Exploring the intersection where theory meets life.

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Beyond the Conjunction



We had our first guest! And thank goodness, because neither one of us would want to try to explain General or Special Relativity beyond “Time is relative. Space is also there.” A huge thanks to Chris Light for joining us and helping us understand more about how this crazy world works and why Einstein was amazing.


I (Jana) have done some layperson reading on physics, as I try to figure out what exactly it is that my husband does and what the words he says mean in the specific order and context in which he’s using them. While his studies will always be quite beyond me, I have found these books to be helpful and even (gasp!) enjoyable.


Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Ah, RIP Hawking. Hawking once said that if science were eventually to prove his theory of black holes (Hawking radiation!), he would win a Nobel Prize. I am so sad he passed away before that could happen. Honor his memory and contribution to our understanding of the world with a reading of this accessible yet mind-bendy explanation of how time works and what it means about the limits of the universe.


Lawrence Krauss, A Universe From Nothing. Krauss is another great science writer for the layperson. He gives (or, rather, tries to give) an account of how something arose from nothing. Spoiler alert: I don’t think this question can be answered by science, and his tone is really off-putting for anyone with a bent towards faith. But the science content is great and helpful.


Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe. Ok, this one is a little more difficult, though equally fascinating, so get ready to have your brain stretched! But that’s the beauty of string theory. Greene gives the most clear and understandable explanation of string theory that I’ve read (even though I still don’t really understand it) and the book shows what happens when scientific progress bumps up against the limitations of instrumentation and our physicality. String theory definitely starts to veer a bit into philosophy — philosophy as guided by math — and so this is a great fit for A/O/V.

Last, but absolutely not least: Carl Sagan. When Voyager 1 left our planetary neighborhood for the outer reaches of our solar system in 1990, Sagan had NASA turn it around for one last look at and photo of Earth. The photo shows Earth as a small blue dot amidst a scattering of sun rays, and Sagan, with his typical flourish and humanity, makes it into something really special. I defy anyone to watch the video and to consider Sagan’s word without being profoundly moved.

I give you: The Pale Blue Dot.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for listening! We’d love to continue the conversation, so please leave any questions or comments you have below! We’ll be sure to pass the science ones along to Chris.

OK, I lied! One more video because, as Diane illuminated, everyone needs a little Jacques Pepin in their life! Enjoy Jacques Pepin making a lemon pig.

Jana LightComment