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What a Half-Vulcan Taught Us About Science

The death of Leonard Nimoy yesterday inspired an outpouring of moving testimonials about his vast impact: as an actor, as a supporter of science and smart science fiction, as a voice of reason in media both traditional and digital.

Rosetta, the Comet, and the Science of Surprise

There is a cliche you hear all the time when scientists describe their experiments: "We expect the unexpected," or its jokier cousin, "If we knew what we were doing it wouldn't be called research." (That second one is often, but dubiously, attributed to Albert Einstein.) But like many cliches, this one is built on a foundation of truth--as the comet explorations by the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander keep reminding us.

Greatest Misses of Space Exploration in 2014

They can't all be hits. Whenever you are trying to do something as ambitious as exploring the universe, some things are bound to fail.

Greatest Hits of Space Exploration in 2014

I’ll admit it, I am a sucker for year-end lists. If I'm reading one, it is a fun provocation for disagreement.

December Darkness Across the Universe

During the darkest days of December, it makes me feel better to think about all the other, more profound darknesses out there in the universe.

A Revolutionary New Look at How Planets Are Born


HL Tauri, an infant star in the constellation Taurus, is surrounded by a swirling disk of gas and dust.

Stephen Hawking & the Science of the Midterm Elections


Taking a cosmic view could be healthy for our politics. (Credit: NASA/ESA/HFF Team) Out There is not a political blog.

The Hand and Eye Behind “The Theory of Everything”


Stephen and Jane Hawking on their wedding day, in film (left) and real life (middle and right). [Credit: Jane Hawking; Liam Daniel/Focus Features]The Theory of Everything–the long-awaited biopic about physicist Stephen Hawking, opening this Friday–is admirable for the things that it does not do.

How the Comet with the Funny Name Became a Globe-Trotting Internet Meme


I consider the Rosetta spacecraft one of the most exciting space voyagers in years. It is the first probe to orbit a comet, returning images of unprecedented richness.

How the Comet with the Funny Name Became a Globe-Trotting Internet Meme


I consider the Rosetta spacecraft one of the most exciting space voyagers in years. It is the first probe to orbit a comet, returning images of unprecedented richness.

Unlocking The Other Senses of Space


These days it’s no surprise to come across a gallery of amazing astronomy images. The Hubble Space Telescope, the other NASA great observatories and space probes, the European Space Agency and European Southern Observatory, and many, many dedicated amateurs (among other sources) provide a steady flow of visual riches.

Invisible Hands, Peeping Toms, and the First Physics Nobel Prize


Sometimes the Nobel prize in physics requires a fair bit of decoding for the non-expert (such as last year’s award for the theory behind the Higgs boson, or the award the year before “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”).

Invisible Hands, Peeping Toms, and the First Physics Nobel Prize


Sometimes the Nobel prize in physics requires a fair bit of decoding for the non-expert (such as last year’s award for the theory behind the Higgs boson, or the award the year before “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”).

Step #11 in the Human Conquest of Space


In my previous post I talked about the magical quality of an orbit: Each time a spacecraft settles into a permanent path around a new object, humanity has taken one more step in venturing off this little blue world of ours and becoming colonizers of the universe.

Step #11 in the Human Conquest of Space


In my previous post I talked about the magical quality of an orbit: Each time a spacecraft settles into a permanent path around a new object, humanity has taken one more step in venturing off this little blue world of ours and becoming colonizers of the universe.

Taking Inspiration from India’s Mars Probe, and from Mr. Sulu


To my mind, “standard orbit, Mr. Sulu” are more exciting words than “beam me up, Scotty.” An orbit contains a promise of ongoing excitement and adventure: When a spacecraft settles into orbit around another world, that means we have come to stay and explore, not just snap a few quick pictures and move on (maybe pausing briefly to break the Prime Directive).

Taking Inspiration from India’s Mars Probe, and from Mr. Sulu


To my mind, “standard orbit, Mr. Sulu” are more exciting words than “beam me up, Scotty.” An orbit contains a promise of ongoing excitement and adventure: When a spacecraft settles into orbit around another world, that means we have come to stay and explore, not just snap a few quick pictures and move on (maybe pausing briefly to break the Prime Directive).

Will the Higgs Boson Destroy the Universe?


Higgs boson, detected at the Large Hadron Collider on May 18, 2012. The world did not end. (Credit: CERN) Improbable as it may seem, this question has been pinging around the Internet a lot this past week, because of a mix of Stephen Hawking and shameless sensationalism.

Why We Explore: A Comet Tale Told in Four Pictures


There are many ways to explain the reasons for space exploration: the technological spin-offs, the science-education value, the commercial potential of space, the pragmatic lessons back home in everything from space-weather forecasting to mineral exploration.

The End of the Old Solar System, the Beginning of the New


Today marks not one but two milestones in planetary exploration. It is the 25th anniversary of Voyager 2′s flight past Neptune, the most distant planet ever seen up close.


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