Episode Seven: Von Neumann Probes!

In 1948, famed astrophysicist John von Neumann spoke of machines that could consume normal matter and replicate themselves endlessly. Years later, the idea became the basis of “Von Neumann Probes,” self-replicating machines that explore the Universe for other life forms. Could our Universe be teeming with extraterrestrial versions of these probes right now?

Stories from Space is Now Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

Stories from Space is Now Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

Good news! My podcast series, Stories from Space, is now available on iTunes and Spotify! These are the audio podcasts, not to be confused with the video series (of the same name) that is available on Youtube.

You can access all these episodes via Apple Podcasts, or click on the bar below to listen on Spotify:

Episode Six: The Berserker Hypothesis

Episode Six: The Berserker Hypothesis

Could it be that the reason we are confronted by the “Great Silence” is that advanced civilizations are being wiped out? This is the essence of the Berserker Hypothesis, inspired by science fiction, but rooted in scientific theory. It combines the concept of von Neuman Probes, nanotechnology, and the idea that the greatest threat to advanced life is itself!

Episode 5: The Search for Signatures

Episode 5: The Search for Signatures

In the search for life and intelligence beyond Earth, astronomers look for telltale “signatures.” These include the chemical elements that we associate with life as we know it and its biological functions (“biosignatures), and indications of technological activity (“technosignatures”) as we would recognize it. At present, the search for signatures is limited by two factors: the limits of our instrumentation, and the limits of our frame of reference.

Episode 4: The Planetarium Hypothesis

Episode 4: The Planetarium Hypothesis

Is it possible that humanity hasn’t heard from advanced extraterrestrials because they have us trapped in some grand simulation? Or perhaps they have enclosed our region of space and are simulating an empty Universe. This is known as the Planetarium Hypothesis, originally proposed by scientist and science fiction author Stephen Baxter in 2001. While this possibility is likely unprovable, it has an internal logic that is hard to ignore. If you were a super-advanced extraterrestrial intelligence, isn’t this what you’d do?

Episode 3: The Transcension Hypothesis

Episode 3: The Transcension Hypothesis

Is it possible that we haven’t heard from any advanced alien civilizations because they’ve “transcended” – i.e., achieved a state of existence so advanced that we can no longer perceive them? This is the essence of the Transcenion Hypothesis, first proposed by John Smart in a 2002 paper, titled “Answering the Fermi Paradox: Exploring the Mechanisms of Universal Transcension.”

My First Podcast: The Great Filter!

My First Podcast: The Great Filter!

At last, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to continue my vlog series as a podcast series! Picking up from where I left off, Episode 1 addresses one of the most famous proposed resolutions to the Fermi Paradox – The Great Filter Hypothesis! First proposed in 1996 by Robert Hanson (Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University), the theory is best described as follows:

“The Great Filter can be thought of as a probability barrier. It consists of [one or] more highly improbable evolutionary transitions or steps whose occurrence is required in order for an Earth-like planet to produce an intelligent civilization of a type that would be visible to us with our current observation technology.”

The possibility that all advanced life faces this filter has significant implications for human life today, none of which are particularly pleasant! Depending on where the filter resides along the evolutionary pathway, we may either be past it (indicating that we are a fluke), or we could be headed straight for it (indicating that we are on borrowed time).

All this and more in Episode 1! Here’s the audio track:

The same episode, with video:

I Finally Get Relativity – Part the Last!

I Finally Get Relativity – Part the Last!

Alright! Welcome back to my short series on finally getting Relativity! In the first installment, I addressed the background to Einstein’s revolutionary breakthrough, which covered Galileo, Newton, and the birth of Classic Physics (aka. Newtonian Physics). In the second installment, I addressed how the problems of reconciling electromagnetism with established theories of motion led Einstein to propose his groundbreaking Special Theory of Relativity.

Hopefully, I did them justice while also presenting them in a way that met Einstein’s challenge (“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old…”). This brings us to the last lap, wherein I attempt to explain how Einstein generalized his theory to account for gravity and thereby made sense of the Universe (well, not quite, but he definitely pushed that ball farther downfield!)

Continue reading “I Finally Get Relativity – Part the Last!”

I Finally Get Relativity – Part II

I Finally Get Relativity – Part II

Welcome back! If you made it through Part I, I will assume that I still got the ball and everything there made sense to you – or you’re just a glutton for punishment! Either way, things are about to get real weird, real fast! Here goes…

Continue reading “I Finally Get Relativity – Part II”

Personal Milestone: I Finally Get Relativity!

Personal Milestone: I Finally Get Relativity!

In life, it is good to set personal goals. Not just the big and life-changing kind, mind you, I’m talking about the little things that help you to measure your growth as an individual. A few years ago, I set one of these little goals for myself: I wanted to be able to explain Relativity. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

The other day, while practicing explaining Relativity, I finally felt the dots connecting. E=mc2, mass-energy equivalence, inertial reference frames, gravitation, spacetime, etc. Basically, I was finally able to explain to myself in a way where what and why came together. While I’m positive my grasp lives up to Einstein’s metric just yet, I’m not sure anyone could explain Relativity to a six-year-old.

Maybe he could, and maybe he did. I really don’t know! In any case, reaching this milestone actually raised a lot of the challenges I face as a science communicator.

Continue reading “Personal Milestone: I Finally Get Relativity!”