WXXI AM News

astrophysics

NASA researchers recently announced that they've discovered the future home of Earthlings, after climate change leaves this planet uninhabitable. Okay, not exactly, but it's a tantalizing discovery: a star system not too far away with seven Earth-like planets.

Should we be looking to the stars for future homes? Could we ever get to this star system in a human lifetime? The RIT Science Exploration students are learning to predict what type of life might appear on exoplanets -- if there's life there at all. Our guests:

  • Brian Koberlein, senior lecturer of physics at RIT
  • Roger Dube, research professor and director of the Science Exploration Program at RIT

Early Monday morning, in the pre-dawn hours, a fiery meteor was seen streaking across the sky in the Midwest. No one was hurt and it was largely harmless, but it was so large that it could be seen as far away as Nebraska and New York. The sighting left many people asking where it came from.

NASA researchers study meteors and other Near-Earth Objects, as well as the possibility of these objects hitting the Earth and causing larger scale disasters. However, funding for this research may be in question under the Trump administration. We discuss all of this with our guests:


What's going on with the strangest star in the galaxy? Aliens! Okay, probably not, but let's be serious for a moment: if an alien Dyson Swarm exists, this is probably what it looks like to our technology.

We talk to Yale's Tabetha Boyajian, the scientist leading the team that discovered the star known in the scientific community as the WTF Star (Why the Flux, of course). So what is really surrounding this star, if not alien megastructures? Our guests:

We may not be not the universe's first advanced civilization.

University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank is the co-author of a new paper that puts some numbers on how likely it is that humans are unique. His conclusion? Other intelligent life has very likely come before us. How often?

We discuss how Frank modified the famous "Drake Equation" of 1961, and why it's so likely that other intelligent life is either out there -- or has been out there, at one time or another.

Our Monthly Science Roundtable looks at gravitational waves. The remarkable story of the first detection of gravitational waves confirms that Einstein was right, which is not exactly news, but in this case it was: Einstein figured these waves exist, but he also figured that we'd never be able to build anything sensitive enough to detect them. So in that sense, Einstein was wrong.

Our panel explains what the waves are, how we detected them, where they came from, and what we might discover next. And there happens to be local connections, which we explain as well. Our guests:

Wait, there's a ninth planet? A ninth planet that's not Pluto?

Apparently there is, according to researchers who say the evidence is mounting that a big, super-Earth sized planet is hanging out on the far corners of our solar system. So if it's real, how come no one has officially discovered it yet? How do they know it's there? What does this mean for our group of planets? Is Pluto going to sue over its status or what?

In our Monthly Science Roundtable, we explore the search for Planet Nine, and we talk all things space. Our guests:

  • Brian Koberlein, RIT senior lecturer of physics
  • Michael Richmond, RIT professor of physics and director of the RIT Observatory
  • Kevin Cooke, a Ph.D. student in the astrophysical sciences and technology program at RIT

Stephen Hawking says he has solved the information paradox regarding black holes. Wait, what? He figured out black holes? Hawking has yet to release a formal paper on the subject, and of course his peers will review it. But let's back up, and let's talk about black holes. Why should we care? What do we know -- before Stephen Hawking unloads his new ideas? Are there are any black holes hanging around our neighborhood in the galaxy? We answer these questions with Brian Koberlein, astrophysicist and physics professor at RIT, and author of the blog "One Universe at a Time".

We spend this hour talking with Adam Frank, astrophysicist and author from the University of Rochester. We're talking lessons from Pluto, and we'll dive into his recent commentary on embracing ignorance. (Or at least accepting that some questions of the universe will not be answered in our lifetime.)

In the first half of the show, we talk with astrophysicist Brian Koberlein. He participated in the National Science Foundation’s Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program, and one aim of the program is to convey the value of astronomical research to people.

We will ask him about the program and about the historic fly-by of Pluto that the New Horizons probe is expected to make on Tuesday, nearly nine and a half years after its launch in 2006. One of the first things we’ve learned about Pluto is that the surface of the dwarf planet is red.

Then we will talk with WXXI News reporters Brad Smith, Veronica Volk, and Michelle Faust who are following Governor Cuomo as he and his team are making their way around Rochester and the Finger Lakes as part of their “Capital for a Day” program.

Connections: The Comet

Aug 11, 2014

RIT professor Brian Koberlein joins us to talk about the comet. Did you see the comet? Some remarkable video and still images have arrived in the past few days, and it's rather amazing. Koberlein is also talking about science communication.