About

Rob Knop is an astrophysicist, a violinist and violist, an amateur actor and director, a computer programmer, a gamer, a science fiction reader, a unicycle rider, and a general all-around nerd.  He studied physics as an undergraduate at Harvey Mudd College in the late 1980's, and spent the first 6 years of the 1990's in graduate school at Caltech, where he worked in infrared astronomy.  He graduated from Caltech in 1997, but started his post-doc with the Supernova Cosmology Project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1996.  There, he was intimately involved in the 1998 discovery that the expansion of our Universe is accelerating.  In 2001, he became an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University, and while many things went well, he struggled to get NSF funding.  That resulted in his leaving Vanderbilt (as was painfully documented in a previous incarnation of this blog), and two years as a computer engineer working for Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life.  After getting fired for making a stand on principle (a principle that would, granted, leave a lot of people scratching their head, but that would be understood by a certain class of geek), he did contract work and adjunct teaching for a year.  In fall 2010, he started on the faculty of Quest University Canada, where he teaches physics and related subjects. You can find more information about the classes he's teaching and has taught there at his web page about that sort of thing.

Rob has a Personal Home Page out there on the World Wide Web, and has since the early 1990's.  (OOOoooo!) He is associated with The Meta-Institute of Computational Astronomy and with Avatar Repertory Theater.

The background image used in the logo is a HST image of "The Mice", a famous interacting galaxy pair.  The credit for the image is: NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (UCSC/LO), M. Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team and ESA.

7 responses so far

  • Arawn Graalrd says:

    I was reading about SETI Funding, and thought you might like the kind of Magic that Anu was tossing about in Sumer-Accadia. If you look me up, on Facebook, my note on Horde of Heart shouldn't make your wife as dizzy.
    Arawn Spitteler

  • Nicolaldo Galatro says:

    Hi,

    I found your article written in 2007 where you discussed some objections to the Big Bang Theory, and you seem to be pretty an expert of the matter 😉 so I would like asking you a question nobody has answered me in an understandable/convincing way.

    But early I inform you that I'm not a physicist (as you probably will guess from my question) so please try to explain (if you want to) in a easy-to-understand way, thanks!

    So, the question is: if the Universe is 13,7 billion years old, according to the BB Theory, and the first light came out about 13,4 billion years ago (more or less), then the objects about 13 billion years old that our instruments detected shouldn't come from the Big Bang... do you ask me why?? Simply because light is much faster than the expansion of the Universe, so the light emitted 13 billion years ago should be far far away from us (from the point where Universe began) who are moving at a much slower speed!! Those 13 years old objects, so, should have been originated by something different than an explosion occurred 13,7 billion years ago!

    Another objection is: in case of BB, we should lie more or less on the limit of a sphere that is growing, inside another much bigger sphere generated by light and other electro-magnetic waves that "have run" much faster than matter. Our "companions" (the other galaxies) should appear us in a conic disposition, where we stay at the top of the cone. Why?? because of the time the galaxies light takes to reach us: the farther they are, the nearer they should be to the centre of the Universe, the point from where everything would have come out. But the observations do depict an Universe like that?? It seems to me that astronomic objects, of every age, are seen everywhere, in every direction. So, Universe hasn't got the shape that should have if the BB Theory were true.

    What's your answer?? Thank you very much for your attention.
    Best regards

  • Len Bonacci says:

    Just a quick note on a typo that you've got all over the blog (because it's a tag...) -- Quest "Unviersity" Canada. Might want to fix that! 😉

  • rknop says:

    Len -- thanks! I've fixed it. I make that typo a lot...

  • rknop says:

    Nicolado -- that's a great question, and one of the more difficult conceptual things about the Big Bang. I'll try to address it in a blog post soon.

  • Nicolaldo Galatro says:

    Thank you Rob for your answer, I’m looking forward for your post!
    Sorry for some mistakes in my text, anyway I see you caught the meaning.

    To be honest, I would have a third naive-objection… well, ehm, I say it: about the inflationary period, compatibility with General Relativity apart, I ask myself (and you) what determined such phenomenon, which strength and which known law; I mean, inflation helps the BB theory to “fill the gap” with some observations, so it’s a DESCRIPTION, not the CONSEQUENCE of our models and phisical laws; it says “how” but not “why” and what caused it… or am I wrong??

    In the meantime, I read your post “How likely do you think it is that theory is right?”. Well, I was… how to say… astonished? Puzzled?? Disconcerted?? So… most of the en vogue teories are arguable??? Not only my favourite target?? Ok, I knew about “the letter of the Thirty”, where 30 scientists invited the scientific community not to consider for sure and extabilished the BB theory and not to invest so much resources in it, but I definitely didn’t image that most of the the modern phisical teories on which mankind works and rely on, still need a lot of confirmation… and I ask myself if it is sensible to build supermachines that create extreme conditions that we aren’t so capable to deal with, in the end…

    Well, as I am a sort of question-gunner ;-), I ask you, finally, this too: has anybody ever considered that the Universe could have originated not in a non-dimensional point, but in an already existing pluri- dimensional spot? From an area, for instance?

    Thanks again for your attention.

    PS: I posted here my questions because I wasn’t able to reach you by e-mail, anyway if you think this is a wrong place please tell me where to, eventually, continue.

  • Judge Naught says:

    Hi! Nice site. I have three questions based on recent discoveries.

    First, with the discovery at the LHC of the Higgs' Boson is the Standard Model now closer to being accepted as a true "Theory of Everything?"

    The second query concerns a discovery made by a student in Australia fairly recently concerning the discovery of something which could account for the missing mass of the universe. Here is link to an article about it: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/4358/aussie-student-find-missing-mass
    I know you feel Plasma Cosmology is crackpot, pseudo-science, but is there any possibility that the "filaments" discovered which seem to connect large-scale structures in the universe be the (intergalactic) "Birkeland Currents" the Plasma Cosmologists and even more radical "Electric Universe" folks postulate?

    My last question has to do with your thoughts on M-Theory. Since many of the quantitative aspects of String Theory are hard to verify empirically, do most physicists, theoretical and otherwise, agree with the assertions just based on the math? Is it possible to "prove" practically any semi-coherent theory by equations alone? I ask because in biological and medical research that seems to be the case at times and was wondering if that stands in Astrophysics and Cosmology as well?

    Thanks for your time sir. I'm a Biologist by education, so all of this physical science fascinates me to no end!