In the first half, space historian Robert Zimmerman shared an update on commercial space exploration, as well as talked about the sun's inactivity. At the current time, he's not concerned about a solar flare doing the Earth harm, as the sun is not producing sunspots in great numbers, and we are experiencing the weakest solar maximum in about 100 years. He also reviewed how some scientists from NOAA and NASA have manipulated data to back the theory of global warming, even though there is evidence to the contrary.
The American public has ambivalence about using their tax dollars for space exploration, and Zimmerman has concluded that rather than a government program, such exploration is best conducted by private enterprise, which leads to a robust industry with many invigorating possibilities. We have seen that take shape over the last decade, with Elon Musk's SpaceX, the clear leader, though other competitors are on the rise, he commented. SpaceX has released new footage showing the controlled descent and soft splash down of the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket, demonstrating that it can vertically land safely and then be reused, he reported. "The Russians are completely restructuring their space program right now, because their rockets are too expensive...and can't compete with SpaceX and the commercial market," he added.
In the latter half, James Rollins, bestselling author of international thrillers - known for unveiling unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets, discussed our current wave of mass extinction, what is behind it, and what we might do about it. We are on the brink of an ecological disaster, and we're losing species on this planet at the rate of three an hour, he lamented. "Since the arrival of man on this planet, we've lost about half of the amphibians out there, a quarter of the mammals, one third of the reefs," and this pace is accelerating, he continued. One approach proposed by synthetic biologists is to "engineer" our way out of these extinctions, by splicing in new traits into old species to make them hardier and more able to withstand the stresses of this toxic world.
In Alexandra Ginsburg's installation "Designing for the Sixth Extinction," she proposes the release of bio-engineered creatures into the wild, such as a slug-like creature that neutralizes acidic soil. On the other side, one scientist believes that another mass extinction could be a good thing for the planet, with nature bouncing back, and creating a new biosphere or Eden, Rollins shared. He revealed details about the underground "bio-punk" movement-- instead of hacking into computers, people are hacking into the genetic code to enhance the functions of the human body. Rollins also touched on such topics as the Nazis' fascination with the Antarctic, and their construction of a strange device called "The Bell," and how genetic research shows that humans may once have been cannibals, as they carry a specific set of genes against diseases that can be acquired only by eating human flesh.
Seven tiny grains captured by NASA's probe Stardust may be the first interstellar dust ever brought back to Earth. The specks from outside our solar system, yielded from Stardust's sample return mission to a comet, could provide information about the dust's star systems as well as the origin of ours. More here.
Bumper music from Thursday August 14, 2014