12.19.2012

December 20, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


The Kind of Unsurpassable Barrier of Gravity: This isn’t a new idea. Gravity has had a lot to do with terrestrial evolution – and, should it exist, extra-terrestrial evolution, most likely – in ways that we can’t even begin to predict until we send things away from gravity. The most obvious has always been spinal and muscular degeneration, and even issues of sex and reproduction in space have been featured in quite a few internet articles and discussions. Plants, too, suffer from a lack of gravity when tossed into space, and have problems getting sufficient oxygen or dealing with too much water. But a botany professor from Wisconsin-Madison is going to send mouse-eared cress to the ISS in March and see what happens to it. It’ll be one of the first of many steps in getting us ready for potential life in space.

Space Is Good for Business: Spin-off technology is the back-up benefit for any space travel advocate facing an unmoved audience, and it’s a good one. There’s not much that was discovered or created during the race to the moon that didn’t make its way into the commercial sector in innovative and life-saving ways. Fortunately, that trend didn’t stop just because people stopped going to the moon. Layered Composite Insulation (LCI) and a foam-aerogel called Aerofoam have a history in space shuttles and other NASA launch vehicles and they have a probable future in hydrogen cars, military transportation, food storage, and even cryogenic piping. This article discusses both the various uses these insulators have in the commercial market and a focus on the business side of bits of space technology, which is a good thing for people to focus on. As scientists move toward new frontiers and old frontiers become commercial territory, it’s nice to see that there is considerable, and fairly benevolent, commercial interest.

Space Tourism Really Is in the Works: Space tourism has always seemed a bit glorious and Hollywood-esque, for all that it’s completely awesome. The derivative minutiae, on the other hand, makes the idea more real (and still awesome). This article discusses what criteria doctors should use to judge whether their patients are healthy enough to venture to space. Space, after all, is still incredibly dangerous, and not all would-be tourists will be as fit as typical astronauts. But even the fact that this area of focus is even in demand bodes well for the emergence of space tourism – we just can’t screw it up by having people die and giving it a bad name.

Friendly Earth-Orbiting Spidernaut, Dead of Natural Causes: A red-back jumping spider was sent to the ISS as part of the high school YouTube contest from quite a few months ago. This spider, called Neferiti and later Spidernaut, lived above our heads for a while in microgravity and then returned – and adjusted to – Earth at the end of last month. Space doesn’t appear to be the thing that killed her: she ate and behaved in space just as she did on Earth both before and after her trip, which points favorably toward terrestrial life being able to survive in space. However, all scientific benefits aside, we can not escape the horrible precedent of space spiders we’ve created. 

Go to the Moon for a Cool $1.5 Billion: Feel free to whistle at that price tag at any time. It might be the moon, but that’s still five zeroes too big for even a house. Of course, this price isn’t too far off the mark for what NASA or the ESA might need for their own space missions so we can’t be too outraged. There are going to be a whole lot of start-up costs involved in the world’s first forays into space tourism, and it’s not surprising that those factors will put it out of most of our budgets. However, the company offering these rides to the moon is supposed to start fulfilling their promise in 2020, so maybe some of us will live to see it become more reasonably affordable.

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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

12.16.2012

Seth Shostak: E.T. is (Probably) Out There




Here's a great video from astronomer Seth Shostak about his work with the SETI institute, the search for extraterrestrial life, and how SETI can shape the future of American scientific literacy. Shostak does a fantastic job of addressing the possibility of finding alien life in a wonderfully humorous and entertaining way. What's also really interesting about this TED Talk is the brief overview Shostak gives about the past, present, and future of the search for extraterrestrial life at SETI.





Of additional note is Seth Shostak's ideas on what will happen after the discovery of alien life. While the “Columbus and the New World” analogy gets brought up fairly regularly, it's interesting for somebody to admit it might simply be impossible to accurately predict the eventual outcomes of first contact.

Additionally, if you're interested in some of Seth Shostak's ideas on what how people might react to microbial life you can click here.

But what do you think? How do you think people will respond to alien contact? Do you think we'll find aliens in the next few decades? Tell us in the comments!

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

12.15.2012

Six Days Left Until Nothing Happens



December 21, 2012. 12-21-12.

It’s being predicted as the most annoying day on Facebook. It’s the day Arthur Dent will lay down in front of the bulldozer that’s trying to destroy his house, the day the Mayans will get some rather unsatisfying revenge on the European-descendant-dominant global whatever that historically wiped out the majority of civilizations in the Western Hemisphere (because all Indians are, of course, the same), and the day the world will end. Probably in a very exciting cluster of multiple apocalypses.

Only one of those is true, and it’s the Facebook one. Which is really sad, because I was sure that the most annoying day on Facebook would have been any given 24 hours in the three months leading up to the presidential election.

So, to anyone who’s concerned about living past the zombies, galactic alignment, or cosmological what-have-you this upcoming Friday, here’s Neil deGrasse Tyson laughing at you in 2009. For the rest of us, here’s Neil deGrasse Tyson in his usual mix of entertainment and information about some planetary pseudoscience. 

It's the Internet, and we've all come across the 12-21-12 hype. If you've found any particularly hilarious space-related theories, or a video of Steven Hawking or someone debunking cleverly, be sure to share the fun! 

Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.30.2012

November 30, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


This week’s space and alien news is actually completely chock full of both space and aliens – and a little bit of North Korea, but if it isn’t China it has to be someone.  We have space tourism, Mars colonies, nuclear-powered space travel, and a widened definition of areas that might contain life. There’s also a rather mad cap way to track advanced alien civilizations, but that just contributes to the overall tone of awesome science has this week.

Using Nuclear Energy in Space – Who’d’ve Thought?: Having some sort of nuclear energy in a space ship to power intergalactic, or, at least, inter-solar system flight isn’t a new concept. In fact, Dr. Robert Bussard – the genius who thought up many of the once-fictional advanced technology in the original Star Trek series got pretty far into developing it before he died. Now that dream is beginning to be successfully resurrected. The DUFF – Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions – generated 24 watts of electricity in a nuclear reactor, and that’s a good first try for our upcoming Mars colonies.

Because Mars Colonies Are Still on the Agenda: Remember that Mars One colony idea that came out of the blue over the summer? SpaceX decided to get fully on the bandwagon. The company’s CEO Elon Musk is starting to plan out all the components for a Mars colony that would start at fewer than ten people but eventually grow to 80,000 people. It might be a bit before all of this is possible, but that just gives each of us time to get together the $500,000 to buy our tickets.

Space Tourism Is, Too: Space tourism has simultaneously been the most awesome and the most horrifying idea to hit science fiction since extraterrestrial life. Yes, it would be incredible to see sunlight creep around the edge of the earth, but the moon wouldn’t be improved by a glowing McDonald’s ‘M.’ Regardless of which side of that particular debate you might lean toward, space tourism is quickly approaching, and it’s in the form of a massive balloon. By 2014, Spain’s Zero 2 Infinity company will be lifting people 36 kilometers into space, high enough to see the curve of the Earth and the blackness of space. The price tag? $143,000, and the mountain of resultant debt is actually almost worth it.

Tracking Aliens by Their Terraforming: This is such an interesting idea that I’m barely going to give it any flack about people modeling alien behavior on human behavior that hasn’t even manifested yet, when there is only an infinitesimal chance of aliens being anything like us (on top of the resounding lack of evidence of there being aliens anywhere thus far). The idea is that humans will one day terraform planets, like Mars, that have next to no atmosphere and we’ll probably use artificial greenhouse gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). So, they say, the chance might be good that other advanced civilizations that were forced to populate on other planets would do the same, and that we could sweep the universe for CFCs to look for these aliens. While kind of a reach, especially when we have all of these cool and legitimate things to work on like space colonies and research into rogue planets, it’s an entertaining thought.

Aliens That Are a Bit More Likely: In our little section of space, the aliens we’re more likely to find are the ones that can survive in really, really cold temperatures under the planets surface, and for the longest time scientists weren’t too sure that life could do that. However, we’ve found a hub of thriving microbial life deep in the unlikely location of Antarctic ice – and by unlikely, I mean it’s 8 degrees Fahrenheit, the water is full of salt and iron, and the area hasn’t seen the surface of the Earth for over 2,500 years. This means that virtually any planet, despite its potential ice-covered nature or distance from the sun, can house life as long as it has water. 

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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.17.2012

Space and Eternity


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

November 17, 2012: Space and Alien News


Amino Acids in Space Rocks?: The hunt for extraterrestrial life doesn't just mean checking out Mars for water samples. NASA is also getting ready to test out rocks from outer planets’ moons, and Kuiper Belt Objects. Rocks from places this far off would hopefully have significantly less or, better yet, no contamination. Using a liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer to observe the chirality of amino acids, or if they have superimposed mirror images, NASA’s Stephanie Getty might just answer the question about extraterrestrial life before Curiosity does.

Water Wars in Space: Water is phenomenally useful in pretty much all circumstances imaginable. Out in space, though, it might be even more useful, as water can be used for fuel, air, and drinking water, and it’s an easy thing to get and carry if there’s not a whole lot of gravity surrounding it – like on the moon. As long-term space travel is lowly becoming a more and more viable idea, there’s going to be an increasingly large amount of money for people who can provide much-needed resources. So Astrobiotic and others are creating a bit of a ‘water rush’ to see who can (1) get to the moon, (2) find the frozen water, and (3) claim it before anything else. We can probably expect this to result in all sorts of legal problems in the future, so it will be interesting

Mars May Have Life… Again: I know I wasn’t going to comment about the possibility of life on Mars until something approaching certainty came about but this is a new avenue, at least in the past few months, that’s a bit interesting. Mars’s impact craters have hydrothermal fractures around them, implying that Mars once had water warm enough to support microbial life kind of like that at Yellowstone Park. Also, through studying Martian meteorites that came to Earth, scientists can analyze parts of the history of Mars’s eventual cool down over time

Mars May Have Life… Again, 2.0: Geologically speaking, Mars has had a lot of recent water activity. A series of thawings and freezings has drastically affected Mars’s surface, and these cycles, like pretty much everything that we learn about Mars, could point to the potential for life having been sustained on Mars. But, like usual, there’s nothing definite either way. There are, however, distinct similarities between bits of Mars and an archipelago in the Arctic called Svalbard, so at least something definite was found.
Found: One Rogue Planet: There’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the idea of rogue planets, as we had never found one for certain—at least one that could be positively identified as a planet instead of a brown dwarf. But our new planetary discovery, CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9, is free-floating, about 100 light-years away, and slightly glows. Now that rogue planets are known to exist, science can get down to answering the interesting questions about them: if they’re planets that have just been thrown from the star they used to orbit or are just lone objects, if there are lots of ‘orphaned worlds,’ and a bit more of the physics in the universe.


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.16.2012

TED John Hodgman: Where are They?


Here's a hilarious video from TED of John Hodgman, famous for his role as the PC in Apple's "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" advertisements and well known as a true geek. He's also known as one of the "experts" on The Daily Show with John Stewart and routinely appears to offer his hilarious insights.

It's not often that you see a really funny video on aliens and John Hodgman delivers. In this video, Hodgman humorously dissects Fermi's Paradox and gives tells several humorous tales of his own “close encounters.” Overall a fantastic video and definitely worth a watch.

Also, if for some reason you can't get the video to work, you can always click here to go to TED and download the audio completely free. While you're there, go ahead and checkout some other great TED videos or click here for to see a TED video we've talked about already.

Additionally, you can click here to purchase John Hodgman's humorous book, The Areas of My Expertise, or click here to get the book in audio version.

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

11.12.2012

November 12, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


This week’s space and alien news is a pretty optimistic collection of pieces. While there are no aliens yet, there are more Earth-like planets that might host life (whether it be humans or extraterrestrials). There is also all sorts of space, like the implementation of ideas that make future long-term space travel possible, the reminder that there’s been a human in space for the past twelve years, and hope that we might actually go back to the moon relatively soon.
 
Studying Space Neutrons: Space has radiation, which, at this point in time, is hardly new knowledge. But scientists don’t really know that much about space radiation specifically, let alone how to block it for future long-term space missions. In order to better study the effects of space radiation, NASA is refocusing on neutrons through the ANS, or Advanced Neutron Spectrometer. Neutrons are usually hard to study, being as how they’re electrically neutral and don’t set off the majority of devices used to study other phenomena, but hopefully NASA will make progress with this specially designed isotopic lithium sensor.
 
WWW, Meet DTN: While the above radiation issue certainly puts a damper on space travel, another problem is the lack of Internet and communication ability in space. But NASA and the ESA have been looking for an answer to this, and NASA’s Disruption Tolerant Networking has been successfully used to connect the International Space Station to Germany. There’s still a lot more testing to go, seeing as how this won’t exactly be an Internet that can drop without potentially killing people or wrecking missions worth millions of dollars, but so far, so good.
 
A More Earth-Like Alien Earth: New planets are being found all over the place. And, as our telescopes and planet-sensing formulae improve, a growing number of those have been specified as in the habitable zone. This means that they have the potential for Earth-like climates and Earth-like living conditions, and also might have alien life. None of that has really been pinned down for sure yet, but there are two planets that are both in the habitable zone and far enough away from their sun to have days and nights. The particular planet in the article is just 42 light-years away – not exactly a distance we’re capable of doing anything with right now, but certainly closer Kepler 22d at 600 light years away, which is the only other planet we know of with the same conditions.
 
We Might Actually Make It Back to the Moon: I’m skeptical. NASA’s funding for Mars has been increasingly shaky in the last couple of years, and we’ve all heard promises about going back to the moon first. But maybe, just maybe, NASA will have a manned outpost just beyond the moon. Not only would this establish a permanent human presence further out in space, it keeps the momentum going for our potential manned exploration of an asteroid in 13 years. But I’ll believe it when I see it (or if SpaceX says they’ll do it).
 
Best Space App Ever: It’s increasingly wonderful when space and science become increasingly popular through regular media and news. And while this by no means tops live YouTube coverage of high school science experiments in outer space, having an app that’ll text you when the International Space Station is right over you is definitely up there. 90% of the population on Earth can see the ISS pretty frequently; we just never notice it since it looks kind of like a star. And creating convenient and direct reminders that there are people out in space – and one person or another has been out in space for the last 12 years – is pretty useful. To sign up for the automatic texts through “Spot the Station,” just click here.

Want to share all the good news? Please be sure to recommend this post on StumbleUpon – all it takes is a click!

Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.04.2012

November 5, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


November kicked off with a lot of space action. SpaceX, NASA, and ESA are all
planning or doing some pretty spectacular things in space, from captaining the first stages of commercial space flight, studying the sun’s nanoflares, and looking for some more planets. Of course, space itself is pretty busy, too, what with asteroid belts having to be sized just right to allow for life and Titan deciding to glow in the dark.


SpaceX Passes Third Milestone: I’m not quite sure what all space-readiness entails, but it’s bound to be fairly rigorous. Throw in NASA (hopefully) trying to stretch its money for maximum output, and SpaceX better be able to prove itself. Luckily, it has. With its run of recent successes, SpaceX is now leading NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. Someday soon, especially since SpaceX is moving faster than NASA has since the ’60s, there will be spaceflight for both governments and paying customers.
 
Where the Tiny Things Are: NASA’s FOXSI mission will launch soon in order to give the sun a good look-over. The mission, Focusing Optics X-Ray Solar Imager, is going to get a more complete picture of solar flares. Not sunspots or massive flares – they’re cool, but we understand them to some small extent and people are already studying them – but nanoflares, which occur much more frequently and which we can barely see. Nobody knows if these nanoflares cause the bigger flares or if they’re part of the reason why the sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface, but we might after FOXSI does its thing.

You Can’t Get Panspermia Without the Right Kind of Apocalypse?: Asteroids are usually fairly nasty things. We live in perpetual fear of extinction, and dinosaurs did go extinct. But they have they’re good points, too, such as bringing about life. An increasing number of scientists think that asteroids crash-landing on Earth might have brought the organic material that eventually evolved into life as we know it. So while asteroid and asteroid belts could destroy us at virtually any moment, it’s potentially thanks to a couple of their fellows that we’re here to get smashed. And a couple of NASA scientists have applied this idea to the search for extraterrestrial life: not only do planets have to be at the right temperature with the right water levels and atmosphere to house life we might recognize, but they have to be surrounded by just the right kind of asteroid belt, not too big and not too small. I guess Goldilocks really does apply.

Titan Glows and It’s Not Because of the Sun: Scientists expected Titan to potentially glow in the dark: ultraviolet light can excite particles enough to do that. Magnetic fields can also add a bit of a shine, like in our own aurora borealis. And Titan does glow a little bit because of this. But there is a deeper glow in Titan’s atmosphere, too far down to be caused by the sun or magnetic field alone, and scientists think there’re some interesting organic chemistry reactions going on that makes this light happen. Titan has long since a spot on the list of places that could house life due to a thick atmosphere and already present organic materials, and this just makes the moon that much more interesting.

Europe Goes Planet Hunting: It’s not just NASA and SpaceX up in space. The European Space Agency plans on launching a satellite in 2017 that can better find planets in other solar systems. Cheops, or CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite, will be searching for exoplanets around stars already known to have planets, since it’s likely that there will be more than just one per star. Cheops will also be searching for exoplanets with strong atmospheres, seeing as how all the life we know of tends to rely on them.
 
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

Self-Sufficiency in Space


It's pretty much Space Travel 101: getting anything into space is incredibly expensive. With it costing more than $4,000 to get each pound of equipment just into orbit – and even more to get that same weight out of orbit – it makes sense to look for any possible way of decreasing weight. Unfortunately, any long-term space flights – think longer than 2 years – are going to require a huge amount of supplies, and while it might not be too difficult to resupply something like a space-station, resupplying a crew zipping to Europa or even just staying on Mars is going to require some serious planning.

But what if they don't need additional resources? What if they're fully self-sufficient?

This is by no means an original idea. Scientists have been throwing around the idea since we've been in space and sci-fi writers have been playing with it even longer. Stephen Baxter, H. G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke are just a few of the dozens of writers that have toyed with the idea. Even the children television series Power Rangers has displayed self-sufficient spaceships.

And the idea doesn't really seem all that complicated. Basically, the goal would be to recreate some sort of Earth-style biome, preferably a comfortable one, complete with every important organism necessary for the continued existence of every other important organism, as well as having any and all necessary chemicals somehow available in the environment.

Unfortunately, this is far easier said than done. The sheer number of organisms it takes and mechanisms required for long term human survival is staggering. Add in to that the often difficult-to-predict effects of various human built objects and the problem becomes even more complex.

This hasn't stopped scientists from attempting it, though. Biosphere 2, the largest closed system ever built, was used in a set of experiments to determine if it was possible to replicate an environment conducive to life while maintaining self-sufficiency. 

The following video is a wonderful TED Talk about the difficulties faced by the participants in the Biosphere 2 experiments and the overall outcome. Definitely worth a quick watch.




If you can't watch the video, one of the participants who spent two years in Biosphere 2 basically explains that even though they had attempted to cover absolutely any problem without having to pump in additional chemicals, oxygen within the structure continued to decrease, leading to several health problems.

But what do you think? Is self sufficiency in space really so important? Is Biosphere 2 the best way to attempt to recreate a biome? Tell us in the comments!

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

11.03.2012

Alien Contact



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 Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would be probably considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.02.2012

The Creative Conquest of Space


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

Space is Vast, Huge, and Mind-Boggling


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

10.31.2012

The Ultimate Bad Alien Science Fiction Idea


Forget scary alien apocalypses where we collectively commit suicide after the newest generation of humans become psychic baby aliens. Don’t even worry about invasions of body snatchers or Heinlein’s amorphous alien blobs that make you a hunchback and take over your brain. Dying en masse because a galactic alliance throws the book at human civilization is only kind of rough. Having a martial, elephantine alien species go to war with you at the cost of millions of lives isn’t precisely spectacular, but it could be worse. We could all probably do without Doctor Who’s shenanigans of destroying London, the planets, and bits of the Universe but it’s no big deal, especially since he usually puts it back. Asteroids aren’t a problem and neither is Red Weed, though that’s a bit closer.
 
No.
 
The real problem is when some extraterrestrial bacteria lands on Earth, turns out to be an invasive species and starts gnawing away at the trees. Trees, not just a specific species of tree. The strain of bacteria, now irreparably widespread due to trade, infects the majority of humans – hell, let’s make that everything with a brain – and turns them into hungry, hungry zombies.
 
The few surviving pockets of humanity hurriedly (and rather inexplicably) develop AI both as a form of protection for their stronghold and as a way to record the remainder of human thought (because once Animalia becomes Zombie-malia, humans are pretty assuredly toast). But the AI turns against their human creators Terminator-style, as AI always does when not Robin Williams, and starts retaking the planet from its fleshy and flesh-eating foes. However, since each pocket of now-dead humans separately created AI, we now have AI C++ and AI Python fighting for dominance, a fight which escalates into nuclear warfare – the ensuing EMP and outright physical destruction destroys all remaining vestiges of everything, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to little zombie fish.
 
 
And then it turns out that the initial microbes were left-over biological weapons from an alien war millions and millions of years ago that never would have affected us if we learned how to stop cross-contaminating space gear before we brought stuff back from Mars. We find this out in a time-bending epilogue, because the multiverse is being swallowed up by an increasingly large black hole and, since we don’t know any better, I can pretend that’s how time in a black hole works.
 
Aliens. Zombies. Hostile artificial intelligence, nuclear warfare, and a giant catastrofuck caused by an overlooked detail. And the end of the universe surrounded by a bunch of bad science.
 
Out sub-genre that, sci-fi world.
 
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

10.27.2012

Neil deGrasse Tyson: NASA and Culture



In this fantastic speech, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the importance of space exploration and the effect NASA has had, not on technology or science, but on culture.

I have to say I really love this address. I've honestly listened to it at least 3 times today alone in an effort to remember more of the arguments Tyson uses to defend NASA's importance. In fact, Tyson does a remarkable job of supporting an organization that I haven't been particularly fond of for quite a few year -- and even goes so far as to explain why NASA does not hold the same place in the public conscience that it did 50 years ago.

Additionally, in Tyson's unique way, he discusses how policy makers fit into what he would like done, how improving NASA will stimulate the economy, and why NASA even has an effect on the creative arts. Altogether a wonderful speech and definitely worth a listen.

But what do you think? Does space exploration really have such a massive effect on society, not only on technology but on culture and the arts? Tell us what you think!

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.


10.22.2012

Video: Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Arthur C. Clarke - God, The Universe and Everything Else (1988)



This talk show from the eighties is so inexpressibly epic that I can’t even pick a place to start. In the most incredible combination of popular scientific figures, Stephen Hawking, Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan have a fifty-minute discussion ranging from the origin of the universe to nuclear war – topics that are just as relevant now (especially that last one). Whether it’s Hawking’s snide comments about the government, Carl Sagan’s critique of how science is taught, or Arthur Clarke’s use of old computer technology to actually teach the audience about math, there is just so much casual competence on screen that it makes me nostalgic for a TV era I wasn’t even around for.

Not only does this show touch on all sorts of space and science topics, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Arthur Clarke discuss aliens with very divergent viewpoints. Hawking sticks to his strong opinion that alien contact is a bad idea: he thinks it's more likely that intelligent aliens will destroy us as soon as visit us. Sagan and Clarke think about the matter more optimistically, and Sagan particularly, as a key figure in SETI, thinks that contact with aliens will be inevitable if they do exist. If alien civilizations are anywhere nearby, after all, TV has already reached them. (Frighteningly.)
 
These three figures are an interesting choice. You have two hard core scientists, though both popular and eloquent figures, and a science fiction writer who, despite writing fairly soft science fiction, manages to keep up with them. And then, most surprisingly, there’s a host who actually knows and appears interested in science, which is a far departure from talk show hosts now. Everyone has a fairly different point of view, as well as obviously different areas of expertise and concentration, but they treat each other’s answers as legitimate and worthy of respect; even when the topic turns dangerously to the intermixing of God and science -- something I don’t think a host, speakers, or the audience could handle -- all there is in the show is awesomeness.

It’s like having the masters of the universe – quite topically – coming together to have a rousing discussion just for our entertainment.

Oh, wait. That’s exactly what it is.

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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

10.21.2012

October 21, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


Space news in general doesn’t follow much of a theme each week. A majority of it might cover a specific event (the landing of Curiosity reigned for at least a solid week), but usually there’s a chaotic combination of theoretical science, experiments, discoveries and funding battles. Though there’s a bit of all of that this week, as usual, there’s quite a bit of cohesion, too, and it’s all about making space travel more practical.
 
Humans vs. Germs: Microgravity might just be out to kill us. Not only does it suppress the immune systems of the astronauts in it, microgravity also boosts the sticking power of microorganisms. Out in space, and outside the confines of a space suit, germs can float wherever, and virtually for however long, they like. So far prevention methods include lots of vaccines, stringent sterilization of the food and environment, and maybe some HEPA air filtration. But this is definitely something to think about, because few places would be worse for an epidemic to break out in.
 
The Shuttle is Dead, Long Live the Shuttle: Now that our much-loved shuttles are ensconced in museums, NASA’s more focused on the Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy lift rocket for exploring farther than low Earth orbit. As part of the task of sending the spacecraft Orion to future destinations – the article throws in Mars as a teaser – an umbilical arm was attached to NASA’s launch tower; it’s job is handle all the cryogenic propellant the rocket will need. One of the best parts of this story is that NASA will do hundreds of tests on it before declaring it ready: the SLS has to be screw-up resistant, or fault tolerant, and work even if singular components break before it’ll be used.
 
The Smashing Moon Interlude: Thinking about space travel isn’t the only that happened this week, after all. Sadly, we’re still not 100% sure about how the Moon came to be – it’s in that nebulous zone of ‘You mean we still can’t agree on the right answer?’ that water on Mars stayed in forever. However, evidence seems to point at a Mar-sized body smashing into Earth in the past and the Moon taking form from the ensuing dust and shrapnel. Scientists had sort of known for decades that the Moon had been made through a huge impact: Moon rock is just like Earth rock except for not having any elements that can easily evaporate. But it wasn’t until now that planetary scientist Frédéric Moynier found variations in zinc concentration that point firmly towards the ‘Earth + Horrible Collision = Moon” idea.
 
The Dragon Will Have Veggies: Next year, SpaceX will be carrying a new food experiment by NASA in the form of a vegetable garden. Trying to grow fresh food in a space-like environment is hardly a new idea, but as people are rallying around ideas like visits to asteroids and colonies on Mars, it’s becoming more and more important. Through NASA’s VEGGIE experiment, the Vegetable Production System, plants like tomatoes and swiss chard could grow in about a month 200 miles above the Earth. There are quite a few challenges involved in this, like carbon dioxide, nutrients, and photosynthesis as a whole, but NASA seems to be doing well so far. Just as cool, NASA’s encouraging science classrooms to get in on the act. This last bit might just be some good PR, but since there’ve been kids building nuclear reactors and solar death rays before, it might also be extremely useful.
 
Space News by CBS: Space articles by general news venues are usually kind of sketchy: New York Times, in particular, has a sad tendency to be cutesy and a little vague whenever they cover science news rather than science people. But it’s exciting when a general news site, within two days of the discovery, plasters in article from a space website on their page and says, ‘Read this – it’s kind of important.’ Also, the topic itself – a relatively close alien planet called Alpha Centuari Bb – is pretty exciting. This planet, maybe, we could send exploratory devices to.
 
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

10.16.2012

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Facing the Ultimate Frontier and What Encourages Science



Here's another wonderful video from the great Neil deGrasse Tyson. It's also long, --over two hours-- making it great for road trips or to have playing in the background while working -- after-all who wouldn't want to listen to the wonderful and knowledgeable words of Neil Tyson for as long as possible?

Tyson makes several interesting points in this video; the importance of NASA and how it relates to the future if the United States, how education can be improved, and –perhaps most importantly – the drivers behind the advancement of science and what will need to be done to encourage additional investment into scientific study and space exploration.
Which brings up several interesting points. Do the influences Tyson mentions really cause almost all scientific advancement? And does the coming emergence of other space-faring countries mean the United States will increase research and funding for space-related activities due to the increased competition, and more importantly fear? Does this mean that we are inevitably moving toward the militarization of space?

Tell us what you think in the comments!

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

10.07.2012

October 7, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


CRS-1 Set for Oct. 7: SpaceX has been busy. After the delays and tentative successes we watched in the early summer, a Dragon is setting out to the International Space Station today to bring over 1,000 pounds of supplies. But that’s not all it’s going to do. After staying at the ISS for three weeks, Dragon will return – return, not burn up on reentry like other supply vessels in the past – loaded with over a ton of samples collected for engineers and other scientists to analyze. So far it looks like NASA made a good choice about who to contract out to.
 
Smile for the 3-D Analysis!: All of the space technology launched so far that has been equipped with cameras has been equipped with 2-D cameras. The only way to get 3-D data in the past has been to cluster a bunch of cameras in the just right way to build 3-D with a whole lot of complicated math. But the idea of a 3-D camera built for space flight has been buzzing in the aerospace world ever since they’ve been well-built for terrestrial uses in 2000. Thales Alenia Space, SINTEF, and Terma, in particular are studying all available alternatives to make it happen.
 
Venus Has Ice?: Be a bit skeptical, scientists caution, but recent data might note the existence of carbon dioxide ice and snow on Venus. This is surprising, seeing as Venus is usually portrayed as being terrifyingly hot and carbon dioxide ice doesn’t exist unless you dip heavily into the negatives.  But data about the concentrations of carbon dioxide gas at different altitudes allowed scientists to calculate the temperature at different spots just as night was turning to day on Venus, and a patch high in the atmosphere that falls to a chilly -175 degrees Celsius. The news is so surprising that the ESA starting an investigation into how other gases in the atmosphere, like carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and oxygen, are affecting the data.
 
Next on the To-Do List – Black Holes: Black holes remain more than a bit of a mystery seeing as nothing, let alone any device to analyze them, can get anywhere reasonably considered to be ‘close.’ As a matter of fact, the closest thing we knew of next to the supermassive black hole in our galaxy had been a star that orbited it every 16 years; but UCLA astronomers just found another star that orbits it every 11½ years. Astronomers like Andrea Ghez are ecstatic about this, because having two points of reference that orbit the black hole several times within a human lifespan opens up the possibility for several experiments that will probe the nature of black holes. More specifically, we’ll learn more about how black holes bend space and time.
 
The First Dig for Microbial Kind: Landing a rover on Mars is a feat in and of itself, but a lot of people have been waiting for the star event in Curiosity’s investigations into Mars. The rover is about to start its first analysis of Martian soil, during which it will look at past environmental conditions and look for the chemical components necessary for life. And maybe, just maybe, it might find something wiggling around in it and dramatically change life as we know it. But we’ll see.
 
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.