GEOMAGNETIC STORM: The year is ending with an outbreak of auroras. Sky
watchers around the Arctic Circle are seeing bright Northern Lights as
Earth enters a stream of high-speed solar wind, causing G1-class storm
conditions on Dec. 29th.
BRIGHTENING COMET: The "Christmas Comet" C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) has
continued to brighten, and now observers around the world are reporting
seeing it with the unaided eye from dark-sky sites. Comet Lovejoy is a
fine target for backyard telescopes, as shown on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com
ENCORE: The sweet stuff is getting sour
press. Some researchers say sugar is toxic. A new study seems to
support that idea: mice fed the human equivalent of an extra three sodas
a day become infertile or die. But should cupcakes be regulated like
Hear both sides of the debate. Another researcher says that animal
studies are misleading, and that for good health, you should count
calories, not candy and carbs.
Plus, an investigative reporter exposes the tricks that giant food companies employ to keep you hooked on sugar, salt, and fat.
Also, a listener corrects our pronunciation of Neil Armstrong’s birthplace in the Sounds Abound episode.
It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it!
Around the Arctic Circle, sky watchers are seeing fantastic colors--but
it's not the aurora borealis. A rare outbreak of polar stratospheric
clouds is underway over our planet's north polar region. These clouds,
which are associated with the formation of ozone holes, float much
higher than ordinary clouds and produce unforgettable colors during the
hours around sunset.
Don’t believe everything you see on TV or the movies. Science
fiction is just a guide to how our future might unfold. It can be
misleading, as anyone who yearns for a flying car can tell you. And
yet, sometimes fantasy becomes fact. Think of the prototype cellphones
in Star Trek.
We take a look at science that seems inspired by filmic sci-fi, for example scientists manipulating memory as in Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
And despite his famous film meltdown, Charleton Heston hasn’t stopped
the Soylent company from producing what it calls the food of the future.
Plus, why eco-disaster films have the science wrong, but not in the
way you might think. And, what if our brains are simply wired to accept
film as fact?
Steve Ramirez -Neuroscientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
activity is high. A pair of large sunspots is crossing the center of
the solar disk, and both are crackling with flares. The strongest so
far, an X1.8-class flare on Dec. 20th, caused a strong HF radio
blackout over the South Pacific and might have hurled a CME toward
European Space Agency’s orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is expected to come
within four miles of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in
February 2015. The low flyby will be an opportunity for Rosetta to
obtain imagery with a resolution of a few inches per pixel.
first global maps of atmospheric carbon dioxide from NASA's new
Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission show elevated carbon dioxide
concentrations across the Southern Hemisphere from springtime biomass
burning and hint at potential surprises to come.
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover
has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the
atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a
rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.
2012, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three 'tsunami waves'
in interstellar space. The most recent, which reached the spacecraft
earlier this year, is still propagating outward according to new data.
popular theory holds that ocean water was brought to Earth by the
ancient impacts of comets and asteroids. However, new data from the
European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft indicate that terrestrial
water did not come from comets like 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
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.
– 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,
Jeff Gralnick – Associate professor of microbiology at the University of Minnesota
Kevin Tracey – Neurosurgeon and president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York
GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: The best meteor shower of the year, the
Geminids, peaks this weekend when Earth passes through a stream of
debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon. Forecasters expect to see as
many as 120 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th. Visit http://spaceweather.com for photos and observing tips.
Earth is passing through a stream of debris from "rock comet" 3200
Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Forecasters expect
as many as 120 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Dec. 13-14.
a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles —the farthest any
space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target – NASA’s
New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation on Dec. 6th for its
long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.
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 RADIATION: According to a new study just published in the
research journal Space Weather, astronauts face a growing peril from
space radiation. Rising fluxes of cosmic rays inside the solar system
place increasingly strict limits on the amount of time explorers can
safely travel through interplanetary space. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information and links to the complete study.
AURORA WATCH: Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras this
weekend. Earth is passing through a fast-moving stream of solar wind,
and this is causing geomagnetic unrest around the poles. Geomagnetic
storm alerts are available from http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and http://spaceweatherphone.com (voice).
On Dec. 3, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its Hayabusa2 mission to rendezvous with an asteroid, land a small probe plus three mini rovers on its surface, and then return samples to Earth. NASA and JAXA are cooperating on the science of the mission.
GEMINIDS: Earth is entering a stream of debris from "rock comet" 3200
Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. The shower is not
expected to peak until Dec. 14th, but NASA meteor cameras are detecting
Geminid fireballs over the USA two weeks early. Visit
http://spaceweather.com for images and updates.
AURORA WATCH: A
high-speed solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field on Dec.
1-2. High-latitude sky watchers, especially those around the Arctic
Circle, should be alert for auroras in the nights ahead. Geomagnetic
storm alerts are available from http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and