Why SpaceX Won't Turn Us Into A Multi-planetary Species

Anyone announcing the successful sale of tourist trips around the moon would attract ridicule and...

Rational Suckers

Why do people skip queues, cause traffic jams, and create delays for everyone? Who are these misbehaving ...

Triple Or Bust: Paradox Resolved

A few days ago I discussed the coin toss game ‘triple or bust‘. The game is between Alice and...

Paradox: Triple Or Bust

Today I have a decision problem for you....

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Johannes KoelmanRSS Feed of this column.

I am a Dutchman, currently living in India. Following a PhD in theoretical physics (spin-polarized quantum systems*) I entered a Global Fortune 500 company where I am currently Chief Scientist

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A shooting star brighter than the sun on the very day an asteroid flyby is predicted. A most remarkable coincidence. And to add to our amazement, the rock whizzing through the skies didn't illuminate a distant ocean or some remote desert, but rather showed its spectacle above one of the very few areas in the world populated by people driving dashcams around 24 hrs a day. No screenwriter would get away with such an unlikely scenario.

But how likely are meteor event like the one in Russia? What are the chances a similar event will occur this century? And what about even bigger events? What was the power of the blast from the Russian meteor? How does it compare to the explosions we humans create?
1:1 In the beginning Newton declared space and time. 1:2 And space was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. 1:3 And Newton said, Let there be force: and there was force. 1:4 And Newton saw the force, that it was good: and Newton divided force from straight motion. 1:5 And Newton called force change of momentum, and straight motion he called momentum conservation. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Gravity is an amazing force. It can grow enormous structures in the universe. If you ever find yourself under a dark night sky at a spot far away from city light, have a look at the constellation Andromeda. With bare eyes you should just be able to spot a tiny smudge in this constellation. You need good eyes that are well adapted to the dark, and the moon with its overwhelming brightness needs to be out of sight. And it definitely helps if you happen to carry with you a pair of binoculars.
Regulars to this blog know I am partial to game theory. The very idea that mathematical reasoning can teach us a thing or two about the strategies we deploy in social interactions, is most intriguing. Game theory recognizes that humans do possess rational and selfish characteristics, and builds models describing human decisions based on no more than these two characteristics. This minimalistic approach teaches us a lot about the character of economic behavior and the emergence of strategies build on cooperation, retaliation, etc.
Why do people skip the queue, obstruct, cause traffic jams, and create delays for everyone? Who are these anonymous creatures lacking cooperation skills? And more importantly: are you sure others don't classify you as such?

What is the farthest we can theoretically go? Would we ever be able to visit the galaxies shown in Hubble's Extreme Deep Field? Could we even travel beyond these and reach the edge of the observable universe?