What will NASA Reveal at its Press Conference on Astrobiology?
Michio Kaku is a futurist, popularizer of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics and a joint appointment at City College of New York and the Graduate Center of C.U.N.Y. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
Kaku launched his Big Think blog, "Dr. Kaku's Universe," in March 2010.
A firestorm of speculation has been generated by a notice from NASA announcing a major discovery in the field of astrobiology, to be released today at 2 p.m.
According to the Press Release: "NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe." It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website at http://www.nasa.gov.
By the time you read this blog, the results might already be known. However, it is always fun to speculate what might be revealed at the press conference. I speculate the following possibilities.
a) NASA might announce that the Kepler and Corot satellites, currently in orbit, have discovered scores of earth-like twins in space. Unlike the 500 extra-solar Jupiter-like planets that have been discovered so far, these planets may resemble the earth, with an atmosphere and liquid oceans. Once these planets have been isolated, then instruments can zero in on them to see what kinds of chemicals are found on them. (Liquid water is one of the most precious substances in the universe, and is the mixing bowl where the first DNA got off the ground, so the discovery of liquid oceans would be monumental.)
b) Also, NASA might announce that they have analyzed the chemicals in the moons of our solar system (e.g. Titan, or possibly Europa) or on an extra-solar planet, and found evidence of chemicals like water, oxygen, amino acids, etc. that are essential for the creation of life as we know it. (Less likely is the chance that they have discovered nucleic acids on these bodies.)
c) It is unlikely that NASA will announce that they have found definitive proof of the existence of intelligent life in the universe. Microbial life, we think, might be rather common in the galaxy, but intelligent life is very rare. (Although life on earth started about 3.5 billion years ago, only in the last 100,000 years have modern humans emerged.) So it is possible that NASA might announce they found some form of evidence of microbial life in the universe.
After the official news conference, I will try to write an additional blog post about the findings -- Stay Tuned!
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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