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The Cheap Pleasure of Searching for Aliens

Question: How do you rate the chances of our discovering life on other planets?

Freeman Dyson:  Well, of course, well, nobody knows.  That’s why it’s interesting.  I mean that it’s completely unknown whether these creatures exist or what they look or where they are, so we’re free to search in all sorts of ways and what is delightful about it is that our…  It is very cheap.  Actually the amounts of money that have to be spent are quite small and they don’t increase with time because our processing of data is all the time getting cheaper and cheaper.  It’s essentially a matter of computers which are getting more powerful every year, but are not increasing in cost, so it means that we’re getting better and better at it, but with more or less constant expenditure and so it makes a lot of sense just to go on.  There is always a chance next year we find something and we don’t have…  It’s not…  The public is not, is misled into thinking this is a grand and expensive project.  Actually it’s not.

Recorded March 5th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

Why looking for extraterrestrial life gets more and more efficient—and less and less expensive—each year.

LIVE TOMORROW | Jordan Klepper: Comedians vs. the apocalypse

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LGBTQ+ community sees spike in first-time depression in wake of coronavirus​

Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Coronavirus
  • Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
  • Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
  • The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
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The mind-blowing science of black holes

What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.

Videos
  • When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
  • A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
  • Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
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Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
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