(if you had your mom, grandma, or other relative teach you and it’s not in the UK)
“The future is a place of wonder,” as the movie title says, but the world of science communication is often a place of dread, because sometimes you get to a point of doing more or less nothing.
Scientists are now moving out of this dark world to an even darker time. The new era of space communication won’t be about sending radio waves, rather to send terabytes of data about the universe to distant stars in the far reaches of the solar system. And so is it a revolution with big implications?
I’ll let Mark Lemmon, an astrophysicist and director of the SETI Institute, tell me. In these videos he introduces a few of the ways this new era of communication will be different. Watch them and think about how to take advantage of a new technology that seems to promise vast amounts of future wealth:
“This is not about space telescopes.”
If you’re a researcher, you should already be spending your days reading papers looking for answers to simple questions like, “Are there other stars in our galaxy that are potentially habitable?” And if you’re someone who lives on Earth and wants to know what other star systems are nearby, and not just in our galaxy, “Who knows?” the answer should be “we don’t know.” In addition, the answer is probably not going to be a great big scientific paper that tells you that it’s probably a planet or maybe even the Milky Way that was once a rocky planet, like the Earth.
“The future is a place of wonder.”
But this is something that might change, in a good way. At a recent meeting in Rome, scientists in the SETI Institute asked a question: “Will space communications create a new paradigm for scientific inquiry?” There were three answers to the question, which I’ll highlight in the video. (In all three scenarios, space telescopes were the most important source of astronomical knowledge, which, if I’re making a long story short, tells me two things: first, space telescopes are going to be a lot smaller and less powerful over time; and second, we would, in other words, know exactly where planets are around our galaxy).
NASA’s Kepler program, for one, is a great case in point — the Kepler space telescope was built to find planets; it could have found thousands or millions, but when it came time to look for them, it did
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