Reality Straight Up!

Thoughts & Observations of a Free Range Astrophysicist

Cheetah hunting gazel

Fight-or-Flight

How our Pleistocene brains (mis)handle modern threats

A strong fight-or-flight reaction served our evolutionary ancestors well. If the leopard catches you, that’s it! But today a visceral response to a not-so-mortal threat seldom improves things. If you want to get a handle on those intense, counterproductive bouts of emotion, start by understanding where fight-or-flight came from in the first place.

March for Science

Why I March for Science

On Earth Day, April 22, 2017, people around the nation will March for Science. It seems strange to need to march in support of the idea that pronouncements from politicians cannot change the nature of reality, or that evidence matters when making decisions. But such are the peculiar times in which we live.

Pulsars and Neutrinos

The history that LIGO forgot

Gilding the lily makes everybody look bad. When the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory detected ripples in the fabric of space-time from a pair of merging black holes, it was a technological and scientific accomplishment without peer! But LIGO did not “discover” gravity waves.

This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

Recent Article Mobile

  • A Saguaro’s universe  Building a cactus starts with the Big BangPosted in For Your Consideration
  • Oklahoma Skies  To all the amateurs out there, thanks!Posted in For Your Consideration
  • Fight-or-Flight  How our Pleistocene brains (mis)handle modern threatsPosted in Coaching
  • In a Shark’s Eye  Science and the experience of wonderPosted in For Your Consideration
  • The Quandry of Unpredictability  Chaos, climate and an unpredictable futurePosted in For Your Consideration
  • Why I March for SciencePosted in Thoughts
  • Waiting for Skynet  The benefits of being a machinePosted in For Your Consideration
  • Where Are They?  Why E.T. might stay homePosted in For Your Consideration
  • Pulsars and Neutrinos  The history that LIGO forgotPosted in For Your Consideration
  • Not The End of Science  The emerging science of processPosted in For Your Consideration
  • Layer Upon Layer  The evolving edifice of sciencePosted in For Your Consideration
  • Puckish Brilliance  Jim Westphal had an uncommon mindPosted in For Your Consideration
  • The iconic saguaro cactus gives the desert an otherwordly beauty. That beauty does not exist in isolation. It embodies the fascinating and awe-inspiring processes that have shaped the universe, going all the way back to the Big Bang itself.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Looking at room full of amateur astronomers, gathered for the Okie-Tex Star Party under the spectacularly dark skies of the Oklahoma Panhandle, I am reminded of my own roots and those who helped me discover the universe.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • A strong fight-or-flight reaction served our evolutionary ancestors well. If the leopard catches you, that’s it! But today a visceral response to a not-so-mortal threat seldom improves things. If you want to get a handle on those intense, counterproductive bouts of emotion, start by understanding where fight-or-flight came from in the first place.

  • Alone, 100 feet underwater, with a shark in its element, I am overwhelmed by a mixture of awe, beauty, joy, and intellectual wonder at the world that brings us together. In that moment, I experience just what science is all about.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Chaos is a sticky wicket for science. There are things a correct theory like climate change cannot predict, but there are a lot of things that it can. It’s important to understand which is which.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • On Earth Day, April 22, 2017, people around the nation will March for Science. It seems strange to need to march in support of the idea that pronouncements from politicians cannot change the nature of reality, or that evidence matters when making decisions. But such are the peculiar times in which we live.

  • For biological organisms, interstellar travel is hopelessly difficult, and probably pointless. For sentient machines, however, home is the environment you were built for.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • It would be fun to think there is a flourishing interstellar civilization of humanoid aliens out there. But then it would also be nice to believe in unicorns and midichlorians. It would be nice, but they probably aren’t there.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Gilding the lily makes everybody look bad. When the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory detected ripples in the fabric of space-time from a pair of merging black holes, it was a technological and scientific accomplishment without peer! But LIGO did not “discover” gravity waves.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Fundamental change is always messy. As science tackles the complex processes that shape the real world it is having to reinvent itself on the fly. Welcome to the Wild West!

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • As science has evolved from simple observation to deep understanding, each new way of thinking about the world has transformed not only science, but human society. That evolution is far from over.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • From roughneck to Principle Investigator of Hubble’s Wide Field/Planetary Camera, Jim Westphal showed just how far competence, curiosity, and a flawless bullshit filter can take you.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

Over his 30 year career as an internationally known astrophysicist, Dr. Jeff Hester was a key member of the team that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. With one foot always on the frontiers of knowledge, he has been mentor, coach, team leader, award-winning teacher, administrator and speaker, to name a few of the hats he has worn. His Hubble image, the Pillars of Creation, was chosen by Time Magazine as among the 100 most influential photographs in history.
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