Monday, March 17, 2014

Cosmos "Spacetime Odyssey" takes a look at Titan, showing "Some of the Things that Molecules Do"

Episode 2 of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”, apparently co-produced by National Geographic and 20th Century Fox, was aired on Fox Sunday night (oddly the Fox station did not have the schedule right on the web). Narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, it was titled “Some of the Things that Molecules Do”, a different link here

Tyson gave an account of biological evolution, which started 3.5 billion years ago.  He went into detail as to how sight evolved, leading to the modern eye.  (Somehow I thought about the horror film “The Hypnotic Eye”.)  He says that animal life was nearly extinguished by the comet in the Yucatan 60 million years, but in fact the event led to the rise of mammals and modern birds. 

I sometimes wonder, is it still possible life could have been seeded from a warmer Mars, or even from outside the solar system.  If one ever met an alien who looked and acted human, maybe with unusual powers – a Clark Kent – that would almost prove that this must have happened.

The most interesting part of the program occurs when Tyson takes us on a visual journey to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, and shows artists’ animated landscapes with almost unprecedented realism.  He speculated whether life could arise in hydrocarbon lakes, with cellular energy powered by acetylene rather than ATP.  Methane rain would have very big drops and fall slowly, like snowflakes, as demonstrated in this episode.
Here’s a Goddard video discussing propylene in Titan’s chemistry.

Look forward to how Tyseon will present expoplanets.  

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