CLOUD SEASON BEGINS: On May 24th, NASA's AIM spacecraft spotted wispy
electric-blue clouds floating above the Arctic Ocean. This marks the
beginning of the 2016 season for noctilucent clouds. Seeded by
meteoroids, icy noctilucent clouds form at the edge of space where they
can be seen shining in the night sky. Each year, their first detection
by spacecraft is usually quickly followed by ground-based sightings.
Indeed, a photographer in North Wales spotted some this morning.
LIGHTNING OVER OKLAHOMA: Earlier this week, an enormous cluster of
sprites (a.k.a. "space lightning") appeared over a thunderstorm in
Oklahoma. The outbreak was so intense, it may have warped the
ionosphere above it and sparked a rare "pop-through gigantic jet."
This type of display could become more common as summer thunderstorm
season unfolds across the USA.
Can an opera singer’s voice really
shatter glass? Can you give your car a rocket-assisted boost and survive
the test drive? How do you protect yourself from a shark
attack? Those are among the many intriguing questions and urban
legends tested by the MythBusters team in front of the camera.
Now that the series has ended after
a 16 year run, co-host Adam Savage tells us how it all began, how he and Jamie
Hyneman walked the line between science and entertainment, and why he considers
himself a scientist but not a “skeptic.”
Also, he reveals the location of the
episode, “Duct Tape Island.”
Adam Savage - Former co-host and executive
producer of MythBusters
SKY SHOW: Tonight, the full Moon gets together with Mars and Saturn to
form a bright triangle in the constellation Scorpius. The beautiful
midnight encounter is visible around the world, and happens just one
week before Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in more than a
GIANT SPACE BALLOON: On May 17th, NASA successfully launched a gigantic
helium balloon from Wanaka, New Zealand, on a 100+ day mission to the
stratosphere. The 19 million cubic foot behemoth is now floating over
southern Australia, and it will soon proceed to circumnavigate the
southern hemisphere. Sky watchers near the flight path can see the
"space balloon" with the unaided eye and track it with backyard
telescopes. Visit http://spaceweather.com for observing tips and more information about the balloon's fascinating payload.
GEOMAGNETIC STORMS POSSIBLE THIS WEEK: NOAA forecasters estimate a 50%
to 60% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on May 19-20 when
Earth enters a stream of high-speed solar wind. High-latitude sky
watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern
hemisphere where darkening autumn skies favor visibility
No one knows what the future will
bring, but science fiction authors are willing to take a stab at imagining
it. We take our own stab at imagining them imagining it. Find out
why the genre of science fiction is more than a trippy ride through a bizarre,
hi-tech world, but a way to assess and vote on our possible shared
Also, an astronomer learns how
many rejection slips it takes before becoming a published science fiction
author …. what author Bruce Sterling wants to get off his chest … and what the
joke about the neutron walking into a bar to ask the price of beer has in
common with H.G. Wells, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Ridley Scott.
Oh, and the price of beer?
Bartender: “For you, no charge.”
Ed Finn - Director of the Center for
Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University
Fraknoi – Chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College.
His story, "The Cave in Arsia Mons", is in "Building
Red", here. His list of
astronomically correct science fiction is here.
EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD IS CHANGING:
Earth's magnetic field protects us from stormy space weather and cosmic
rays. New data from Europe's SWARM spacecraft show that our planet's
magnetic field is changing. For instance, in recent years magnetism
over North America has weakened by 3.5%, while Asia has seen an
increase of 2%. Other parts of the world are unsettled as well. Visit Spaceweather.com for the full story.
Soon, the season for noctilucent clouds over the northern hemisphere
will begin. A sky watcher in Scotland might have spotted the first
apparition on May 10th. Electric-blue clouds are highlighted on
today's edition of Spaceweather.com.
MOTHER'S DAY GEOMAGNETIC STORM:
Surprise! Sunday, May 8th, began with a strong G3-class geomagnetic
storm that sparked beautiful auroras around both poles. Northern
Lights were spotted in at least half a dozen US states. Meanwhile, at
the other end of the planet, Southern Lights lit up the skies and snowy
landscape of Antarctica.
ENCORE: Electricity is so 19th century. Most
of the uses for it were established by the 1920s. So there’s nothing innovative
left to do, right? That’s not the opinion of the Nobel committee that awarded
its 2014 physics prize to scientists who invented the blue LED.
Find out why this LED hue of blue was worthy of
our most prestigious science prize … how some bacteria actually breathe rust …
and a plan to cure disease by zapping our nervous system with electric pulses.
Siddha Pimputkar –
Postdoctoral researcher in the Materials Department of the Solid State Lighting
and Energy Electronics Center under Shuji Nakamura, winner of the 2014 Nobel
Prize in Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara
Jeff Gralnick – Associate
professor of microbiology at the University of Minnesota
Kevin Tracey –
Neurosurgeon and president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in
This encore podcast was first released on December 15, 2014
TRANSIT OF MERCURY: On Monday morning, May 9th, Mercury
will pass directly between Earth and the sun, producing a rare transit
visible from the Americas, Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. Visit Spaceweather.com for observing tips and links to live webcasts.
CHANCE OF STORMS: NOAA forecasters say there is a 65%
chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms on May 9th when Earth enters a
solar wind stream filled with negative-polarity magnetic fields. A
display of high-latitude auroras is possible, especially in the southern
hemisphere where visibility is improved by darkening autumn skies.
METEORS FROM HALLEY'S COMET: Earth is entering a
stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual eta Aquariid
meteor shower. Although the shower does not peak until later this week,
a radar in Canada is already detecting strong echoes from the debris
zone. This bodes well for sky watchers who could see 30 or more meteors
per hour in the nights ahead. Visit http://spaceweather.com for updates and observing tips.
This sky map from the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar shows meteoroids from
Halley's Comet emerging from the constellation Aquarius (ETA).
NEGATIVE MAGNETIC FIELDS SPARK AURORAS: For the past
three days Earth has been passing through a region of interplanetary
space filled with negative-polarity magnetic fields. This has caused
intermittent geomagnetic storms and beautiful auroras around both poles.
Visit http://spaceweather.com for pictures and more information about this phenomenon.
"SPACE LIGHTNING" SIGHTED OVER THE CARIBBEAN: Sprite
season is definitely underway. Only a few days after a widespread
display appeared over Texas, more sprites have popped up near Puerto
Rico. This time the exotic forms of upper atmospheric electricity were
sighted dancing above the sea instead of land. Learn more about
land-vs-sea sprites at http://spaceweather.com.
Photo credit: Frankie Lucena and Space Weather News.
ENCORE: It’s the most dramatic technical development of recent times: Teams
of people working for decades to produce a slow-motion revolution we
call computing. As these devices become increasingly powerful, we
recall that a pioneer from the nineteenth century – Ada Lovelace, a
mathematician and Lord Byron’s daughter – said they would never surpass
human ability. Was she right?
We consider the near-term future of computing as the Internet of
Things is poised to link everything together, and biologists adopt the
techniques of information science to program living cells.
"SPACE LIGHTNING" OVER TEXAS: Last night, a
photographer in Texas captured a magnificent display of sprites dancing
atop a powerful thunderstorm near Dallas. Sprites are an exotic form of
lightning that shoot up from thunderstorms, reaching toward space. The
Texas display shows that sprite season is now underway in the northern
ENCORE: Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have a
science degree, yet he thinks rationally – like a scientist. You can too! Learn
the secrets of being irritatingly logical from the most famous sleuth on Baker
Street. Plus, discover why animal trackers 100,000 years ago may have been the
first scientists, and what we can learn from about deductive reasoning from
today’s African trackers.
Also, the author of a book on
teaching physics to your dog provides tips for unleashing your inner scientist,
even if you hated science in school.
And newly-minted scientists
imagine classes they wish were available to them as grad students, such as “You
Can’t Save the World 101.”
Louis Liebenberg - Co-founder and Executive
Director of Cybertracker Conservation, associate of human evolutionary biology,