Reality Straight Up!

Thoughts & Observations of a Free Range Astrophysicist

The Man Behind the Pillars

Astronomy Magazine asked me to write a piece about what the iconic Hubble Space Telescope image of the Eagle Nebula has meant to me personally. The short answer: It’s been a wild ride!

Art and Science: A False Dichotomy

Is there no beauty in truth?

During the Dutch Golden Age, did Johannes Vermeer use optical devices to capture light, detail, and perspective as never before? If he did, does that make him a fraud, or instead an altogether different kind of genius?

Republished from my monthly Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.(Photo of Vermeer’s The Music Lesson from The Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II)

Intentional Ignorance

Climate change deniers are trying to make NASA conveniently blind

There are a record breaking three Category 4 hurricanes and a new tropical depression in this August 30, 2015 image of the Pacific Ocean taken with NASA’s GOES-15 satellite. We depend on our ability to observe Earth from space. So why is Congress gutting the program?

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

Think Before You Tweet

It can feel really good to call someone out when they cross a line. But if you want to accomplishing something positive, tweeting from the hip is probably the wrong way to go.

Saving Capitalism from Itself

VIII. Win-Win or Lose-Lose, Our Choice

Much of the economic discussion between liberals and conservatives is an argument over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The only question that really matters is how to keep the whole ship from going under. (The final installment in an 8 part series on Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”)

The Good, The Bad & The Hubbled

Stories from the front lines of a wild ride

After 30 years of being associated with the Hubble Space Telescope I’ve picked up some fun stories. I’ve also learned a few things about the sometimes fine line between success and failure in complex, rapidly changing, high stakes times. This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of articles where I share a bit of what I picked up along the way.

Saving Capitalism from Itself

VII. What is Wealth?

Whether as inherited capital, high incomes or the coffers of corporate “persons,” money begats money as never before. In a modern capitalist economy, that is really all you need to know. (Part 7 in a series on Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”)

Recent Article Mobile

  • A Dunning-Kruger Universe  Everyone, it seems, has a “theory”Posted in For Your Consideration
  • Our Need to Know  We crave certainty, even when it is only an illusionPosted in CoachingThoughts
  • 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
  • Some people are sure they know more than the experts, but it can take a lot of knowledge to realize just how wrong an idea is.

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

  • The human brain craves the sensation of knowing like a drug addict craves the next fix. If real knowledge is uncomfortable or not at hand, we are quite content to just make something up, then convince ourselves it’s real. In a world where knowledge matters, that’s dangerous.

  • 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.

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.
©Dr. Jeff Hester LLC, 5301 S. Superstition Mountain Dr., Suite 104 #171, Gold Canyon, AZ 85118