Eclipses: a pump of curiosity?

Even though the wiring of the human brain evolved in an exceptional way, if novelty had remained below a certain threshold, early humans may not have received a sufficient trigger to begin forming the concept of reasons. My accepted manuscript for the Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union Symposium No. 367, 2021, is available underContinue reading “Eclipses: a pump of curiosity?”

Earth in a spin

The Earth … has been spinning unusually fast lately. 2020 included the 28 shortest days since 1960. Image: Our story on the Earth’s quickening rotation is generating a lot of interest, from the Daily Express to Live Science to USA Today. Update (17 January): There’s also coverage of the story in Spanish-language media,Continue reading “Earth in a spin”

Visualizing the music of the spheres

We have known for thousands of years that the sky is full of harmonies and rhythms. Pythagoras called it the “music of the spheres.” As part of the build-up to next week’s great conjunction, Steffen Thorsen (CEO of and I have written a piece for Sky & Telescope on the pattern of closer-than-usual approachesContinue reading “Visualizing the music of the spheres”

Extraterrestrial intelligence and the Fermi paradox

The Milky Way contains 100 billion stars. So where is everybody? (The spacecraft shown in this artist’s impression is one of ours: it’s ESA’s Gaia space observatory.)Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab; background: ESO/S. Brunier One of the highlights of IAUS 367 is Nikos Prantzos, from the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, on “the quest for extraterrestrial intelligenceContinue reading “Extraterrestrial intelligence and the Fermi paradox”

Extending the Rare Earth hypothesis

I’ll be presenting “Solar eclipses: A pump of curiosity for early humans?” at the International Astronomical Union Symposium 367 next month. The symposium was originally scheduled to take place in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, close to the path of totality for the 14 December solar eclipse. However, covid-19 restrictions mean it will now beContinue reading “Extending the Rare Earth hypothesis”

Where did our sense of curiosity come from?

My recent article for I-M on solar eclipses and the Fermi paradox is now available online. As Daniel C Dennett, a philosopher and cognitive scientist, has observed, searching for explanations is a central feature of our species. Where does our sense of curiosity come from? As an exercise in fun speculation, I propose it couldContinue reading “Where did our sense of curiosity come from?”

The pump of curiosity

The summer 2020 issue of I-M Intelligent Magazine… … includes “an exercise in fun speculation” by me on a potential link between solar eclipses and the Fermi paradox. According to the Copernican principle, there is nothing special about the earth’s place in the universe. Except for the awkward fact that — on current evidence —Continue reading “The pump of curiosity”