King of Some Media

Print: I was interviewed yesterday by the Daily Express, about a recent Gamma-Ray Burst that occurred when the universe was under a billion years old (less than a tenth its present age). GRBs are thought to be from “Collapsars”, the explosions of massive, rapidly rotating stars. This observation, originally by the Swift Satellite, then followed up by telescopes on the ground, is more evidence that the very first objects were formed pretty early in the Universe’s life. In fact, we expect these objects — very massive stars, probably a hundred or more times the mass of our own sun — to form at about 100 million years after the Big Bang. Those stars would likely all die out in the first billion years, perhaps leaving behind remnant Black Holes, and polluting the rest of the Universe with the elements that made it even easier to form a second generation of less massive stars. The sun, a relative youngster at “only” four and a half billion years old, is thought to be from a third generation of stars, with a smattering of elements that have been recycled through its ancestors. But by examining the light from such ancient explosions, we can begin to probe the state of the Universe as it exited its dark ages and began to light up with stars and galaxies.

Unfortunately, the article appears to have disappeared into the ether. Apparently, more people are interested in Princess Di than Gamma Ray Bursts. Who knew?

Podcast: last week, I was interviewed by Gia Milinovich, who’s blogging for Sunshine, a new film by Danny Boyle (director of lots of great British movies over the last decade, including Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) and Alex Garland (author of The Beach). I talked for about an hour about the sun (and earlier generation of stars like I wrote about above), the universe, and lots in between (which covers just about everything). Like most people, I hate listening to my own voice. Still, only mildly embarrassing.

Update: Here’s a picture of someone listening to the “enhanced podcast”.