April 25, 2016
D o u b l e T a k e
Early last week, news of yet another mysterious UFO spotted above the Earth via the International Space Station’s outside camera made the internet rounds (see “UFO hunter says he saw ‘time-traveling aliens’ leaving Earth through wormhole on ISS live stream“), and as we mulled over this new ISS/UFO twist, a quick Google scan revealed a glut of “UFO Stalking Space Station” tales spanning over the past several years. In fact, broadcasting and disseminating such reports has become a staple for a cottage industry whose meat and potatoes includes recent off-the-wall claims such as proof that NASA’s Mars rovers have taken, among other “anomalies,” snapshots of a squirrel, pistol, and bust of Barack Obama on the Red Planet.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves and break ground on a state-of-the-art Tin Foil Hat manufacturing plant to keep up with the increased demand for the crinkly metallic crowns, the current crop of purported UFO-hunting authorities (at least the most vocal/ubiquitous ones who somehow find their way to number one on search engines) are no different from the carnival barkers of the past, who if you want to be entertained, can put on quite a show. However, if your looking for the truth, you better try somewhere else.
To be fair, we may have been hasty to place a tin foil diadem on NASA’s brow for failing to comment on the “Millennium Falcon” sighting a couple of weeks ago (see Tilt-a-World). In fact, the space agency recently opened up and explained to the Daily MailOnline that “Reflections from station windows, the spacecraft structure itself or lights from Earth commonly appear as artifacts in photos and videos from the orbiting laboratory.’
Also, accusations that NASA hits the chicken switch every time an alien craft hovers into view is most likely a tad overblown. NASA spokesperson Tabatha Thompson told ValueWalk.co.uk last week that dropped transmission feeds have happened before, and are an occupational hazard: “The station regularly passes out of range of the Tracking and Relay Data Satellites used to send and receive video, voice and telemetry from the station. For video, whenever we lose signal … [t]he cameras will show a blue screen indicating no signal or a preset video state, depending on where you are watching the feed.”
We’re not saying that unexplained sightings should not be studied – it’s that we lower our investigative intelligence quotient every time we rely on those, who for their own gain, flood our heads with so much flotsam and jetsam that it becomes nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction. There are plenty of serious folk who have investigated the question of possible alien / UFO visitations for years, if not decades, and they do not act or speak carelessly or outlandishly. So if someone wants to sell you the idea that a wormhole suddenly opened up above Earth after the “mothership” flew away, do yourself a favor and consider the source. — Agnett Bonwit
S i g n s o f t h e T i m e s
Last year’s historic Paris climate change pact reached a major milestone last Friday with a record 175 countries signing the agreement in New York City. However, with reports of the relentless rise in global temperatures, world leaders are urging more actions than words. “The world is in a race against time,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during the signing ceremonies. “The era of consumption without consequences is over. Today you are signing a new covenant with the future. This covenant must amount to more than promises,” he added, reports the Washington Post. The Paris accord is expected to enter into force earlier than expected following an overwhelming response in the required number of nations coming on board so quickly.
T o u g h P i l l t o S w a l l o w
Astronomer and cosmological populist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently stepped outside the box, so to speak, suggesting that the long-giggled-at notion that the universe may be a computer simulation could be closer to reality than previously thought. Speaking at the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate sponsored by New York’s Hayden Planetarium last week, deGrasse Tyson took the thumbs up side to this years’ topic on whether the cosmos is just pure entertainment for a race of super-advanced beings. Basically, this is deGrasse’s line of reasoning:
I just think when I look at what we measure to be our own intelligence, and we tend to think highly of it … It comes with the assumption that we’ll find life that also thinks we are intelligent … So, given our definitions, we’re the only intelligent species there ever was because we have poetry and philosophy and music and art. And then I [think] to myself, well, [even though] the chimpanzee has 98 whatever percent identical DNA … They cannot do trigonometry. … So if they cannot trigonometry, and they have such close genetic identity to us, let’s take that same gap and … find some life form that is that much beyond us that we are beyond … the chimp. What would we be look like to them? … So, maybe the smartest human being — bring Stephen Hawking in front of this other species, and they’re chuckling because they’ll say, oh, this happens to be the smartest human because he’s slightly smarter than the rest because he can do astrophyisc[al] calculations in his head like little Timmy over here … And if that’s the case, it’s easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment.
The problem is, as most physicists and philosophers point out, that it’s impossible with our limited resources to prove absolutely whether or not we inhabit a trans-galactic Grand Theft Auto. Tyson agrees, but adds that “The day we learn that it is true [that the universe is a simulation], I will be the only one in the room saying, I’m not surprised.”
R i n g T h i n g
While adored morons like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz babble idiocy on planet Earth, NASA’s Cassini craft is silently making history by giving us more info and close-ups of Saturn’s once mysterious rings than ever before.
The rings are made up of dusty, icy material, which coalesce briefly and then are torn apart by the tidal gravity forces of big Saturn below. Cassini, which has also discovered that Saturn is the least dense of all the planets in our solar system, also has found that the main rings extend 7,000 to 80,000 kilometers above Saturn’s equator, and yet the ring system itself is only10 meters to one kilometer thick. The rocky material once orbiting with the rings has formed into dozens of moons, but the dirty snowball stuff will remain spinning within the rings for as long as the solar system lasts.
Now that is something worth thinking about.
L o w H a n g i n g F r u i t
New low-orbital images taken of the dwarf planet Ceres by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft at a distance of 240 miles reveal some of the most detailed features yet, including the “hexagonal”-shaped Haulani Crater which scientists believe has been recently formed as evidenced by brightly-colored debris. “Haulani perfectly displays the properties we would expect from a fresh impact into the surface of Ceres.
“The crater floor is largely free of impacts, and it contrasts sharply in color from older parts of the surface,” said Martin Hoffmann of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany. The 21-mile crater’s polygonal shape has raised eyebrows, since on other planetary orbs, such rims are nearly circular. NASA researchers are speculating that the straight-edge formations on Ceres result from pre-existing stress patterns and faults beneath the planetoid’s surface.
Other close-up pix include Ceres’ 6-mile wide Oxo Crater, which is the second brightest area on the dwarf planet after the more famous Occator. Oxo is also unique because of the relatively large “slump” in its crater rim, where a mass of material has dropped below the surface. NASA scientists report that these minerals on the crater floor appear different than elsewhere on Ceres.
L e t N A S A K n o w W h a t Y o u T h i n k !
B e w a r e t h e G r i m R i p p e r
Hold on to your hats – the cosmos is expanding a lot faster than what scientists thought, according to a new measurement that disagrees with estimates based on the early Universe. Basically, our cosmic playground is flying apart at about 8 percent faster than first determined.
The surprising new data was discovered after cosmologists compared their new computation of the cosmic expansion rate, known as The Hubble Constant, with what that rate should be using the numbers based on what they thought they knew about the early Universe. Still, cosmologists are uncertain about the cause for the discrepancy, so either one or both of the measurements are flawed, or dark energy (which is believed to be responsible for “The Big Rip” effect) – or some other weirder-than-imagined force of nature – is the culprit.
Or, say scientists in a recent Scientific American article, a new species of neutrino, one that is virtually massless, could be the cause for the discrepancy.
Remember: Space is not only a lot stranger than we can imagine, but much more strange than we can NOT imagine.
C o s m i c C a t t l e C a l l
Despite an avalanche of naysayers both in Congress and the public, NASA seems determined to get humans to Mars by the 2030s. Toward that end the agency is putting out a call for habitat designs that can survive a blast-off from its new mega-rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) and a long trip on the future Orion crew spacecraft
It’s not the usual call for proposals however, such as a dry ad in a dull reprint circulated throughout Boeing or Lockheed. NASA is asking artists, non-profits, up and coming tech companies and anyone else with an innovative mind to get in on the effort.
Dubbed the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), NASA’s new project will solicit concept studies and prototypes for space habitats, advanced propulsions, and small satellites. According to Tech Times, NextSTEP-2 vouches for how NASA is embracing public-private partnerships in its space missions. U.S. companies, universities, nonprofit groups and ingenious inventors seeking to apply should submit their proposals by June 15, 5 p.m. EDT, as well as a notice of intent by May 13.
D o n ‘ t W o r r y , B e H a p p y
The commonly-experienced sense of awe and wonder by astronauts is a topic has been officially put under the microscope with the release of a Penn State study in the March issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness. With the expected advent of long-term missions to the Moon and Mars, Penn research fellows David Yaden and Johannes Eichstaedt wanted to better understand what is known as the “Overview Effect,” in which space travelers are transformed by their newly-found cosmic perspective.“We watch sunsets whenever we travel to beautiful places to get a little taste of this kind of experience. These astronauts are having something more extreme,” said Yaden, “By studying the more-extreme version of a general phenomenon, you can often learn more about it.”
in their study, the researchers poured through excepts from documented reminiscences and came up with life-changing moments for astronauts that could be classified as unity, vastness, connectedness, and perception.
P u r p l e S o u l
NASA paid homage to Prince last Thursday when they tweeted a gorgeous image of the Crab Nebula, formed with combined imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, resulting in a vivid violet other-worldly photo. The nebula resides some 6,500 light years from Earth and is a supernova remnant, the remains of the explosive death of a massive star. With the way the world and the media are reacting to the musician’s passing, it seems appropriate.