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Cross The Streams: The Leftovers, The Thing And Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning

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Howdy, members of the 1992 Olympic stream team. With the summer blockbuster season in full effect, steaming websites have been a little lax on giving sci-fi fans what we want: namely, something to do besides sweat and deal with teenagers roaming the streets. Stay off of my lawn! Go inside! Sit down! Watch TV! Ahem. On with the list!

The More Recent

the leftoversThe Leftovers (HBO Go)
While HBO’s new drama The Leftovers isn’t strictly speaking science fiction, it’s a high-concept project conceived by the novel’s author Tom Perrotta and Damon Lindelof, co-creator and co-writer of things like Lost, Star Trek Into Darkness, and World War Z. In The Leftovers, two percent of the world is gone due to some unexplainable event, and the town of Mapleton is coping like many others: with public remembrances and silent, chain-smoking cults. The first episode debuted last night and it didn’t really give away a lot of where this plot is going, other than that Justin Theroux’s police chief Kevin Garvey has a lot to deal with.

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Dying Stars Slosh Around When They Go Supernova

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cassiopeia-AAs Carl Sagan always said, “We’re made of star-stuff.” That’s because dying stars explode, expelling stardust — which scientists now know contains water in addition to carbon and other organic, life-promoting compounds — throughout the galaxy. In fact, some scientists believe that the universe may have been created when a massive, four-dimensional star went supernova, shedding its outer layers while its inner layers collapsed into a black hole. But supernovae remain somewhat elusive, especially when it comes to the details of the explosion. Until, that is, they are seen with a special telescope. A study published today in Nature by an international team of scientists provides new information about what happens inside a dying star.

Computer simulations have shown that stars won’t explode if they retain their perfectly round shape, so astronomers knew that something else had to be happening. They had some ideas about what that might be, but until now they haven’t been able to determine which, if any, were accurate. NASA’s NuSTAR (nuclear spectroscopic telescope array) telescope, housed at Caltec, enabled scientists to map radioactive material in the remnants of supernova Cassiopeia A. The telescope provided the first ever glimpse at the high-energy X-rays generated by a dying star.

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Harvard Professor Turns The Sound Of A Supernova Into Song

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SupernovaWhile we might think of space as a vast and silent expanse, that’s not necessarily true. Space has plenty of noise, like these dense plasma sounds captured by Voyager 1 as it headed into interstellar space. Space also has musical stylings of Chris Hadfield. Now, Harvard astronomy professor Alicia Soderberg has found a way to turn a supernova into songs. Eat your heart out, Oasis.

Soderberg specializes in a star’s last gasps, which are violent, dramatic explosions. It’s tough to capture one in real time, though, so she often conducts what’s called a stellar autopsy, examining the remnants of the event. She gathers up all the information she can find, including x-rays, light, and radio waves. Then she and her team set about analyzing and synthesizing the data, which is about as easy as trying to put all the pieces together of an explosion here on Earth.

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10-Year-Old Discovers Ancient Supernova

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The Gray family of Nova Scotia, Canada has some intense sibling rivalry going on. But unlike with my brother and me, this rivalry goes beyond outsmarting parents or drawing invisible property lines in the back seat of the car. Nathan and Kathryn Gray’s competition of choice involves hunting for supernovas, the dramatic explosions of dying stars. Kathryn was previously recognized by the International Astronomical Union as the youngest person to ever make such a discovery—a legacy she inherited from her father, Paul, who discovered a supernova at age 22 and at the time was the youngest person to ever do so. But on Wednesday, Nathan Gray spotted something interesting while stargazing, and is poised to unseat his older sister as the youngest person ever to find a supernova.

Nathan Gray

The Gray’s family friend, David Lane, owns the Halifax, Nova Scotia Abbey Ridge Observatory. With friends like that, it makes sense that the Grays would be cosmically-inclined. And Lane benefits too—he uses the keen eyes and minds of his friends to help him compare older and newer images of galaxies to see if anything new has come up—or, you know, exploded.

Nathan has seen a few supernovas before, but they had all been previously discovered. For the past eight months he’s been trying to find a new one, and it appears that he has—a supernova in the PGC 61330 galaxy inside the Draco constellation. When comparing images given to him by Lane, Nathan noticed something that was absent from photos take a couple years ago. The supernova he found might be as far as 600 million light years away, which means that star is putting on some serious fireworks and going out in a blaze of glory.

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The Universe May Have Been Formed From A Black Hole. Maybe.

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Black holeSpace enthusiasts, listen up: some astrophysicists believe that the Big Bang may be bunk. You didn’t expect that theory to stick around forever, did you? It may yet, but it now has another theory to contend with—that the Universe was formed by a star collapsing into a black hole.

The Big Bang theory (sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not and won’t be referring to the show) essentially posits that the Universe was created by a singularity, or an explosion from a point of infinite density. The thing is, no one knows what caused the Big Bang—no computation or physical law (that we know of) can account for it, especially since time didn’t exist before the Universe’s creation. But it’s a question that has lingered on the minds of some scientists. Niayesh Afshordi of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics says, “For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity.” Oh man, I hope that’s true. And even if it’s not, I’m going to cling to that idea, or at least to that image.