Monday, February 28, 2011

Are We Alone for 02/28/11 - Skeptic Check: Diluted Thinking?

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Are We Alone - Skeptic Check: Diluted Thinking?

The weaker the mixture, the stronger the potency. That paradox is a central tenet of homeopathy. More than 200 years old and developed long before germ theory, the practice is the fastest growing form of alternative medicine worldwide.

Proponents say its diluted remedies cure disease. Most scientists maintain there’s nothing in homeopathic solution but water. We’ll hear the arguments, and also the role placebos might be playing in the cure.

Plus, skeptic Phil Plait voyages to the edge of the solar system where a new planet has been discovered … maybe!

And, consider our brains: the product of millions of years of evolution. So why aren’t we more consistent in our reasoning?

It’s Skeptic Check…. but don’t take our word for it.


You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Video: Shuttle Discovery's final takeoff.

The Shuttle Discovery took off for the last time today (02/24/11). Below is a video of the event:

Here's to a successful voyage, and a safe return to Earth.

The Mysterious Rumble of Thundersnow

Source - NASA Science News for Feb. 24, 2011

Last month, NASA scientists got a rare chance to study "thundersnow" first-hand when a freak winter storm rolled right over their research center.


Earth Dodges Spectacular Blast

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 24, 2011:

SPECTACULAR BLAST: A massive cloud of plasma exploded over the eastern limb of the sun this morning (Feb. 24th around 0730 UT), heralding the approach of a new active region. The spectacular blast, which produced strong radio emissions, a coronal mass ejection, and an M3-class solar flare, was not Earth-directed. Future eruptions could be, however, as the sun's rotation turns the blast site toward our planet in the days ahead. Check for images and movies.

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: Would you like a call when geomagnetic storms erupt in your area? Sign up for (voice) or (text) for space weather alerts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Are We Alone for 02/21/11 - Nano Nano

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Are We Alone - Nano Nano

Think small to solve big problems. That, in a nutshell, is the promise of nanotechnology. In this barely visible world, batteries charge 100 times faster and drugs go straight to their targets in the body. Discover some of these nano breakthroughs and how what you can’t see can help you… …or hurt you? What if tiny machines turn out to be nothing but trouble? We’ll look at the health and safety risks of nanotech.

Plus, scaling up in science fiction: why a Godzilla-sized insect is fun, but just doesn’t fly.

  • Bill Flounders – executive director of the Marvell Nanofabrication Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley
  • Joseph DeSimone – professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and chemical engineering at North Carolina State University
  • David Guston – political scientist at Arizona State University where he directs The Center for Nanotechnology in Society
  • Stan Williams – Senior Fellow and founding director of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab at Hewlett-Packard
  • Michael LeBarbera – Professor in organismal biology, anatomy and geophysical sciences, University of Chicago


You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SDO Video: X2 C2 Combo - Feb. 15, 2011

On Feb. 15, 2011 an X2 class x-ray solar flare was observed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Below is a video from the YouTube channel of the of the eruption:

Here is the description of the video from the page:

"The X2 flare of Feb. 15, 2011 seen by SDO (in extreme ultraviolet light) enlarged and superimposed on SOHO's coronagraph that shows the faint edge of a "halo" coronal mass ejection as it races away from the Sun. The video covers about 11 hours."

You can find more videos from the Solar Dynamics Observatory at SDOmission2009.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stardust-NExT mission updates - Feb.14, 2011

For those of you who are following the Stardust-NExT mission and the flyby of Comet Temple 1 here are three recent mission updates from:

February 14, 2011
NASA's Stardust Spacecraft Completes Comet Flyby

Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., watched as data downlinked from the Stardust spacecraft indicated it completed its closest approach with comet Tempel 1. An hour after closest approach, the spacecraft turned to point its large, high-gain antenna at Earth.
+ Read entire story

February 14, 2011
The Two Faces of Tempel 1

Just one year before its Feb. 14 encounter with comet Tempel 1, NASA's Stardust spacecraft performed the largest rocket burn of its extended life. With the spacecraft on the opposite side of the solar system and beyond the orbit of Mars, the comet hunter's rockets fired for 22 minutes and 53 seconds, changing the spacecraft's speed by 24 meters per second (54 mph).
+ Read entire story

February 14, 2011
NASA Spacecraft Hours From Comet Encounter

As of today, Feb. 14, at 9:21 a.m. PST (12:21 p.m. EST), NASA's Stardust-NExT mission spacecraft is within a quarter-million miles (402,336 kilometers) of its quarry, comet Tempel 1, which it will fly by tonight. The spacecraft is cutting the distance with the comet at a rate of about 10.9 kilometers per second (6.77 miles per second or 24,000 mph).
+ Read entire press release

Artist's concept of NASA's Stardust spacecraft flying by comet Tempel 1
(Artist's concept of NASA's Stardust-NExT mission, which will fly by comet Tempel 1 on Feb. 14, 2011. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LMSS. Image copyright NASA)

You can find more information about the Stardust-NExT mission at:

Happy voyages ~ Jim Cox

First X-flare of the New Solar Cycle

Souce - Space Weather News for Feb. 15, 2011:

MAJOR FLARE: Earth-orbiting satellites have detected the strongest solar flare in more than four years. At 0156 UT on Feb. 15th, giant sunspot 1158 unleashed an X2-class eruption. X-flares are the strongest type of x-ray flare, and this is the first such eruption of new Solar Cycle 24. The explosion that produced the flare also sent a solar tsunami rippling through the sun's atmosphere and, more importantly, hurled a coronal mass ejection toward Earth. This raises the possibility of geomagnetic storms in the days ahead. Visit for images and updates.

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: Would you like a call when geomagnetic storms erupt in your area? Sign up for (voice) or (text) for space weather alerts.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Radio-Active" Solar Flare

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 14, 2011:

EARTH-DIRECTED SOLAR ACTIVITY: Solar activity increased sharply over the weekend with the eruption of an M6.6-class solar flare from behemoth sunspot 1158. The blast produced a strong burst of radio waves heard in the loudspeakers of shortwave receivers around the dayside of our planet, and it appears to have hurled a faint coronal mass ejection toward Earth. Sights and sounds from the event are highlighted on today's edition of

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: Would you like a call when geomagnetic storms erupt in your area? Sign up for (voice) or (text) for space weather alerts.

Are We Alone for 02/14/11 - Outta This World

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Are We Alone - Outta This World

Earth may not be rare after all. New data from NASA’s Kepler mission suggests that the universe is chock-a-block with planets. More than a thousand new possible planets have just been found, and more than fifty of these might be suitable for life. Ready for cosmic company? We discuss the results of the Kepler mission in a roundtable with some of its top scientists.

Meanwhile, the Voyager spacecraft continues to be humanity’s point man in the race to interstellar space. Poised to leave our solar system, we reflect on the mission – including its on-board messages for aliens.

Plus, out-of-this world science. From lab coats to warp speed: does Hollywood get it right? Does it matter?

  • Jon Jenkins – Co-principal investigator for the Kepler Mission
  • Doug Caldwell – Co-investigator and instrument scientist for the Kepler Mission
  • Jessie Christiansen – Data scientist working on the Kepler mission
  • Ed Stone – Professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, and former Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Jennifer Ouellette – Writer and former director, National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange


You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

NASA SDO Video: Dazzling Duo

Below is the most recent video from SDOmission2009:

The vdeo was posted on 02/11/2011. Here is the description of the video from the YouTube page:

"As SDO observed in extreme ultraviolet light, a pair of active regions put on quite a show over a three-day period (Feb. 7-10, 2011). The magnetic field lines above the regions produced fluttering arcs waving above them as well as a couple of flares. Another pair of smaller active regions emerges and trails behind the larger ones."

You can find more SDO videos at SDOmission2009.

Happy star gazing ~ Jim Cox

Dodging Plasma Bullets

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 12, 2011:

DODGING PLASMA BULLETS: Old sunspot complex 1147-1149 is emerging over the sun's eastern limb for a second pass across visible face of the sun--and it is firing 'plasma bullets' into space. So far none of the eruptions has come our way, although this could change as the region turns toward Earth. Today's edition of features a must-see movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

UNIQUE VALENTINE'S GIFT: Give the heavens for Valentine's Day. Gift subscriptions to's backyard astronomy alert service are available at (voice) and (text).

Friday, February 11, 2011

SDO Sundog Mystery

Source - NASA Science News for Feb. 11, 2011

One year ago, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory amazed observers when it destroyed a sundog en route to orbit. A new analysis of the event is shedding light on the surprising way rocket shock-waves interact with clouds.


Video is from the SDOmission2009 YouTube channel

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

NASA Spacecraft Closes in on Comet Tempel 1

Source - NASA Science News for Feb. 9, 2011

NASA is about to discover how solar heat devours a comet as the Stardust-NExT probe closes in for a Valentine's Day encounter with Tempel 1.


(Image copyright NASA)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

NASA administrator Bolden speaks in Seattle

Posted on behalf of Greg Scheiderer:

NASA administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden was in Seattle this weekend at the Museum of Flight for a Black History Month event honoring Michael Armstrong and the students who are in an aerospace education program that bears his name.

Bolden also talked about the future of NASA.

More from

*Greg Scheiderer*
Balagan Theatre --

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Are We Alone for 02/07/11 - Better Mousetrap

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Are We Alone - Better Mousetrap

It’s the perennial dream: build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. We go to San Jose’s famed Tech Museum to learn what it takes to turn a good idea into a grand success.

Remember the Super Soaker squirt gun? Hear how its inventor is now changing the rules for solar energy.

Where do good ideas come from? A Eureka moment in the bathtub? We’ll find out that it doesn’t happen so quickly – or easily.

And finally, the life cycle of society-changing technologies, from the birth of radio to the future of the Internet.

Inventions, inventors and innovation: all part of the mix on “Better Mousetrap.”


You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Are We A Blog?, the companion blog to the radio show.

First STEREO Images of the Entire Sun including video

Source - NASA Science News for Feb. 6, 2011

On Super Sun-day, NASA's STEREO spacecraft moved into position to photograph the entire sun--front and back. Researchers say this is a transforming moment in solar physics that could lead to big advances in space weather forecasting.


Friday, February 04, 2011

Weekend Geomagnetic Storm

Source - Space Weather News for Feb. 4, 2011:

GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A solar wind stream hit Earth during the late hours of Feb. 4th, sparking a G2-class (Kp=6) geomagnetic storm. Sky watchers in Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, Alaska and perhaps even northern-tier US states such as Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin, should be alert for auroras on Friday night. The best time to look is during the hours around local midnight.

SPACE WEATHER ALERTS: Would you like a phone call when geomagnetic storms erupt? Sign up for Space Weather Phone: (New: A text version of the alert service is now available. Check out )

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pacific Science Center: Free Open House For Educators This Saturday - 02/05/2011

This message is posted on behalf of Pacific Science Center:

Celebrating Teachers! - Educator Open House Feb. 2011 Pacific Science Center would like to thank Washington state educators and celebrate their efforts in the classroom by inviting them to the Educator Open House this Saturday, February 5. This free engagement includes admission to current exhibits, Laser shows, IMAX films, the Willard Smith Planetarium, Tropical Butterfly House and more. Educators and their guests will receive special pricing to see Harry Potter: The Exhibition between 8 -10 a.m. Registration 8-11:30 a.m. Light refreshments served until 10 a.m. - Exhibits open all day.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Watch Out for Solar Sail Flares

Source - NASA Science News for Feb. 1, 2011

NASA's first Earth-orbiting solar sail, NanoSail-D, is circling our planet and attracting the attention of sky watchers. Occasionally, sunlight glinting from the sail's reflective fabric produces a flash of light in the night sky. These "solar sail flares" are expected to grow brighter as NanoSail-D descends in the weeks ahead.