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Physicists’ pets, seven stars for Bowie, ping-pong in space and more

Brahe and his pet elk. (

Prancer and the astronomer: Brahe and his pet elk. (Courtesy: Perimeter Institute)


By Tushna Commissariat

Sparks of inspiration come from many sources, but for some of the 20th century’s most well known scientists, their four-legged pets played a key role. From Tesla’s cat “Macak” – his interest in electricity was lit as a child when he noticed sparks generated while he stroked Macak –  to Schrödinger’s (real live) dog “Burshie”, these intellectual giants sought the company of pets just as we do and over at the Perimeter Institute’s website, you can learn all about “Great physicists and the pets who inspired them”. My favourite “pet” is of course Tycho Brahe’s infamous elk (you can read about it in the image above). With all of these pets about, its a miracle that a paper wasn’t eaten by a naughty dog or cat!

Last week, the world mourned when famous musician David Bowie died at the age of 69. But the self-proclaimed “Starman” has now truly found a place in the cosmos as Belgian astronomers have registered a constellation made up of seven stars that shine in the shape of the iconic lightning bolt pattern that Bowie favoured. The constellation was put together by the MIRA Public Observatory at the behest of the Belgian music station Studio Brussel. Its creation is part of the Stardust for Bowie tribute project also being run by the station – you can read more about the tribute and the stars picked over at the Guardian website.

In keeping with the cosmic theme, there has been a host of interesting updates from the astronauts currently on board the International Space Station. As I am sure you know, last week saw British astronaut Tim Peake and his American colleague Tim Kopra pop out of the satellite for their first spacewalk to replace a faulty regulator for the station’s solar panels. Unfortunately, the duo could not stay out for the whole six hour jag, coming back in after just five hours when Kopra reported water in his helmet. Although the situation was not critical, their stroll was cut short, but they did manage to fix the faulty unit.

For more from the ISS, take a look at the great video below of astronaut Scott Kelly playing ping-pong using a ball of water and his lovely image of a flower blooming on board.



For some weekend reading, head on over to the Kavli Foundation to read about just how much of an impact citizen science is having on astronomy and cosmology – take a look at their panel discussion “Crowdsourcing the universe: how citizen scientists are driving discovery”. And finally, as you prepare for next Tuesday’s Reith lecture given by Stephen Hawking, head over to the BBC Earth website to look at this list of discoveries that made Hawking famous.


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One comment to Physicists’ pets, seven stars for Bowie, ping-pong in space and more

  1. Trackback: Physicists’ pets, seven stars for Bowie, ping-pong in space and more – MyPhysNet


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