Tagged with “science” (740)

  1. Carolyn Porco: Searching for Life in the Solar System - The Long Now

    Life nearby

    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

    2004.

    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.”)

    —Stewart Brand

    http://longnow.org/seminars/02017/jul/24/searching-life-solar-system/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  2. The Source Code: William Gibson

    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).

    https://www.marketplace.org/2017/09/06/tech/source-code-william-gibson

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  3. Kate Bush’s Sonic Weapon

    Can sound kill? Inspired by a Kate Bush song, we ask whether sonic weapons could work.

    "It started while listening to the excellent Experiment IV by Kate Bush. The premise of the song is of a band who secretly work for the military to create a ‘sound that could kill someone’. Is it scientifically possible to do this?" asks Paul Goodfield.

    Hannah consults acoustic engineer Trevor Cox to ask if sonic weapons could kill. And Adam delves into subsonic frequencies with parapsychologist Chris French to investigate their spooky effects.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08svx8y

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  4. Kurt Vonnegut and the Rainmakers

    In the mid 1940s, no one would publish Kurt Vonnegut’s stories. But when he gets hired as a press writer at General Electric, the company’s fantastical science inspires some of his most iconic—and best-selling—novels.

    https://www.pri.org/programs/undiscovered/kurt-vonnegut-and-rainmakers

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  5. Six Degrees

    Are you just six handshakes away from every other person on Earth? Two mathematicians set out to prove we’re all connected.

    https://www.pri.org/programs/undiscovered/six-degrees

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  6. The Gondolier - Radiolab

    What happens when doing what you want to do means giving up who you really are? 

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/gondo/?hootPostID=fc8ecc4e4ecd32ac8fa5495833fb9246

    —Huffduffed by adewale

  7. Dr. Goldratt - Above and Beyond the Competition - Baltimore 2011 Subt esp

    Original video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aawWfl2n-Pg
    Downloaded by http://huffduff-video.snarfed.org/ on Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:17:17 GMT Available for 30 days after download

    —Huffduffed by jrsinclair

  8. The Incomparable | I Tried to Quit This Book Twice (Episode 359)

    Looking for a good science fiction or fantasy book to read? Have we got a list for you. Our intrepid panel read all the novels nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards this year—eight in total—and has returned with the results. No spoilers, but we’ll share our feelings about all eight books. With any luck, you’ll come out with one, or four, or eight books to add to your reading list.

    https://www.theincomparable.com/theincomparable/359/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  9. The Incomparable | Team Killer Robot (Episode 330)

    Get your cowboy hat and your favorite Radiohead playlist, because it’s time to venture into the park for our first-season review of HBO’s “Westworld.” Is Anthony Hopkins running Westworld the park or “Westworld” the show we’re watching? Why can’t the Man in Black take a hint? Who is good and who is evil? Are the hosts sympathetic characters or empty, scripted shells? (And can’t you ask that question that about any fictional character?) We provide some quick analysis and also ponder where the show might take us in season two.

    https://www.theincomparable.com/theincomparable/330/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  10. BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Darwin: In Our Time, Darwin: The Voyage of the Beagle

    How Darwin’s work during the Beagle expedition influenced his theories.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00gbf2g

    —Huffduffed by adactio

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