It is 1950 and a group of scientists are walking to lunch against the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. They are about to have a conversation that will become a scientific legend. The scientists are at the Los Alamos Ranch School, the site for the Manhattan Project, where each of the group has lately played their part in ushering in the atomic age.Continue reading The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst
I am one of the few African-American aerospace engineers who helped design the Apollo spaceships that took men to the Moon. My great-grandfather was a slave in Claiborne, Alabama, who used primitive tools to work the land. My father was born in Alabama before the Wright brothers made mankind’s first flight. He lived to see men walk on the Moon, twin robotic biology labs land on Mars, and a fleet of four space probes on their way to the stars. But many black people, like the late Reverend Ralph Abernathy, felt that the money used to make these amazing things happen would have been better spent on helping the poorest descendants of American slaves.Continue reading Space exploration is still the brightest hope-bringer we have
According to a new study published in the May 2, 2019 issue of Nature, 4.6 billion years ago, two neutron stars collided near the early Solar System (actually about 1000 light years from the gas cloud that eventually formed the Solar System). This violent collision has created heavy elements like silver, gold, platinum, cesium, and uranium. Study says 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest elements have been created by this event.Continue reading Two neutron stars collided near the solar system 4.6 billion years ago
In 1964, Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev (born April 25, 1932) defined three levels of civilizations, based on the order of magnitude of power available to them (known as the Kardashev scale):Continue reading There is most probably no Kardashev Type III civilization in the Universe. Here’s why
In 1950, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi was chatting with his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory(1). They talked about
But, there is no reliable evidence aliens have visited Earth and we have observed no intelligent extraterrestrial life with current technology nor has SETI found any transmissions from other civilizations. The Universe, apart from the Earth, seems “dead”.
So, where is everybody?
The Earth is our one and only home. As Carl Sagan said (Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space), “On Earth, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”.
But will we ever leave our home and visit other stars in the future?
Our galaxy, “The Milky Way” is a barred spiral galaxy (a spiral galaxy with a central bar-shaped structure composed of stars) some 100,000-120,000 light-years in diameter, which contains 100-400 billion stars. It may contain at least as many planets as well. Our Sun (the Solar System) is located within the disk, about 27,000 light-years away from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust called the Orion Arm.