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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
This illustration of the cosmic microwave background, heat remaining from the origin of the universe, confirms predictions of inflationary theory. The universe is expanding just as described by Einstein’s theory of gravity. As Dan Vergano writes in National Geographic:

"The strong gravitational wave findings support some of the simplest models of inflation and explain how the mass of the universe first escaped from subatomic size without falling in on itself in its very first moments.
That means that in its very first moments, the entire universe reached a size far, far larger than what is observable or will ever be observable to humanity (the “observable” universe is about 92 billion light-years across).”

Amazing. And all done with a big dish.

This illustration of the cosmic microwave background, heat remaining from the origin of the universe, confirms predictions of inflationary theory. The universe is expanding just as described by Einstein’s theory of gravity. As Dan Vergano writes in National Geographic:

"The strong gravitational wave findings support some of the simplest models of inflation and explain how the mass of the universe first escaped from subatomic size without falling in on itself in its very first moments.

That means that in its very first moments, the entire universe reached a size far, far larger than what is observable or will ever be observable to humanity (the “observable” universe is about 92 billion light-years across).”

Amazing. And all done with a big dish.

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Finding an image for this week’s show was a bit challenging. But, it’s hard to resist some of the work coming out of NASA and JPL when talking with a physicist and a novelist about "the mystery we are":

This artist’s concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun. Supermassive black holes are enormously dense objects buried at the hearts of galaxies. (Smaller black holes also exist throughout galaxies.) In this illustration, the supermassive black hole at the center is surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole in what is termed an accretion disk. This disk forms as the dust and gas in the galaxy falls onto the hole, attracted by its gravity.
Also shown is an outflowing jet of energetic particles, believed to be powered by the black hole’s spin. The regions near black holes contain compact sources of high energy X-ray radiation thought, in some scenarios, to originate from the base of these jets. This high energy X-radiation lights up the disk, which reflects it, making the disk a source of X-rays. The reflected light enables astronomers to see how fast matter is swirling in the inner region of the disk, and ultimately to measure the black hole’s spin rate.

Finding an image for this week’s show was a bit challenging. But, it’s hard to resist some of the work coming out of NASA and JPL when talking with a physicist and a novelist about "the mystery we are":

This artist’s concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun. Supermassive black holes are enormously dense objects buried at the hearts of galaxies. (Smaller black holes also exist throughout galaxies.) In this illustration, the supermassive black hole at the center is surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole in what is termed an accretion disk. This disk forms as the dust and gas in the galaxy falls onto the hole, attracted by its gravity.

Also shown is an outflowing jet of energetic particles, believed to be powered by the black hole’s spin. The regions near black holes contain compact sources of high energy X-ray radiation thought, in some scenarios, to originate from the base of these jets. This high energy X-radiation lights up the disk, which reflects it, making the disk a source of X-rays. The reflected light enables astronomers to see how fast matter is swirling in the inner region of the disk, and ultimately to measure the black hole’s spin rate.

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Oftentimes, for many of us, our way into the world of science is through gazing at the night skies, through astronomy, through NASA. We’re drawn to space and frontiers only limited by our imaginations. Natalie Batalha, a mission scientist on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, brings this same sense of childhood astonishment and wonder to us in our show, "On Exoplanets and Love."
This week’s sketchnotes by Doug Neill captures moments of her insights that, we hope, will lure you into listen and read. Quotations from Carl Sagan and rainbows in oil puddles are only the tip of the iceberg with this show. I encourage you to print it out, hang it on your door or in your office. Share with others. Listen and talk about what you see and what you heard.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Oftentimes, for many of us, our way into the world of science is through gazing at the night skies, through astronomy, through NASA. We’re drawn to space and frontiers only limited by our imaginations. Natalie Batalha, a mission scientist on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, brings this same sense of childhood astonishment and wonder to us in our show, "On Exoplanets and Love."

This week’s sketchnotes by Doug Neill captures moments of her insights that, we hope, will lure you into listen and read. Quotations from Carl Sagan and rainbows in oil puddles are only the tip of the iceberg with this show. I encourage you to print it out, hang it on your door or in your office. Share with others. Listen and talk about what you see and what you heard.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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A mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, Natalie Batalha hunts for exoplanets (yes, she’s a planet hunter!) — Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system that might harbor life. She speaks about unexpected connections between things like love and dark energy, science and gratitude, and how “exploring the heavens” brings the beauty of the cosmos and the exuberance of scientific discovery closer to us all.

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We’re putting the final touches on our show with Natalie Batalha, a research astronomer and mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. What is she searching for? Exoplanets: terrestrial planets with liquid water approximately the size of Earth that exist outside of our solar system.
But, we may not have to look that far. NASA’s Curiosity Rover transmitted back this incredible panorama (well, actually stitched-together images) of the Mars surface. Adam Mann reports on Wired:


Late on Feb. 8, Curiosity drilled a 6.4-cm-deep hole into a rock nicknamed John Klein on the surface of Mars. The area the rover is in appears to have been repeatedly flooded with water in the past and the drilling operation will allow scientists to uncover the complex aqueous history of the place.


Nevertheless, it’s edifying to know that parallel efforts are taking place to discover more about the strata of deep time and our place in this sacred universe.

We’re putting the final touches on our show with Natalie Batalha, a research astronomer and mission scientist with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. What is she searching for? Exoplanets: terrestrial planets with liquid water approximately the size of Earth that exist outside of our solar system.

But, we may not have to look that far. NASA’s Curiosity Rover transmitted back this incredible panorama (well, actually stitched-together images) of the Mars surface. Adam Mann reports on Wired:

Late on Feb. 8, Curiosity drilled a 6.4-cm-deep hole into a rock nicknamed John Klein on the surface of Mars. The area the rover is in appears to have been repeatedly flooded with water in the past and the drilling operation will allow scientists to uncover the complex aqueous history of the place.

Nevertheless, it’s edifying to know that parallel efforts are taking place to discover more about the strata of deep time and our place in this sacred universe.

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The lights of the Nile River delta as seen from the International Space Station. These images from NASA never cease to amaze me.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The lights of the Nile River delta as seen from the International Space Station. These images from NASA never cease to amaze me.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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theatlantic:

Science Picture of the Day: The Mars Horizon

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity captured this image looking eastward over the Endeavour Crater late in the afternoon of Opportunity’s 2,888th Martian sol (day) which corresponded with March 9, 2012 here on Earth. In the foreground, Opportunity’s own shadow appears, in a sort of one-step-removed self-portrait. […] The image is a mosaic of about a dozen images and presented in false color to draw out certain features of the topography.
[Image: NASA]


Apropos to our upcoming show with deep sea explorer Sylvia Earle, who reminds us that we ought to explore the depths of our oceans and selves as much as we do outer space. She’s right; nevertheless, this is marvelous.

theatlantic:

Science Picture of the Day: The Mars Horizon

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity captured this image looking eastward over the Endeavour Crater late in the afternoon of Opportunity’s 2,888th Martian sol (day) which corresponded with March 9, 2012 here on Earth. In the foreground, Opportunity’s own shadow appears, in a sort of one-step-removed self-portrait. […] The image is a mosaic of about a dozen images and presented in false color to draw out certain features of the topography.

[Image: NASA]

Apropos to our upcoming show with deep sea explorer Sylvia Earle, who reminds us that we ought to explore the depths of our oceans and selves as much as we do outer space. She’s right; nevertheless, this is marvelous.

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At lectures there are always some who raise their hands. But I think it’s unethical to send young people, since there are serious health risks. You need highly trained scientists with a life expectancy of less than 20 years.
- Paul Davies, on sending people on a one-way trip to Mars in this month’s issue of Wired magazine

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
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newshour:

A satellite designed to study the Earth’s weather and climate launched into space aboard a Delta II rocket early Friday.
(Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

newshour:

A satellite designed to study the Earth’s weather and climate launched into space aboard a Delta II rocket early Friday.

(Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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From Being Visual:

This Crab Nebula is a remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. It’s six light-years wide and expanding! Congratulations to the three astrophysicists who won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics for discovering that the fading lights of supernovas tell us that our universe is expanding into a cold, dark place.
(Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

From Being Visual:

This Crab Nebula is a remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. It’s six light-years wide and expanding! Congratulations to the three astrophysicists who won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics for discovering that the fading lights of supernovas tell us that our universe is expanding into a cold, dark place.

(Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

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Earth and Moon as Stars in the Night Sky
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Twenty-one days into its journey to Jupiter, NASA’s Juno space probe captured this remarkable sight on August 26th: our planet and its moon (Earth’s on the left) from approximately six million miles, nearly ten million kilometers, away. Seeing Earth from the outside, Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator, put it best, “We see a humbling yet beautiful view of ourselves.”
(image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

Earth and Moon as Stars in the Night Sky

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Twenty-one days into its journey to Jupiter, NASA’s Juno space probe captured this remarkable sight on August 26th: our planet and its moon (Earth’s on the left) from approximately six million miles, nearly ten million kilometers, away. Seeing Earth from the outside, Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator, put it best, “We see a humbling yet beautiful view of ourselves.”

(image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

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Space Shuttle Launch Above the Clouds
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Yesterday’s final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour was captured from many angles, but this shot from Stefanie Gordon from a commercial jet has captured the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of people. This perspective also makes me marvel at how well the traffic in our skies is managed.
And, if you don’t have an iPhone, you just may be able to justify purchasing one now (just in case).
[h/t skibinskipedia]

Space Shuttle Launch Above the Clouds

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Yesterday’s final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour was captured from many angles, but this shot from Stefanie Gordon from a commercial jet has captured the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of people. This perspective also makes me marvel at how well the traffic in our skies is managed.

And, if you don’t have an iPhone, you just may be able to justify purchasing one now (just in case).

[h/t skibinskipedia]

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Quintet: young blue stars, old red ones A 10-billion year old start cluster Space butterfly Peering 5 billion light years away Ursa Major barred spiral galaxy Two images of a star burst

The Wonder of the Cosmos (through an Upgraded Lens)

by Colleen Scheck, producer

Last week NASA published pictures from the newly-refurbished Hubble telescope. Beautiful. Mysterious. Divine. And, simply, Wow. These were the words that ran through my head when I saw them. It’s worth reading the descriptions of the photos on NASA’s site for more detail on these galactic happenings. I also liked this online comment:

"These photos, and the multi-billion year life behind them make me think I’ve wasted the better part of my life looking down at my feet, instead of looking up into the sky."

I don’t have profound thoughts to add, but comments from two cosmologists who have been on SOF seem to apply. From our show "Science and Hope," George Ellis, a practicing Quaker from South Africa:

Ms. Tippett: How do you — because you’re telling me that you also, I believe, you’re telling me you have concluded that there is a God and there can be a God in your cosmology. But how do you think your way around into that question?

Dr. Ellis: It’s a very valid question, and it’s one for which we haven’t got any clue to the answer. But that is the same for every attempt to understand the foundations of the universe. Science runs into that and religions run into that. My colleagues are producing theories of what they call creation of the universe out of nothing. But when you probe them, you find they’re not producing theories of creation of the universe out of nothing. They are assuming a huge machinery of quantum field theory and fields and particles and interactions, which generates universe, not creation of the universe out of nothing.

Ms. Tippett: Which had to come from somewhere.

Dr. Ellis: Yeah, it had to come from somewhere else….And in the end, we run into a metaphysical blank, whether you pursue it scientifically or religiously, and you simply have to give up in wonder and awe and say, ‘I don’t know the answer, and it’s just marvelous the way things are.’

And, Janna Levin, a novelist and professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College, spoke with Krista for our program "Mathematics, Purpose, and Truth":

Ms. Tippett: ….What are you working on that also, you know, starts to reshape the way you see the world around you and the way you move through it?

Ms. Levin: Well, it’s funny, people have often asked, when I’ve been describing the work that I’m doing, they’ll say, ‘Well, who — why should I care about that?’ I’m telling something about extra dimensions and maybe the universe isn’t three-dimensional, but maybe there are extra spatial dimensions. It is very abstract. We could do a whole show hammering that out.

Ms. Tippett: Yeah, yeah.

Ms. Levin: But supposing we grasp the notion of multidimensional space and spaces and finite, people say, ‘Why should I care about that? You know, my taxes are high. We’re on a war in Iraq.’ And these are fair questions, but my feeling is that it changes the world in such a fundamental way. We cannot begin to comprehend the consequences of living in a world after we know certain things about it. I think we cannot imagine the mindset of somebody pre-Copernicus, when we thought that the Earth was the center of the universe, and that the Sun and all the celestial bodies orbited us.

It’s really not that huge a discovery in retrospect. In retrospect, so we orbit around the Sun, and we take this to be commonplace, and there’s lots of planets in our solar system, and the Sun is just one star out of billions or hundreds of billions in our galaxy, and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies. And we become, you know, little dust mites in the scheme of things. That shift is so colossal in terms of what it did, I think, to our world, our global culture, our worldview, that I can’t begin to draw simple lines to say, ‘This is what happened because of it’ or ‘That’s what happened because of it.’

Ms. Tippett: Right, right.

Ms. Levin: We see ourselves differently, and then we see the whole world differently. And we begin to think about meaning — and all of these questions that you’ve brought up — completely differently than we did before. And I’d feel the same way if we discovered that the universe is finite or if we discovered that there are additional spatial dimensions, if these things will impact us, I think, in ways that we can’t just draw simple cause-and-effect arrows.

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Ad Astra Per Aspera
» download (mp3, 2:12)
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer

Last week Shiraz shared a section from Krista’s energetic conversation with Mary Doria Russell discussing the meaning and influence of music in Russell’s writing. He also wrote about  the Golden Record, a phonograph record that was included on the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977, with the hope of making contact with another alien species. Mitch, our senior producer, collected a few audio samples from the Golden Record and put together a beautiful sound collage that was included in the program, and which you can listen to above.

The Golden Record itself contains quite a range of scenes from Earth, not only in its audio recordings but also in the included 122 images (the record case includes instructions for how to play both, explained here). The audio contents of the record include greetings in 55 different languages, 27 examples of music from around the world (not available for download, but you can still listen to them here), and a selection of "The Sounds of Earth." Also included are messages from Kurt Waldheim, the U.N. Secretary-General at the time, and U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Carl Sagan, the director of the Golden Record project, said that “the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” His statement hints at an understanding of this endeavor that’s not only useful for extraterrestrial species, but also as an opportunity for introspection. The contents of the Golden Record serve as a time capsule, allowing us to examine which aspects of its content still seem universally human, and which may already seem outdated or consequential.

I can’t help but wonder how this message might have changed now — and how both its form and content might be different. What new art forms might it include now? What images, or perhaps videos? Would it be a Golden DVD, a Golden Hard Drive? Let’s hear your thoughts on what might belong in a “message in a bottle” from Earth, circa 2009.

Ad Astra Per Aspera is a Latin phrase recorded in morse code on the Golden Record. It translates as “through hardships to the stars.”

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