MUST-SEE SUNSET PHENOMENON: Like the Moon, Venus has phases, and this
week the second planet from the sun is a whisper-thin crescent. The
phenomenon is easy to observe. Venus is so bright, you can see it at
sunset even before the sky fades to black (hint: face southwest). A
pair of binoculars or a small telescope reveals Venus's crescent shape.
AURORA WATCH: A solar wind stream is approaching Earth and could spark the first auroras of 2014 when it arrives on Jan. 2-4. Would you like a call when the sky lights up? Geomagnetic storm alerts are available from http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and http://spaceweatherphone.com (voice).
ENCORE: Mooooove over, make way for the
cows, the chickens … and other animals! Humans can learn a lot from our
hairy, feathered, four-legged friends. We may wear suits and play
Sudoku, but Homo sapiens are primates just the same. We’ve met the animal, and it is us.
Discover the surprising similarity between our diseases and those
that afflict other animals, including pigs that develop eating
disorders. Plus, what the octopus can teach us about national security …
how monkeying around evolved into human speech … and the origins of
moral behavior in humans.
ENCORE: If two is company and three a
crowd, what’s the ideal number to write a play or invent a new operating
system? Some say you need groups to be creative. Others disagree:
breakthroughs come only in solitude.
Hear both sides, and find out why you always have company even when
alone: meet the “parliament of selves” that drive your brain’s
Plus, how ideas of societies lead them to thrive or fall, and why educated conservatives have lost trust in science.
We all may prefer the goldilocks zone – not too hot, not too cold.
But most of the universe is bitterly cold. We can learn a lot about it
if we’re willing to brave a temperature drop.
A chilly Arctic island is the closest thing to Mars-on-Earth for
scientists who want to go to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, the ice sheet at
the South Pole is ideal for catching neutrinos – ghostly particles that
may reveal secrets about the nature of the universe.
Comet ISON is comet ice-off after its passage close to the Sun, but it’s still giving us the word on solar system’s earliest years.
Also, scientists discover the coldest spot on Earth. A champion
chill, but positively balmy compared to absolute zero. Why reaching a
temperature of absolute zero is impossible, although we’ve gotten very,
Francis Halzen – Physicist, University of Wisconsin-Madison, principal investigator of The IceCube Neutrino Observatory
Ted Scambos – Glaciologist, lead scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado
Pascal Lee – Planetary scientist, SETI Institute, director, NASA Haughton-Mars Project, and co-founder of the Mars Society. His new book is Mission: Mars
The Geminid meteor shower is underway. Forecasters say the best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Saturday morning, Dec. 14th. Dark-sky observers could see dozens of bright shooting stars.
GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of debris from "rock
comet" 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Last
night, NASA cameras recorded more than a dozen fireballs over the USA.
Geminid activity should remain relatively high for the next three or
four nights, with a peak expected on Dec. 13-14. Check http://spaceweather.com for more information and observing tips.
GEOMAGNETIC STORM: On Dec. 7th, a solar wind stream hit Earth's
magnetic field, sparking an unexpected geomagnetic storm and Northern
Lights over several US states. Did you miss it?
Earth-orbiting satellites have found the coldest place on Earth. It's a
group of hollows in Antarctica where temperatures can dip below minus
133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 92 degrees Celsius) on a clear winter
METEOR OUTBURST: The Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar is detecting echoes
from a meteor outburst in the constellation Andromeda, in progress on
Dec. 8th. It appears to be debris from old Comet Biela, which broke
apart in the 19th century. Observers in the northern hemisphere,
especially Europeans, should be alert for Andromedid meteors on the
night of Dec. 8-9. More information may be found at http://spaceweather.com.
GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field on
Dec. 7th, sparking an unexpected geomagnetic storm and Northern Lights
over numerous US states. NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% chance of
additional storms on Dec. 8th and 9th.
Monsters don’t exist. Except when they do. And extinction is
forever, except when it isn’t. So, which animals are mythical and which
are in hiding?
Bigfoot sightings are plentiful, but real evidence for the hirsute
creature is a big zilch. Yet, the coelacanth, a predatory fish thought
extinct, actually lives. Today, its genome is offering clues as to how
and when our fishy ancestors first flopped onto land.
Meanwhile, the ivory-billed woodpecker assumes mythic status as it
flutters between existence and extinction. And, from passenger pigeons
to the wooly mammoth, hi-tech genetics may imitate Jurassic Park, and
bring back vanished animals.
In full view of the NASA-ESA solar physics fleet, Comet ISON
disintegrated when it flew through the sun's atmosphere on Thanksgiving
Day. Researchers are still marveling at the images and the scientific
data they contain.
Imagine a world without algebra. We can hear the sound of school
children applauding. What practical use are parametric equations and
polynomials, anyway? Even some scholars argue that algebra is the
Latin of today, and should be dropped from the mandatory curriculum.
But why stop there? Maybe we should do away with math classes altogether.
An astronomer says he’d be out of work: we can all forget about
understanding the origins of the universe, the cycles of the moon and
how to communicate with alien life. Also, no math = no cybersecurity +
hackers (who have taken math) will have the upper hand.
Also, without mathematics, you’ll laugh < you do now. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has peppered his animated show with hidden math jokes.
And why mathematics = love.
Andrew Hacker – Professor of political science and mathematics at Queens College, City University of New York. His article, “Is Algebra Necessary?”, appeared in The New York Times in 2012.