BAN #115: Debunking creationism at a wedding, Curiosity’s path

May 20, 2019 Issue #115

[Saturn image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic]

Subscribers make my life better by a factor of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Personal Stuff

Yeah, but not too personal

Waaaay back in BAN Issue 109 I talked a little bit about officiating a nerdy science wedding, and how much fun it was. The bride and groom wanted me to give a presentation (yes! A science talk during a wedding!) about the Universe, astronomy, and physics, and tie it together with the idea of two people finding each other. I think I was able to pull that off — after all, the Universe isn’t random. There are rules.

During my talk someone in the audience took this picture, and I want to share it because I just think it’s really cool:

[Credit: Loria Carnefix]

If you’re curious, I’ve seen young-Earth creationists claim that the odds of a protein forming at random from a soup of atoms are 1 in 10^113th power. Like so many YEC claims, this one is flatly (even ridiculously) wrong; it’s not like you take a box full of mismatched parts, shake it, and suddenly a fully operational alarm clock appears in it. Atoms have rules in the way they fit together to form molecules, which cuts the odds just a hair: They go from being 1 in ten trillion googol to it being inevitable.

It’s amazing what you can learn about the Universe when you don’t stick your fingers in your ears and scream LALALALALALALA. And who knows? Paying attention to science might lead to finding someone you can spend your life with.

A Bit o’ Science

The entirety of science is too much for one sitting. Here’s a morsel for you.

The Curiosity rover is still tooling around on Mars, examining the flank of Aeolis Mons, aka Mt. Sharp, the central peak in the huge Gale Crater. The top of the mountain soars over 5 kilometers above the floor of the crater, and we think that, billions of years ago, this crater was actually a lake over 100 km across.

NASA/JPL just released a short video that shows where Curiosity is, and where they hope for it to go in the coming years: Farther up the flank, to examine some very interesting areas.

Clay is of particular interest to me. It’s laid down by water over long periods of time, and in some biological ideas it provides a good place of chemicals to brew and get more complex. Curiosity isn’t really equipped to look for signs of life, but it’ll be interesting to see what the chemistry of that area was doing eons ago.

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[From Wednesday’s article: Artwork depicting a black hole eating a star, the ferocious tides tearing the star apart. Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss]

Monday May 13, 2019: Crash site of the Apollo 12 ascent module possibly found after almost 50 years

Tuesday May 14, 2019: Could larger space rocks be hiding in the Beta Taurid meteor stream? We may find out this summer.

Wednesday May 15, 2019: A black hole in a distant galaxy has been eating a star… for more than a *decade*!

Thursday May 16, 2019: Can you really find micrometeorites in your gutter? Well…

Friday May 17, 2019: NGC 5866, an edge-on galaxy, shows off its spectacular dust lane

Et alia

You can email me at (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!