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Peering Into Space

Update: 2017-06-3023
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This hour, we'll hear from TED speakers who share an infectious sense of wonder and curiosity about our place in the universe and what lies beyond our skies. TED speakers include physicist Brian Greene, astronomer Phil Plait, and astronomer Jill Tarter. (Original broadcast date: March 8, 2013)

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support for Ted Radio Hour and the following message come from rocket mortgage by Quicken loans when it comes to refinancing your existing mortgage or buying a home rocket mortgage lets you understand all the details so you can be confident you're getting the right mortgage for you goats are rocket mortgage dot com slash ideas hates guy here will have a brand new episode soon but in the meantime take a listen to this one from our archives it's actually one of my favorites is called appearing in the space and I have to admit I love it because my son is in it but it's ultimately about the wonder of the universe mean just imagine you look at a star at night and you're seeing the past in real time you hear from physicist Brian Greene writer Phil plate and astronomer Jill tartar this is the Head Radio Hour each week groundbreaking had talked the Technology Design Design at Stanford delivered and Ted conferences around the world gift of the human imagination we had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR the the the the a couple months ago we bought our son a telescope the wild and since then the E's gotten hooked the totally obsessed with the Stars or The The The The The The The The The The The Rise of the one studying the the the shaking the way there I was going to move over we can still see a lot the clear dark night even in the city where we left you can still see about a hundred stars in the sky just by looking up which are the of the The curve today the I share the load which if you start early in the the share of the the latter need to be neighbors for the kids my son has this incredible curiosity but something I hadn't really thought about in years the night sky the first two very cool to look into the Ted Radio Hour from NPR guy rise and on the show today to hear from Ted speakers who never lost that curiosity people who look up at the sky every night who think about the infinite possibilities out there in space the absolute if the chair so sometime in the future and we're talking the far future at some point there won't be anything to see beyond our galaxy distance pace will appear rich black tea and to understand why physicist Brian Greene and his Ted talk explain we've got to go back to the year nineteen twenty nine in the great astronomer Edwin Hubble realize that the distant galaxies were all rushing us establishing its space itself is stretching its expanding the the the the Yeah this was revolutionary the prevailing wisdom was that on the largest of scales the universe was static but even so there was one saying that everyone was certain of the expansion must be slowing down by Will gravity is an attractive force by you drop anything it falls to the earth throw anything out a window it falls down with gravity pulls things together similarly gravity out there in the cosmos should be pulling each galaxy toward every other so if the rushing apart they should Russia part slower and slower over time it sort of like you know if you throw a baseball up in the air goes up because of slower and slower so gravity of the exact same sort should be slowing the Exodus of the galaxies in nineteen twenty nine when when when public figures this out to blow people's minds mean when people assume that the universe was was basically our galaxy and the Hubble comes along he says it's not and it's growing yes it is totally revolutionary in fact there is another felon in Jordan the metro who is a Belgian priest who told Einstein that he was studying the math of Einstein's equations in general to be in the map seems to say that the universe should be expanding Einstein said to him your math is correct but your physics is abominable he was saying that you can always trust the equations the Einstein went back and try to change the equation said they wouldn't imply that the universe was expanding than Hubble with these observations prove that it is an Einstein turned sharply around and describe this picture of the expanding universe as one of most beautiful thing she'd ever encountered the that became a fundamental principle of astrophysics the universe was expanding but the expansion was slowing down everyone accepted that theory for seventy years until it was a problem there was definitely a moment when we realize that something very weird going on something very surprising by the initial response of this was a nose was BM they knew he's a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins and in nineteen ninety eight he made an observation that had to be a mistake really you make somebody sick I make interesting day working in science first but it was just a mistake that would go away the exactly the same time the different lab in a different part of the country another scientist was coming to the same weird conclusion is Adam Reese does sound good right now or is a sound utterly self promoter and I'm a stay at Berkeley and a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Reese led different teams of scientists who thought they made this a mistake at the same time it happened while they were observing distant supernova is to measure changes in the universe over time they after they analyze the data both teams found the the expansion is not slowing down over time it's speeding up over time this is true it would be groundbreaking because remember for decades everyone knew the expansion of the universe was slowing down that was how you learned about this when you study physics we were student right oh absolutely this is bread and butter material that you learn now you as an undergrad I learned is a graduate student like to say the expansion of universe was speeding up this had to be a mistake it was such a crazy idea that saw pro modern Adam Reese could hardly believe their own data yes the tree he had to report what the universe was doing right so if you're looking at results but the assumption is probably something must be wrong the other some seek effective local getting tripped up by thinking Well obviously went with additional calibration cross checking all the parts of a program that will end up looking more like the first time allow the universe is accelerating going to try we were aware that we're going to have to write because it was such a major issue that obviously has a back up and show that we checked every possible way in which the match now remember it was Einstein a century earlier who told a fellow scientist who pointed this out he said your math is correct your physics is abominable you can always trust the equation literally it is if someone said to throw an apple up in the air and it's going to go faster faster and faster and faster and it was just a sense that this can't be right after and faster faster faster you say crazy it was crazy but remember there were two teams both coming to the same result independently of the other the very convincing when different lines of investigation are all pointing to the same result the and within a few years other research teams began to verify those results and that's when we start seeing other experiments can be universally different ways that would say this is the way they can this is going to go away and that mistake that refuse to go away u turned at a recent Salt from under the Nobel Prize in Physics in two thousand eleven so what does that mean for us well Brian Greene answer that question when he gave his Ted talk and hear some sound from a video he played on the Ted stage see we learned that our universe is not static that space is expanding and that expansion is speeding up all by carefully examining faint pinpoint the store late coming to us from distant galaxies but because the expansion is speeding up in the very far future to see technological but because of the laws of physics light those galaxies emit at ever widening out into deep space will see nothing but an endless stretch of static inky black stillness and they will conclude that the universe is static and unchanging populated by a single central aces of matter that they inhabit up picture of the cosmos that we definitively know to be wrong now maybe those future astronomers will have records handed down from an earlier era like ours the testing to expanding cosmos teeming with galaxies but with those future astronomers believe such ancient knowledge are what they believe in the Black static the empty universe that their own state of the art observations reveal I suspect dessert ever make you sad okay I guess it does a little bit I mean what I imagine were able to sustain life on this planet for billions of years and in some ways are lots of ways to feel sad about the small moment the moment we get to see an oath that we would miss and if their apologists someday that want to make the kinds of measurements we have they will look down and landmarks will be gone that's what the galaxies are mile markers of the universe for the that what I think of is how amazing is that wee little tiny puny creatures who are just crawling around the surface of this little planet around a nondescript door in the outskirts of an ordinary galaxy that we've been able to figure this stuff out that to me how should I say gives me a sense of connection to the universe a kind of sense of partnership with the cosmos if you will that I find thrilling bright green of course we did leave out one thing here if the universe is expanding outward what's behind the angry returns later in the show to answer that question by Wei Han consider something he used to do when he was little again he would stand in his room in between two mirrors each facing the other fact I think we've all experienced we have two mares that are facing one another but any object in between gets reflected back and forth back and forth between the merits and that sort of thing to myself what would be like to have a parallel reality out there where there's a version of me but one that had a mind and ability to do things different from one experience by there may be other copies of you have a copy sent me copies of everything you know our show today the wonders above us except the ashtray Hunter and his quest to save the Earth hypothesis an asteroid was discovered in two thousand for and it's going to pass five years in April of twenty twenty nine passes so close that if it's just right the Earth's gravity will bend just enough that seven years later pop is going to hit us and I rise more peering in to space in a moment Ted Radio Hour PR the the the the ole ole he Everyone Just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors who helped make this podcast possible verse to Jersey Mikes Giant subs which you can now order online even though it'll take more than a minute to take down where they are giants abs it won't take you anytime at all to pick one up when you order online and if that doesn't sound enticing enough right now when you order your sub Online Jersey Mike's will hook you up with ten percent off order smarter with Jersey Mikes on line at Jersey Mike's dot com and enter promo code radio or Jersey Mike's be a sub above thanks also to Wells Fargo working with you and your communities to create change for the better Wells Fargo team members volunteer and work with local organizations everyday to make a difference where it counts and learn more at Wells Fargo dot com slash better Wells Fargo building better every day in one more quick thing if you love this show in the stories feature on it like another program we produced called How I built this and it's the stories of some of the most incredible companies and brands and how the people behind them took them from nothing to what they are today you can subscribe to hide this by going to NPR dot org slash podcasts or on the NPR one app it's the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and Guy Roz do look into the sky every night when I go outside and it's clear yeah I look up the it's it's a habit and it's something I wish more people did you may see something that will profoundly affect you Jupiter and Saturn Venus other constellations there's some talk there's a very bright comet that may swing by the race leader in two thousand and thirteen that could be extremely bright it could be in one of these once in a lifetime comments and if you ever look up you'll miss that that still place an astronomer and science writer and he wants you to pay attention to Astrid for simple reason we are bombarded every day there's a hundred tons of material the in the form of very very very small grains of rock like saying the end you see these every night if you go out and look up and wait an hour you'll probably see two or three shooting stars the uh that's what this stuff is one hundred ton sounds like a lot to realize the earth is six point six six Chilean tons so you could bombard years every day with a hundred tons of stuff for his zillion and not really add even a fraction of the weight that we have here the the real problem isn't the amount the it's how it's delivered when when you have a hundred tons of spread out over the vast servicer of years it's not a big deal but if you collect several hundred tons into a single rock and then let it hit the earth that's when you start getting into trouble and that's the sort of thing I'm worried about now there's a very specific rock filled plate is worried about in that rock has a name which help Lake described in his tech stock in Boulder you've probably heard about the Astra puffs if you haven't yet you will pop this is an asteroid was discovered in two thousand for its roughly two hundred fifty yards across so it's pretty big exciting new bear the football stadium and it's going to pass five years in April of twenty twenty nine it's going to pass a so close it's actually going to come underneath our weather satellites the Earth's gravity is going to Ben the orbit of the sting so much that it fits just right the Earth's gravity will bend just enough that seven years later on April thirteen which is a Friday I'll note in their twenty thirty six you can't plan the kind of stuff pop is going to hit us it will hit us know that was the thinking a few years ago now the thing is the orbit of this object in twenty twenty nine is not precisely known we do know very well that it's not going to hit us but by exactly how much we don't know if it's a little bit closer than we expect buy it by literally a mile or less and your scrappy will bend the orbit a lot and then seven years later they'll miss us and if it's if it's too far away by I don't know Miles it's probably even less than that seven years later again will miss us but it's right down the pipe if it hits the bull's eye and space which is what we call a keyhole it passes through that area than the Earth's gravity is exactly enough to bend the orbit such that seven years later this thing will come back and hit us the one engineer outside that day when you're looking up given that it's moving at twenty miles per second that's a guess could and the atmosphere very high and it's there might be five something to go the and then there would be a tremendous flash of light the the the shock wave through the air the debris all kinds of all kinds of craziness and it gets worse the bigger these things are at two hundred and fifty meters across a Papa says nowhere near as big as this six mile wide asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs but it would still obliterate everything within a couple hundred miles and it lands near a major city that would be bad now the odds of that happening are one in a million roughly very very low Watts so I personally awake at night worrying about this at all I don't think a POS a problem in fact a pompous is a blessing in disguise because it woke us up to the dangers of these things this thing was discovered just a few years ago and could hit us a few years from now it won't but it gives us a chance to study these kinds of asteroids we didn't understand these key holes and now we do it turns out that's really important because how do you stop an asteroid like this would probably point out is that we can move near or at least not easily but we can move a small asteroid and turns out we've even done it that was back in two thousand five NASA launched a space probe called Deep Impact right into the path of a comet which was orbiting the sun at ten miles per second twenty miles per second we shot a space for a bat and hit ok imagine how hard that must be and we did that means we can do it again if we need if we see an asteroid is coming toward us and it's headed right for us and we have two years ago whom we hit the problem is what happens if you get this asteroid change the orbit you measure the orbit then you find out oh yeah we just pushed it into a keyhole and now it's been hit in three years my opinion is fine ok it's not hitting us in six months that's good now we have three years to do something else and you get hit again this kind of ham fisted you might just push in with thirty or whatever C Don't do that and this is the part the the after the big macho her hammer to hit this thing in the face then we bring in. The velvet clubs to cruise there's a group of and engineers they call themselves The Beast Well Foundation for those who've read The Little Prince you understand that reference IO little prince who lived on an asteroid B six twelve our full meal again wee im home these are smart guns restaurants like I said if we see a story that's going to hit the year enough time as we get close close close then what we do this we launch a probe year the huge couple of times that day and you park it near the asteroid don't land on it because he says are tumbling end a turtle and instead you get near it the gravity of the asteroid pulls on the pro closer and and closer the probe has couple of times the lead in the land but it's enough I that can pull the Sheehy U have your rocket set up the new basically these guys are connected by their own gravity if you move the probe very slowly very very gently you can very easily finesse that rock the for the the and we have the technology to do this this prob actually can't use chemical rockets chemical rockets provide too much trust too much push the right approach to shoot away we invented something called an ion drive which is a very very very low thrust engine generates the force a piece of paper would have on your hand incredibly light but can run for months and years providing that very gentle push if anybody hears a fan of the original Star Trek they ran across an alien ship that an ion drive and Spock said they're very technically sophisticated a hundred years ahead of us with this dry yet we have an ion drive now we live the Enterprise got an eye and right now Spock soul that's the difference between us and the dinosaurs this happened to them it doesn't have to happen to us the difference between the dinosaurs and us is that we have a space program and we can vote and so we can change our future we have the ability to change our future sixty five million we don't have to have our bones collecting dust in a museum thank you very much the the astronomer Phil plate from his tech stock in Boulder Colorado ten accidents by the way take place in communities around the world to find out how you can organize takes in your city or region to visit Ted dot com The priests new clear snow I can see movie from the yeay yeay the lo hei village guy it's a guy here has gone oh hey thanks for calling so I understand you have an update for us we have some good news there was a near pass of the PA office in January of twenty thirteen and a bunch people observed it including with a radio telescope which gives really precise measurements of the position of this thing and they found out in twenty twenty nine it's going to not pass through the keyhole in other words it in twenty thirty six the big day when we thought maybe maybe it might hit it's going to mess it a miss by a lot actually about twenty million kilometers which is fifty times farther away than the movie so we are pretty much say from this particular rock for a long time that's that's that's great news I'm quite happy about this is a part of the little bit disappointed though I mean I mean it would be comical that it hit a guess and I mean if you're on the safe cent of the earth no no no no if one of the thicket the moon that would be awesome we did get a good look at it we see everything that happens we could test out all of our ideas about impact energy is all a kind of stuff and we'd be perfectly safe and we have a front row seat to this awesome event that would be great and nobody gets hurt or you just can't do anything like that anywhere in again I'm very very happy with this right now so so I guess you can take some time off now right well I wish but this isn't the only rock out there plenty more and they're quite a few whose orbits need to be refined to better some of these overlap with the earth is going to be and could potentially hit us Papa is a case where you know Yeah it's going to miss but there's a long list of other rocks out there that we need to be keeping our eyes are still due the uh the the you can find feels like it's late night comics called Bad astronomy the the the the show today the wonders above us and in a moment listening for signs of life in our galaxy and may even be on preparing the space here on the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and her eyes the the one tube them first are looking at the source i e that fascinated by the stars when I about eight years old before we keep going Can you introduce yourself sure my name's Jill Carter and I aim on radio astronomer ok thank you please continue the story we'd go visit my aunt uncle and keys in the west coast of Florida where I really dark there in the sidewalk along the beach at night with my dad and he will show me the constellations look up and I seem to need we're looking at those stars that there was probably another creature walking were scurrying moving beach on their planet seen seeing our son in their skies the stars wondering what was out there just the way I was work of course that's the greatest thing about being a scientist and astronomer is that you never have to grow up you never have to stop asking why you get to pose questions and try and find answers and that's exactly how Jill open her eye my question Are we alone is it really just us Are we alone in this vast universe of energy and chemistry and physics what if health care others are asking and answering similar questions What if they look up in the night sky at the at the same stars but from the opposite side with the discovery of an older cultural civilization out there inspire us to find ways to survive are increasingly uncertain technological adolescence might it be the discovery of this in civilization and our palm and cosmic origins that finally drives home
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Peering Into Space

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