Starting the New Year Right (with a Bang, of course)

Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right. -Oprah

Welcome to 2010, everybody! I know that many of you have been following my writing for some time, and many of you have just started recently, so I'd like to start the New Year off right, and (re)introduce myself and this blog to you. With lots of pretty pictures.

My name's Ethan, and I love the Universe. I love looking up, out, and beyond what's here on Earth, into the great abyss of deep space, and trying to figure out what's out there.

Not just what's out there, but how it got to be there, where it came from, where it's going, and how we know it.

That includes the things we don't understand yet, like why the gravity (blue) and normal matter (pink) that we find don't match up on large scales in space.

This stuff -- Astronomy, Physics, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and Cosmology -- is what I've loved enough to work on, in one way or another, for my entire adult life. What I've learned amazes and enthralls me, and gives me a tremendous joy whenever I lose myself thinking about it. And that's too much for me to simply hold inside, so I write. I write to share that joy with you, and I try to do it in a way that will be entertaining, interesting, engaging, and educational for you. (And that includes showing you the best pictures I can find/procure/create/scavenge. Mostly scavenge.)

And that's why I keep this site. Because I know something that was terribly hard to learn, and I not only know it really well, but I enjoy sharing that joy and understanding as best as I possibly can.

Sometimes I'll talk about things that are right in our backyard, like the Sun, the Moon, or even things going on here on Earth, and sometimes we'll head out to the farthest reaches of space. Sometimes I'll tell you about things happening on the tiniest, sub-nuclear scales, while other times we'll look out at some of the largest structures in the Universe.

Sometimes the focus is astronomy, sometimes physics. And every once in a while, I'll write about health, the environment, the human body, or something else that I'm less of an expert on, but that I'll choose to go out on a limb and write about anyway. (And once a week, on Saturday or Sunday, I'll give you something completely random, often with a song.) But I always come back to the Universe.

So for tonight -- because why wait -- if you've got clear skies and the bright Moon doesn't wreck it for you, check out the quadrantid meteor shower, which peaks tonight. If you can find the big dipper in the sky, you'll know where to look for meteors. Just check out the image below.

But -- in honor of the New Year -- I'm going to offer something special for all of you.

There's a story to be told about the history of the Universe, about where it all came from, about how it got to be the way it is, and about where it's headed. It's the greatest story ever told, only it's a story that only a few people in the world ever really learn well.

I'm one of them. So look for my Greatest Story Ever Told series, starting later this week, where we'll start before the Big Bang and come forward in time to the present day, and then go even beyond that, into the future.

So here's to starting 2010 with a bang, and to you, my wonderful readers, for helping inspire me to keep doing what I love!


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This ought (if it weren't 2010, I would say it "aught") to be a good ride.

That diagram of the universe's history is bothersome. What does the width represent? And what about the wedge overlaid inside it? Neither seem to conform to the expansion rates and size of the universe. And I suppose the time after the big bang is a logarithmic scale? Am I being pedantic, or could it be more accurate/informational with a few simple changes?

What we really wanna know is if you or Abbie is more fit?

Excellent blog. Keep up the good work.

Also, I agree with Sili.

If time is part of our universe how can we speak about "before" our universe?


Seriously, looking forward to it. The origin of the universe (not the history, but the origin) is a favorite topic of the creationists I interact with lately, it would be nice to hear about the latest.

I love your series, I'll be keeping an eye on it.

@Jason: if before is also after... ;)

love your blog. I really appreciate the way you make a point by pulling in a high-level summary of some observation with an excellent graphic. The way you combine text and images gives you a punch-per-pixel that Tufte would be proud of. You're a great teacher. Thanks.

oh please don't put oprah's sayings on a science blog. It is painful to see the pop culture all around and how charloton's like oprah are praised to the point of worship in the current media. Dont want to see her here too.
happy new year to you too Ethan. Keep blogging.

First read your blog 7 months ago....I check in everyday now and that's saying something since I don't have a ton of time/patience.

Gonna be some great posts this year, can't wait!

By rick king (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink


I have a problem with your last figure. Seems to me if you're going to start with the Big Bang, and the every beginning of the Universe, should the sub-labels on the time axis be combination and deionization. Because if you're going to start at the VERY beginning of time as defined by the beginning of our universe then nothing should be 're-whatever' since it is happening for the first time, right?

Your faithful chemist,


By Richard Helmich (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

So I guess if you want to call the formation of the first stars and all the ionization that occurs with it, the label of re-ionization would be ok, but i still don't like recombination. The particles weren't really combined in anyway that one might define it before the big bang...hmmm...damn the details.

By Richard Helmich (not verified) on 04 Jan 2010 #permalink

"So here's to starting 2010 with a bang, and to you, my wonderful readers, for helping inspire me to keep doing what I love!"

I love that you love your readers. Daily Lurker loves the education and wishes you happy monkey every day of your life.

By ThirtyFiveUp (not verified) on 05 Jan 2010 #permalink