Margaret Burbidge: Made of Starstuff

Professor Margaret Burbidge obituary | Register | The Times
Figure 1: Margaret Burbidge. Image courtesy American Institute of Physics/Science Photo Library

“We are made of starstuff.” These are words we’ve probably all heard at one point or another, made famous by astronomer Carl Sagan in his TV series and book Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. What Sagan is referring to here is our scientific understanding that the elements that make up humans, plants, animals, and all the living things on Earth were created in the cores of distant stars. But how do the stars actually create these elements, and who figured out this incredible picture of how the stuff that makes up all of us came to be?

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Hydrogen in Space: The Backbone of Radio Astronomy

Figure 1: Image source

A memory from ninth grade that I will never forget is the weekend I spent learning to control a *real* radio telescope from an underground bunker brimming with panels of dials, switches, and knobs. Except for the telltale colorful student artwork scattered around, the tiny control room looked as if it would be right at home in an old-time science fiction flick.

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Exploring Einstein’s Relativity

Figure 1. Courtesy:

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all heard of Albert Einstein – we’ve seen the famous picture of the genius sticking his tongue out when someone tried to take his photo. We are familiar with Einstein, the quirky guy who was super smart but got bad grades, and maybe we remember that he came up with the world’s most famous physics equation, E = mc2. But beyond that, how much do we really understand about how Einstein changed our view of the Universe?

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The Higgs Boson

Flowgraph courtesy Sean Carroll, from The Particle at the End of the Universe

Post originally published on June 9, 2015

I am massive. The Earth is massive. A hydrogen atom is massive. The question that the greatest theoretical physicists of the last century and even earlier have been asking is “Why? Why do objects have the property we call mass?” At last, scientists think they have the answer, and it is the most infamous particle of our generation-the Higgs boson.

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