Welcome to my "blog"! Here, I'll try to post key updates to ideas in Beyond UFOs. In addition, please note that I send out occasional e-mails with general space news updates, such as cool things to see in the sky or summaries of recent space news (see archive). To subscribe to my e-mail newsletter, enter your e-mail address and click "submit"; you will then receive a confirmation e-mail to which you must reply to activate your subscription:
July 1, 2011: Two Years Worth of Updates!
Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter (use form above) have received occasional updates, but as you can see, I have not had time to anything to this blog for nearly two years. Fortunately, there's a quick and easy source for the major updates: Beyond UFOs has just been released in paperback and e-book form, and I've updated the entire book and added a new 5,000 word Afterword concerning major events of the past two years. I hope you'll check it out. Also want to share two tidbits for those interested in my children's books: (1) Max Goes to the Moon was read in space aboard the Space Shuttle -- click here for more info and a link to the video of the reading; (2) I have a new children's book for Fall 2011, called The Wizard Who Saved the World (available in both English and Spanish).
July 20, 2009: For the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (published on Space.com)
Imagine that you could send a single short message through time to anyone who has ever lived, telling them one modern fact that would give them hope for the future of humanity. I don’t think you could find anything more powerful than this: Human beings have walked on the Moon, and upon first arrival left a plaque that read “We came in peace for all mankind.”
No other single event in human history would be both so understandable — after all, everyone can see the Moon — and so amazing at the same time. For most of history, a trip to the Moon would have been considered impossible. Even once it became possible in principle, few believed that it could really be done. But not only did we do it, we did it in a way that made it belong to all of humanity, not just to the astronauts who made the trip, to the people who built the program, or to the nation that paid for it. Surely, if we are capable of that, it would seem that we are capable of anything.
Or rather that we were capable. For this year marks the 40th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Those of us old enough to remember that day will recall how it riveted attention around the world, even from our enemies at the time. As Neil Armstrong took “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” we all shared a brief moment when humanity seemed poised on the brink of a transcendent future. ...
February 8, 2009: For the International Year of Astronomy (published in the Los Angeles Times)
The revolution was not his alone. The idea was actually an ancient one, and other scientists had embraced it along the way. But it took Galileo and the telescope he built to prove the truth to the masses: Earth is not the center of the universe.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the year Galileo turned his first crude telescope to the heavens. Through it, he observed spots on the sun and shadow patterns proving that the moon had mountains and valleys. These visible "imperfections" helped overturn thousands of years of traditional belief that everything in the heavens must be smooth, perfect and unchanging. ...
August 23, 2008: Convocation Address to Miami University (Ohio) (see the video)
Thank you so much for those kind words of introduction, and thanks to everyone here at Miami University for inviting me to come speak to you. It’s a great honor, though I have to admit I’m also a bit nervous: You are the largest audience I’ve ever spoken to by about a factor of 10, so I’ll just do my best not to sound too intimidated as I speak.
I’ll start with a brief story about what this means to me personally. This began a few months ago when I received an e-mail telling me that my book had been selected for the reading program. To tell you the truth, I almost deleted the e-mail immediately, thinking it might be one of those “you won a million Euros” scams. But I read it more closely, and then looked at the link listing books chosen in past years. I saw authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Elie Wiesel, Toni Morrison, and Dave Eggers, and then I knew: This had to be one of my friends playing a hoax on me; no way could I be on a list with authors like that. Now that I’m here, and I’m pretty sure I’m not dreaming, I’ll just thank you again, because this is surely the greatest honor anyone has ever accorded me. I hope I’ll be able to do it justice. ...
August 2008: Is There Intelligent Life on Earth? (Published in the Free Lance Star, 8/31/08)
Aliens are commonplace in the movies, and polls show that a substantial fraction of Americans also believe that aliens are here among us, visiting our world in UFOs. Scientists also take aliens seriously, though we remain skeptical of claims that they are already here, dropping debris in Roswell, drawing images in wheat fields, or allowing bodies to be captured and stored at Area 51. How can scientists be so interested in aliens while doubting claims of alien visitation, and what would it mean if we found indisputable scientific evidence that we are not alone in the universe?
The first part of my question is easy to answer. Looked at broadly, the history of science has gradually taught us that, contrary to what our ancestors once assumed, we are not the center of the universe. Instead, we live on one small planet, orbiting one ordinary star, among more than 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy and some 100 billion galaxies in our universe; the total number of stars is as great as the total number of grains of sand on all Earth’s beaches combined. Understanding our tiny place in a vast cosmos is both humbling and uplifting: It is humbling in the sense that there is so much more to the universe than meets the eye, but uplifting in the magnificence of the fact that, despite our small physical size, we have discovered wonders far beyond what our ancestors could ever have imagined. ...
August 4, 2008: Two exciting science updates:
1. Ice on Mars — First direct detection of water on another world!
2. Lakes on Titan confirmed
July 2008: The Future We Should Be Talking About (Published in the Free Lance Star, 7/27/08)
It’s the year 2100. Do you know where your children are?
The question may sound facetious, but it’s actually quite important as you ponder who to vote for and what policies to support here in 2008. You can see why with some simple math: If medical science is as successful in extending life spans during this century as it was during the last, then by 2100 the average American should be living to nearly 110 years of age. Many of today’s younger voters can therefore expect to be alive, and nearly all of us could have children or grandchildren living at that time. In other words, if you care about making a better world for our children and grandchildren, then you should be thinking very hard about the world of 2100.
March 2007: A Global Warming Primer
Most misconceptions about global warning surround confusion over what is "certain" and "uncertain" in the science behind it. Some parts of the science are indeed uncertain, but others are not. To clarify which is which, here are five questions that everyone should ask (and be able to answer) about global warming:
Question 1: The basic claim of global warming is that a higher atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide will make Earth warmer. Is there any doubt that, all other things being equal, higher carbon dioxide concentrations do indeed make planets warmer?