Blog Archives

‘We are Stardust’

That’s part of what Professor Brian Cox was on about on Sunday evenings a few months ago, on the BBC programme Wonders of the Universe, as he wafted about the world in a D:ream; in case you missed it.

It’s a minor miracle in itself that I ever watched the programme (but now I want the box set). Until quite recently I would have been vehement in my hatred of such scientific subject matter. In Physics at school I used to beg to be allowed to sit at the back and copy out of the text book, rather than participate in experiments. Well they called them experiments, but they weren’t really as everyone pretty much knew what was going to happen in any case.

My teenage self-study of the Sciences at school resulted in my achieving a Physics CSE at the giddy heights of a grade 2 – which far outstripped my performance in the other Sciences (Chemistry/Biology) where I scraped through with a pair of 3s.

Anyway, lately I have found the world of Physics fascinating. I don’t understand it much, I have to read the same page a few times when I tackle any book on the subject, but every little piece of information I do manage to glean is utterly mind-expanding and entirely absorbing.

The stardust in the blog title comes from this assertion: all atoms were created in the heart of a star. That’s all the atoms that make up us, the world, everything in it, our universe and all those beyond. We were born in the death of an exploding star and when we die our atoms will return to the universe. Now I have spent hours and hours in church and never once found a smattering of comfort in the religious narrative of creation. The Wonder of the Universe has far more resonance – what a pity we couldn’t have done that in CSE Physics Mr Butterworth.

The obvious song to put up would be the Joni Mitchell ‘Woodstock’ but I have to confess I am disappointed with the lyric spoiling hard science with religious references and, actually, I hate the tune. Let’s have Prof. Bri Cox (soon to gig at Glasto) instead.

Oh no let’s not. It’s an awful song.

A exploded star: Helix Nebula or the Eye of God

The Morning Star

Actually it’s the planet Venus and is visible in a clear sky at the moment before dawn. I have seen it twice this week at about 7 am, when I am standing in the frozen garden with the dog. There’s no moon, no other stars, just this one brilliant white and very sparkly planet in the sky. Apparently it will be visible in this way from both hemispheres until July 2011. Not being an especially early-riser this is probably my optimum time to catch it.

Recommended viewing in the south-eastern pre-dawn skies if you are up and about.