WXXI AM News

astrophysics

Scientists say they don’t know what to make of a pattern of fast radio bursts that’s coming from space every 16 days. While it’s known that the signal is coming from a spiral galaxy 500 million light-years away, the exact source is a mystery. Some researchers speculate that the bursts could be sent by aliens.

Meanwhile, a massive asteroid that could have caused planet-wide devastation came close to Earth earlier this month. While scientists say there was no danger and that they know the asteroid’s orbit well, the news stands as a reminder of our precarious place in the universe.

This hour, we sit down with two physicists who discuss all of this and more. In studio:

  • Brian Koberlein, astrophysicist and science writer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
  • Roger Dube, experimental physicist, and professor emeritus at RIT

Astrophysicist Adam Frank recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post that addressed narratives about climate change. In the piece, titled, “Reframing climate change as a story of human evolutionary success,” Frank writes that this new narrative does not let humans off the hook when it comes to their role in causing climate change.

In that spirit, we sit down with Frank to discuss recent climate change narratives from Hollywood – films like “Ad Astra” and television shows like “The Expanse.” He helps us break them down. In studio:

  • Adam Frank, author and professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester

During this conversation, Adam Frank discussed the books "American War," by Omar El Akkad, and "The Water Knife" by Paolo Bacigalup.

It has been 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, and we discuss what it took for the U.S. to meet John F. Kennedy's goal. What kind of technology did we need to develop? And what did we learn from the mission?

Our guests share the legacy of the moon landing, and discuss the current state of the space program and research. We also preview a number of local events and exhibits commemorating the moon landing. In studio:

Oumuamua is the strange, cigar-shaped space rock that hurtled through our interstellar neighborhood at high speed, then left as fast as it came. Scientists were baffled. What was it? What could have caused that rock to move in that fashion? Was it some wild explosion or event?

This fall, scientists have floated a new possibility: it's aliens! Really, there is at least the possibility that this rock was an object created by an alien race. But how would they know? Can they track it? And then, what are the ethics, if we ever do make contact? Our guests:

Astrophysicist Adam Frank joins us to discuss his new book, "Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth." Frank writes about how our planet relates to the billions of other planets that are suitable for intelligent life, and why climate change is a problem that crosses the universe. It's a call to understand our world in context, and to understand the challenge facing our civilization... if we want that civilization to continue for a long time.

We discuss the recent asteroid that nearly missed hitting Earth. Our guests discuss techniques that we can use to protect ourselves, how much warning we’d need before a strike, and if we should redirect the space budget to prepare for these kinds of events.

In studio:

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

There’s a dark, mysterious object visiting our solar system, and astronomers in Hawaii say its behavior has them wondering if it could be an artificial object. They’ve named it Oumuamua – Hawaiian for “messenger” – and it’s the first object of its kind to be observed by humans. Researchers say it behaves oddly and has a strange shape. They argue that while it is probably made of natural materials, they haven’t yet ruled out that it could be a spaceship. Scientists will soon probe the object for signs of technology, and we’ll learn more in the coming weeks about its size and composition. But in the meantime, if it is more than a lifeless rock, what will humans do if we aren’t alone in the universe? 

University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank joins us to discuss that, and some news surrounding Mars and beyond.

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:

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