I’m sitting on the sofa watching what has so far been a really excellent episode of The Universe on the History Channel. It is entitled “Cosmic Clusters” and it has been a lovely journey (15 minutes show time gone by so far) on an imaginary spaceship ride through the galaxy looking at formations of star clusters, and discussing the process of star formation in those clusters, their birth and the conditions involved, how those conditions change as things progress, the different kinds of stars that can result, the curious case of globular clusters (M13 is pictured below, by Yuugi Kitahara) and so forth. I think it is going to go on to discuss clusters of galaxies, and clusters of those…


I’ve learned quite a bit so far from watching it, actually. It is a really lovely discussion with excellent contributions from my friend and colleague Amy Mainzer, Alex Filipenko (another show regular who is familiar to me – who I’ve yet to meet), Michelle Thaller, and several others. The episode is really excellent so far and there’s a lot of juicy information. It is really great to see an episode that is nicely crafted and all about the material for its own sake without having to over-tilt it with a “danger to earth” or “relevance to everyday life” angle, which, although fun and an useful angle at time, can sometimes get overused. Although it is a bit late to catch it on this first run, it’ll show later during this week (such as Wednesday at 1:00am coming up soon!) and next week at least, and so you can catch it…

[Update: The illustration of working on the multiple-body problem by using several students working at the board together, trying to solve things together, was brilliant! Very visual, very good for showing scientists at work, and great for showing how the science works and how it is aided by supercomputers… Nice idea!]

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with Season 4 so far (see links below for more). The variety has been great, and getting us to do more simple demos to camera has been especially successful, I’d say. You can watch episodes here.



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2 Responses to Clusters

  1. Supernova says:

    Alex is fun in person. Hope you get to meet him sometime!

  2. Philip Shane says:

    Yes, I was just watched it and came online to write to you about how good this episode was. Straight up observational astronomy and basic astrophysics. I learned a lot and did so without getting whip lash. Super simple, interesting, fun, and pretty.