A La Carte: Fish Plait

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Over at World of Weird Things, Greg Fish managed to pin down Bad Astronomer Phil Plait for five minutes to discuss everything from skepticism, astronomy, vaccinations and a guy with a white beard (James Randi). I really enjoyed it, both Phil and Greg have a great way of communicating science, so be sure to check it out.

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Astroengine Interview with Dr Richard Greenberg: “Unmasking Europa”

A future mission to the Jovian moon Europa could incorporate a life-searching robotic submersible under the icy crust (NASA)

A future mission to the Jovian moon Europa could incorporate a life-searching robotic submersible under the icy crust (NASA)

On Wednesday (Feb. 18th), NASA and ESA decided to “prioritize” a mission to Jupiter. Set to be launched in 2020 (for a 2026 arrival in the Jovian system), NASA will work on a spacecraft called the Jupiter-Europa mission and ESA will work on the Jupiter-Ganymede mission. Both probes will be launched at the same time to carry out this unprecedented planetary mission. However, this doesn’t mean a mission to Saturn will be off the cards; NASA hinted that a return trip to the ringed gas giant will also be planned in tandem (following in the footsteps of the Cassini Equinox Mission). But Jupiter comes first.

In an enlightening interview earlier today, Dr Richard Greenberg, an eminent Europa scientist, discussed this recent NASA/ESA announcement with Astroengine Live and his excitement that there will be a return mission to the Jovian system. He is an expert in celestial mechanics and worked on several NASA projects at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Dr Greenberg has also published a book called “Unmasking Europa” (of which I am very excited to receive a copy soon), detailing the science under the icy crust of the moon, where there is a tantalizing possibility life may thrive in tidally-heated sub-surface oceans.

But that’s not the best part. Dr Greenberg provides an exciting narrative about what form this Europa (European?) life may take… It’s not just microbial extraterrestrials that could survive in these environments

Be sure to listen in to my radio show, Astroengine Live on Wednesday, February 25th to hear the full recording of my conversation with Dr. Richard Greenberg.

Slacker Astronomy Interviews Dr Michael Turner about Dark Energy

Dr Michael Turner

Dr Michael Turner (Slacker Astronomy)

I’m just listening to Slacker Astronomer Michael Koppelman’s excellent interview with Dark Energy’s Dr Michael Turner at last week’s AAS conference in Long Beach. You have to listen to Turner’s views on dark matter, dark energy, the LHC, the rights and wrongs of general relativity and some great opinion about the current state of cosmology. On checking out Turner’s bio on his website, anyone who has “Space” listed under “Areas of Expertise” has to be listened to!

I especially liked the Slacker question concerning the growing number of people opposed to the idea of dark energy accusing cosmologists of “drinking the same Kool Aid” (in reference to the perceived thought that dark energy might be a crazy idea), to which Turner replies with, “Well we do all drink the same Kool Aid, that is true. I’m Mr Kool Aid!

It is a really entertaining interview, providing an insight to the cutting edge of cosmological thought and excitement for the continuing work being done in the field.

Great work Slacker Astronomy! Now I feel like the slacker, Astroengine.com didn’t manage any podcasts direct from the scene of the AAS… I must remember by dictaphone in June for the next AAS in Pasadena!

Source: Slacker Astronomy

Guest Appearance on the TV Show Uncommon Sense, Episode 25

Following hot on the heels of episode #24 of Uncommon Sense, both Charles Parselle and myself discussed another batch of topics chosen by host Charlotte Laws. This time, we started out with politics (my personal favourite as you will probably tell from my expression, and the background to this can be found in my recent article “Politics Has Nothing To Do With Space Exploration” – Debate (Wear Safety Goggles)), where I had a rant about NASA (although I wish I’d studied Obama’s space policies more thoroughly!), then we drifted into the reasons why women dressed in red are more attractive to men, how deadly Black Friday became this year, alternative therapies (cue: rant about the perceived risk of radiation) and robotic soldiers.

Once again, Charles and I had little clue about what we’d be talking about, so there was a lot of spontaneous fun to be had. Thank you Charlotte again for inviting me on Uncommon Sense and for being a superb host, I think it’s a great format worthy of a prime time slot (I think we’ve found a replacement for The View!).

Guest Appearance on the TV Show Uncommon Sense, Episode 24

On Friday I was invited to appear on a local chat show called Uncommon Sense hosted by Charlotte Laws. Actually, I participated in two episodes back to back, discussing a whole host of topics. Uncommon Sense, broadcast over cable in the Los Angeles area, basically takes the form of a topic-based talk show where two guests have little idea about what is going to be discussed. It makes for a lively, fun and spontaneous show; I really, really enjoyed it. Plus it was a great chance to talk about something other than space science (although I did try to slip space in at any chance I had!).

For this 24th episode, it was a British-dominated affair with Charles Parselle, Charlotte and myself debating everything from daylight savings time influencing health/depression, child abandonment laws, cyber-bullying and cyberphobia (watch how I expertly forced my views on the 2012 Mayan prophecy into the end of the show! The hands say it all…). I was pretty clueless about the first two topics, which was fun in itself, but I got on my high-horse when we jumped into more familiar territory: cyberspace. Be sure to watch the whole thing, episode #24 leads very nicely into #25 (which I’ll post right now)…

Thank you Charlotte for inviting me on Uncommon Sense and thank you Charles for the debate and British camaraderie!

Interview with World of Weird Things: Colonizing Space, at a Profit

A manned outpost, could be a reality if the business opportunities are there.

A manned outpost, could be a reality if the business opportunities are there.

This morning I had a thought-provoking interview with Greg Fish, owner and writer for the superb website World of Weird Things. Greg wanted to get my insight to the world of commercial spaceflight and future colonization of other worlds, writing up a brilliant article called Colonizing Space, At A Profit based on my interview.

We examined the benefits mankind can reap from the exploration of space, but the responsibility of doing so is not exclusive to NASA or any other government-funded agency. The future of spaceflight rests in the hands of entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and primarily, businessmen. Manned exploration of the Moon, Mars and the asteroid belt could open a new frontier of mineral exploitation, in turn opening a new era for mankind. It may be our best hope in the long-run to survive as a race.

We could be on the verge of a Solar System-wide “gold rush”, it just depends who will be the first to have the vision for such an endeavour.

If you were the company to build the first colony on Mars, the planet is all yours for the taking,” – quote from Colonizing Space, At A Profit, on World of Weird Things

Thank you Greg for wanting to speak with me, and for preparing a very inspiring interview! Be sure to check out World of Weird Things, there are some very interesting articles and essays, delving into a huge array of topics, each written with a high degree of thought and intellect. A firm favourite on my reading list.

Listen to Tonight’s Paranormal Radio – The Chinese Spacewalk Conspiracy

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

In a follow-up to our October 3rd discussion, Captain Jack and myself will be discussing my recent Astroengine article “Bubbles, Reflections and Space Walks… Did China Really Fake It?” On first seeing the video I was intrigued by what I saw, and the mysterious moving objects in shot needed to be addressed. Although I do not believe the Chinese staged the event, it does pose some interesting questions…

Paranormal Radio has started now, so check out the website to listen in

Particle Zoo: The Higgs Boson For Sale

Collect them all! The Standard Model of plushie particles (© Particle Zoo & Julie Peasley)

Collect them all! The Standard Model of plushie particles (© Particle Zoo & Julie Peasley)

Astroengine exclusive interview with Particle Zoo founder, Julie Peasley

The hunt for the Higgs particle may have come to grinding halt until 2009, but that doesn’t mean you can’t discover the elusive particle for yourself. In fact, it’s not just the Higgs boson that awaits discovery in the zoo of Standard Model particles. And what a zoo it is! We have protons, neutrons, the quarks that make up said hadrons; plus all the force carriers, neutrinos, photons, electrons and anti-particles. There is a delicious and varied array of subatomic particles out there, but they are too small for us to see. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what these quanta actually look like?

It seems that Particle Zookeeper Julie Peasley has an intimate connection with the tiny “beings” that make up all known matter in the Universe. She has single-handedly set up her own business putting faces to the complex particles, giving us a unique view into the quantum world we would otherwise forget in the soup of theoretical physics equations. The Particle Zoo is a Los Angeles company, where Julie brings particles to life in her “sweatshop of one,” sewing beautifully-made plushie toys of all the Standard Model particles so we can collect them all…
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Listen to “10 Mysteries of the Solar System” With Captain Jack on Paranormal Radio

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

The recording of the September 1st Paranormal Radio show featuring Captain Jack and myself is now available for your listening pleasure. The show was entitled “Ten Mysteries of the Solar System” and it related to an article of the same name I wrote for the Universe Today on August 18th. It was great to be asked back to the show for the fourth time, and it looks like I might have a regular slot! As Jack said toward the end of the show, I am rapidly becoming PR’s resident “myth buster” – I am very honoured to have been given this task! Hopefully I’ll be appearing monthly to discuss the weird and wonderful goings on in our Universe, and Jack is a fantastic host, so we often go off on a tangent (as can be witnessed in this 3-hour show, I think it took me an hour just to talk about the first two mysteries of the ten!).
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Listen to the July 29th Discussion with Walter Wagner on Paranormal Radio

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

Over a month ago, I was asked to be a surprise guest over on Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack. And what was the discussion? Walter Wagner was on air discussing his “Doomsday Suit” against the US partners of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and I had the great opportunity to put some questions to him. Critically for me, at about 99 minutes into the three-hour show (as I make my entrance), I ask Walter about his previous attempts at suing other particle accelerators (such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider – RHIC – back in 1999). From that point on I believe the validity of the current LHC lawsuit seemed purely academic, but it certainly made for some great discussion.

Walter put across his views in a coherent and knowledgeable way and I made a point that scientists need to be challenged so the LHC can be fully justified (but I did also point out that filing a lawsuit might have pushed it a little too far). Although enjoyable, Walter didn’t convince me to change my views

(Listen out for how many times I say “speculative”…)