Astronomers and scientists have been posed with the question, “Is our solar system unique and unlike any other?”. Well that’s a very broad and hard question to answer because there are other solar system in the universe. Scientists have discovered these other planets orbiting stars like our own but are the planets in a certain from just like ours?
Let’s discuss one major uniqueness in our solar system, planets with planetary rings. The planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all gas giants with planetary rings. The question is why are these the only planets with rings in our solar system? Are there other planets in other solar systems that have rings or are our planets unique?
Well scientists have just begun to find solar systems hosting planets with planetary rings. Exoplanet J1407b has been confirmed to have planetary rings, and this has only been confirmed because of how massive the rings are. The rings are estimated to be the size that Earth sits from the Sun. This exoplanet is one of a few that have been discovered to host rings. Are planetary rings just very rare in the universe, or are their many planets with rings but very hard to see?
The biggest problem with fining exoplanets with planetary rings is that the rings are usually to small to see. You can’t detect them with gravitational lensing because the gravity by the rings is so small compared to the gravity by the planet or its host star. The most ideal way to detect rings on a planet now is by using transit light curves. But even with this method, if the rings are too small to detect than we will never know if the planet has them.
The idea here is that we can’t tell with our current technology whether our solar system is unique and unlike many others. With the vast distance that separate us with other solar systems, the capabilities of finding out whether our structured solar system is like any other will only be found in the years to come.
Astronomers are closing in on exoplanetary rings … (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from http://www.astronomy.com/news/2017/04/finding-ringed-exoplanets
The population of humans on Earth has surpassed 7 billion. There is talk about the max population of humans that Earth can withstand. What consequences will we all have if we get to this population limit?
Yes of course there is only a certain amount of resources and energy on our planet, so there is defiantly a limit that once surpassed will cause chaos. Well one major idea contributing to this major population problem is the idea that its not about how many more people we have on this planet, but how greed these people are.
It is proven that low-income families do not consume as much as high-income families. They just don’t have enough money to do so. So if populations increase in low-income societies, than that might not be a big enough issue as it is if high-income societies populations increase.
The population of Earth’s limit threshold will all depend on how we as a world society decide to consume resources and use Earth as our home planet. If we find ways to sacrifice and consume less than of course we can hold a greater population on Earth. If as a society we choose to consume more than we actually need to survive, than the population limit on Earth will be lower. It is up to us to figure out a way to hold this increasingly large population on Earth alive and comfortable.
BBC – Earth – How many people can our planet really support? (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160311-how-many-people-can-our-planet-really-support
One of the biggest discussions regarding astronomy, is whether their is another Earth out there hosting life like our very own. Exoplanets are planets surrounding other stars in the universe, and just a few decades ago, scientist didn’t even know if there was any other planets outside of our solar system. But in the recent years, scientists have discovered 3400 exoplanets, with another 5400 waiting to be added to the list.
An exoplanet doesn’t mean that it is an Earth like planet. An exoplanet may have no chance of hosting life on it. It can be like a Jupiter or Saturn with no solid rocky crust to land and walk upon. But there is a chance that an exoplanet can be habitable to host life. Out of the 3400 current exoplanets, scientists have determined 15 that are habitable possibly. I say possibly only because scientists consider habitable not as a planet hosting life, but as a planet that could possibly have liquid water.
One of the most talked about habitable exoplanet is Kepler 186-f. It was found by the Kepler telescope a few years ago, thus giving its name. It is commonly talked about because it is in the Goldilocks zone, an area scientists determine around a star where an exoplanet can have liquid water. It orbits around a star a little smaller than our own and the planet itself is about 10% bigger than Earth. What’s cool about this exoplanet is that it most likely receives infrared light from its star, making anything on the planet adapted to receiving this different wavelength of light. Kepler 186-f is so close to its star, that it is tidally locked with it just like the Earth and Moon are tidally locked with one another. This means only one side of the planet gets sunlight and heat from the star, while the other side could possibly be very cold and dark.
Exoplanets are always interesting to learn about because it gets you thinking, whether other life can life on another planet. Whether life could live else where in the universe is always a mind boggle.
I recently picked up a book “Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World” by Bill Nye. If you haven’t heard of William Sanford “Bill” Nye, more popularly known as just Bill Nye, well than read this and find out about one of the most well- known scientists during today’s time.
Bill Nye was born on November 27, 1955. Bill’s father is a World War II veteran, as well as being a prisoner of Japanese war camps during Bill’s early years of living. While in the Japanese war camps, Bill’s father had to live without electricity which got him into the science of sundials in order to tell the time of day. This later made Bill very interested in sundials and opened up his eyes to the science world. He graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1977. What got Bill Nye really famous in the science world was his work as a host for a children’s TV show named “Bill Nye: The Science Guy”.
His career began in Seattle as he worked for Boeing where he took part in training films, as well as engineering a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor, which are still used in the Boeing 747 today. Bill years later started his career in entertainment and television by correcting the pronunciation of the word “gigawatt”, that a host on “Almost Live’s” was saying wrong. The host eventually replied to Bill stating, “Who do you think you are, Bill Nye the Science Guy?”. And this is what started his long time career as Bill Nye the Science Guy.
The show “Bill Nye the Science Guy” aired from 1993-1998 and caught the attention of all ages. I personally remember watching episodes of his show during my middle school science classes. What made the show so highly popular was that is grabbed the attention of kids, as well as adults. It had a creative side where kids could understand the science behind a topic, and at the same time some adults didn’t even know the science of the topic. It brought learning from all ages together to learn science, something Bill always loved.
At the age of 61, Bill Nye is now relaxing in Los Angles, California with his wife Blair Tindall. He is still very well- known because of his award winning TV show, as well as for the book I just picked up that he just published in 2016.
Would you believe me if I said an animal in the wild actually had a low immune system? It doesn’t make much sense since animals in the wild are near so many diseases and attract sickness constantly. But yes its true, cheetahs the Earth’s fastest land animals are known to have weak immune systems. The strangest part about it is that even with the weak immune systems, cheetahs still stay fairly healthy through their lives.
Cheetahs have a low major histocompatibility complex(MHC) variability, which should result in a weak immune system. MHC is a genome that regulates the immune system of the animal. Even with a low MHC for cheetahs they still seem to be fairly healthy creatures. Cheetahs have three parts to their immune system, 1. being the constitutive innate immune system, 2. being the induced innate immune system, and lastly 3. the adaptive immune system.
A scientific study was tested on a group of cheetahs to explain how they stay healthy with a low MHC level. This test was also conducted on leopards to compare the results of the cheetah to the leopards, who have higher MHC levels and live in the same regions as cheetahs. Scientists conducted 6 immunological tests on both the cheetahs and the leopards. The results of the tests showed that cheetahs have higher first line of defense immune systems to compensate for their low MHC levels. According to the tests done, “Cheetahs have apparently developed a way to successfully fight against pathogens despite their low genetic variability in their MHC.” (2017, Sonja)
And with this development the cheetah is able to survive in the wild, even with a critically low immune system. Though this low immune system for the cheetah does bring attention, because it could possibly be the cause of their extinction, if the cheetah ever got paired with a disease its weak immune system couldn’t fight off. More tests will follow in the coming future, as this was only the first test to be done on the topic that different species can have varying immune system components.
Sonja K. Heinrich, Heribert Hofer, Alexandre Courtiol, Jörg Melzheimer, Martin Dehnhard, Gábor Á. Czirják, Bettina Wachter. Cheetahs have a stronger constitutive innate immunity than leopards. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 44837 DOI: 10.1038/srep44837
Dark Matter as I have discussed before is one of the major mysteries in the universe. Do we even know if it is real? Maybe scientists are just assuming that it is actually there, but maybe it isn’t. Well it turns out there is a few ways to actually detect dark matter and prove that it exists.
Stepping back into middle school science, you can recall that any type of matter, even our own human bodies have a gravitational pull. Yes, our bodies gravitational pull compared to large solar bodies is very very minimal. But using these as evidence for dark matter is crucial. One way to show the presence of dark matter is using a technique called gravitational lensing. The idea of gravitational lensing is to use telescopes, and focus in on distant galaxies with strange observings. By this I mean that with less gravity near the edge of galaxies, stars and solar systems here should move slower than stars near the center of the galaxy. When you find a galaxy with stars actually moving just as fast as those near the center than some type of mass is causing this reaction that we can’t see. The gravity of this object is from dark matter.
Another way to detect dark matter is a particle physics examination. Far underground, usually in an old mine shaft you take a chunk of material and have it sit underground, while being watched electronically. If you didn’t know this, well as you sit and read this blog by me, us and our solar system is passing through dark matter at thousands of miles per second. The concept is to closely watch this chunk of material until dark matter actually hits into it. The reason why this experiment is done so far underground is so that the chunk of material isn’t affected by anything, like radioactivity.
With these tests in proving dark matter, you have to clearly understand now that it exists!
Over the past 50 years humans have had the ability and knowledge to greatly expand the complexity of artificial intelligence. Today we have cars that drive and park themselves. We have the ability to speak to a device and tell it when to turn on or off just my talking. Artificial intelligence is part of computer science and figuring out certain algorithms and mathematical equations to solve a problem. This is as far as we can understand artificial intelligence, because we as humans don’t actually know how to make a computer think like a human. We only come up with different scenarios and code it to react to this certain cases, but their is always a what if possibility. How far can we actually take artificial intelligence?
A recent article was published about a program that uses artificial intelligence to beat human players in a game of poker. The algorithm for this program was designed by a team known as DeepStack and they implemented something called deep machine learning. The process of deep machine learning and how it works is very complex and is only understood by highly educated computer scientists. But the idea of it, is that over time the computer actually begins to teach itself based on previous decisions. The computer actually begins to mimic a human brain and act the ways we as humans act.
With this deep machine learning the length that we can go with artificial intelligence might not be limited. If we have the ability to code a computer with basic instructions on how to react to common instances, than when uncommon instances occur, it can react to them on its on. The computer can actually begin to teach itself and learn from its past experiences. I mean this is just incredible and the ability that we can use this technology is certainly limitless. I personally think that the world we live in today, at some point in time will be completely run off of technology and the things we can create with computers.
Charles R. Keeton II is a astrophysicists professor at Rutgers University. He is a NASA funded astrophysicists who began his career in astronomy at a very young age. During middle school and high school he fantasied and loved the idea and concept about the universe and all that it in tailed. He began by taking advanced Math and Science courses at his high school to prepare him for his studies in college.
Professor Keeton went to a small university that actually didn’t offer a direct major in astronomy. This disappointed him greatly, but this then lead him to major and get a degree in physics, which had sub classes that allowed for him to study astronomy and cosmology while earning his degree. Charles Keeton with his degree found an interest in the topic regarding dark matter.
Professor Keeton uses a technique called gravitational lensing to detect the amount of dark matter in the universe. Dark matter is a big mystery to the entire physics and astronomy communities. It is matter that actually makes up 80% of mass in the universe. This matter is something that can not be seen and can only be detected in the X-ray part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dark matter is everything that fills in the areas between galaxies and solar systems. It has been detected using gravitational lensing but so much is unknown about it.
Charles Keeton found enormous interest in dark matter because of the lack of knowledge that we know about it today. Keeton thought that this was a great opportunity to explore because of how little we know about dark matter. This can only mean that as more and more research is done on this topic we can only gain more insight on what it really is.
Charles Keeton has been an amazing astrophysics and contributed greatly to his field. He was also a great professor to me, as I had taken a course with him during Fall of 2015. Continuing his work regarding dark matter, Keeton speaks on how lucky he is to have followed his dream and to actually make a career out of it. Keeton follows up by proclaiming that everyone should go after what they love, and to never let go of their dream.
The big question haunting and making every human being wonder is whether we truly are alone in the universe. Astrophysicists and scientists have been coming up with ways to really find out if we are alone in this vast and continuously growing universe. The Fermi Paradox is a theory on the odds of other intelligent and civilized life forms in the universe.
The Fermi Paradox is a great explanation of how we might not be alone in the universe, yet we haven’t found any traces of other intelligent life forms. It is a proven fact that in every galaxy there is roughly 100 billion stars. Just in one galaxy there is that many stars! Now think about how many stars there are in 100 billion galaxies because at this point in time, that’s about the amount of galaxies we can see with current telescopes. Now just in one galaxy it is estimated that 10% of stars in that single galaxy are similar to a star like our own, the Sun.
The Fermi Paradox explains that out of those 100 billion billion stars in the universe that are like our own, some are host to planets that are in a habitable zone like Earth. A habitable zone is a zone where a planet orbits a star that is just a perfect distance away from the star to host life. Even 1% of planets out of those 100 billion billion stars would mean that there is 100 million billion Earth like planets.
Out of those 100 million billion planets like Earth, life must have arose on at least one of them. And then this includes intelligent life. But what haven’t we found them yet? Well the Fermi Paradox explains that there is the possibility of intelligent life well beyond our knowledge and scale. Earth has been around for 4.3 billion years, so a planet that is just a million years older with life on it would be mind blowing.
A civilization with intelligent life greater than our own may already know of our existence. We may have been placed on Earth as a experiment and they are just watching us without us knowing. All this may seem crazy but its always a possibility as said by the Fermi Paradox. Another idea is that every civilization gets to a barrier, a barrier that almost always kills off the entire civilization, leaving no civilizations to get past a certain point in technology. We might be the only civilization past that point, or out barrier is in our near future.
The point is that life outside of Earth is almost guaranteed. Just because we haven’t found it doesn’t mean it isn’t there or was there. Only time and the advance of technology will tell us what our future holds, and whether we truly are alone.