Algae has proven to be quite the formidable organism by being able to survive 16 months in space outside of the International Space Station.
The samples will now be sent back to Earth to test if there were any genetic changes in the specimens.
ALGAE IN SPACE
Fraunhofer scientists aboard the International Space Station (ISS) recently ran an experiment where they let algae loose into the vacuum of space for a full 16 months. And, surprisingly enough, the simple plants survived the harrowing journey. Despite extreme temperature variations, UV radiation, cosmic radiation, and incredible length of time, the algae were brought back aboard still alive.
These researchers aboard the ISS are currently running experiments as part of the Biology and Mars Experiment (BIOMEX) project. Within this experimental algae portion of the project, they tested the durability of algae species that are known to love freezing temperatures. Since the mixture of extreme conditions found in space is impossible to replicate in a laboratory environment exactly, the crew on the ISS used their location to put these cold-loving species to the test. However, despite knowing what these plants will endure on Earth, the scientists were astonished at how much they can really take.
COLD LOVING ALIENS
Post-experiment, the researchers aboard the ISS will send these algae samples back to Earth. There, they will be rigorously tested to see the actual extent that the temperatures and combined radiation impacted them. This information could be crucial to future human missions to Mars. It could help to ensure the safety of humans and any plant-based food to be consumed.
However, beyond the positive benefits that this research could have on future missions of humans in space, it could also potentially tell us a little bit more about alien life. According to many, including famed astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, thinking that we are somehow the only living creatures in the universe would be “inexcusably egocentric.” And, while previously, few would have thought that any plants could survive such an extended stay in space, we now know better. And so, while certain environments in space may seem inhospitable, we now know that life could exist in places we never before would have suspected.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, can turn any conversation toward science. That’s the premise of his show Star Talk (the season finale runs on National Geographic Channel tonight), where he invites non-scientist celebrities — from Bill Maher to Whoopi Goldberg — on to talk about how science rules their world. When it comes to the lack of scientific literacy in the United States, then, it’s no surprise that Tyson is outspoken — warning us it is harming our democracy as well as the nation’s prosperity, health, and security. Here, Tyson sounds off on the state of science in pop culture, politics, and education.
In a recent Star Talk episode, you had a remarkably frank conversation with Whoopi Goldberg and other guests about race in science fiction and geek culture. What was your goal in putting that together?
It’s more random than you might think. The goal is to just get a famous person, with a huge following, [who] you would not associate with science. Then I have a conversation with them, in my office, that orbits all the ways in which science might have touched that person’s life. Since science is ubiquitous in life and in society, it’s not actually a very hard task.
We take the scaffold of pop culture, which everyone walks into the room with. We find all the ways that science can clad that scaffold. In that way, you embrace the science, because it’s part of something you care deeply about. That’s been our recipe for creating this show.
Not everyone embraces science these days. Some researchers have been alarmed enough by this administration’s attitudes toward science and scientists to organize a national “March for Science” in April. What’s your take on that?
I never tell people what to do. You’ll never see me bad-mouthing politicians. I want to just educate the public, let them know what science is, how and why it works, what is the cost of making some decisions versus others, what is the opportunity cost of not making decisions. And if people were trained that way from the beginning, you wouldn’t even need a science march, because then the entire society would understand why science matters.
In a recent public talk in North Carolina you said that science illiteracy is a threat to the nation.
There are three things we care about most. One of them is health. Another one — in this, a capitalist society — is wealth. Another might be your security. Each of those, in the 21st century, will pivot on innovations in science, technology, engineering, and math. If you do not foster science literacy in this century, then those are the seeds of the unraveling of the informed democracy that our ancestors worked so hard to create. It would be a disaster for our health, our wealth, and our security, entirely.
When I say disaster, that’s putting a value judgement on it. So let me say just what would happen: We would regress relative to other countries in the rest of the world who do value the role of STEM fields in their health, wealth, and security, and the United States would just get left behind. It’s not a cliff that we’ll fall over; we’ll just fade to irrelevance on the world stage.
What do you make of anti-science members of the executive branch like Scott Pruitt, who is on record as disputing the reality of climate change?
When you have people that deny emergent, objective truths that have been established by the methods and tools of science, that is not a problem until and if those people have power. You want to think the Earth is flat? I celebrate the fact that we live in a free country where you can think that. As an educator I’ll wonder, “Where did we go wrong there?” but I’m not going to beat you over the head for thinking that way. I will be concerned for the future of the country if you end up holding public office, and then you act on those objectively falsifiable beliefs.
I will not be dragged into the trenches on this. There’s a high road here, and it’s an important high road, and it transcends us all, and it has to do with objectively verifiable science, and what role that plays in the capacity of nations to sustain their health, their wealth, and their security. I like getting at least one head-of-agency per season on the show. So if the next head of the EPA does not understand why he doesn’t understand, I’d be delighted to have him on the show and have the opportunity to explain it.
So how do we fix science education and scientific literacy?
I’m on a multi-year project to explore what might be a fertile solution to those problems. I don’t suspect I’ll have any fully baked answers until maybe 2020 or 2021.
That seems very far off!
It is. But anything I tell you now would be just half-baked, and it’s not fully researched. Right now I have a lot of thoughts about the state of our educational system. Let me give you one of them, which I have thought deeply about, but I do not have an answer for it:
Much of what is taught in school, including in the science classrooms, presumes that you are an empty vessel. You pour knowledge into the student’s head, and then you get them to convince you it was in their head at all in the form of a final exam. Whereas at no time are you taught how to think about the world.
What I mean by that is, do you understand what are facts, what is data? How do you turn data into knowledge? How do you turn knowledge into wisdom? This is a process that scientists go through daily [but] is not something that is ever taught as part of anyone’s curriculum that I have ever seen.
I think it needs to be there, because once you know what science is, and how and why it works, it’s a kind of inoculation against the virus of people exploiting your ignorance of how and why the world does work.
Famous scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks you’re too stupid for aliens. He’s not insulting you; he’s actually making a good point about humanity. People wonder where all the aliens are if the universe is supposedly teeming with life, and Tyson has some hypotheses about this. The first? Humans aren’t advanced enough to even realize it if aliens were to be walking among us. Get more of his point of view in the video below.
Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Humans Are Too Dumb For Aliens
Tyson has what he considers “unorthodox” thoughts about where all the aliens are.
What Will Aliens Look Like?
Cartoons give us an idea with the green skin and big eyes, but would that make sense?
Report cites SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Oxford philosophy professor Nick Bostrom.
Analysts at Bank of America have reportedly suggested there is a 20 to 50 per cent chance our world is a Matrix-style virtual reality and everything we experience is just a simulation.
The report, which was issued to clients, also implies even if our world was an illusion, we would never know about it.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch backed up the claims by citing comments from leading philosophers, scientists and other thinkers.
“It is conceivable that with advancements in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and computing power, members of future civilizations could have decided to run a simulation of their ancestors,” the report stated.
Elon Musk – The chance that we are not living in a computer simulation is ‘one in billions’
Its claims also appeal to the work of a philosophy professor from the University of Oxford. In 2003, Professor Nick Bostrom concluded there is significant possibility we “live in a simulation”.
Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson also maintains the likelihood of the universe being a simulation “may be very high”.
Philosophers dating back to the 16th century, notably René Descartes, have suggested we cannot rely on our sense experiences to perceive the world.
The Bank of America’s report, which was looking at the implications of virtual reality, explained: “Many scientists, philosophers, and business leaders believe that there is a 20-50 per cent probability that humans are already living in a computer-simulated virtual world.
“In April 2016, researchers gathered at the American Museum of Natural History to debate this notion. The argument is that we are already approaching photorealistic 3D simulations that millions of people can simultaneously participate in.”
In the 1999 film The Matrix, humans live in a simulated reality created by machines to control the human population.
In a new interview, Elon Musk identifies genetics, AI, and brain bandwidth as three areas in which today’s youth can have the biggest impact on the future. However, he doesn’t think an idea needs to be revolutionary to be worthwhile.
IF ELON MUSK CAN DO IT…
While many 2o-something-year-olds are just finding their way in the world, young Elon Musk was already looking for ways to change it way back in 1995 (when he was that age).
In a well-known 2015 discussion with Neil deGrasse Tyson for the physicist’s StarTalk Radio podcast, Musk lists the five things he thought would most affect the future of humanity (the internet, sustainable energy, space exploration, artificial intelligence, and rewriting human genetics).
Just 25 years later, and he has already impacted three of the five areas he identified way back in the nineties. To that end, in the below video, he dives into the largest problems that we need to tackle today, and which could have the biggest impact on the future.
SO CAN YOU!
As part of an interview with Y Combinator for its “How to Build the Future” series, Musk was asked to reflect on that same concept — the things that could have the biggest impact on the future — so that today’s young people can think about how to innovate in those fields.
While Musk identifies such high-concept, high-tech areas as genetic reprograming, increasing the bandwidth interface of the brain, and artificial intelligence as being ripe for innovation, he encourages today’s youth to think both big and small.
“Even if you don’t have a revolutionary idea, that doesn’t mean your contribution to society can’t be worthwhile,” Musk asserts in the interview.
“I think if somebody is doing something that is useful to the rest of society, I think that’s a good thing. Like, it doesn’t have to change the world,” he tells the interviewer. “If it has a small amount of good for a large number of people, I think that’s fine. Stuff doesn’t need to change the world just to be good.”
So whether you’re thinking up a new Instagram filter or trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, know that Elon Musk has your back.
Wormholes have nothing to do with earthworms, but are more like space tubes. A wormhole is a theoretical passage through space-time that could help people and things travel huge distances through space in short amounts of time. Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen proposed this theory in 1935; wormholes are also known as Einstein-Rosen bridges. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, they mathematically should exist. But we have never actually observed one.
A wormhole, theoretically speaking, has two mouths connected by a throat that connects two different points in space-time. They may not only connect two points, but some theories about wormholes suggest they may also be able to connect two universes. So could we time travel in a wormhole like plenty of science-fiction movies suggest? Perhaps not, according to Einstein and Rosen’s theory, which states that a wormhole collapses quickly. New theories have emerged that suggest wormholes may stay open longer, but we’re far from having the technology required to find and use them. Learn more about wormholes in the videos below.
We trust the scientists around us to have the best grasp on how the world actually works.
So at this year’s 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History, which addressed the question of whether the universe is a simulation, the answers from some panelists may be more comforting than the responses from others.
Physicist Lisa Randall, for example, said she thought the odds that the universe isn’t “real” are so low as to be “effectively zero.”
A satisfying answer for those who don’t want to sit there puzzling out what it would mean for the universe not to be real, to be sure.
But on the other hand, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was hosting the debate, said that he thinks the likelihood of the universe being a simulation “may be very high.”
The question of whether we know that our universe is real has vexed thinkers going far back into history, long before Descartes made his famous “I think therefore I am” statement. The same question has been explored in modern science-fiction films like “The Matrix” and David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ.”
Tyson agrees, but says he wouldn’t be surprised if we were to find out somehow that someone else is responsible for our universe.
One of the main arguments that physicists use to talk about what’s known as the “simulation hypothesis” is that if we can prove that it’s possible to simulate a universe — if we can figure out all the laws that govern how everything works (which physicists are trying to do) — that makes it much more likely that it is actually simulated. If we know that it’s possible to do something, it’s much easier to think that thing is being done.
We haven’t been able to figure out how to simulate a universe — yet. But it’s not too hard to imagine that some other creature out there is far smarter than us.
Tyson points out that we humans have always defined ourselves as the smartest beings alive, orders of magnitude more intelligent than species like chimpanzees that share close to 99%of our DNA. We can create symphonies and do trigonometry and astrophysics (some of us, anyway).
But Tyson uses a thought experiment to imagine a life-form that’s as much smarter than us as we are than dogs, chimps, or other terrestrial mammals.
“What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he says.
Whatever that being is, it very well might be able to create a simulation of a universe.
“And if that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment,” Tyson says. “I’m saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, I’m not surprised.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson made the decision a long time ago to be a sort of media cheerleader for science instead of an actual scientist, and although he isn’t a great communicator, it was the right decision because he was unlikely ever to trouble the Nobel committee. Also, he is stupid and his politics are dumb.
Tyson, whom liberals love because they are racists who can’t believe a black guy could be smart enough to be a scientist and so spontaneously ejaculate and soil themselves every time they see him on TV, hasn’t published anything of note for years. The advantage of being a celebrity scientist is that you don’t actually have to do any science. You’re exempted from the usual “publish or perish” rules.
Even when he was making a go of being a proper academic, Tyson didn’t exactly have the most glittering record. He didn’t get the PhD he was studying for at the University of Texas and had to go elsewhere for his qualification. Obviously, rather than take responsibility for his academic performance, Tyson has blamed racism. In reality, Tyson was playing in bands and appearing on stage instead of completing essays. Typical science PhD students are at any given time either studying, teaching or sleeping.
It’s tough to avoid the conclusion that much of what is frustrating about Neil deGrasse Tyson stems from identity politics and the victimhood ideology peddled by leftist academics and journalists. Despite all his media success, Tyson insists that racism is responsible for his academic failures, alluding to sinister “forces” that keep women and ethnic minorities down.
In 2005, he said: “I know these forces are real and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today. So before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity.” He of course doesn’t address the fact that the only reason Neil deGrasse Tyson is on television at all, given his intellectual shortcomings, is that he is black.
Perhaps realising how ridiculous he sounds, the world’s most celebrated populariser of science has stopped talking about race in interviews and says he has never given an interview whose primary focus is race since 1993. Which is something, at least.
Social justice-inspired grievance culture has flavoured much of Tyson’s output during his media career. Indeed, some observers say he’s more left-wing propagandist than rigorous thinker these days. His reboot of Cosmos, for instance, was saturated with progressive garbage designed to appeal to liberal-minded students and lefty geeks.
The problem is, every time Tyson plays to this crowd, he has to get his facts wrong to make the argument work. Take his gushing tribute to Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake. None of the details are correct. Bruno wasn’t a scientist: he was a cult leader who dined out on wild conjecture and guesswork.
Elsewhere in Cosmos, Tyson makes other serious errors. I say “errors” but for a man of his ostensible erudition you do have to wonder how these mistakes and bizarre claims keep creeping in. He says Venus is suffering from global warming, for instance. And I think we can live without the televisual trope of space ships making sound in space — unless Tyson is claiming no more astrophysical literacy than an episode of Star Trek.
Because he has given up on the scientific method in favour of progressive politics, Tyson has jettisoned fairness and fact in favour of slipperiness and propaganda: he is caught again and again repeating quotes that he appears to have simply made up, or which at a bare minimum are stripped of essential context or provenance. He shows no interest in correcting the record or addressing these mistakes — we’ll be diplomatic and call them mistakes — which does rather cast doubt on his entire benevolent genius schtick, don’t you think?
At the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris, the negotiating positions of various countries can be difficult to follow, particularly when it comes to the interests that lurk behind those positions. The talks are full of acronyms, and concepts like “loss and damage,” “climate finance” and “deep decarbonization” are opaque for most people.
Fortunately, astrophysicist and ace science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson summarized in one tweet the difference between what is at stake at these talks for poor nations, such as the Marshall Islands, Bangladesh and the Philippines, compared to industrialized nations like the United States and European Union.
So far, India and Saudi Arabia have blocked attempts to include findings of a U.N. report regarding a 1.5-degree target that was commissioned at a previous round of climate talks, which was released earlier this year. The report shows the lower risk of dangerous amounts of global warming if the temperature increase were limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius would come with several advantages in terms of coming closer to a safer ‘guardrail,'” the report said. “It would avoid or reduce risks, for example, to food production or unique and threatened systems such as coral reefs or many parts of the cryosphere, including the risk of sea level rise.”
Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development who is working with countries to push for a 1.5-degree goal, said a temperature target of below 2 degrees Celsius is needed to protect everyone around the world, including the poorest people living in mid-continental drought-prone regions and low-lying states.
“If we were to accept the 2 degrees as a global goal, then we will have to accept at the same time that we are writing these people off,” said Saleemul Huq in a video briefing from France. “We are telling them that we will not protect you. We will protect us, but we will not protect you.”
“It’s very difficult, we understand that and we accept that. On the other hand, difficult is not impossible,” Huq said. “We believe there is enough money, there is enough technology to do it, there simply isn’t enough political will to do it. And Paris is about generating political will.”
Temperature targets are about survival through long-term decarbonization
The temperature targets can be thought of in a different way, too. Each target would require a particular pace of reducing emissions of global warming pollutants such as carbon dioxide. So far, the world is on track to exceed the 2-degree target despite the emissions pledges made for the Paris talks. This makes the 1.5-degree target appear to be unachievable, barring the creation of technology that can efficiently and effectively suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Christiana Figueres, who chairs the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change that is overseeing COP21, said the entire Paris agreement will lead to a whole-scale shift away from fossil fuel-powered economies.
“Everyone here agrees that we do need to head for the deepest decarbonization pathways and in an urgent fashion,” Figueres said at a press conference on Friday.
“I do think that there is a lot of space to be able to find, not just a language, but also a very important conceptual agreement of the fact that decarbonization needs to happen, that it needs to happen quickly and that it needs to happen across the economy. That is what we’re talking about when we talk about 1.5 to 2 [degrees], it is not a discussion about the temperatures, it’s just a proxy. The discussion is about the decarbonization of the economy.”
Precisely how to decarbonize, though, and what allowances developing countries will have to burn more fossil fuels as they develop compared to industrialized country obligations, remains to be worked out. One proposal in Paris, for example, would allocate the remaining portion of the global carbon budget based on which countries caused most of modern-day global warming in the first place, and which countries are trying first and foremost to address poverty concerns.
Global warming is an issue of inequality
Climate change is often seen as a pollution problem, yet to many, evidently including Tyson, inequality plays a central role.
The advocacy organization Oxfam International released a report this week that found that the poorest 50% of the global population, which amounts to about 3.5 billion people, are responsible for just 10% of total global emissions. Yet the richest 10% of people contribute about 50% of global emissions, the organization found. The richest 10% of people have carbon footprints 11 times as high as the poorest half of the population, the report found.
“The average footprint of the richest 1% of people globally could be 175 times that of the poorest 10%,”
“The average footprint of the richest 1% of people globally could be 175 times that of the poorest 10%,” the report, which was endorsed by economist and best-selling author Thomas Picketty, found.“At its heart, climate change is an issue of global justice,” Oxfam’s Tim Gore told Mashable in an interview. “When countries are negotiating here you should keep that in mind.”
“What should be expected of India, bearing in mind the poverty challenges its population is facing?”
His tweet speaks to why developing countries have been so adamant about including a reference to a lower temperature target — 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — rather than the 2-degree target countries agreed to a few years ago. The 0.5-degree difference is a matter of life or death for some low-lying nations that are already losing ground to the sea.