Category Archives: About the Blog

Welcome to the new site

This will, hopefully, be the permanent location of my blog.

Yes, I hear you laughing at me for thinking something on the Internet might be “permanent”.

I also hope to start blogging again more regularly. I used to. I want to more. I want to do more posts like my M82 supernova post, and my Higgs Mechanism post.

As for why I left Scientopia, it’s because I couldn’t stand to see the abuse that a small number (one, in particular, although this individual wasn’t alone) heaped on Mark Chu-Carroll, the person who had been paying for the hosting of Scientopia and doing all of the work for it. It was really inexcusable. When, after a flare up, somebody came in and told us “all to be professional”, it was the last straw. I’m all for being professional. But when being professional means being polite and not calling out those who are engaging in smiling, moderately-toned, but inexcusable behavior, it’s all just pretend professional.

For more details about the recent downtime on scientopia, and why I’ve left the site, read Mark’s description of the history and the event.

Comments on old posts disabled (with an aside about plasma cosmology)

Fairly frequently I get an e-mail message letting me know that there’s a new comment, a screed from somebody who is put off by my telling the world the truth about the nature of Plasma Cosmology in my post How I Know Plasma Cosmology Is Wrong. This is an ancient post, and the truth is that I don’t really have the time or inclination to engage with the true believers on the matter; this is why I haven’t been approving those comments. (They weren’t ones I wanted to let pass without comment.) However, rather than just disable comments on that post, I realized it made sense to disbale comments on all old posts that I wasn’t going to engage on any more.

I left all posts from 2012 still able to comment. It’s kind of depressing how few there are.

By the way, in case you thought you were missing something, the comments on the “Plasma Cosmology” that I didn’t approve for the most part made one of two points:

  • I was unprofssional and behaving badly by calling Plasma Cosmology a crackpot theory. Why can’t I just engage the theory on its own merits? My tone was perhaps a little bit to dickish; I’ll apologize to Phil Plait, at least, if not to the actual plasma cosmologists themselves. Because, the actual truth is that Plasma Cosmology is a crackpot fringe theory, and to call it anything else would be little different from saying that creationism or intelligent design are “viable scientific alternatives” to evolution. The widespread acceptance of standard cosmology is not because those of us in the mainstream are too afraid to look at the evidence and speak out against the unthinking consensus. The widespread acceptance of standard cosmology is because there is a lot of evidence for it, and there’s not evidence for the alternative proposed by the plasma cosmologists.
  • There is no good evidence for the Big Bang model, Dark Matter, etc. These statements are just flatly incorrect. There is a tremendous amount of evidence for dark matter. I have covered that elsewhere, and a casual browse through Ethan Siegel’s blog, among several others, can give you an introduction to all of that. (Humorously, the “bullet cluster” is one thing that can be identified as the “smoking gun”, but it’s just one piece of evidence amongst a large number of pieces of evidnece.) As for the Big Bang itself, I point you to my podcast at 365 Days of Astronomy from last year entitled On the success of Big Bang Cosmology.

Archives imported

When this blog opened here on scientopia, it already had the archives from my stint at scienceblogs. I’ve now imported the archive from the blog between the scienceblogs era and the scientopia era.

I fear that the posts from the pre-scienceblogs era are lost to the mists of history. Other than those, however, this site now has the full archives of my blog.

At some point, I’ll probably try to clean up the categories. As a result of the multiple imports, there are redundant categories, and the hierarchy is rather disjointed.

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to the scientopia iteration of Galactic Interactions! At the moment, I’m deep in the process of unpacking after moving from the USA to Canada, having arrived just there days ago, so there’s no meaty post just yet. The archives from when this blog was at ScienceBlogs have been imported– those go through 2007. The more recent archives at the blog’s last location aren’t imported yet, and I’m working on it.

Stay tuned; if I get a chance amongst all of the unpacking I’m doing, later today I will post the history of the entire Universe….

Renaming the blog

I have renamed my blog back to “Galactic Interactions”, the name of the blog that I started when I was still an assistant professor of physics & astronomy.  After I started working at Linden Lab, I noticed that I wasn’t blogging about astronomy all that much any more, and what’s more I have to admit that I was feeling kind of sad that I wasn’t spending the time thinking about physics & astronomy that would lead me to spontaneously blog about it.  As such, closed down my blog on scienceblogs.com and started a new blog entitled “Second Sight”.

Life changes. I no longer work for Linden Lab. Also, over the course of the last year, I’ve become involved with MICA, which has made me more active in the astronomy community — not as active as if it were my job, but it does give me a connection that allows me to keep it up on my own time. Especially given that MICA was founded by people who work in N-body calculations (i.e. the computational/theoretical arm that goes into dealing with, among other things, galaxies interacting), it makes sense for me to rename my blog back to “Galactic Interactions”. So here it is!

I may be changing the look of the blog a bit in coming weeks too. Being the nerd that I am, I don’t find themes or anything like that. I hacked the PHP and HTML for a standard WordPress theme to get the current look, and I may hack it a bit more to make it more appropriate again to its new/old name.

Welcome to my blog – there’s lots of room, so come right in

I know, I’ve said that sort of thing before. I’m not a new blogger… until a couple of months ago, I was writing Galactic Interactions, a science blog that (like so many other blogs) was about everything under the Sun, but which tended to focus vaguely in the direction of astronomy.

Lots of things have changed in my life since then. I’m no longer in academia. I’m no longer an active physics & astronomy researcher or teacher. I’m now a computer engineer, working for Linden Lab, the company that has created and runs the virtual online 3D world known as Second Life. For a while, I tried to keep writing Galactic Interactions, but I was finding it difficult on a few fronts. First, I was quite busy learning my new job (my new career!). Second, I really am somewhat bitter about having had to leave physics & astronomy, and it was a bit of a bitter reminder. Most importantly, though, I was finding that I felt the need, the responsibility to post something about astronomy regularly (each week?) to Galactic Interactions, and it was starting to feel more like a burden. I wasn’t naturally running into random astronomy news tidbits as much as I had been, so the spark of “oh I must post about this!” wasn’t coming so naturally. What’s more, there are always nasty comments out there from people who know everything, and the personal attacks in the comments were making me feel like it just wasn’t worth being out there saying my say— even though they were rare in comparison to what quite a number of other bloggers at, say, scienceblogs.com.

However.

Continue reading

Note: warning of impending memory hole

My Seed overlords have let me know that as I have decided to no longer continue this blog, I won’t be able to keep the backlogs here indefinitely. Sometime in the next couple of months, the archives will disappear from this site.

I also plan to take down the archives from the blog’s former site, in part of an ongoing effort to make it so that people at Vanderbilt don’t have to depend on me to maintain computers there.

I have not decided yet if it is going to be worth the effort to try to set up archives on an independent site for posterity. Likely this will not happen. If there is anything you’ve ever read here that you think you want archived— either because you thought it was worth reading, or because you think you might want to send me abuse about it later— you will want to make copies of it now.

Blog going on indefinite hiatus

I am going to take a break from astronomy blogging for an indefinite period of time.

I’m finding that as I’m involved in my new job, while I still do get a charge out of posts like the Big Bang post I did the other day, my heart isn’t 100% in this.

Also, after the deleted post yesterday, I’m just too digusted with the nature of academia at our forefront research institutions (and with Vanderbilt in particular– as anybody who reads this knows, I already bore a fair amount of bitterness towards that institution, and now I have a huge amount of disgust with Vanderbilt’s Physics department). Yes, in the past I got a lot of mileage out of echoing those complaints, and I know that I hit something of a chord because of the response I received. Heck, even to this day news stories get generated in part by my own meta-issues with academia. But the fact is that I’m out of it now, and I’m finding myself really wanting to move on and not remain so mired in the issues that drove me into clinical depression and eventually drove me out of the field. They are not my problem now, and I’m not enough of the crusader type to want to fix the world even though I’ve been booted from it.

I truly do regret having to give up teaching college. Ironically, yesterday when I visited Vanderbilt, I also dropped by the Society of Physics Students meeting, and really enjoyed meeting and saying “hello” to the students. I loved the science, I loved the teaching, and I loved interacting with the students… but the academic politics and the nutty standards of “rigor” that Universities think they are applying wrecked it all. And learning what I learned about the academic politics reminded me that, yes, however wistful I may have been in the interactions with students, I made the right decision by fleeing that environment.

The fact is that my heart just is not in this astronomy blogging gig right now. I have moved on, and I really want to move on. I will make myself unhappy if I continued to be mired in what I was mired in before. And, the fact is that I don’t have enough left over cognitive energy to be making the kinds of astronomy breaking news and pedagogical posts that composed what I think were the best of Galactic Interactions. Astronomy and teaching remain two of my passions, and some day I may try to come back to it. In the the mean time, however, farewell.

It is possible at some point in the future I may change my mind, and want to start blogging again— about astronomy, or about something else. I can’t predict if I’ll ever be able to re-join the scienceblogs.com family, but in any event I’ll link to it from my personal home page. If for whatever reason you may have some interest in that possibility, periodically check that page, as I’ll assuredly drop a link there to any public blog that I’m doing.

Offline for a few more days

I”m sorry the blog’s been so quiet recently. With my new job, and my trip out to SF getting started at Linden these last two weeks, I’ve been quite busy! Things won’t settle down until next week, as I’m off to the UK for the next for days for the Gruber Prize award ceremony. I’ll be back next week and trying to settle into a routine, after which hopefully I’ll be getting to some of my mentally queued posts including one on the Coriolis Effect, one answering common criticisms you may see about the Big Bang, and hopefully one on the bigass void that some of you have read about.

Several comments just published

I realized that I had several comments that hadn’t been flagged as “junk,” but which had been flagged for moderation. I don’t see those much, so I haven’t been looking for them. As such, several of them have been sitting there for as much as 3 weeks.

I apologize to those of you whose comments languished.