Articles

Interstellar: second planet

Finding our place among the stars, Review of film “Interstellar”

The blockbuster film Interstellar is a stirring defense of space exploration and of our trust in science to get humanity out of trouble. This ambitious movie weaves complex ideas from physics—including relativity, quantum gravity, and higher-dimensional space—into the very fabric of its narrative. With a running time of just under 3 hours, the film manages to tell a gripping story while still getting most of its science right. Read More→

Martian landscape

A one-way ticket to Mars

If given the opportunity, would you go on a one-way trip to Mars? I ask this question in several of my classes, and about a third of the students respond positively. I am sure that when faced with a real-life decision, many of these students will have second thoughts. This is understandable. It is hard to willingly leave family, friends, good food and an abundance of breathable oxygen. But I know that at least some of these students genuinely mean it. They would love nothing more than to go to Mars, even if it means saying goodbye to the planet of their birth forever. Read More→

Planets

A Plethora of planets

Pluto may have been demoted as a planet. But astronomers have more than redeemed themselves by confirming — as of early March 2014 — close to 1,700 planets orbiting other stars. And the numbers will only keep on rising as the Milky Way is full of planets — perhaps as many as a hundred billion worlds. Going by those numbers, there may be roughly 500 planets in the galaxy for every person in Pakistan. Read More→

Europa Report poster

The Joy and Fear in Space Exploration

NASA’s human space program is currently adrift. The space shuttle has been retired, and American astronauts now hitch rides to the space station. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the next big program will land people on the Moon (again), a nearby asteroid, Mars—or perhaps, for the foreseeable future, nowhere at all. Desperate, space enthusiasts have to settle for high-budget science fiction coming out of Hollywood showing aliens fighting with robots or a dumbed-down and militarized Trek universe that abandons the idealistic spirit of exploration created by Gene Roddenberry. In this context, two new films, the low-budget Europa Report and the visually stunning Gravity, offer a much-needed breath of fresh air. Read More→

Golden necklace

Astronomy: Cosmic bling

The announcement was short. It lasted only a fraction of second — a blink of an eye. But a spacecraft in Earth’s orbit, keeping an eye on such events, captured it on June 3 this year. The announcement may have been brief, but it told us that two exotic dead stars, called neutron stars, have collided with each other. This is a relatively rare event, but it bears good news for the merchants in the Sona bazaar. This collision has created gold — lots of it. Read More→

A golden record on Voyager 1

Urdu floating at the edge of our Solar System

Assalam alaikum. Hum zameen kay rehnay waalon kee taraf say aap ko khush amdaid kehtay hain (Peace be upon you. We the inhabitants of this Earth send our greetings to you).

This greeting is onboard the farthest human-made object from the Earth:Voyager 1. Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 provided the first close-up pictures of Jupiter and Saturn, before starting its journey out of our Solar System. After 35 years of travels, it is now roughly 19 billion kilometers from the Earth. There is another way to think about this distance. A radio message from the Sun would take only eight minutes to get to us. From Voyager 1, it currently takes 17 hours! Furthermore, the distance between us and this assalam alaikum will only keep on growing.

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The Ring Nebula

Anticipating a glorious death of our Sun

All good things come to an end. Even the lives of stars. Located 2,300 light years away, the Ring Nebula (right) is a gorgeous announcement of the demise of a star that shone brightly for ten billion years.

Now all that is left is a small white nucleus surrounded by gases that once were part of the star itself. Some of these gases will one day be part of another star. This is cosmic recycling at its best.

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Sensational fossil found

Muslim thought on evolution takes a step forward

The event, organised by the Deen Institute, was titled Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution? The speakers included an evolutionary biologist, a biological anthropologist, two theologians and a bona fide creationist.

It lasted seven hours, yet almost everyone stayed till the end. There were more than 850 people in the audience and even though the topic was sensitive and controversial, there was no heckling or disruption. At least from my limited interactions, it seemed that the audience was comprised mostly of young professionals. Most had no strong opinion, but their interest was evident as they were willing to spend their entire Saturday hearing about Muslim positions on evolution.

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Mecca Clock Tower

Why are some Muslims calling to replace GMT with Mecca time?

This summer, the world’s largest clock began its first official duty: marking time during Ramadan in Mecca—Islam’s holiest city. This colossal clock bears a striking resemblance to Big Ben, and the tower that hosts it (courtesy of the Canadian-based Fairmont hotel operation) is six times taller than the British landmark, making it the second tallest building in the world, visible for 16 miles. Read More→

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