Featured image: The warps in spacetime caused by gravity even affect light, so that heavy objects create distorted views of galaxies behind them. (Courtesy NASA)
Our guest this week is the luminous Prof. Jo Dunkley of Princeton’s Departments of Physics and Astrophysical Sciences, who just published her first book, Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide. Jo boils down our universe’s 13 billion year history into a digestible story, traveling from planets to stars to clumps of dark matter on the way. She reminds us of the painstaking research that enables our modern understanding: for example, female “computers” like Henrietta Swan Leavitt in the early 20th century made crucial discoveries about stars and distance even as male scientists monopolized the telescopes. Finally, Jo explains the radical idea of measuring gravity by looking at distortions in the cosmic microwave background, a primary thrust of her current research.
In other news:
- Three exoplanets around one star: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite just discovered a trio of planets larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, filling a gap we don’t have in our own solar system.
- Human brains may be capable of halfway sleeping, according to new models of cross-brain communication that show unihemispheric sleep–just like dolphins and birds.
The playlist can be found at WPRB.com or below.