Space... Well, It's Big
March 13, 2018 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Phil Plait, astronomer and writer of the Bad Astronomy blog, has a Crash Course on Astronomy on YouTube.

In 47 10-12 minutes videos, Plait explains basic concepts of astronomy, does a tour of the Solar System from the Sun to the Oort Cloud, then gets really big with various types of stars, nebulae, galaxies and so on.

Phil Plait previously previously and, well, a bunch more.

Hat tip to this thread for sending me down the Jupiter, uh... gravity well and into this series.
posted by GenjiandProust (9 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you only want to watch one, I enjoyed seeing him kind of lose his mind in the Neutron Stars episode (#32) where magnetars make him very nervous. I guess one side effect of being an astronomer is that you know all the really big and weird things that could kill us really dead.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:54 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Thanks Phil! He's a regular on How the Universe Works and is often seen on The Universe episodes (though the heavy boxing ring commentary style does that series no favours).

It's great that he more or less instantly attempts to explain what science is in our current age of many people vigorously and proudly embracing ignorance. I saw an argument once against the Big Bang based on getting all the science of the Big Bang completely wrong. It was depressing.

YouTube has been great for watching things like this and lectures from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Royal Institution, the Royal Society (and many others I'm sure).

The scale of the Universe (or Space) is mind boggling (at least to me). The Sun is 149.6 million km away from us and yet being that far it's still pretty large in the sky and it's peanuts to the scale of other stars.

Another great thing about this series from Phil, he uses the metric system (I hope that's true of all the episodes).
posted by juiceCake at 2:27 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


(I hope that's true of all the episodes)

As far as I can recall, yes (except when he's using # of Earths or "about the size of the Moon" etc). I was pretty amused when he was talking about energy output over a star's life, and he kept doing it in terms of square centimeters of surface area. That's a lot of square centimeters....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:40 PM on March 13


His Bad Astronomy blog on syfy.com is always good. But I've never been able to finish watching one of his Crash Course videos. I can't stand that editing technique that removes the pauses between sentences.
posted by jjj606 at 2:47 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I was pretty amused when he was talking about energy output over a star's life, and he kept doing it in terms of square centimeters of surface area. That's a lot of square centimeters....

CGS? Jesus wept.
posted by The Tensor at 3:05 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - Douglas Adams
posted by smallerdemon at 6:33 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


in terms of square centimeters of surface area
For weird historical and cultural reasons, astronomers use the CGS (Centimter, Gram, Second) system. They stood happily on their little planet of confusion as the rest of the scientific world moved to SI.

It's become a tribal identifier. Young astro grad students mark themselves apart from the rest of the physics department by discussing gals and dynes and ergs. It's both cute and annoying. I can't see any way to bring them back into the fold without distressing them greatly.
posted by Combat Wombat at 7:07 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I can't see any way to bring them back into the fold without distressing them greatly.

Sounds like a potential television series.
posted by juiceCake at 8:56 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


The key is to gently fold from the bottom of the bowl so as not to deflate
posted by bq at 9:17 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


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