Podcast: Richard Dawkins Joins the Podcast Ranks

Stay tuned for a new podcast from British evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins. It is called The Poetry of Reality, and can be found here and elsewhere. The 2-minute preview clip sounds interesting as he discusses humans colonizing a new planet.

This is the write-up accompanying the new podcast:

The Poetry of Reality is hosted by world renowned evolutionary biologist and best-selling author, Professor Richard Dawkins. He has been celebrated globally for his honest critique of religion and tradition and his push for critical thinking. His books include The Selfish Gene, Climbing Mount Improbable, The God Delusion and Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide. As founder of the Richard Dawkins Center for Reason and Science, Dawkins has long been known for his uncompromising passion for science, calling out for the pressing need in modern societies for scientific literacy and rational thinking, especially in the education of young minds. His relentless pursuit of truth, and his recognition of the beauty of life on earth, will feature in this podcast, as he charts his way through scientific and existential inquiries like ‘What are we doing here?’ and ‘When did life begin?’

I just listened to an interview with Dr. Dawson on another podcast, Unherd with Freddie Sayers. Listen to the last 3.5 minutes in the podcast for Dr. Dawson’s views on extraterrestrial life.

Pic of the Week: The Ongoing Perseverance Rover Mission

Image (Credit): NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover captured this mosaic of a hill nicknamed “Pinestand.”

This week’s image comes from NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance as it explores the to Jezero Crater. The photo was posted last month. It has been a little while since we directly our attention at the Red Planet.

The image shows what may be the result of a fast-moving river some time in the past. In the NASA write-up accompanying the photo above, we read:

“Pinestand” is an isolated hill bearing sedimentary layers that curve skyward, some as high as 66 feet (20 meters). Scientists think these tall layers may also have been formed by a powerful river, although they’re exploring other explanations, as well.

“These layers are anomalously tall for rivers on Earth,” [postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California Libby] Ives said. “But at the same time, the most common way to create these kinds of landforms would be a river.”

Space Quote: The Great Filter at Work?

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

-Statement by artificial intelligence (AI) experts and public figures in a “Statement on AI Risk” from the Center for AI Safety. This followed an earlier open letter back in March from other AI leaders that called “on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.” This could indicate we may be witnessing the “Great Filter” at work, which was one answer to Fermi’s paradox highlighting the lack detectable extraterrestrial life.

Space Stories: Habitable Zone Planets, Satellite Interference, and Extraterrestrial Communication

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of the Milky Way Galaxy. (NASA JPL)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

ScienceDaily: “One-third of Galaxy’s Most Common Planets Could be in Habitable Zone

In a new analysis based on the latest telescope data, University of Florida astronomers have discovered that two-thirds of the planets around these ubiquitous small stars could be roasted by these tidal extremes, sterilizing them. But that leaves one-third of the planets — hundreds of millions across the galaxy — that could be in a goldilocks orbit close enough, and gentle enough, to hold onto liquid water and possibly harbor life.

Space Telescope Science Institute: “Astronomers are Reducing Satellite Interference in Hubble Images

When the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, there were about 470 artificial satellites orbiting Earth. By 2000, that number doubled. But by 2023, the rising number has grown almost exponentially to nearly 8,000 satellites. For Hubble this means that satellites photobomb about 10% of its exposures on celestial targets…Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland have developed tools for cleaning up this clutter. Hubble observations consist of more than just one exposure. And so, artifacts can be identified and subtracted between exposures because they are not in the same place on a detector.

BGR: “Aliens Might be Trying to Contact Us from Within the Milky Way, Study Claims

A new study seems to think alien signals could be emitting from the heart of the Milky Way, attempting to make contact with humankind. The study focuses on the use of data from a groundbreaking mission known as the Breakthrough Listen Investigation for Periodic Spectral Signals (BLIPSS), which looks for repeating patterns that could be key to unlocking connections with extraterrestrial intelligence in our galaxy.