Fermi versus some guy from Podunk

Nobel prize-winning physicist I.I. Rabi commented once that “In science we can’t let some guy from Podunk have the same vote as (Nobel laureate Enrico) Fermi.” Science has nothing to do with voting – I dislike gravity (especially when I step on a scale) but convincing my fellow citizens to vote against gravity (or to […]

Back to the basics: producing fissile materials

Fissile materials have been in the news a lot in recent years – Iran’s uranium enrichment program, North Korea’s continuing nuclear weapons program, the on-going nuclear security summit, and so forth. Given all of this attention this seems like a good time to talk about what fissile materials are and how they’re produced – and […]

Solar Storms

Over the weekend Earth was slammed by the biggest solar storm in about a decade. Days earlier a huge x-class solar flare (the most powerful category) had blasted millions of tons of hydrogen into space, with Earth in the cross-hairs. The eruption – called a coronal mass ejection – blasted through space at more than […]

Existential threats

Recent discussions in the media about various “existential threats” have got me to wondering exactly what this term means – and as what you might call a “recovering professor” I’m also wondering whether or not this term is being used correctly or consistently by all of those bandying it about. And for those of you […]