9.29.2012

Neil Tyson on Science



A wonderful little picture of the world's sexiest astrophysicist doing what he does best.

9.28.2012

Neil Tyson: The Moon, the Tides, and Why Neil deGrasse Tyson is Colbert's God




Here's another fantastic interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson. While he doesn't speak a whole lot about space or extraterrestrials, he does spend quite a bit of time speaking about the future of science, various philosophies of science, and concerns about the future of humanity. Another great video worth watching.

It's also particularly amusing to see him discuss the famous Bill O'Reilly, "You can't explain the tides." quote and slightly unsettling to admit that we really understand only 4% of the universe.

But what do you think? Do you agree with Tyson's views on neuroscience? What about his theories on the future of science? And do you think it's even possible to understand 100% of the universe? Leave a comment and let us know!

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.

9.17.2012

September 17, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


This past week was filled with space and alien news in all kind of different subject matter. While Curiosity is still getting underway, Opportunity is making a few discoveries; while robotics and programs are largely taking over the categorizing of the universe, people from around the world are categorizing different types of galaxies. There's quite a bit of theoretical space news, too, concerning the expansion of the universe and our conceptualization of habitable planets.
 
High school students are also getting in on the space-based science racket, and that's some pretty awesome news to finish off a pretty busy space-filled week.


Categorizing Galaxies for Beginners: This isn’t the first time science has used the collective boredom of Internet users to make the universe a better place. First it was knot and fold games to figure out diseases, then SETI having people help distinguish potential alien noise from regular space noise. Now, on GalaxyZoo, people can categorize galaxies in their spare time. They try to draw you in with the notion that you might be the first person to see any given galaxy… and that’s a surprisingly tempting idea.
 
It’s Not All Curiosity on Mars: While Curiosity is still undergoing test runs, Opportunity is keeping busy with a hunt for blueberries. Tiny iron-rich spheres, blueberries were found in 2004 and were potential evidence for a watery Mars in the past; these Martian un-blueberries that are all around Kirkwood at Endeavor Crater, however, are a bit of a mystery. They’re not quite the same blueberries from before, scientists say, but we don’t really know what they are, either.

We Probably, Almost Certainly, Have Dark Energy: Something is making the Universe spread out at an accelerating rate, and two scientists are now 99.996% sure we know what that something is. Well, we have a name for it, at the very least. Dark energy, the energy assumed to take up 73% of the universe, is so mysterious that we don’t even really know what it is. All we know now is that it’s out there expanding the universe – and potentially changing up Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

What Do You Mean by Habitability?: Phrases like ‘the habitable zone’ and ‘Goldilock planets’ have been thrown around for a while now, and the majority of us, using the exactly one planet we really know anything about, have some vague image of those planets being something like Earth: watery, temperate... where carbon-based life doesn’t immediately and terribly die. However, this might not really be the case. Astronomers have found quite a few ‘eccentric planets’ with crazy oblong orbits, which would cause all kinds of strange bits of extreme temperate. Also, as we send lichen and bacteria into space and then bring them back alive, there turns out to be a much wider margin for ‘habitable’ than we might have supposed.

Science Doing What Science Should: In the coolest bit of conceptual news in the last while (including Curiosity), high school students were given the opportunity to send research experiments to the International Space Station to test out microgravity conditions. While the experiments include spiders, and I’m a bit less thrilled with that (forget microbial panspermia and think hysterically about the concept of space spiders), that high school kids can experiment in space with the whole thing on YouTube proves that space-based science is becoming mainstream and in demand.


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.

9.12.2012

Carl Sagan: When Aliens Find Voyager



Here's another great video where Carl Sagan explains what might happen to the Voyager spacecraft once it leaves our solar system, something that will be happening fairly soon.

The video also has a nice little slideshow of some of the images included on the famous Golden Disc as well as bits of the various pieces of music and speeches included. Definitely something to look at.

But what do you think? Do you think Voyager will ever be found? Might future humans one day find Voyager? Do you think Voyager will outlast humanity? 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.

9.10.2012

September 10, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


While you won’t see a lot of headline news about NASA or any various alien- and space-related ventures this week, a lot of hardware is getting stuff done out there. There are crafts surveying the surface of the moon, probes investigating asteroids and dwarf planets, and, more terrestrially, a lander being made to explore moons. Our understanding of the universe also might be shifting – no biggie.
 
A Little On-Planet Variety: The downside of most science fiction that features alien planets, even Star Wars, is that all planets are pretty one dimensional. You have the all-over swampy planet Yoda retires to, desert planets, and abominable snowman planets. Mars has also long been characterized as a dusty and desert-like, red, lifeless planet. However, the Niels Bohr Institute is paying attention to the wildly different climate variations, especially the ice caps.
 
Indiana and China Join Forces to Explain the Universe: Trying to figure out the universe is a large part of what astrophysics, quantum physics, and just about every kind of physics is about. Dark matter and dark energy have flummoxed the best and brightest for a while, but a couple of mathematicians are updating Einstein’s equations to allow for our increased knowledge of the universe. The scientific basis of sci-fi space travel, at the very least, might be about to change.
 
NASA’s Doing Stuff – in Alabama?: NASA ran the “Mighty Eagle” prototype lander through a whole gauntlet of tests earlier this week. There’s so much awesome contained in the Mighty Eagle concept that it’s hard to focus on just one thing: it’s primarily fueled by hydrogen peroxide, it’s robotic, and it’s the prototype of a fleet of landers destined to explore moons and asteroids.
 
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Dawn Has Left the Asteroid: Last week there was a lot of focus on Dawn, which was orbiting the asteroid Vesta. After spending the past year mapping out the asteroid and taking some awesome pictures, Dawn left Vesta behind. Now it’s heading out towards Ceres, a dwarf planet/asteroid in the inner solar system. We should hear about Dawn again in 2015.
 
The GRAIL Gravity Map: Two lunar-orbiting spacecraft have been mapping out gravity’s effect on the moon’s surface, giving us a lot more topographical detail than we’ve had before. Now that they have a basic overview finished, the two GRAIL spacecraft are going to deeply analyze the moon’s surface and subsurface features. Maybe once they’re done surveying, they’ll start with real estate offers. (This is a joke --- space legality has a long way to go before we can start shipping out.)

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.

9.07.2012

Carl Sagan Explains Multiple Dimensions



While the idea of multiple dimensions might not immediately seem relevant to a website about extraterrestrials -- unless of course, the extraterrestrials are from another dimension -- questions about the shape of the universe get thrown around often enough when discussing space that I figured it might be worth it to post a nice little video discussing the subject. And who better to explain a topic as complicated as multiple dimensions than the late, great, master of simplification Carl Sagan.

What's really wonderful about this video is Sagan's ability to take a subject so beyond the minds of everyday people and explain the basic concept in a concise, simple way. Additionally, the way he describes the meeting between the Apple and the resident of Flatland -- and the strangeness of the situation from the square's point of view -- is reminiscent one of my favorite short stories, The Thought War.

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.

9.04.2012

Michio Kaku and the Kardashev Scale



In this video Dr. Kaku describes the basics of the Kardashev Scale as well as some of the implications and abilities of any civilizations that might reach the various levels. Additionally Dr. Kaku describes one possible solution to the Fermi paradox and why we might currently be living in the most important period of human development. Also, he makes very interesting point of comparing Stanley Kubrick's famous movie 2001: A Space Odyssey to how a type three civilization might explore its galaxy in search of other life.

If you'd like to learn some more about the Kardeshev Scale just click here. If you'd like to watch a very similar video from Michio Kaku click here. Finally, if you'd like a bit more info on the Fermi Paradox click here.

But what do you think? Is this really the most important era of human development? Could we really destroy ourselves before reaching Type 1? And what about Kaku's idea of autonomous robotic explorers?

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.


Review: The Puppet Masters


The Puppet Masters. Robert Heinlein, 1951. Novel. 416 pages.
 
"Don't ask me why it was top secret, or even restricted; our government has gotten the habit of classifying anything as secret which the all-wise statesmen and bureaucrats decide we are not big enough girls and boys to know, a Mother-Knows-Best-Dear policy. I've read that there used to be a time when a taxpayer could demand the facts on anything and get them. I don't know; it sounds Utopian." - Chapter 24
 

The Background:

 
This is quintessential Cold War alien invasion fiction. The alien threat isn’t violent or abrupt, but is instead insidious: you can never be certain who is a communist alien; secret intelligence organizations and political incompetence abound; and danger can come from everywhere – even your cat.
 
However, it’s not all Cold War. The Puppet Masters is also classic Heinlein reading, because the protagonist’s wife and/or primary lover has a surprising key role in solving the book’s overriding conflict, marriages are economic and legal contracts without pomp and circumstance, and there is almost always a cat in the mix.
 
Despite sticking to the communist vs. America propagandistic theme that characterized so much of Western mid-to-late 20th century sci-fi, this book touched on several interesting, important, and currently relevant ideas, which I’ll discuss in:
 

The Premise:

 
The protagonist, known as just ‘Sam,’ is a secret agent in an organization so far under wraps that the NSA would be jealous. He, his boss, and a female agent (read: his future wife) investigate a UFO landing and come across incontrovertible proof of hostile aliens. The politicians ignore them anyway, at least until it’s far too late.
 
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The majority of the novel is centered around a border war as our heroes try to stop the aliens, which are parasitic blobs that cling to humans’ backs and take control of their bodies while reproducing quickly enough to try and systematically take over the whole population. This attempted containment continues while people try to find a way to kill the aliens without killing too many of the humans hosts.
 
The humans eventually succeed, sort of, but Heinlein creates a few sub-conflicts, horrifying implications, and things for all alien invasion novel readers to keep in mind:
 
  1. An alien threat is never really extinguished.
  2. We can make no assumptions about what aliens are like. (This one usually finds form in a fairly whiny – if probably correct – scientist who says ‘biology doesn’t work that way’ only for a gung-ho hero to point a weapon at the scientist and say ‘account for it anyway.’)
  3. We will feel more extremely – positively or negatively – about anthropomorphic aliens.
  4. Forget it being hard to stop: a subtle alien invasion will be hard to prove.
  5. Once a government fails at preventing an alien invasion, which they’re hardly equipped to prevent to begin with, law and order as we know it will be gone.
 

Final Verdict:

 
This has so many moments of awesome that it’s easy to overlook the clichés without thinking twice. Even without the Heinlein social agenda, The Puppet Masters is good because it really probes how we as a whole would react to an alien invasion that doesn’t result in our immediate destruction.
 
With terror, paranoia, occasional brilliance, and a whole lot of red tape.
 
If you’ve read the book or have something you want to add, be sure to leave a comment. Also, if you have any Heinlein books you think should be reviewed in light of how to survive alien invasions (Starship Troopers, anyone?), let me know!
 
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.

9.03.2012

September 3, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


Most of the scientific space news this week, sadly, doesn't touch too directly on any sort of 'space and alien' theme. There's some pretty cool stuff out there (like studying Earth's radiation belts), but that's more terrestrial than anything else. That aside, a few cool things have happened in the past week, like plans to explore asteroids and some Curiosity action.


Kepler Strikes Again – Times Two: NASA’s Kepler mission just keeps on giving. The program that found some of the first Goldilocks planets en masse discovered planets orbiting a binary sun system. While this doesn’t have much to do with alien life, besides there being at least one in the habitable zone, it does demonstrate the wide variety of solar systems out there. It’s also a good demonstration of the long-term viability of NASA missions, since it’s tracking planets 4,900 light-years away long after it started.

A Study in Asteroids: Humans have two basic plans related to asteroids. One, to use them as a resource and, two, to not get hit by one. NASA’s probe Dawn will hopefully be useful to both rather important goals. It was supposed to orbit the giant asteroid Vesta for the last little while and will spiral away from it at some point tomorrow. This journey will hopefully not only give us more information about the beginning of our solar system and how asteroids operate in general, but also further our grasp of technology for operating near (and eventually landing and mining on) asteroids.

JAXA’s Getting in on Long-Term Space Action: Not only is a joint American-European venture supposed to bring humans to Mars in the 2020s, Japan has plans to land a craft on an asteroid in 2018. Primarily, this is supposed to give the world more information about how life began on earth. However, just like Dawn, the practical implications of successfully navigating in and around asteroids bode well for a future in space mining.

Curiosity on the Move: Curiosity might have landed almost a month ago, but it’s still big space news – especially as it sets out on its longest drive. It hasn’t quite reached Glenelg, the location for the first in-depth rock study, but the rover is slowly coming out of test mode to full rock-blaster mode.

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.