Monday, April 8, 2013

Breaking News

Photo: European Space Agency, Planck Collaboration
A front page picture in The Times with the title “The Cosmos Back in the Day," showed the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite’s “heat map of the universe as it appeared 370,000 years after the big bang.” The article that appeared on page l0 “Universe as an Infant: Fatter Than Expected And Kind of Lumpy” (NYT, 3/21/13) went on to describe a picture of what the universe looked like 13.8 billion, the new estimated age of the universe according to science reporter Dennis Overbye’s piece, minus 370,000 or 13,799,630,000 years ago. Not exactly breaking news. In the field of cosmology where the battle between, as Overbye described it, “dark energy that seems to be pushing space apart and the almost-as-mysterious dark matter that is pulling galaxies together” is, of course, a big story. Overbye quoted Marc Kamionkowski, “an astrophysicist at John Hopkins University,” as saying that Planck was “cosmology’s human genome project.” Still, it’s nice to see a picture of way back when as you scan over column right to “President Urges Israelis to Push Effort for Peace" or center "Once Few, Women Hold More Power in Senate” and column left, ”Bronx Inspector, Secretly Taped, Suggests Race is a Factor in Stops.” The map of the universe described in the article “is in stunning agreement,” according to Overbye, “with the general view of the universe that has emerged over the past 20 years” and it roughly corresponds to the period in which on-line journalism began to seriously challenge newsprint. Twenty years ago on-line reporting was where the universe was 13,799,630,000 years ago. Now despite all the dark matter, the dark energy, aided and abetted by the advent of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, has caused the universe of journalism to expand, for good or bad, beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

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