The concept of time travel is actually much newer than you might expect.
Tagged with “science” (679)
In the latest ‘Geeks’ Guide to the Galaxy’ podcast, Simone Caroti discusses his critical survey of the Culture series by sci-fi author Iain Banks.
The character’s legacy was tarnished by the Sylvester Stallone movie and redeemed by the 2012 reboot. He should get another shot.
The one-time ‘MythBusters’ host has some ideas about just how transcendental science fiction can be.
Our universe’s vastness and age has given alien intelligence ample space and time in which to arise. Why can we detect no sign of it? This is actually a momentous and scientifically serious question. Yes, really! With British astronomer Stephen Webb.
Significant international thinkers deliver the BBC’s flagship annual lecture series
The really big questions.
Are you ready to share some moments of expanded consciousness? Unlike many of the guests on AMC’s Talking with Chris Hardwick, Neil degrasse Tyson is not here to plug his new movie or TV series. Although he does have a new book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, which came out earlier this year. Neil has spoken to our founder, Chris Hardwick, several times before. This time, they didn’t get around to his book because there were so many more important things to talk about.
This is the special extended edition of Chris’ chat with Neil, and it was never about the answers. It’s always about the questions and the ideas, which Neil shares in such a wonderfully eloquent way. Neil says that he isn’t trying to be a “great communicator,” but he did share the reason why he learned to speak in soundbites after his first experience on television after he became the director of the Hayden Planetarium.
Because of Neil’s role as an advocate for science and knowledge, as well as his hosting gig of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, it’s been widely assumed that the late great Carl Sagan was Neil’s mentor. Once again, Neil corrected the record, but he spoke about two of their encounters that played a major role in shaping him into the man that he wanted to become.
It’s very difficult to condense what Neil said down to a few sentences, because he covered so much ground with Chris that you can really only appreciate it by listening to it. Once you do that, you’ll understand what Neil means when he says that “the universe lives within us,” or why he wants to celebrate ignorance not as a way of embracing mediocrity, but as a triumphant step on the never-ending quest for more knowledge. After all, we can only search for answers once we start asking questions.
There are also some surprises along the way as Neil shares his thoughts on The Martian, Star Wars, Arrival, and his favorite time-travel movie, in addition to his take on extending the life of the sun, and whether reality is an elaborate simulation. According to Neil, we all create our own meaning in life, and he’s not shy about sharing his. Neil also told Chris about his last wishes and the quote that he wants to have on his tombstone.
If we find, anywhere in the universe, one more instance of life besides what evolved on Earth, then we are bound to conclude that life is common throughout the vastness of this galaxy and the 200 billion other galaxies.
The discovery would change how we think about everything.
Most of the search for life beyond Earth, Porco explained, is the search for habitats.
They don’t have to look comfy, since we know that our own extremophile organisms can survive temperatures up to 250°F, total desiccation, and fiercely high radiation, high pressure, high acidity, high alkalinity, and high salinity.
In our own Solar System there are four promising candidate habitats—Mars, Europa (a moon of Jupiter), Titan (a moon of Saturn), and Enceladus (“en-SELL-ah-duss,” another moon of Saturn).
They are the best nearby candidates because they have or have had liquids, they have bio-usable energy (solar or chemical), they have existed long enough to sustain evolution, and they are accessible for gathering samples.
On Mars water once flowed copiously.
It still makes frost and ice, but present conditions on Mars are so hostile to life that most of the search there now is focussed on finding signs of life far in the past.
Europa, about the size of Earth’s Moon, has a salty ocean below an icy surface, but it is subject to intense radiation.
Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that occasional plumes of material are ejected through Europa’s ice, so future missions to Jupiter will attempt to fly by and analyze them for possible chemical signatures of life.
The two interesting moons of Saturn are Titan, somewhat larger and much denser than our Moon, and tiny Enceladus, one-seventh the diameter of our Moon.
Both have been closely studied by the Cassini Mission since
Titan’s hazy atmosphere is full of organic methane, and its surface has features like dunes and liquid-methane lakes “that look like the coast of Maine.”
But it is so cold, at 300°F below zero, that the chemical reactions needed for life may be too difficult.
Enceladus looks the most promising.
Cassini has sampled the plumes of material that keep geysering out of the south pole.
The material apparently comes from an interior water ocean about as salty as our ocean, and silica particles may indicate hydrothermal vents like ours.
“I hope you’re gettin excited now,” Porco told the audience, “because we were.”
The hydrothermal vents in Earth’s oceans are rich with life.
Enceladus has all the ingredients of a habitat for life—liquid water, organics, chemical energy, salts, and nitrogen-bearing compounds.
We need to look closer.
A future mission (arriving perhaps by the 2030’s) could orbit Enceladus and continually sample the plumes with instruments designed to detect signs of life such as complexity in the molecules and abundance patterns of carbon in amino acids that could indicate no biology, or Earth-like biology, or quite different biology.
You could even look for intact organisms.
Nearly all of the material in the plumes falls back to the surface.
Suppose you had a lander there.
“It’s always snowing at the south pole of Enceladus,” Porco said.
“Could it be snowing microbes?”
(A by-the-way from the Q&A:
Voyager, which was launched 40 years ago in 1977, led the way to the outer planets and moons of our Solar System, and five years ago, Porco pointed out, “It went beyond the magnetic bubble of the Sun and redefined us as an interstellar species.”)
You know who’s read a lot of the work of sci fi author William Gibson? Our new Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood. She spoke with him for about 40 minutes, going in depth on the plots of his books including "The Peripheral," and his forthcoming book "Agency." He also talked about the loss of innocence from learning about a new kind of technology (his was the internet) and his favorite parts of the web (he’s a big fan of Twitter — you can find him @GreatDismal).
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