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Mario Livio
Mario Livio is an internationally known astrophysicist, a bestselling author, and a popular lecturer. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His most recent book, Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein, was on the bestsellers list of The New York Times, and was selected by The Washington Post as one of the best books of 2013. His popular book The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number won the Peano Prize for 2003, and the International Pythagoras Prize for 2004 as the best popular book on mathematics. Livio's book Is God a Mathematician? was selected by The Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009, and it inspired the 2015 NOVA program "The Great Math Mystery."

Livio has published more than 400 scientific papers, on topics ranging from stellar explosions to black holes, and from cosmology to the solar system. During the past decade, his research focused on supernova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the rate of expansion of the universe, and the nature of the “dark energy” that causes the cosmic expansion to accelerate. He also worked on extrasolar planets and the search for life in the universe.

Entries by Mario Livio

On Barbers, Liars, and Scientific Papers

(0) Comments | Posted June 22, 2016 | 8:46 PM

Outside the shop of a village barber hangs a neon sign that says: "I shave all and only those men in the village who do not shave themselves." Is there truth in advertising here? You would say that most probably yes. Clearly those men who shave themselves don't need the...

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Talk to Me

(0) Comments | Posted May 5, 2016 | 10:22 PM

As part of a special campaign called #TalkToMe by the Huffington Post, I conducted a brief interview with my 90-year-old mother, Dorothy Livio.

My mother had a very eventful life that included hiding from Nazi collaborators in Romania during World War II, fleeing from the communist regime after the war,...

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The Haunting 'Golden Ratio'

(2) Comments | Posted April 20, 2016 | 8:26 PM

In 2002, I published the book The Golden Ratio, about the irrational number (known in the popular literature as PHI) which is equal to 1.61803...

One of my main goals has been to debunk various myths about this number, and to show that it does not appear in many of...

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The Microcosm and the Macrocosm

(7) Comments | Posted February 2, 2016 | 10:24 AM

Leonardo da Vinci is known to have been one of the very first to recognize that the same laws apply to the human body and to cosmic phenomena. This insight is made even more remarkable once we realize that Leonardo had reached this conclusion long before any accurate laws of...

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Life in the Milky Way

(10) Comments | Posted January 7, 2016 | 8:21 PM

Every year, poses one particular question to about 200 thinkers. All the answers are posted on the website, and eventually published in book form. The 2016 question was: "What do you consider the most interesting recent (scientific) news? What makes it important?"

My answer to this year's question is...

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The Winding Road to Progress in Mathematics and Physics

(2) Comments | Posted December 21, 2015 | 12:44 PM

Many textbooks that briefly describe the history of mathematics and physics leave you with the impression that progress in these fields is achieved through a direct march to the truth. People working in these domains, however, know that nothing can be further from the truth. The road to discovery is...

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On Science and Culture

(4) Comments | Posted December 3, 2015 | 2:33 PM

In spite of the fact that we depend on scientific discoveries in every single aspect of modern life, from the way we build, maintain and heat our homes, to the cars we drive, airplanes (and drones) we fly, phones, TVs, computers, refrigerators and washing machines we use, etc., science does...

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On Shakespeare's Heavens

(0) Comments | Posted November 11, 2015 | 1:16 PM

Last Saturday, I saw a screening of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," transmitted from the National Theater in London, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. This was an unforgettable production. While watching the play, a few beautiful lines from Hamlet's letter to Ophelia (that I have heard many times before) caught my...

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Our Place in the Cosmos

(18) Comments | Posted October 19, 2015 | 1:07 PM

During the past few decades we have discovered that at least from a physical perspective, humans are but a speck of dust in the grand scheme of the universe.

We live on a small planet which revolves around a very ordinary star. The Kepler space observatory has shown us...

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The Joy and Pain of Uncertainty

(0) Comments | Posted September 25, 2015 | 11:49 AM

In his famous "Apology," Plato cites Socrates as saying: "That which I may not have known-through-seeing in no way I imagine myself to have known-through-seeing." In other words, Socrates (Figure 1) says that he doesn't imagine to know with absolute certainty what he actually doesn't know. This has sometimes been...

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The Most Romantic Mathematician and His Language of Symmetry

(3) Comments | Posted September 3, 2015 | 11:25 PM

On the morning of May 30, 1832, a single shot fired in a duel fatally wounded one of the most brilliant, and certainly the most romantic mathematician -- Évariste Galois. The following day, his last words to his weeping brother were: "Don't cry, I need all my courage to die...

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The Accidental Human

(18) Comments | Posted August 25, 2015 | 4:17 PM

Humans are a natural product of Darwinian evolution. An improbable, unpredictable product perhaps, but nevertheless one that conforms to the evolutionary path followed by all other species.

Humans are also latecomers on the universal scene, they appeared on Earth during the last inch of the cosmic mile. Our specific...

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(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2015 | 10:55 AM

During the past two weeks, we have witnessed two exciting events in space science. First, there were the spectacular images and spectra that NASA's New Horizons mission has taken of the dwarf planet Pluto (Figure 1). Second, the discovery that the planet Kepler 452b and its host star form the...

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A Bold Future Telescope Proposed for Space Astronomy

(3) Comments | Posted July 6, 2015 | 1:01 PM

In the April 16, 2015, issue of Nature, I published an article that was entitled "Hubble's Legacy." In that article, I argued that the lesson from the amazing success of the Hubble Space Telescope has been that it is better to fund the right experiment fully...

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The Measure of All Mass

(11) Comments | Posted April 29, 2015 | 5:14 PM

The mass of the Earth is about M = 5.97219 × 1024 Kg. The mass of the Sun is M = (1.98855 ± 0.00025) × 1030 kg. The unit that we use to measure these masses is the kilogram, determined from a block of platinum and iridium, that celebrated its...

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Hubble at 25!

(2) Comments | Posted March 31, 2015 | 3:27 PM

On April 24th, the Hubble Space Telescope will celebrate 25 years since its launch. This provides an excellent opportunity to very briefly summarize what I regard as Hubble's greatest scientific achievements. I should emphasize two things: (1) I have used my personal judgment (and biases) in creating this list; other...

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Golden Stars and a Golden Curve

(1) Comments | Posted March 10, 2015 | 3:02 PM

The Golden Ratio, that curious, never-ending, never-repeating number, 1.61803398875..., has an uncanny tendency to pop up where it is least expected. (See my previous piece, "The Golden Ratio and Astronomy.") Consequently, I cannot say that I was extremely surprised when a recent study...

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Darwin's Revolutionary Evolution

(9) Comments | Posted February 17, 2015 | 12:26 PM

On Feb. 12 we celebrated Charles Darwin's 206th birthday. (Fig. 1 shows Darwin late in life.) This calls for at least a brief essay, to remind ourselves of Darwin's remarkable achievement.

Figure 1. Darwin in his old age (reproduced by kind permission of the...

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Intelligent Machines -- On Earth and Beyond

(0) Comments | Posted February 3, 2015 | 10:44 AM

Stephen Hawking famously warned in 2010 that based on the history of humankind, an alien, more-advanced civilization would probably destroy us. "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," he said. Hawking expressed a similar...

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Andromeda: Our Sister Galaxy

(3) Comments | Posted January 21, 2015 | 9:20 AM

In Greek mythology, Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, was stripped and chained to a rock, only to be saved from certain death in the claws of a sea monster by Perseus (Figure 1 shows a wonderful depiction of the myth by Lord Frederic Leighton).

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