New Cosmos

A new Cosmos is in the works:

In partnership with Sagan’s colleagues Ann Druyan (who is also his widow) and Steven Soter, Seth MacFarlane — yes, that Seth MacFarlane — is going to produce a new 13-part series to serve as a sequel and modern update to Sagan’s masterpiece.

Taking over the hosting duties will be none other than well-known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has served as host of NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS for the past five years, so he has plenty of experience making science accessible to the general public. It would be difficult to think of anyone who would be better able to succeed the late, great Carl Sagan.

The folks working on it will take their time and do it right — it’s not scheduled to air until sometime in 2013.

It will unfortunately be airing on FOX, which means the commercials will be ridiculous, but I suppose it’s good that it will be given a broader audience than PBS gets. And it’s hard to go wrong with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Happy Carl Sagan Day

I just made it. With 5 Eastern Standard Time minutes to spare, I have learned that it is Carl Sagan Day today. In honor of the great man right now, I can really only offer the small gesture of a clip post here. But as a greater honor, we can all do everything we can to come to a greater appreciation of science; we can reject intelligent design as the bullshit that it is (and let’s emphasize the “b” in “bullshit”). We can fight against the quacks out there. We can promote and love and have a passion about science. It is our greatest tool.

CO2 found on exo-planet

I need to get back to some science. Fortunately, CO2 was recently detected on an exo-planet.

NASA said its Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of “hot Jupiter” planet HD 189733b, which orbits a nearby star 63 light-years from Earth.

The planet is itself too hot to support life — its surface is about 1,800 degrees F (1,000 degrees C).

But the astronomers said the observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars.

So the CO2 itself doesn’t mean anything particularly important, but it does lend credence to the idea that it is only a matter of time before astrobiology becomes an enormous field. How exciting would it be to finally confirm that we aren’t all alone, afterall? Granted, we may never make contact with any life we find, most obviously if it isn’t intelligent, but also simply because it may be so far away. This CO2, for example, was produced at 63 years ago. Assuming there was life that close (which would be almost as tremendous as the discovery of the life itself) – and it was intelligent – it would be 126 years before we could make two way contact; that’s 63 years for our (presumably) radiowaves to travel at the speed of light, reach the life-bearing planet, and then 63 years for a return message, provided the exo-life even gave a damn.