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Scientists Appeal To Congress To Support Technology To Search for Extraterrestrial Life

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candidate planetsGiven how many candidate planets Kepler has identified, and the recently announced estimate that billions of habitable planets may exist in the Milky Way alone, scientists are understandably excited about the prospect of finding alien life. They’re so excited, in fact, that they made a plea to Congress this week to embark on the next phase of searching for life.

Sara Seager, MIT’s exoplanet expert who came up with her own equation to express the probability of finding extra-terrestrial life, spoke at the “Astrobiology: The Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond” hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and argued that while we have some technology capable of detecting candidate planets and other life forms, we need more. “This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets,” she said. “People will look back at us as the ones who found Earth-like worlds.” NASA’s head of astrobiology seconded that, saying that humans finally have the means to gather data about other life forms in the universe, which means it’s incumbent upon us to do so.

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Political Beliefs Decrease Our Ability To Reason

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frustrated-student1I’ve spent a lot of time in the past week (and in the past couple decades) trying to understand politics. While I recognize the various strategies in play, on a basic level I don’t understand what the hell is wrong with our government, and why our politicians seem to be devoid of, or intentionally quashing, their ability to be reasonable. I also don’t understand how voters can be so dangerously ignorant. The most recent troubling example is the CNBC poll that reveals the staggering number of people who don’t know what ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act are, and who don’t realize that they’re the same law. Regardless of one’s political leanings, for me it all boils down to one question: why can’t politics and reason coexist?

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Happy Birthday To Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Today In Science And Science Fiction

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TysonWith the rampant anti-intellectualism and distrust in science that continues to plague our country these days, we need passionate, well-spoken defenders to cut through the B.S. and speak the truth. In the 1980s, Carl Sagan filled that role very well, with his Cosmos series capturing the imaginations of many young people who went on to pursue careers in science. Sagan passed away in 1996, but the torch has been passed in recent years to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and the go-to guy whenever a news agency needs somebody to provide easily digestible sound bites for a new science story. Tyson turns 55 years old today.

The Sagan parallels will become even more direct in the not-too-distant future, with Tyson set to host a new incarnation of Sagan’s Cosmos, set to air on Fox sometime in 2014. Tyson has the knowledge and the passion to be a great host for a new Cosmos, but he also shares one other quality with Sagan that makes him even more ideal. He’s got a touch of the poetic about him, a way of speaking about the universe that elicits excitement and wonder in the listener. Compare two of our favorite videos below: Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech, and Tyson’s “Most Astounding Fact.”

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The Romney Campaign Releases Their Platform For Space

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One of the biggest problems for NASA as a government agency is that their focus on human spaceflight seemingly changes with every new president. While presidents always try to act like they have the space agency’s best interests at heart, when it comes time to make the budgets, NASA seemingly has to fight tooth and claw to just keep it at a steady level. Well, this is an election year, and now the Republicans have released the 2012 GOP Republican Platform, which, interestingly enough, actually has a section talking about America’s space program. Don’t get too excited though, it’s about what you’d expect.

 America’s Future in Space: Continuing This Quest

The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S.global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess. From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.