Tag: Carl Sagan (page 1 of 2)

The Science of the Dogon

Excerpt from The Science of The Dogon, by Laird ScrantonThe information presented in the preceding chapters demonstrates a direct relationship between the symbols and themes of the Dogon creation story and known scientific facts relating to the formation of the universe, matter, and biological reproduction. This relationship is a broad and specific one that is couched in clear definitions and supported by priestly interpretations and cosmological drawings. The parallels between Dogon myth [...]

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Carl Sagan’s Solar Sail Goes On Test Flight On May 20: Why You Should Care

Excerpt  from techtimes.comMany of the technologies that are in use today such as the airplane and the internet were once ideas that became reality and it appears that this still goes true with the innovations of the future. Take for instance ...

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Guiding Our Search for Life on Other Earths

The James Webb Telescope

Excerpt from space.com

A telescope will soon allow astronomers to probe the atmosphere of Earthlike exoplanets for signs of life. To prepare, astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger and her team are modeling the atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. Here's how:
The James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018, will usher a new era in our search for life beyond Earth. With its 6.5-meter mirror, the long-awaited successor to Hubble will be large enough to detect potential biosignatures in the atmosphere of Earthlike planets orbiting nearby stars.
And we may soon find a treasure-trove of such worlds. The forthcoming exoplanet hunter TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), set to launch in 2017, will scout the entire sky for planetary systems close to ours. (The current Kepler mission focuses on more distant stars, between 600 and 3,000 light-years from Earth.) 

Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger

While TESS will allow for the brief detection of new planets, the larger James Webb will follow up on select candidates and provide clues about their atmospheric composition. But the work will be difficult and require a lot of telescope time.
"We're expecting to find thousands of new planets with TESS, so we'll need to select our best targets for follow-up study with the Webb telescope," says Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University and co-investigator on the TESS team.
To prepare, Kaltenegger and her team at Cornell's Institute for Pale Blue Dots are building a database of atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. The models will then be used as "ID cards" to guide the study of exoplanet atmospheres with the Webb and other future large telescopes.
Kaltenegger described her approach in a talk for the NASA Astrobiology Institute's Director Seminar Series last December.
"For the first time in human history, we have the technology to find and characterize other worlds," she says. "And there's a lot to learn."

Detecting life from space  

In its 1990 flyby of Earth, the Galileo spacecraft took a spectrum of sunlight filtered through our planet's atmosphere. In a 1993 paper in the journal Nature, astronomer Carl Sagan analyzed that data and found a large amount of oxygen together with methane — a telltale sign of life on Earth. These observations established a control experiment for the search of extraterrestrial life by modern spacecraft.
"The spectrum of a planet is like a chemical fingerprint," Kaltenegger says. "This gives us the key to explore alien worlds light years away."
Current telescopes have picked up the spectra of giant, Jupiter-like exoplanets. But the telescopes are not large enough to do so for smaller, Earth-like worlds. The James Webb telescope will be our first shot at studying the atmospheres of these potentially habitable worlds.
Some forthcoming ground-based telescopes — including the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), planned for completion in 2020, and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), scheduled for first light in 2024 — may also be able to contribute to that task. [The Largest Telescopes on Earth: How They Compare]
And with the expected discovery by TESS of thousands of nearby exoplanets, the James Webb and other large telescopes will have plenty of potential targets to study. Another forthcoming planet hunter, the Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO), a planned European Space Agency mission scheduled for launch around 2022-2024, will contribute even more candidates.
However, observation time for follow-up studies will be costly and limited.
"It will take hundreds of hours of observation to see atmospheric signatures with the Webb telescope," Kaltenegger says. "So we'll have to pick our targets carefully."

Giant Magellan Telescope
Set to see its first light in 2021, The Giant Magellan Telescope will be the world’s largest telescope.

Getting a head start

To guide that process, Kaltenegger and her team are putting together a database of atmospheric fingerprints of potential alien worlds. "The models are tools that can teach us how to observe and help us prioritize targets," she says.
To start, they have modeled the chemical fingerprint of Earth over geological time. Our planet's atmosphere has evolved over time, with different life forms producing and consuming various gases. These models may give astronomers some insight into a planet's evolutionary stage.
Other models take into consideration the effects of a host of factors on the chemical signatures — including water, clouds, atmospheric thickness, geological cycles, brightness of the parent star, and even the presence of different extremophiles.
"It's important to do this wide range of modeling right now," Kaltenegger said, "so we're not too startled if we detect something unexpected. A wide parameter space can allow us to figure out if we might have a combination of these environments."
She added: "It can also help us refine our modeling as fast as possible, and decide if more measurements are needed while the telescope is still in space. It's basically a stepping-stone, so we don't have to wait until we get our first measurements to understand what we are seeing. Still, we'll likely find things we never thought about in the first place."

A new research center

The spectral database is one of the main projects undertaken at the Institute for Pale Blue Dots, a new interdisciplinary research center founded in 2014 by Kaltenegger. The official inauguration will be held on May 9, 2015.
"The crux of the institute is the characterization of rocky, Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of nearby stars," Kaltenergger said. "It's a very interdisciplinary effort with people from astronomy, geology, atmospheric modeling, and hopefully biology."
She added: "One of the goal is to better understand what makes a planet a life-friendly habitat, and how we can detect that from light years away. We're on the verge of discovering other pale blue dots. And with Sagan's legacy, Cornell University is a really great home for an institute like that."

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Wanderers – A short film by Erik Wernquist

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Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God

Excerpt from  wsj.com
By Eric Metaxas

The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.

Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).

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Carl Sagan Narrates A Hopeful View Of The Future In ‘Wanderers,’ A Short About Space Exploration

Excerpt from
With Interstellar blowing minds in theaters, interest in space exploration is heightened with the public. Not that we ever stopped thinking about it, we just put it on the back burner and forgot about it for far too long. This short film from Erik Wernquist is hoping we start to remember it.

Utilizing Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot for narration, Wernquist creates a stunning trip through the galaxy to paint a picture of a future where we venture out. It’s a hell of a ride with no shortage of beauty. From the video:
Wanderers is a vision of humanity’s expansion into the Solar System, based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. The locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available.
Without any apparent story, other than what you may fill in by yourself, the idea with the film is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds – and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there.
Sagan’s word really help to push it past just a beautiful visual piece. It’s a good introduction, along with the original Cosmos, into how he could describe these events in a way that established some wonder. From Sploid:
Your own life, or your band’s, or even your species’ might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.

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Could ‘Interstellar’ Wormhole Travel Actually Happen?

Excerpt from  techtimes.com Interstellar may be attracting viewers to the movies at warp speed, but wormholes like the one featured in the new film are likely a reality, deep in space.The movie Interstellar follows a group of astronauts who...

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7 Types of Non-Believers Who Don’t Need Religion

Valerie Tarico, AlterNetReligious labels help shore up identity. So what are some of the things non-believers can call themselves?Catholic, born-again, Reformed, Jew, Muslim, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist…religions give people labels. The downside can be tribalism, an assumption that insiders are better than outsiders, that they merit more compassion, integrity and generosity or even that violence toward “infidels” is acceptable. But the upside is that religious o [...]

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Cosmic dust may have distorted cosmic inflation breakthrough

The 10-meter South Pole Telescope and the BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) Telescope at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which detected evidence of gravitational waves, is seen against the night sky with the Milky Way in this National Science Foundation picture taken in August 2008.

By Ben P. Stein, Inside Science

Harvard researchers rocked the science community last March with an apparent discovery of gravitational ripples that gave credence to cosmic inflation theory – a finding that met as much skepticism as enthusiasm. Now, further analysis raises more doubts.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This phrase, popularized by the late Carl Sagan, kept going through my head on March 17, the day that researchers involved with BICEP2, a telescope in Antarctica, made a big announcement at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The researchers reported that BICEP2 detected gravitational waves from the first moments after the big bang, a feat, which if confirmed, would open up a new field of study and would surely be recognized in a future Nobel Prize.

Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time. They're created when any object with mass accelerates. However, they're extremely weak, making them very hard to detect directly. Even for the most massive and cataclysmic events, such as the collision of two black holes, their effects, observed from Earth, are very hard to detect.

If you're looking for a detectable gravitational wave signal, what bigger event can there be than cosmic inflation? According to inflation theory, the universe multiplied its size by as much as 10 trillion trillion trillion times in the first fractions of a second after the big bang.  Inflation would have generated lots of gravitational waves. In turn, gravitational waves can subtly change the properties of light that they pass through. Specifically, they can slightly affect the polarization of light, the direction in which light's electric fields vibrate. The universe's rapid expansion during inflation would have amplified the waves' imprint on the early light in the universe.

The state-of-the-art BICEP2 experiment, which uses super-sensitive superconducting sensors, could detect tiny changes in polarization in the cosmic microwave background, the very first light released in the universe, which is still reaching us today. The BICEP2 researchers reported a very high polarization signal, known as B-mode polarization after its characteristics, in the cosmic microwave background, which they interpreted as a strong gravitational wave signal in the early universe.

Detecting this polarization signal was a striking result, announced in a series of scientific talks and a press conference shortly after a preprint of the paper was posted online. Notice these last two points: announced at a press conference, and a preprint posted online. A preprint is a written paper that has not been formally reviewed by independent peers or published in a scientific journal.

Nonetheless, scientists and reporters alike reported excitement over the results. If true, they would provide the greatest experimental support yet of cosmic inflation, and the first direct detection of gravitational waves. Previously, gravitational waves have been detected indirectly, such as in observations of pairs of stars falling towards each other: they were losing energy in the form of gravitational waves.

On the day of the BICEP2 announcement, and for many days afterward, people were largely accepting the results as correct and already jumping to the implications of the BICEP2 results for what appeared to be a new era of gravitational-wave cosmology.
In writing my story for Inside Science News Service, I was fortunate to get an early voice of skepticism from David Spergel, a theoretical cosmologist at Princeton University in New Jersey. He commented:

"Given the importance of this result, my starting point is to be skeptical. Most importantly, there are several independent experimental groups that will test this result in the next year."
Spergel explained that the new gravitational wave measurements did not appear to agree with those of previous experiments, known as WMAP and Planck, unless the simplest models of inflation were replaced by more complicated ones. On the first day and week of coverage, I became very disappointed with the many commentators who disregarded or underemphasized that the earlier measurements from instruments on WMAP and Planck, which had been reported and covered for years.

Sure enough, in the weeks that followed, other researchers pointed out that the signal that BICEP2 detected may have been attributable to the polarization of light caused by dust in our galaxy. The BICEP2 team certainly knew that dust could also polarize light in a similar way to gravitational waves, but they used a model, based on the data that was available from the Planck satellite, that, the other researchers pointed out, may have underestimated the amount of dust in the part of the sky they were studying.

The BICEP2 paper underwent peer review and was published in Physical Review Letters. As a result of the peer-review process, the researchers made revisions, including removing the model that contained the lower estimates of dust based on the earlier Planck data, and thereby reducing the certainty with which they could state that they accounted for signals from interstellar dust.

During the summer, the BICEP2 and Planck collaborations agreed to work together to analyze their data, to help determine if gravitational waves had really been detected.

This week, the Planck team issued a preprint, based on an analysis of much additional data, showing a comprehensive map of dust in the sky. According to their analysis, the signal in the part of sky that BICEP2 analyzed could be completely attributable to dust and not to gravitational waves.

But, the story is not over. For starters, keep in mind the new preprint, like all newly posted publications, still needs to undergo formal peer review.

And the latest data do not completely rule out the possibility that the BICEP2 group detected a gravitational wave signal. If the evidence holds up at all, it would likely be a weaker signal, after accounting for the dust. Or, the gravitational-wave signal may completely turn to dust.

It may be possible to detect primordial gravitational waves in a different, less dusty part of the sky, or with new measurements by BICEP2, Planck or the many other experiments that are looking for them.  Just as the first reported detections of exoplanets turned out to be false, perhaps this is a prelude to an actual detection of gravitational waves.

"You cannot ignore dust," he quotes from Planck scientist Charles Lawrence of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The biggest lesson, to me, is that no one should rush to make announcements and pronouncements, whether big or small, even in the face of intense competition and the alluring prospects of launching a new field of study and winning a Nobel Prize. 

Scientists, and the rest of the public, should follow the time-tested scientific practice of subjecting claims to sufficient levels of scrutiny, and waiting for other groups to validate results, before making bold statements. At the very least, there have been major caveats and qualifiers in announcing new data with potentially huge implications.

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World Gratitude – Day 2 – HEART OF WATER


Where we have strong emotions, we’re liable to fool ourselves. - Carl Sagan


              *artwork gifted by Elizabeth Yelland*

Welcome Beloved One-ness, Today, let’s begin within and bless all the waters in our body. You see, as our blessed Heart beats true with Love and Gratitude, waters Will begin to mirror divinity within, creating [...]

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Richard C. Hoagland – Comet Elenin as a Time Capsule, Norway Attack & The Messengers of Horus


This is not only interesting, but VERY IMPORTANT too. There is so much information in here you ought to listen to...


Richard C. Hoagland is a former museum space science Curator, a former NASA Consultant and was...

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Astrophysicists: Phobos is a giant spaceship orbiting Mars


I think the same can be said about our moon...


06/04/2011 by Ray

Phobos is spaceship says famous scientist, Astrophysicist Dr. Iosif Samuilovich Shklovsky

Shklovsky calculated the orbital motion of Mart...

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“A Cosmic View” Music Video


 I made this music video to tell a story based on a dream I had. It's a story of an awakening brought about by a voyage through the cosmos.

Since it's all based on a dream, and the images are largely symbolic, i...

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