NEW KIND OF UPPER ATMOSPHERIC LIGHTNING? In recent years, photographers
have catalogued a growing number of luminous forms apparently leaping
up from the tops of thunderstorms. These so-called sprites, elves,
gnomes, and trolls inhabit the upper atmosphere, reaching their
weird-looking tendrils up toward space. On Aug. 14th, an amateur
astronomer in New Mexico photographed a rare curving form of upper
atmospheric lightning that has baffled experts in the field. Shaped
like a funnel or a tornado, it might represent a new addition to the
menagerie of sprites.
STORM IN THE OFFING: A canyon-shaped hole has opened in the sun's
atmosphere, and it is spewing a stream of high-speed solar wind toward
Earth. NOAA forecasters say there is a 30% chance of polar geomagnetic
storms (G1-class) when the gaseous material reaches our planet on
August 31st. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras
this Thursday and Friday.
ENCORE: It’s elementary, Watson. Things are in
flux – from the elements in the air you breathe to party balloons.
We investigate the massive, historic loss of nitrogen from the atmosphere and
meet the culprits behind a modern-day helium shortage.
But it’s not all a disappearing act:
be thankful that oxygen showed up in our atmosphere a few billion years
ago. Meanwhile, atom smashers have recently produced some new
elements. Their appearance was brief, but long enough to fill out the
And perhaps the tastiest use of an
element – one that gives Seth a chilly reception.
ENCORE: In space, no one can hear you scream, but,
using the right instruments, scientists can pick up all types of cosmic
vibrations – the sort we can turn into sound. After a decade of
listening, LIGO, a billion-dollar physics experiment, has detected gravitational
waves caused by the collision of massive black holes, a brief shaking of
spacetime that can be translated into a short squeal.
We listen to the chirp of black
holes crashing into each other and wonder: could the universe contain more than
individual sounds, but have actual musical structure?
A theoretical physicist and jazz
saxophonist updates the ancient philosophical concept of the Music of the
Spheres to probe the most vexing questions confronting modern cosmology.
Find out how the evolution of the universe resembles an improvisational
jazz piece, and the musical inspiration John Coltrane drew from Albert
PREDICTIONS FOR THE SOLAR ECLIPSE: Next Monday, Aug. 21st, the Moon
will pass directly in front of the sun producing an historic solar
eclipse over the USA. Millions of people inside the path of totality
will catch a glimpse of the sun's gossamer outer atmosphere, the
corona. In centuries past, the appearance of the corona was
unpredictable from one eclipse to the next. But now researchers have
developed supercomputer codes to forecast its shape.
New predictions for the "Great American Solar Eclipse" are highlighted on today's edition of Spaceweather.com
Above: NASA-supported researchers at Predictive Science Inc. have just
issued a physics-based model of the sun's corona as it will appear
during the Great American Solar Eclipse. [more]
Water is essential for life – that we know. But the
honeycomb lattice that forms when you chill it to zero degrees Celsius is also
inexorably intertwined with life.
Ice is more than a repository for water that would otherwise
raise sea levels. It’s part of Earth’s cooling system, a barrier
preventing decaying organic matter from releasing methane gas, and a vault
entombing ancient bacteria and other microbes.
From the Arctic to the Antarctic, global ice is
disappearing. Find out what’s at stake
as atmospheric CO2 threatens frozen H2O.
FIREBALLS: The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks this weekend (Aug.
12-13), produces more fireballs than any other known annual meteor
shower. (Fireballs are meteors brighter than Jupiter or Venus.) This
characteristic of the Perseids is important because in 2017 the shower
peaks under the light of a bright gibbous Moon. Perseid fireballs
should be visible in spite of lunar interference, producing a pleasing
display for anyone outdoors before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday.
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
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.”
he reveals the location of the episode, “Duct Tape Island.”
Adam Savage - Former co-host and executive producer of MythBusters
This encore podcast was first released on 5/23/2016