How to explain the inconceivable

How to explain the inconceivable
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I am often asked to comment on what happened in Paris last December since I have both French and American citizenships and I live in the US. Like a lot of my compatriotes, it has been difficult to watch those events unfold on Friday afternoon December 13 (I was working at George Mason University in DC ). Since then, he has been also impossible to rationalize what really happened and to give a sense on those horrific events. Today I listened to “Geopolitique”, a short program aired on France Inter which described events and their consequences in the geopolitical scale. Bernard Guetta summarized very well what are my thoughts on the Paris events and its consequences, so I decided to share with you  an English translation which has been freely adapted. The French version   “Comment expliquer l’inconcevable” is available on the France Inter web site.

PeaceForParis by the artist Jean Jullien
PeaceForParis by the artist Jean Jullien

The perpetrators of the most recent murders have no excuse whatsoever, especially not one that seeks to blame the societies they live in. Nor, for that matter, did Mohamed Merah before them, or the killers of November 13, or the killers of January 7 in Paris. They were certainly not mentally ill and they certainly were responsible for their actions — and cannot claim that the challenges of integrating into a new society make them the bloodthirsty monsters they became.

The Next Step in Exoplanetary Science: Imaging New Worlds

In 2003, I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of astronomers that met at the University of California at Berkeley to brainstorm on an innovative idea: the design of an instrument to image and characterize planets around other stars, called exoplanets, using a telescope in the 8 – 10 meter class. A decade later, such an instrument became reality with the arrival of the Gemini Planet Imager (called also GPI, or “Gee-pie”) instrument at the Gemini South telescope in Chile.

Five known planetary systems imaged with current adaptive optics systems. Fomalhaut shown on the top-right is the only system detected with the Hubble Space Telescope. HR8799 discovery was announced in a Science article in 2008 by a team led by C. Marois including members of the GPI team (credit: C. Marois).
Five known planetary systems imaged with current adaptive optics systems. Fomalhaut shown on the top-right is the only system detected with the Hubble Space Telescope. HR8799 discovery was announced in a Science article in 2008 by a team led by C. Marois including members of the GPI team (credit: C. Marois).

Venus Transit: From San Francisco in 2012 to Mars in 2030

If you read this blog, I am certain that you are aware of the Venus Transit which occurred  from  22:09 UTC on 5 June 2012 to 04:49 UTC on 6 June (3:09pm to 8:49pm PDT). Because this astronomical event was visible from North America, Europe, and part of Africa & Asia, and it was streamed around the world from several observatories, it has been most likely one of the most observed and advertised astronomical phenomena, so I had to write a short personal post about it.

SETI Institute Anniversary 1/6: The Milky Way Galaxy

It is getting more and more difficult to find a dark place, without night pollution and far from the smog of the cities, to be able to realize that we are part of a large barred spiral galaxy called the “Milky Way Galaxy”.  Seen from Earth, our galaxy will appear as a fuzzy arc in the sky commonly called the Milky Way and composed of 200-400 billion stars. This picture  taken by Tony Hallas, a mosaic of 24 frames taken in north of California, was shown in APOD on December 25 2009.