In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

sagansense:

child-of-thecosmos:

Radio and television broadcasting may be only a brief passing phase in our technological development. When we imagine alien civilizations broadcasting signals with radio telescopes, are we any different from earlier generations who imagined riding cannon shells to the moon? Civilizations even slightly more advanced than ours may have already moved on to some other mode of communication, one that we have yet to discover or even imagine. Their messages could be swirling all around us at this very moment, but we lack the means to perceive them just as all of our ancestors, up to a little more than a century ago, would have been oblivious to the most urgent radio signal from another world. 

But there’s another more troubling possibility: Civilizations, like other living things, may only live so long before perishing due to natural causes, or violence, or self-inflicted wounds. Whether or not we ever make contact with intelligent alien life may depend on a critical question: What is the life expectancy of a civilization?

- Episode 11: The Immortals, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey

Recommended reading:

Everything you need to know about this book can be found in this wonderfully thorough review by Astrobiology Magazine from 2003.

I plan on doing a full writeup/review about this book; however, I can tell you it’s one of the best Carl’s ever written and is still heavily referenced by scientists across multiple fields regarding the search for extraterrestrial life, be it intelligent or otherwise. A review on the book and the study of astrobiology itself can be via a PDF by Charley Lineweaver of the Planetary Science Institute at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth Sciences.

The most fascinating aspect of this book is that it was originally written by I.S. Shklovskii in Russian, re-translated into English, whereby Carl adds his scientific “two-cents”, expanding on subjects and explaining further in a way only Carl, himself, can. For instance, the last paragraph in Chapter 31: Interstellar contact by automatic probe vehicles:

At this point in the Russian edition of the present work, Shklovskii expresses his belief that civilizations are not inevitably doomed to self-destruction, despite his description of contemporary Western literature as filled with details of atomic holocaust. He expresses his belief that as long as capitalism exists on Earth, a violent end to intelligent life on the planet is probable. There is reason to assume, he asserts, that future peaceful societies will be constructed on the basis of Communism. I am able to imagine alternative scenarios for the future. No one today lives in a society which closely resembles Adam Smith capitalism or Karl Marx communism. The political dichotomies of the twentieth century may seem to our remote descendants no more exhaustive of the range of possibilities for the entire future of mankind than do, for us, the alternatives of the European religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Shklovskii says, the forces of peace in the world are great. Mankind is not likely to destroy itself. There is too much left to do.

Also recommended:

SETI Scientist Jill Tarter provided a beautiful TED Talk about this subject, and in this interview with NOVA, she speaks on being the inspiration for Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s book/film ‘Contact’ whereby Jodie Foster portrays Dr. Tarter.

Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer for SETI, presented an enriching TED Talk about why he’s convinced we’re closer than ever in detecting, contacting, or receiving signals from ETI; and recently, had a Q&A conversation with Science 2.0 appropriately titled “Why I Believe We’ll Find Aliens.”

…stay curious.

easytorememberr:

"In its travels through the Milky Way, our sun is accompanied not only by its planets, but also by a trillion distant comets"

easytorememberr:

"In its travels through the Milky Way, our sun is accompanied not only by its planets, but also by a trillion distant comets"

heythereuniverse:

NASA May Put a Greenhouse on the Red Planet | Scientific American

At long last Earthlings may be on the verge of colonizing another planet—but those first Terran ambassadors will be plants, not humans.

NASA is expected to announce within days whether they will attach a one-liter “greenhouse” to its next Mars rover to be launched in 2020. A similar greenhouse would take a voyage to the moon with any team that manages to land a robot there by 2015 to snag Google’s Lunar X PRIZE. These experiments could illuminate whether human colonization of the moon or Mars could be possible.

[Read more]

Science is still struggling to understand what space and time actually are. Are they real physical entities or simply useful ideas? If they’re real, are they fundamental, or do they emerge from more basic constituents?


What does it mean for space to be empty? Does time have a beginning? Does it have an arrow, flowing inexorably from past to future as common experience would dictate?

Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos (via whats-out-there)

mindblowingscience:

The 5 Massive New Telescopes That Will Change Astronomy Forever

The biggest building boom in the history of astronomy is upon us. In Chile and Hawaii and in space, astronomers are getting powerful telescopes that dwarf the current state-of-the-art instruments. When the mountain blasting and the mirror polishing are all done, we will have the clearest and most detailed views of outer space ever.

This boom has long been in the works for years, as billion-dollar telescopes don’t just fund and plan themselves.Now, these telescopes are starting to break ground. “If it all plays out as expected and budgeted,” writes Dennis Overbye in the New York Times, “astronomers of the 2020s will be swimming in petabytes of data streaming from space and the ground.” Let’s take a closer took at what these billion-dollar telescopes can do for astronomy in the decades to come.

Read all about these 5 amazing telescopes at Gizmodo

hydrogeneportfolio:

"Maybe we’re on Mars because of the magnificent science that can be done there - the gates of the wonder world are opening in our time. Maybe we’re on Mars because we have to be, because there’s a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process, we come after all, from hunter gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we’ve been wanderers. And, the next place to wander to, is Mars. But whatever the reason you’re on Mars is, I’m glad you’re there. And I wish I was with you.”
— Carl Sagan

hydrogeneportfolio:

"Maybe we’re on Mars because of the magnificent science that can be done there - the gates of the wonder world are opening in our time. Maybe we’re on Mars because we have to be, because there’s a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process, we come after all, from hunter gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we’ve been wanderers. And, the next place to wander to, is Mars. But whatever the reason you’re on Mars is, I’m glad you’re there. And I wish I was with you.

 Carl Sagan

thenewenlightenmentage:

Next-Generation Telescope Will Be Able to Detect Pollutants on Other Planets
In the search for extraterrestrial life, we’ve been focusing on basic organisms like microbes—life forms that haven’t even evolved multicellular structures, let alone industrial societies. That means astrobiologists have been focused mostly on identifying biospheres that contain life’s necessities: oxygen, infrared radiation (for photosynthesizing plants), and water.
But a new study argues that astrobiologists should also be looking for CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), too, in case intelligent life is actually post-industrial. The authors proved, too, that the James Webb Space Telescope—scheduled to launch in 2018—will be equipped to detect at least two kinds of CFCs, under the right conditions.
Continue Reading

Can wait for the James Webb generation!

thenewenlightenmentage:

Next-Generation Telescope Will Be Able to Detect Pollutants on Other Planets

In the search for extraterrestrial life, we’ve been focusing on basic organisms like microbes—life forms that haven’t even evolved multicellular structures, let alone industrial societies. That means astrobiologists have been focused mostly on identifying biospheres that contain life’s necessities: oxygen, infrared radiation (for photosynthesizing plants), and water.

But a new study argues that astrobiologists should also be looking for CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), too, in case intelligent life is actually post-industrial. The authors proved, too, that the James Webb Space Telescope—scheduled to launch in 2018—will be equipped to detect at least two kinds of CFCs, under the right conditions.

Continue Reading

Can wait for the James Webb generation!

Many people object to “wasting money in space” yet have no idea how much is actually spent on space exploration. The CSA’s budget, for instance, is less than the amount Canadians spend on Halloween candy every year, and most of it goes toward things like developing telecommunications satellites and radar systems to provide data for weather and air quality forecasts, environmental monitoring and climate change studies. Similarly, NASA’s budget is not spent in space but right here on Earth, where it’s invested in American businesses and universities, and where it also pays dividends, creating new jobs, new technologies and even whole new industries.

Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (via thedragoninmygarage)

Watch: Breathtaking Time Lapse Video Shows Star Exploding

Ever wonder what an exploding star looks like?

NASA has released this incredible time lapse video showing the enormous explosion of a red star called V838 Monocerotis, located some 20,000 light years away.

The breathtaking images were captured by NASA’s Hubble telescope over a four-year period.

Watch: Breathtaking Time Lapse Video Shows Star Exploding

Ever wonder what an exploding star looks like?

NASA has released this incredible time lapse video showing the enormous explosion of a red star called V838 Monocerotis, located some 20,000 light years away.

The breathtaking images were captured by NASA’s Hubble telescope over a four-year period.

What is Astrophysics?


Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe. It has two sibling sciences, astronomy and cosmology, and the lines between them blur.

In the most rigid sense:

-Astronomy measures positions, luminosities, motions and other characteristics

-Astrophysics creates physical theories of small to medium-size structures in the universe

-Cosmology does this for the largest structures, and the universe as a whole.

In practice, the three professions form a tight-knit family. Ask for the position of a nebula or what kind of light it emits, and the astronomer might answer first. Ask what the nebula is made of and how it formed and the astrophysicist will pipe up. Ask how the data fit with the formation of the universe, and the cosmologist would probably jump in. But watch out — for any of these questions, two or three may start talking at once!

Goals of astrophysics

Astrophysicists seek to understand the universe and our place in it. At NASA, the goals of astrophysics are “to discover how the universe work, explore how it began and evolved, and search for life on planets around other stars,” according NASA’s website.

NASA states that those goals produce three broad questions:

How does the universe work?
How did we get here?
Are we alone?

It began with Newton

While astronomy is one of the oldest sciences, theoretical astrophysics began with Isaac Newton.
Prior to Newton, astronomers described the motions of heavenly bodies using complex mathematical models without a physical basis. Newton showed that a single theory simultaneously explains the orbits of moons and planets in space and the trajectory of a cannonball on Earth. This added to the body of evidence for the (then) startling conclusion that the heavens and Earth are subject to the same physical laws. [Related: How Isaac Newton Changed the World]

Perhaps what most completely separated Newton’s model from previous ones is that it is predictive as well as descriptive. Based on aberrations in the Newtonian orbit of Uranus, astronomers predicted the position of a new planet, which was then observed and named Neptune. Being predictive as well as descriptive is the sign of a mature science, and astrophysics is in this category.

Milestones in astrophysics

Continue

Anonymous asked
I was just wondering how you think all the matter in the universe was put into an extremely dense mass at the beginning of time. Also, how do you measure the beginning of time when if the big band theory is true, this existence now could be the trillionth time the universe has re-expanded.

The way I understand it, which is humbly, matter and mass did not exist in that ‘pre-universe’ state. What you had was infinite potential energy to form matter, which formed some 300,000 years afterward, as the universe cooled. Also, the whole idea of a point in space for this density to occupy loses it’s meaning when there isn’t even any space. It was nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

It’s important to realize that our common conceptions of time, spatial dimensions, matter and the forces that would pertain to squishing all the matter into a tiny space; they’re all useless for understanding the singularity at the front of the Big Bang as they did not exist yet. The theory itself is about how the universe expands, not so much about how it was compacted before it expanded. Mainly because, so far, our empirical reach has only taken us back to within a fraction of a second after the expansion had already begun. The singularity really represents a point, in rewinding the expansion of the universe, where the maths break down.

Learn more:

Cosmology 101: Big Bang - http://youtu.be/xsQ1XmqEe6M

What Is The Evidence For The Big Bang? - http://youtu.be/xtrYF_hxxUM

This series will explain the key concepts and processes in the theory as well as the observational evidence and current areas of research in the theory- http://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6150D61BB71657A6


I don’t think there is a way of measuring time beyond, or prior to, the Big Bang as time is part of space and neither existed. As far as we’ll ever know or as far as it will ever apply to us, measurable time began at the moment of expansion (the Big Bang).

futurist-foresight:

A look at  SpaceX's Dragon V2 cockpit.
space-pics:

The evolution of spacecraft cockpits: the 1960s to todayhttp://space-pics.tumblr.com/


Video of Elon Musk—the real life Tony Stark— unveiling the Dragon v2 and explaining why it’s a game changer, aside from its sexy aesthetics. http://youtu.be/yEQrmDoIRO8

futurist-foresight:

A look at  SpaceX's Dragon V2 cockpit.

space-pics:

The evolution of spacecraft cockpits: the 1960s to today
http://space-pics.tumblr.com/

Video of Elon Musk—the real life Tony Stark— unveiling the Dragon v2 and explaining why it’s a game changer, aside from its sexy aesthetics. http://youtu.be/yEQrmDoIRO8

policymic:

How many Earth twins are out there? Hundreds possibly

NASA’s recent discovery of Kepler-186f, the first habitable Earth-sized planet is big news in humankind’s long search for extraterrestrial life.

A universe full of exoplanets: Thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt planets across the universe, we’ve managed to find around 1800 exoplanets so far, many of which have been discovered in just the last year or so.

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(Source: micdotcom)