Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Genius" on PBS with Stephen Hawking: "Are We Alone?"

PBS has started a series called “Genius” hosted by Stephen Hawking.

On May 18, PBS aired Episode 2, “Are We Alone?” 
Hawking enlisted three volunteers to do experiments (rather things that could have been described in Jack Andraka’s book or on Taylor Wilson’s website) to show how the probability of alien life can be viewed.

The team repeated twisted an iron rod in a vice and melted ice with the heat.  That was to support the idea of tidal gravitational forces from Jupiter melting ice on Europa and creating enough heat for subsurface life, on a rocky body out of the “Goldilocks Zone”.

Then the group operated a probability box grid, where bubble spheres have a decreasing probability of reaching the next box, and when a rare ball comes out the end, it gets torched by a flame, symbolizing a civilization blowing itself up with nuclear war.  This as an exploration of the Fermi Paradox (SETI panel discussion video).   Apparently Hawking does not believe the "Rare Earth Hypothesis." 
Nevertheless, Hawking thinks there could occur an advanced civilization every few hundred light years or so.  More could form in the next few millions of years.  Tabby’s Star could be a candidate (1450 light years away, with a possible Dyson’s Sphere).  Civilizations could learn to use self-replicating robots for exploring other solar systems.  Whether artificial intelligence can be created sounds like a critical question. 

Update: May 27

"Where Did the Universe Come From" explains and demonstrates how the Big Bang was an expansion of space itself, not just an expansion into space (explanation by Rose Pastore in Popular Science, "Where is the center of the Universe?"

Update: June 1

The volunteers demonstrated distances in the Solar System in the desert with common objects, and used eclipses to do the calculations. 

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