Are we alone?.
adio telescopes scan the skies, and computers crunch the results looking for the patterns that might indicate an artificial signal coming from deep space. Alien hunters stand watch out in the desert, looking for lights in the sky flying over military bases. Both are looking for answers to the same question: Is our little civilization on our little blue planet alone in the galaxy; or are there others, like us, who want to meet us as much as we want to meet them?
ceptic James Randi is so convinced that homeopathy will not work, that he has offered $1m to anyone who can provide convincing evidence of its effects. For the first time in the programme’s history, Horizon conducts its own scientific experiment, to try and win his money. If they succeed, they will not only be $1m richer – they will also force scientists to rethink some of their fundamental beliefs. The basic principle of homeopathy is that like cures like: that an ailment can be cured by small quantities of substances which produce the same symptoms. For example, it is believed that onions, which produce streaming, itchy eyes, can be used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever. However, many of the ingredients of homeopathic cures are poisonous if taken in large enough quantities. So homeopaths dilute the substances they are using in water or alcohol. This is where scientists become sceptical – because homeopathic solutions are diluted so many times they are unlikely to contain any of the original ingredients at all. Yet many of the people who take homeopathic medicines are convinced that they work. Has science missed something, or could there be a more conventional explanation?
ut the project was not as simple as it seemed. In the days preceding “the eclipse of the century,” astronomers faced equipment breakdowns, incompatible telescopes, threatening weather and a celestial spectacle that would wait for no one. Join the action as scientists prepare for an unprecedented look at the normally invisible corona, the sun’s superheated atmosphere. And take a breathtaking look at the sky’s most exciting event. As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and the Moon fully or partially covers the Sun as viewed from a location on Earth. This can happen only during a new moon, when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth. At least two, and up to five, solar eclipses occur each year; no more than two can be total eclipses. Total solar eclipses are nevertheless rare at any particular location because totality exists only along a narrow path on the Earth’s surface traced by the Moon’s umbra.
eil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia. Tyson’s professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. Tyson obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and in the Andes Mountains of Chile.
In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.
In 2004, Tyson was once again appointed by President Bush to serve on a 9-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission. This group navigated a path by which the new space vision can become a successful part of the American agenda. And in 2006, the head of NASA appointed Tyson to serve on its prestigious Advisory Council, which will help guide NASA through its perennial need to fit its ambitious vision into its restricted budget.
he Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe. Two beams of subatomic particles called ‘hadrons’ – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC. There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, but what’s for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator, as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.