Monday, March 10, 2008

Scientific American tells all?

I've been reading articles from Scientific American for fifty years or more, and still enjoy it tremendously. While there are many other extremely worthwhile scientific journals, I'm a creature of habit and this one is good enough for me!

Relative to the "Basic Questions" theme of this blog, I would heartily recommend that you read various online Scientific American articles. The following two articles in particular are very cogent summaries of several aspects of cosmology that I've mentioned in earlier posts, and they're well worth a read:
  • Misconceptions about the Big Bang - Baffled by the expansion of the universe? You're not alone. Even astronomers frequently get it wrong. ... Expansion is a beguilingly simple idea, but what exactly does it mean to say the universe is expanding? What does it expand into? Is Earth expanding, too? To add to the befuddlement, the expansion of the universe now seems to be accelerating, a process with truly mind-stretching consequences. ... The universe does not seem to have an edge or a center or an outside, so how can it expand?
  • The Universe's Invisible Hand - Dark energy does more than hurry along the expansion of the universe. It also has a stranglehold on the shape and spacing of galaxies. ... Scientists are just starting the long process of figuring out what dark energy is and what its implications are. One realization has already sunk in: although dark energy betrayed its existence through its effect on the universe as a whole, it may also shape the evolution of the universe's inhabitants--stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters. Astronomers may have been staring at its handiwork for decades without realizing it.
By the way, a subscription to the digital edition of Scientific American is only US $3.33 per month ($39.95 per year): they say "the latest Scientific American issue delivered online before it hits newsstands, access over 180 issues of scientific progress from 1993 to the present, and quickly locate, preview and download your selections ... Download to your computer for convenient offline reading ... in high-quality PDF format."