It’s about time…several years after 2014’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey starring chief science nerd Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by Seth MacFarlane, itself a sequel of 1980’s seminal science series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Carl Sagan, will get its own sequel.
Cosmos: Possible Worlds – the title of which is perhaps a nod to the theme of this series – has been ordered from Fox and National Geographic, with a planned Spring 2019 release. The same creative team will be back as well; MacFarlane will be joined by executive producers Brannon Braga and Jason Clark, as well as executive producer, writer and director Ann Druyan who won an Emmy for writing the 2014 series. Tyson will return as host. The 2014 series was watched by 135 million people worldwide and was the most watched series on National Geographic’s international channels.
Also, this time the series will receive a companion book, much like Sagan’s original series did.
Fox and National Geographic will remain partners for the series despite the impending sale of National Geographic Channel to Disney as part of the giant acquisition.
I personally think there is a less alien explanation, but there is a report making the rounds today that scientists have detected a star, KIC 8462852, that experiences very unusual and erratic dips in brightness. The brightness change is around 22%, which is far more than typically observed from planetary transits, which is more like 1%, and are generally more consistent.
While there are probably a number of more rational explanations, astronomer Jason Wright, who specializes in signs of advanced civilizations, put forth the ideal that massive solar panels arranged in orbit, could be an explanation, although even he says we should “approach it skeptically.”
A Dyson Sphere, popularized and named after mathematician and theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, is one of a number of theoretical megastructures in which a partial or complete shell is constructed around a star, allowing for near-complete use of the energy output of the star.
Another similar structure, the Ringworld as conceived by science fiction author Larry Niven, is a ring structure around a star where the inner surface would have millions of times the area of Earth as livable space. But in order to provide something approximating a day/night cycle on such a structure, a second, inner structure exists – the “shadow squares”, enormous panels in orbit that block the sunlight from the star from a section of the Ringworld.
Sound familiar? Perhaps we should be searching for Protectors or Puppeteers in the area…
This morning, the American Geophysical Union apparently sent out a press release that Voyager 1 had “officially” left the solar system, and of course the news outlets were abuzz…but a short time later they backed off that statement, and issued a correction that simply said, “Voyager 1 has entered a new region of space, sudden changes in cosmic rays indicate”.
Apparently the remaining instruments on Voyager 1 detected a change in high energy particles and gamma rays, signalling a change. However, not everyone agrees what is the point at which Voyager 1 can be considered to be in “interstellar space” – the vague point at which the effects of the Sun – primarily the solar wind – are no longer felt.
But now it seems at least they are back on the same page. The Voyager team at the Jet Propulsion Library issued a statement this afternoon:
The Voyager team is aware of reports today that NASA’s Voyager 1 has left the solar system,” said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. “It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called ‘the magnetic highway’ where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed.
So it seems the AGU’s statement is actually old as well…so now everyone is waiting for the magnetic shift…and who knows when that will happen.
So, we may not be interstellar yet…but someday. And it is undeniable how amazing Voyager 1’s journey has been…
With this early morning’s successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to make the first private space flight delivery to the International Space Station to demonstrate the Dragon capsule, but there was a second container in the second stage – a Celestis canister which contained the ashes of 308 individuals, including Star Trek actor James Doohan and Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper.
This is the third time the ashes of Doohan and Cooper have been launched towards space. The first time was a suborbital flight in 2007, and then SpaceX attempted in 2008 to reach orbit aboard a Falcon 1, but it failed after launch.
The ashes expect to remain in orbit about a year before being incinerated during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Just found out about this – it as a site that helps visualize the scale of the Universe from the smallest (quantum foam and strings) to the largest (the entire universe), with a slider you can move to change the scale of what you are looking at.
I don’t know why, but suddenly I think molecules are positively huge…
At least we don’t think it’s a joke…Deadline is reporting that Fox has ordered a new version of the late Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, and the new series will be produced by – wait for it – Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.
Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey will be a 13-part series produced by MacFarlane and Sagan’s original collaborators – his widow Ann Druyan and astrophysicist Steven Soter, and will be hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
According to the producers, the new series will tell “the story of how human beings began to comprehend the laws of nature and find our place in space and time. It will take viewers to other worlds and travel across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest scale. The most profound scientific concepts will be presented with stunning clarity, uniting skepticism and wonder, and weaving rigorous science with the emotional and spiritual into a transcendent experience.”
Fox will air the show in primetime, with encores shown on the National Geographic channel, which will co-produce.
OK, so this was a joke…but please Sir Richard, can we make this happen? Can I stop explaining to my kids how “When I was a kid there were NINE planets…”
Amazon’s Web Services group today announced a breakthrough in a new cloud storage technology that will allow for massive amounts of data to be stored in a global network, and gets right down to the molecular level.
“We’re literally encoding the data by combining molecules into a matrix,” said lead scientist Dr. Rane Scamall, whose team has been developing the technology in the company’s Dublin-based labs. “By chaining the molecules in a certain way, we are able to encode the bits in the smallest ever domain, allowing for near-infinite storage – certainly enough to store the entirety of human knowledge.”
The details of how it works are still vague (mastermind Jeff Bezos is trying to accelerate the patent filings), but the system is envisioned as a near-line medium in a hierarchical storage system. “Although the density of data can be quite high, there are limits to the overall density of the molecules themselves within the medium,” Dr. Scamall explained. “If we try to increase the density too much, we can have phase transition issues and it becomes harder to decode the data. So currently the data migration rates are quite slow. We have plenty of volume to work with, however.”
Data that isn’t needed rapidly eventually gets “floated” to new storage system. While in this state, it can migrate freely to other systems until it is time to be recalled via “currents”. When it is time to be recalled, an electrical field is applied, which sets the system into motion, the molecules combine and begin to precipitate out of the medium and into collectors. More traditional channels can then carry the data to where it is actually needed.
There are still issues to be worked out, however.
“One problem we are still trying to solve is that the data precipitation is chaotic. Various environmental factors can cause perturbations in the flow, and the data could in fact be received in the wrong collector – or miss it entirely.” Dr. Scamall does add, “We don’t technically lose any of the data, but it can be very hard to find. Eventually it will find it’s way back into the cloud where we can attempt to retrieve it again.
Currently the technology works with water molecules, which are already quite abundant on Earth, but it could extend to other more complex molecules – an important need if the technology is to extend beyond the bounds of our planet – or if there are issues on availability on this one. Dr. Scamall quipped, “Water is both plentiful and scarce on our world, so we wouldn’t want our technology to trump other needs. But in reality, this technology has been around for centuries – we are only now learning how to harness it more effectively. And eventually we’ll have it pefect, as right as rain.”
[This was meant to be posted on Friday, but I wasn’t able to get to it]
January 28th, 1986. I remember right where I was.
I was in my senior year of high school. I grew up like a lot of boys wanting to be an astronaut. Never actually shook it off later on. I followed the space program with rapt attention – given free choice of a book report or term paper, it invariably turned towards space. I had a large amount of materials, books, etc.
I watched intently with my class as the Enterprise test flights took place in grade school. Followed each mission as I could through the years.
Jack Horkheimer, well known astronomer who achieved national recognition on PBS for his short “Star Gazer/Star Hustler” segments for 25 years, passed away on Friday at the age of 72. He worked at the Miami Planetarium for over 45 years, most of them as Executive Director. His official bio also bore his pre-written epitaph based on his closing tag line and bearing his humor: “”Keep Looking Up was my life’s admonition, I can do little else in my present position.”