Thursday, January 10, 2008

What I learned on Day 2

Yesterday was the second day of the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society here in Austin, Texas. During the day, I went to talks on 10,000 mile-per-second winds streaming away from giant black holes (the stuff in the wind was never inside the black hole, so it can escape), stars in the outer parts of nearby galaxies, what giant stars can tell us about how elements are made, and even a debate on the future of astronomy research.

I spend lunch and parts of the afternoon discussing projects I'm working on with co-workers from across the country. Although we talk by email and telephone fairly often, it is nice to have everyone in the same room to help solve some problems, put faces to people I've only spoken to over the phone, and to start some new ideas.

You'll note I haven't talked much about new news coming out of the meeting yet; that's due to a lack of time to digest the information and blog about it. But that will give me material to talk about for the next week. :)


  1. Regarding the still theoretical objects known as black holes, it be necessary to characterize them as such a priori, I believe!
    I read parts of a DISCOVER interview with Dr. Kip Thorne recently. Some of his "material" defied all reasonableness, I thought: e.g., the destruction of matter therein, as well as the infinite density.
    You might like to read it and weep for the loss of integrity and rigor
    of Astronomy - per se - therefor!

  2. Dr. Thorne's work on what happens inside a black hole is still theoretical. As of yet, we can't think of a way to peer inside a black hole and test these theories. But as for black holes themselves, we do see objects that meet all the apparent definitions; objects where matter seems to disappear, the gravity is very strong, and many predictions that come from Einstein's General Relativity appear to be true. So, I think there is little doubt that black holes exist. What happens inside them, though, is purely theoretical speculation for the time being.