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Search for Exoplanets

Date: 10-03-13
Host: George Noory
Guests: Lee Billings, Dr. Peter Breggin

Science writer Lee Billings chronicled the race to discover the first habitable planet beyond our solar system, and the research of the men and women who are seeking out life among the stars. So far, scientists have confirmed around 1,000 exoplanets, and based on the sheer number yet to be discovered, it's a mathematical certainty that extraterrestrial life does exist, he said. Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson suggested that an advanced civilization which needs a lot of energy might do something like disassemble a gas giant planet and build a swarm of light gatherers and reflectors (Dyson sphere) around their star. And what you'd see from far away is the star dimming and its emissions shifting to infrared, Billings explained, adding that this could be one direction that a technological civilization like ours could look like in the future.

Scientists have yet to find evidence of a Dyson sphere, but they have seen entire galaxies that appear dimmer than what we'd expected, Billings said. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford has proposed the intriguing idea that very advanced civilizations might create enormous simulations, and the Earth could actually be part of one. The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and the conditions for intelligent life may persist for only 500 million years, so the question is, are we going to choose to live and die on this planet, or do something more ambitious and migrate out to the stars?, Billings pondered.

Jim Kasting, a former NASA scientist and expert on planetary habitability, has extrapolated the various conditions associated with life, and how to look for signs of it on other planets, and which planets might be the likeliest candidates. He's also made an estimate of how much time the biosphere on Earth has left to support life. Astrophysicist Sara Seager is talking about adventurous public/private projects like mining asteroids to support a new generation of space telescopes, and has proposed methods to study exoplanets, and their atmospheres, Billings detailed.

Strange Behavior

First hour guest, psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin talked about a rise in people behaving strangely, such as the woman who tried to ram a security barrier near the White House, and a man who shot himself and his wife when they didn't get on Family Feud. People get attention when they behave bizarrely or violently, and may suffer from a lack of self worth, he said. He further pointed at the increased economic instability many are facing as a possible factor in people's breakdowns. "We need to revive the concept in America that individuals matter...that's missing, there's no sense of America as a community," he commented.

News segment guest: Capt. Kelly Sweeney

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Bumper music from Thursday October 03, 2013

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