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I'm Chels. I blog about science, art, tennis, and my adventures in journalism. Officially, I'm a Science Writer at Brookhaven National Lab and I blog for them, too. Unofficially, I'm pretty awesome.

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Brookhaven’s very own “young Einstein” was named one of Popular Science’s Brilliant 10. His name is Anže Slosar and he earned his spot on this list of the coolest and most innovative scientists in the country by using a kind of backwards astronomy.

I talked with him last week about his work and found out that instead of the usual approach of measuring the light that comes from galaxies to map out the cosmos, he and his team focused instead on the gas clouds that block the light.

Using one of the world’s largest digital cameras to look at the early universe, they mapped out what’s called the “Lyman-alpha forest” – irregular patterns in the spectra of light from distant quasars that are created when the light passes through hydrogen gas clouds. It’s a bit like determining the shape of someone’s hand by watching a shadow puppet show. […]

"Using these quasars as backlights…we can measure the universe as it was 11 billion years ago. That’s really revolutionary. There’s no other technique that can accomplish this,” Slosar says.

And from this work, we’re getting the most accurate 3-D map of the early universe. Pretty amazing, right? I love the idea of someone pioneering a new way to study the universe by literally looking at his work from a new angle. 

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    When you think of the word “scientist” what comes to mind? If you thought of someone in a lab coat quietly toiling away...
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