Space

SpaceX have a striking video showing Mars spinning faster and faster, transforming from the current red Mars to a planet with a small ocean and with the deserts tinged with green in seven revolutions.

Of course that is poetic exaggeration - it wouldn't terraform in a week. So how long would it take? Science fiction enthusiasts who have read Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars Trilogy" may remember that in his book, it is terraformed in a couple of centuries. But that's science fiction, not a terraforming blue print.

We have been sending missions to Mars since the Mariner 4 flyby in 1964, and our first successful landing was Viking 1 in 1976, So, why can't astrobiologists answer the question definitively, when you ask them if there is life on Mars? 

 Well, perhaps it's because we haven’t looked.

You might think, 

The Rosette Nebula is located in the Milky Way Galaxy roughly 5,000 light-years from us and is known for its rose-like shape and distinctive hole at the center. The nebula is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases with several massive stars found in a cluster at its heart.

So Elon Musk's Tesla roadster is now in an orbit that takes it right out to the asteroid belt not far from Ceres. And what a thrilling launch it was with the two boosters landing so perfectly choreographed. It was nearly flawless. Only one minor hiccup, that the core booster missed the barge and crashed into the water, probably at around 300 mph, scattering the barge with shrapnel. They will surely fix that too with future launches.

If any of you haven't seen it yet, here is the launch video archived by SpaceX.

And here is Elon Musk talking about it in a press conference afterwards

I’m continuing to get scared PM's and posts to our Doomsday Debunked Facebook group about the lunar eclipse on 31st January. There is nothing at all to worry about. You’ve had lunar eclipses like this many times in your life and never noticed. Now it appears in Facebook Trending with comments - and many people, children and adults, get scared of it, with panic attacks. Some of the PM's and comments I get are verging on suicide about this.

For a shorter version of this, see my Short summary - why the super blue blood moon on Jan 31 can’t harm us

I am currently spending the week in Leiden (Netherlands), attending to a very interesting workshop that brought together computer scientists, astronomers, astrophysicists, and particle physicists to discuss how to apply the most cutting-edge tools in machine learning to improve our chances of discovering dark matter, the unknown non-luminous substance that vastly overweights luminous matter in the Universe.
In the United States, we just had another Supermoon, and at the end of this month we will have a Blue Moon (the second full moon in a month) with a lunar eclipse, which is pretty special. Though doomsday prophets like to make a lot out of those natural phenomena, the rest of us want to plan our vacations around them - the solar eclipse in the summer of 2017 caused the largest mass migration in America's history because everyone wanted the best view.

I have had lots of questions about this today because of a poorly researched Daily Star sensationalist article based on a many years out of date NASA press release. As usual with Google News this nonsense has gone right to the top of its search results. They really do need to fix this! 

Anyway I am writing this in the hope that it gets into Google News and helps some of the people getting scared by this story. So far I can't see any debunking articles there and the Science 2.0 articles do often get placed high in Google News.

Phil Plait of "Bad Astronomer" fame has a few choice words about this "tabloid fish-wrapper" - in case you don't get it, newspapers are often used to wrap fish and chips - he's suggesting that's all it is good for.

Stephen Hawking tends to exaggerate, using hyperbole - exaggerations for emotional effect. In this talk he takes our exponential population growth and extrapolates it forwards to 2600 and predicts that human beings will cover the globe shoulder to shoulder and that our electricity consumption will turn the surface of Earth red hot through the waste heat. Stephen Hawking hasn't taken account of the fact that our exponential growth has stopped. The same number of children were born in 2005 as in 2017 and our population is currently growing due to increasing lifespans, not through exponential growth. The middle of the range estimate is for it to level off at around 11 billion by 2100.. This story is scaring people and that's my motive for debunking it here. 

When we search the cosmos for evidence we are not the first advanced life form, we look for things that we could share in common. This anthropomorphism is common in culture, in everything from science studies to science-fiction. And it may not be wrong.

Assuming we have any extra-terrestrial neighbors, far less popular is the idea that we will be the advanced civilization new ones are terrified about being invaded by, they will likely have undergone natural selection just like we did. In the video game Spore, almost everyone evolved creatures that were purple and had huge eyes, despite trying to do things randomly, and that may happen on other planets also.