6 Wonderful, shimmering trail of light, Falling from whence on high Flooding the world in thy moment's flight With the sense of a mystery Softly thy radiance works a spell, Night is enhanced, as a note may swell From a simple melody. Ethereal Powers You chase the shooting stars, Or yoke the vollied lightnings to your cars. The Botanic Garden Part I, Canto I, II, L. 115 The coming of this lovely...

Imagination

To every investigator there come moments when his thought is baffled, when the limits of experimental possibility seem to have been reached and he faces a barrier which defies his curiosity. Then it is that imagination, like a glorious greyhound, comes bounding along, leaps the barrier, and a vision is flashed before the mind a vision no doubt that is partly false, but a vision that may be partly true. Atlantic Monthly From Atoms to Stars (p. 158) Volume 144, Number 2, August 1929 Imagination...

Geometry

Together and holding hands they roam to the limits of outer space Surprisingly, Math. has earned its rightful place for man and in the sky Fondling flowers with a smile just wish nothing is said Notices of the American Mathematical Society Interview with Shiing Shen Chern (p. 865) Volume 45, Number 7, August 1998 A work of morality, politics, criticism will be more elegant, other things being equal, if it is shaped by the hand of geometry. L'utilit des Math...

Discovery

Mathematical discoveries, like springtime violets in the woods, have their season which no human can hasten or retard. Mathematics Teacher In Israel Kleiner Thinking the Unthinkable The Story of Complex Numbers (with a Moral) (p. 590) Volume 81, Number 7, October 1988 First, I should be clear about what the act of discovery entails. It is rarely on the frontier of knowledge or elsewhere, that new facts are discovered in the sense of being encountered, as Newton suggests, in the form of islands...

Instrument

The unassisted hand and the understanding left to itself possess but little power. Effects are produced by the means of instruments and helps, which the understanding requires no less than the hand and as instruments either promote or regulate the motion of the hand, so those that are applied to the mind prompt or protect the understanding. Not only do we use instruments to give us fineness of detail inaccessible to direct sense perception, but we also use them to extend qualitatively the range...

Proof

to prove what is obvious by what is not is the mark of a man who is unable to distinguish what is self-evident from what is not. But I can prove it by mathematics, quite irrefutably. I can prove anything you require of me by whatever means you may prefer, said Jurgen, modestly, for the simple reason that I am a monstrous clever fellow. He rests his faith on rigorous proof he believes that the difference between a correct proof and an incorrect one is an unmistakable and decisive difference. He...

Cosmology

Exploring the whole universe requires large thoughts. There are no larger thoughts than cosmological ones. Modern cosmology is myth which does not know itself to be myth. International Journal of Theoretical Physics Connections between Abstract Quantum Theory and Space-Time Structure II, A Model of Cosmological Evolution (p. 659) Volume 27, No 6, June 1988 Cosmology used to be considered a pseudoscience and the preserve of physicists who might have done some useful work in their earlier years...

Universe

The Universe, as has been observed before, is an unsettlingly big place, a fact which for the sake of a quiet life most people tend to ignore. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Chapter 10 (p. 71) Our imagination has roamed far and wide through distant reaches of the Universe. Understandably, we may have become dazed by the immense dimensions of space and the enormous sizes of some of its occupants. Our World and the Universe Around Us The Universe is not to be narrowed down to the...

Constellation

Observed their goings and devised their titles, Forming the constellations. For the name Of each star singly none could tell or learn So numerous are they everywhere, and many Of the same size and color, as they roll. Thus he bethought him to combine them so, That, ranged in neighborhood, they might present Images, each taking his proper name, And henceforth none rising to doubt or guess at. In N.L. Frothingham Metrical Pieces The Appearances of the Stars (pp. 39-40) O, had I power like...

Differential Equations

We should suspect an intention to reduce God to a system of differential equations The Nature of the Physical World Chapter XIII (p. 282) Men have fallen in love with statues and pictures. I find it easier to imagine a man falling in love with a differential equation, and I am inclined to think that some mathematicians have done so. Even in a non-mathematician like myself, some differential equations evoke fairly violent physical sensations similar to those described by Sappho and Catullus when...

Beauty

It is difficult to give an idea of the vast extent of modern mathematics. The word 'extent' is not the right one I mean extent crowded with beautiful detail not an extent of mere uniformity such as an objectless plain, but of a tract of beautiful country seen at first in the distance, but which will bear to be rambled through and studied in every detail of hillside and valley, stream, rock, wood, and flower. But, as for every thing else, so for mathematical theory beauty can be perceived but...

Analogy

It is probably no exaggeration to say that all of theoretical physics proceeds by analogy. Elementary Particles and their Currents Philosophical Preface (p. vii) analogies are not aids to the establishment of theories they are an utterly essential part of theories, without which theories would be completely valueless and unworthy of the name. It is often suggested that the analogy leads to the formulation of the theory, but that once the theory is formulated the analogy has served its purpose...

Simplicity

It is an article of faith in physics that the world's bewildering mask of complexity hides an ultimate simplicity. The simple is the seal of the true and beauty is the splendour of truth. Nobel Lectures Physics 1981-90 Nobel Acceptance Speech 8 December 1983 In every important advance the physicist finds that the fundamental laws are simplified more and more as experimental research advances. He is astonished to notice how sublime order emerges from what appeared to be chaos. And this cannot be...

Model

All great discoveries in experimental physics have been due to the intuition of men who made free use of models, which were for them not products of the imagination, but representatives of real things. Philosophical Quarterly Physical Reality (p. 140) Volume 3, Number 11, April 1953 the more you see how strangely Nature behaves, the harder it is to make a model that explains how even the simplest phenomena actually work. So theoretical physics has given up on that. QED The Strange Theory of...

Progress

Progress is the result, not so much of sudden flights of genius, as of sustained patient, often commonplace endeavor and the true lesson of scientific history lies in the close connection which it discloses between the most brilliant developments of knowledge and the faithful accomplishment of his daily task by each individual thinker and worker. A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century Scientific progress has often been compared to a mounting tide applied to the evolution...

Axial Tilt

Some say he bid his angels turn askance The poles of Earth twice ten degrees and more From the sun's axle they with labor pushed Oblique the centric globe some say the sun Was bid turn reins from the equinoctial road Like distant breadth to Taurus with the seven Atlantic Sisters, and the Spartan Twins, Up to the Tropic Crab thence down again By Leo and the Virgin and the Scales, As deep as Capricorn, to bring in change Of seasons to each clime else had the spring Perpetual smiled on Earth with...

Sun

The night has a thousand eyes, And the day but one Yet the light of the bright world dies, With the dying Sun. Among the Flowers, and Other Poems The Night Has a Thousand Eyes The face of the sun is not without expression, but it tells us precious little of what is in its heart. Scientific American The Sun (p. 38) Volume 179, Number 5, November 1948 The glorious lamp of heaven, the radiant sun, Is Nature's eye The Poetical Works ofDryden The Fable of Acis, Polyphemus, and Galatea from the...

Star

When you look out the other way toward the stars you realize it's an awful long way to the next watering hole. In Kevin W. Kelley The Home Planet With Plate 84 This waste of year-long vigil I have prayed God for some respite, watching elbow-stayed, As sleuthhounds watch, above the Atreidae's hall, Till well I know yon midnight festival Of swarming stars, and them that lonely go, Bearers to man of summer and of snow. . . and thence we issued forth again to see the stars. The Divine Comedy of...

Spectra

No spectrum such as I expected A single bright line only The riddle of the nebulae was solved. The answer, which had come to us in the light itself, read Not an aggregation of stars, but a luminous gas. Stars after the order of our own sun, and of the brighter stars, would give a different spectrum the light of this nebula had clearly been emitted by a luminous gas. The Scientific Papers of Sir William Huggins Historical Statement (p. 106) The vast interplanetary...

Comet

A comet arose whose body was bright like the day, while from its luminous body a tail extended, like the sting of a scorpion. In John Brandt and Robert Chapman Introduction to Comets Chapter 1 (p. 4) The angels all were singing out of tune, And hoarse with having little else to do, Excepting to wind up the sun and moon, Or curb a runaway young star or two, Or wild colt of a comet, which too soon Broke out of bounds o'er the ethereal blue, Splitting some planet with its beautiful tail, As boats...

Heavens

The ways of Heaven are dark and intricate, Puzzled in Mazes and perplex'd with errors Our understanding traces 'em in vain, Lost and bewilder'd in the fruitless search Nor sees with how much art the winding run, Nor where the regular confusion ends. Heaven calls you, and revolves around you, displaying to you its eternal beauties. . . The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri Purgatory Canto XIV, L. 147 Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for The Complete Poetical Works...

Unknown

If it is exciting to probe the unknown and shed light on what was dark before, then more and more excitement surely lies ahead of us. The Universe The Edge of the Universe (p. 302) The known is finite, the unknown infinite intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land. In Francis Darwin (ed.) The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Volume 1 On the Reception of the Origin of Species...

Moon

I fold back the sheet, get carefully up, on silent bare feet, in my nightgown, go to the window, like a child, I want to see. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow. The sky is clear but hard to make out, because of the searchlight but yes, in the obscured sky a moon does float, newly, a wishing moon, a sliver of ancient rock, a goddess, a wink. The moon is a stone and the sky is full of deadly hardware, but oh God, how beautiful anyway. The Handmaid's Tale Chapter 17 (p. 108) The moon...

Black Hole

Since 1960 the universe has taken on a wholly new face. It has become more exciting, more mysterious, more violent, and more extreme as our knowledge concerning it has suddenly expanded. And the most exciting, most mysterious, most violent, most extreme phenomena of all has the simplest, plainest, calmest, and mildest name nothing more than a black hole. The Collapsing Universe Chapter 1 (p. 1) The healthy side of the black-hole craze is that it reminds us of how little science knows, and how...

Astronomy Mnemonics

The first letter of each word gives you the first letter of the planets, in order Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. Matilda Visits Every Monday, Just Stays Until Noon, Period. My Very Easy Method Just Set Up Nine Planets. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Mary's Violet Eyes Make John Stay Up Nights Praying. My Very Energetic Mother Just Sat Upon (the) North Pole. My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pickles. My Very Educated Mother Just...

Theory

Scientific theories are not overthrown they are expanded, refined, and generalized. In Victor Weisskopf Physics in the Twentieth Century Forward p. x a theory of mathematical physics is not one of pure mathematics. Its aim and its raison d'etre are not solely to construct the rational scheme of some possible world, but to construct that particular rational scheme of the particular real world in which we live and breathe. It is for this reason that a theory of mathematical physics, in...

Planet

that which does not twinkle is near we must take this truth as having been reached by induction or sense-perception. Posterior Analytics Book I, Chapter 13, 78a 34-5 After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say, I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER. The Adding Machine Women A Biological Mistake p. 125 Planets are like living creatures. They are born, full of life and activity. They mature, consume energy, and settle into established ways. Finally, they run down, become dormant,...

Creation

With all our wide vision we may be looking at only a small part of a grand creation. Our universe with its billions of galaxies may be only one among many. Science is Not Enough Chapter IX p. 168 No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. The Discourses and Enchiridions Discourses Book I Chapter 15 p. 43 There was a Door to which I...