Bill Nye Saves the World the name of Bill Nye’s new show for Netflix. It is set up as a talk show, where each episode Bill will focus on a topic from a scientific viewpoint, explaining it clearly for the benefit all, and debunking false facts and rumors generated by (and for the benefit of) politicians, religious leaders, and others. The show kicks off in 2017.
The headline says it all, because the news is we really do have a Rocky Planet (as opposed to a Gas Giant) that is only a touch more than 4 light years away, according to the ESO who made the discovery, the ESA, and NASA. It is in the Goldilocks Zone of its star Proxima Centauri, and about 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The size and mass of the planet as well as the age of the star it orbits means it at least started out with the majority of the same elements that make up the Earth. The Goldilocks Zone orbit means water would be a liquid at most places on its surface, although the fact that Proxima Centauri is a Red Dwarf makes it likely that any near-Earth planet that close would be in tidal lock-down, with a single side always facing the star. That kind of thing tends to boil off an atmosphere on the hot side, and have it fall as snow on the cold side, not terribly conductive to life (or keeping your atmosphere). The good news is Proxima Centauri is the smallest and most distanced member of a triple star system known as Alpha Centauri; since the planet is not orbiting the central duo of the set, it runs a much smaller risk of being pulled apart into an asteroid belt over the next few eons.
So yes, this is one of those good news/bad news kind of things. The good news is that our nearest stellar neighbor has a planet which could evolve life, if all the other details work out. The bad news is that the odds are good it doesn’t have life more complex than viruses because of the orbital mechanics. The REALLY good news is the implication this discovery makes obvious; for us to find a planet in the Goldilocks Zone of our nearest stellar neighbor, such combinations must be a lot more likely than we ever thought possible. Just to keep me from jumping off the deep edge, let’s take a look at what SETI had to say about what we might find there just last November…
Alex Soloviev put together this amazing footage of Jellyfish taken up close and personal, and it is beautiful even though it is limited to 720P resolution. There has always been something unearthly about jellyfish in my mind; they just don’t look or move like I would expect something to which evolved on the same planet I did.
The Mars Rover recently hit its 4th anniversary of exploration (in Terrestrial years, not Martian) and to celebrate NASA has released the Mars Rover Game for mobile devices or the desktop. The game is both free and fun, and the game page also gives you some comparisons between the game rover and the real one on the red planet. Also on the page are links to information on the other rovers, Curiosity, Spirit, Opportunity, and the as yet unnamed rover mission of 2020. The robots are not the only ones planned to go there; NASA is working on the Journey to Mars project, shooting for a manned landing in the 2030s.
Posted by the World Science Festival, this presentation is part of The Big Idea Series, and I could not stop watching it once I started. From the Big Bang to the Multiverse, they explore a wide range of ideas, all theoretically supported to some greater or lesser extent, and some of them even have some experimental results that support the possibility that they exist. This is fascinating stuff, and the implications keep getting more numerous the longer you think about them. The original panel and gathering happened as part of the 2009 World Science Festival, and was posted in 2015; enjoy.
On June 28th the World Science Festival posted the results of an exciting experiment in which the person working the joystick was nowhere near the game. His hands were being controlled by a person half way across town, sitting in front of the game with no game controller. Some of the potential applications of this technology are downright terrifying, others could be world changing. If you are interested in finding out a bit more about the experiments, check out the University of Washington page for details. One of the things that leaps out at you is the changes in the bulk and mass of the headsets between the 2013/2014 experiments and the current ones; the new stuff is getting downright portable.