Hey Bill Nye! How Did You Come Up With the Idea for the LightSail?
In today's edition of #TuesdaysWithBill, 8-year-old Shya asks Bill Nye about the LightSail satellite, a solar sailing spacecraft launched by the Planetary Society and currently "sailing" around us in space.
Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.
In Seattle Nye began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy, when he won the Steve Martin look-alike contest and developed dual careers as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night. Nye then quit his day engineering day job and made the transition to a night job as a comedy writer and performer on Seattle’s home-grown ensemble comedy show “Almost Live.” This is where “Bill Nye the Science Guy®” was born. The show appeared before Saturday Night Live and later on Comedy Central, originating at KING-TV, Seattle’s NBC affiliate.
While working on the Science Guy show, Nye won seven national Emmy Awards for writing, performing, and producing. The show won 18 Emmys in five years. In between creating the shows, he wrote five children’s books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.”
Nye is the host of three currently-running television series. “The 100 Greatest Discoveries” airs on the Science Channel. “The Eyes of Nye” airs on PBS stations across the country.
Bill’s latest project is hosting a show on Planet Green called “Stuff Happens.” It’s about environmentally responsible choices that consumers can make as they go about their day and their shopping. Also, you’ll see Nye in his good-natured rivalry with his neighbor Ed Begley. They compete to see who can save the most energy and produce the smallest carbon footprint. Nye has 4,000 watts of solar power and a solar-boosted hot water system. There’s also the low water use garden and underground watering system. It’s fun for him; he’s an engineer with an energy conservation hobby.
Nye is currently the Executive Director of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest organization.
Shya: Hi Bill. My name is Shya. I am eight years old. My question is how did you come up with the idea for the LightSail.
Bill Nye: I love you. That’s a great question. So it wasn’t really my idea, Shya. People who lived before me, people who were astronomers and physicists discovered that light, even though it has no mass, has a tiny, tiny bit of momentum. Just while you’re sitting there in a room with the lights on and when you’re out in the sun, there’s just a tiny, tiny push on you because it’s pure energy. So when it strikes something it imparts some energy to it. It gives it a little push. People over just about a century ago realized if you had a spacecraft in space of low enough mass — it wouldn’t weigh very much on earth — and it was big enough it would get a push. And so my old professor, Carl Sagan, was a big advocate of this making a solar sail as it’s called to catch up with Comet Halley, which you may sometimes hear as called Halley’s Comet. And that mission got canceled. That spaceship got canceled for other NASA projects. But now at the planetary site, which he started, Carl Sagan started, with the head of the Jet Propulsion Lab Bruce Murray and Lou Friedman who was an engineer at Jet Propulsion Lab out in California. They worked on that comet Halley mission and they held it in their hearts. They wanted this thing to fly. And now I have become the CEO of the Planetary Society started by those three guys. And now 39 years after Carl Sagan presented this idea to the world, we are flying a much more modest, nevertheless when you look at it, it looks very much the same, LightSail spacecraft. It would have the capability — here’s our patch, our mission patch. It would have the capability to take you to the moon, to Mars, to asteroids at a very low cost, which is a big problem, you know, in anything is how much it costs. That is a great question Shya. I hope you follow the mission. We’re in space right now as I talk and in the next few weeks, after we spread out from other spacecraft, we will deploy our sails, extend our shiny sails and see if it works. By the way if the sails were black, the light would hit it and give it a push. But because they’re shiny the light hits it and bounces off and that’s mathematically exactly twice the push. So Shya, that’s math. And I want you to get good at it. Thanks for the question.
In today's edition of #TuesdaysWithBill, eight-year-old Shya asks Bill Nye about the LightSail satellite, a solar sailing spacecraft launched into space by the Planetary Society. Although he is most commonly linked to LightSail, Bill notes that it wasn't really his idea. In fact, this is an experiment over 35 years in the making, ever since it was first proposed by Bruce Murray and Lou Friedman of Jet Propulsion Laboratory in collaboration with Bill's astronomy professor, a guy you might have heard of named Carl Sagan.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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