Tuesday, 18 July 2023

Moving home

 For any loyal readers who have regularly checked for updates over the past 18 months: 

(1) My sincere apologies for the gaping emotional and intellectual hole I have left in your lives. 

(2) My attempts to fill it will henceforth appear on a new incarnation of The Fictional Aether on Substack. 

The new site will have many benefits. 

If you subscribe, you will never need to refresh the page in feverish desperation ever again -- you will get an email notification whenever a new piece is published! With your interests at heart I have subscribed to several Substack accounts myself, and I am happy to report after many months of scrutiny, that they do not pummel you with spam. You get an email every time there is a new publication, and nothing else. All you have to do to sign up is enter your email address. Wow!

Not only that, but the comments section actually works. If we wish, we will actually be able to communicate with each other! Incredible!

But wait, there's more! You will have the option of showing your appreciation with real money. Or, at least, digital money that I will gratefully use to buy real things. That is entirely optional, but at least the option is there, which was never the case over here on Blogger.

Finally, this fresh new publishing environment, plus the energising thrill of your support, will drive me to write oodles of wonderful new stuff to enrich your life. 


To find out what happens next, head over to substack and sign up

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

You'll shoot your eye out: the shock of the recoil

The latest data dump from gravitational-wave detectors turns out to be full of juicy science, just waiting to be scooped out. 

Last month it was the first measurement of black holes enacting one of the most gorgeous quirks of Einstein's famously peculiar theory of gravity. Two black holes were spiralling into each other and one of them was spinning almost as fast as physically possible and that, through a process with no analogue in our daily experience, caused the entire orbit to affect a gentle sway. The effect was ten billion times stronger than previous measurements, which were from much less extreme events, by which I mean two stars that have been squashed to only ten kilometres across and are orbiting each other ten times closer than Mercury orbits our sun, and are therefore rather pedestrian compared to black holes colliding.

This month came a new wonder from the same event: after the two black holes merged into one, the final massive black hole -- over sixty times more massive than the sun -- received a huge kick from the gravitational waves it gave off and shot away across space at over 700km per second. At least! It was more likely 1500km per second, and could have been as high as 2500. Ok, these are all extreme crazy astronomical things, everything goes fast. Is that really such a big deal? Yes! If this merger happened deep in the obscure innards of some galaxy, the final black hole would be hurtling fast enough to escape the galaxy and zoom off into empty space. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Breaking news! Scientists measure an exciting phenomena you have never heard of!

I. When black holes wobble

Precession! We have finally observed precession in gravitational waves!

I'm told there are several people in the world who do not feel a wild thrill of joy at those words. There are people who have not been breathlessly waiting for this moment for over five years. There are even people -- it's difficult to believe, but I will trust my sources -- who don't know what the hell I'm talking about.