The Astronomy, Technology and Space Science News Podcast.
SpaceTime Series 24 Episode 69
*No plate tectonics on Venus
A new study claims Venus hasn’t had plate tectonics for at least 300 million and possibly more than a billion years.
*First X-rays from Uranus
Astronomers have detected X-rays from Uranus for the first time.
*Searching for the signatures of life on other worlds
Astronomers already know that that any search for life beyond Earth involves a search for water – because where there's liquid water there could be life. But water isn’t the only signature for life.
*SpaceX gets Sirius with the launch of a new digital radio satellite
SpaceX has successfully launched a new telecommunications satellite for SiriusXM in a spectacular night time launch.
*The Science Report
Arctic sea ice thinning faster than previously expected
Common arthritis drug effecting immune response to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Cholesterol levels linked to prostate cancer.
COVID-19 lockdowns reduce urban crime rates.
Skeptic's guide to psychic Googling.
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SpaceTime Series 24 Episode 69 AI Transcript
[00:00:00] Stuart: [00:00:00] This is space time series 24, episode 69 for broadcast on the 18th of June, 2021. Coming up on space time, no plate tectonics on Venus. The first x-rays from Uranus and searching for signatures of life. Another world. All that and more coming up on space time. Welcome to space time with
VO Guy: [00:00:25] steward, Gary.
Stuart: [00:00:42] And you steady claims Venus hasn't had any plate tectonics on its surface for at least 300 million years, and probably more than a billion years. The findings reported in the journal nature, astronomy, uh, based on a study of Mead crater, Venus's largest impact basin. The [00:01:00] 170 kilometer wide crater was formed by an asteroid impact between 300 million and a billion years ago.
Meat is surrounded by two cliff, like Fort ring, mountain ranges, Rocky ripples created by the base and forming impact event. The authors claim, their models suggest that for those rings to be where they are in relation to the central crater Venus's lithosphere, that is it's Rocky out of crust. Must've been far thicker than that, of the earth, which means earth like tectonic plates couldn't have been present at the time of the meeting.
Earth's plate tectonics are characterized by mid-ocean ridges of sinuous mountain ranges, where molten material from deep inside the planet flows that under the surface, there it cools and hardens into rafts of rock drifting. On top of it slowly convicting metal until it reaches the lighter continental crust or it subducted back down into the mat.
So previous observations from orbital spacecraft have revealed rifts and ridges on Venus that do look similar to play tectonic features on it. [00:02:00] But Venice is shrouded butts, the atmosphere, making it hard to make definitive interpretations of fine surface features. So this new study is a different way of approaching the same question using the meat impact to probe the characteristics of Venus's lithosphere.
It follows earlier research studying the similar Oriental base on the moon, which showed that the final position of the rings is strongly tied to the cross thermal gradient. That is the rate at which rock temperature increases with dad. See the thermal gradient influences the way in which rocks, the foremen break apart, falling and impact.
And that in turn helps determine where the base and rings end up. The work shows that for Mead's rings to be where they are Venus's crust. Must've had a relatively low thermal gradient and that low thermal gradient means a comparatively gradual increase in temperature with depth and all that suggest a fairly thick Venusian lithosphere.
The study's lead author, Evan burns from brown university is the finding show that Venus had a stagnant lid at the time of [00:03:00] the impact. And he says that's a bit like a lake freezing over in winter. The water at the surface Ridge is freezing point first while the water at depth is a little bit warmer.
Then as the deeper water gradually cools down a similar temperatures as the surface, the ice gradually. The calculation suggested the thermal gradient is far lower. And so the lithosphere much thicker than what you'd expect for an active lid planet. And several other ring credit is examined by the authors were also proportionately similar to made, showing similar thermal grading.
It estimates the findings, all support the idea that planet earth is rather unique in our solar system, because it has a system of global tectonic plate. And that's affected how the earth has evolved and how life has developed on the planet. This is space time still the calm astronomers have the ticket.
X-rays from Uranus for the first time and the search for signatures of life on other worlds, all that, and more still to [00:04:00] come on. Space time.
Astronomers of the T the x-rays from the planet Uranus for the first time, the findings reported in the journal of geophysical research will help scientists better understand this enigmatic ice giant Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun. And as two sets of rings around its equator, the planet has four times that I am of the earth.
Similar to that of its fellow ice giant NetSuite. But it rotates on its side, making it very different from all the other planets in our solar system. Since NASA Voyager two is the only spacecraft to ever fly by. Uranus astronomers have relied on telescopes to learn what they can about this distinct cold world made up almost entirely of hydrogen [00:05:00] and helium.
And you study analyzing earlier observations of Uranus taken by an SS Chandra x-ray observatory in 2002 and 2017 detected x-rays from the 2002 observations, as well as a possible flair of x-rays from the 2017 readings as journalists think the x-ray emissions are actually being caused by the sun.
They've observed they're both Jupiter and Saturn scatter x-ray light given off by the sun in a similar way to how Earth's atmosphere is scattered sunlight. While the authors of the new Uranus study initially expected that most of the x-rays would also be from scattering, the rat tantalizing hints of at least one other source of x-rays, which if confirmed by future observations could have intriguing implications for understanding this distant world.
One possibility is that the rings of Uranus are producing the x-rays similar to what happens with satins Ray. See Uranus is surrounded by charged particles, such as electrons and protons in its nearby space environment. If [00:06:00] these energetic particles collide with particles in the rings, Hey could cause the rings to glow in x-rays.
Another possibility is that at least some of the x-rays are coming from Aurora on Uranus, a phenomenon that had previously been observed on this planet at other waves. On earth colorful light shows in the sky known as a Rory happened when high energy charged particles in the solar wind indirect with the planet's atmosphere x-rays are emitted by Earth's auroral activity produced by energetic electrons after they traveled down the planet's magnetic field lines towards its poles and a slowed down by the atmosphere.
Jupiter also has Aurora is generated by the solar wind as well as by charged particles threatened the space by volcanic activity on the Jovian moon. However scientists remain less certain about what causes auroras on Uranus Chandra's observations may eventually help to figure out this mystery. Uranus is an especially interesting target for x-ray observations because of the unusual orientations of [00:07:00] its spin axis at its magnetic field.
While the rotational and magnetic foot axes and other planets in the solar system are almost perpendicular to the plane of their orbit or attentional axis of Uranus is nearly parallel to its path around the sun. Furthermore while Uranus is tilted on its side. It's magnetic field is tilted by a different amount and is offset from the planet center.
All this may cause its auroras to be unusually complex and variable. This is space time, still the come searching for signatures of life. Another world. All that and more coming up on space time.
Uh, sternum is already know that any search for life beyond earth involves a search for water because where there's liquid water, [00:08:00] there could be alive, but water. Isn't the only signature for life on earth gases like oxygen ozone, methane, nitrous oxide, and chloramine thang are also important biomarkers found in the atmosphere.
And when present on other worlds, they could also be indicators of life. And of course, these are just the ones for life. As we know it, that based on carbon, Silicon based life, if it exists, whatever turns set of biomarkers, in fact, there's a whole kaleidoscope of chemical signatures, which could indicate signs of life.
Of course, many like me thing could also be geological rather than biological in origin. So nothing's for sure. Still any search for life on planets and other star systems would also include a search for chemical signatures and the atmospheres of those exoplanets. And that's one of the stories in this month's edition of Australian sky and telescope magazine with the details we're joined by the magazine's editor, John.
Jonathan: [00:08:59] Um, [00:09:00] looking ahead to the day when there'll be able to do detailed studies of exoplanets from afar, looking for signs of life, because the problem at the moment, of course, yeah. Exoplanet seems to be kind of circling. Other stars are just so far away. There are only three or four of them. Maybe five or six that actually seen as little bits of light by blocking out a lot of them, their parents star, but essentially there are no images of these, these planets, and they won't be for very, very long time, but they can pick up some chemical information from these exoplanets and study.
What kind of gases are in the atmosphere? Look at some temperatures, that kind of thing. And as time goes on and technology gets better, they're going to be able to do more and more and more of this and be able to find crisis of lots and lots of different, different chemicals and the ones that are particularly interested in of course, uh, what are the Quantico bio signatures?
And these are the sort of chemical fingerprints
Stuart: [00:09:48] of life.
Jonathan: [00:09:50] Yeah, my thing, even I was on an oxygen, you know, because oxygen is a very reactive chemical one and unless something replenishes oxygen in the atmosphere in an atmosphere, oxygen will, will [00:10:00] eventually sort of disappear because it'll get locked up in all sorts of other chemicals, because it likes to join up with other things.
So you need to have something replenishing and oxygen. The logic goes away. Um, Ms is the same sort of thing. It breaks down very, very easily. So if you spot something, that's got lots of myth and then you need to have some sort of explanation for how it got there. It could be live, or it could be all sorts of other activity like volcanoes or things.
So the scientist might be able to detect the presence of what some of the chemicals in these planets atmospheres in the not too distant future. But the problem is how are they going to recognize. What these chemicals are and whether they might be a real biosignatures or false alarms. So they're actually that they build up huge catalogs of thousands and thousands of different, uh, sort of gaseous chemicals that we have here on earth.
One's given off by life and all sorts of other ones and they call them volatile. Um, And they're building up like a catalog or a library of all these buyers, not pious images, but potential, I guess, um, false alarms for biosignatures sifting out the ones that might be real amongst the might not be so that eventually when telescopes and things get [00:11:00] better and our technology gets better and they do start supporting strange chemicals in these exoplanets atmospheres that we'll be able to.
Could be a, a signature or no, that's definitely not. And then, you know, give us more information about what, what could be going on on these planets. You mentioned methane. Well, that's, that's really interesting one because there have been hints that there is.
Stuart: [00:11:19] They've measured it from earth and even the board, the Mars curiosity Rover, they just haven't found the flatulent cows yet.
Jonathan: [00:11:26] The difficulty is that the detections, they get a tantalizing, but I just said, I haven't determined where it's coming from yet. And I think I'm correct in saying that they've made detections of the surface, but in the upper atmosphere, they haven't made detections and they want to know why, you know, w w w where is this missing coming for Mars because of the.
is kind of thing that, um, has to be replenished. It just doesn't hang around. It goes very, very quickly. Um, so something's gotta be producing it and there doesn't seem to be any active volcanism on Mars there's stuff going on underground, but there's nothing on the surface. I think it's spot on as far as I know.
So what is [00:12:00] it? And there have been indications of seasonal fluctuation. Yeah. Let's see methane detections as well. So during the summertime hibernating during the winter, so who knows. And the other interesting detection too? No, one's a hundred percent on this yet, but the chemical phosphine on Venus, there were indications that there is this gas called phosphine on Venus, but that's not entirely.
Now because of other, other observations and other ideas, but that's a strange chemical as well. Where is that coming from? What's producing
Stuart: [00:12:30] that. I think they may have solved that one. That it's actually a soft uric acid in the cloud base. And they've just misread the, uh,
Jonathan: [00:12:40] yeah. Yeah, exactly. Well, this exact, this proves the exact point. It's hard to analyze atmospheres. If it's hard to analyze atmospheres of atmosphere in Venus, which is right next door in terms of space, then how much harder is it to analyze the atmosphere of something that's tens or hundreds of light years away.
And you're only getting a tiny, tiny amount of data. So they've got a long way to go on that, but it's very interesting stuff.
[00:13:00] Stuart: [00:12:59] That's Jonathan, Nalli the editor of Australian sky and telescope magazine. And don't forget if you're having trouble getting your copy of Australian sky and telescope magazine from your usual retailer because of the current lockdown and travel restrictions, and always get a print or digital subscription and have the magazine delivered directly to your letterbox or inbox.
Subscribing is easy. Just go to sky and telescope.com today. That sky telescope.com.edu. And you'll never be left in the dark again. And this is space time. It's still the com and you'd telecommunication satellite for Sirius XM placed into orbit in a spectacular nighttime launch. And later in the science report, Arctic sea ice thinning faster than previously expected or that a more store to come.
VO Guy: [00:13:45] time,
[00:14:00] Stuart: [00:14:02] space X has successfully placed the new telecommunication satellite into orbit for serious exam in a spectacular nighttime loan. The ESX M eight digital radio satellite was fine about a Falcon nine rocket from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral space, four station in Florida. Following main engine cutoff or Mikko and stayed separation.
The Falcon nine booster successfully returned to earth landing on the drone ship. Just read the instructions which had been pre-positioned down range in the north Atlantic ocean, the landing mat, the 87th successful recovery of the Falcon nine booster. The eight meter long 7,000 kilogram X-band spacecraft was deployed from the factor nine upper stage over Africa, 32 minutes after launch the flight follows last December's launch of the $225 million ESX, M seven satellite, which Mel functioned during its over the raising maneuvers.
Following its deployment. The mission was space X as 18th on so far [00:15:00] this year and the eighth in the past 44 days. And it's not over yet. Two more space. X flights are slated for this month, including a new generation GPS, three satellite for the us space force, which will become the first military payload to fly on a reused rocket basis.
VO Guy: [00:15:16] time
Stuart: [00:15:26] and Tom, that'll take another brief look at some of the other stories making use in science this week with a science. And you study wards that Arctic sea ice is thinning faster than previously expected the findings by scientists at the university college London show coastal regions of the Arctic, maybe thinning up to twice as fast as previously thought.
The thing is C I S thickness is inferred by measuring the height of the ice above the water and this measurements distorted by the snow weighing down the ice flow. Scientists have adjusted for this by using a map of snow depth in the [00:16:00] Arctic that is now dead. It's out of date and doesn't account for climate change.
The new study in the journal, the cryosphere swap the old map with new computer models designed to estimate snow depth as it varies from year to year. And the new static included that sea ice in key coastal regions is now thinning at a rate between 70 and a hundred percent faster than previously thought.
And you study claims that one in three people taking a common arthritis, drug failed to produce an effective immune response to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. A report on the annals of rheumatic diseases found only 62% of patients taking the drug methotrexate responded as expected compared to more than 90% of healthy participants and arthritis patients on other immune drugs.
The study recommends more research to confirm the findings and to looking at the best vaccine strategies for people taking this medication like extra vaccine doses, changing the dose of the drug, or perhaps even temporarily [00:17:00] stopping the drug. The world health organization estimates more than 8 million people have now been killed by the COVID-19 Corona virus with over 3.8 million confirmed fatalities, and more than 176 million people infected since the deadly disease for spread from warhead, China, and you study suggests that lowering cholesterol could control the release of a protein from prostate cancer cells preventing the spread of the deadly disease.
Men with prostate cancer that spreads beyond the prostate to other parts of the body, tend to have a very poor prognosis of those whose cancer remains within the prostate are highly curable. The problem is about 4% of prostate cancer cases are detected at an advanced metastatic stage and less than 40% of those men with stage four, prostate cancer survive longer than five years.
A report in the journal of clinical and transitional medicine claims you are searched by the Berghof a medical research Institute and the [00:18:00] university of Queensland has revealed how lowering cholesterol could control it. The release of H N R N P K protein from prostate cancer cells, which could potentially prevent, or at least help stop the spread of prostate cancer.
And you study claims that locked down policies implemented globally in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I've had a rally interesting side effect cutting urban crime rates by 37% of findings reported in the journal nature human behavior, uh, based on studies in 27 cities across 23 countries.
Scientists analyze daily cases of crime across America, Europe, the middle east and Asia, to assess the impact of lockdowns on six types of crimes, including assault, theft, burglary, robbery, vehicle theft, and homicide in eight city. By comparing them to pre COVID 19 locked down crime levels. The authors found the average reduction was smallest for homicide, about 14%.
And the largest was for robbery at 46% and theft [00:19:00] 47%. Reductions for burglary were 28% vehicle theft, 37% and assault 35%. The authors also found that the stricter, the lockdowns, the bigger the dropping crime. Okay. To once again, quote the immortal Dr. Sheldon Cooper, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support clairvoyants of any kind, which means that fortune telling is a fraud.
The profession is a swindle. And it's livelihood is dependent on the gullibility of stupid people. Now, with all that in mind, a psychic has now admitted publicly that Google and social media, such as Facebook are among any psychics, best friends, as they prepare to give you a psyche grader. Tim Mendham from Australian skeptics has the details.
Tim Mendham: [00:19:49] they Facebook, you, they do all sorts of things. It's a story that came out of him in the news snippets website with a suggestion that the things you've got to be careful off when visiting a psychic [00:20:00] and, but this is written by a psychic. Um, so it's, uh, It's interesting that one psychic dubbing in other psychics, in a way, if you find out for an appointment and you give you a real name or especially if you are recommended by an existing client of the psychic, the psychic is quite possibly, certainly as the opportunity to do some internet research on you and find out your personal preferences and things that have happened in your life, et cetera.
If you don't make an appointment with a Sonic, you give a different name for stock and then they'll have trouble doing that. But I was involved on the peripheral level with a case recently of a woman who was very upset and convinced that a psychic knew all about her and knew all these intimate information that she couldn't possibly have known otherwise.
And yeah, this information with Sonnenfeld Allentown silence. I am, I went onto their Facebook page and found that a minute was claiming
Stuart: [00:20:50] it was all there.
Tim Mendham: [00:20:52] It was all day on Facebook. He didn't even have to go further than that. And I pointed this out. I said, oh, how did they know? You know, he had an interest in [00:21:00] bikes and he died in this particular way and kind said, look, all these bunkies took him up at the funeral.
You think you'd have an interest in bikes, a whole range of things like that. That was so easily found. Who were talking about it as a concern had not even bothered, but the socket would, and I would sort of suggest that if you go see a psychic and you don't want to be Googled,
Stuart: [00:21:18] you have a different name, I would actually see just, you don't waste your money on a psychic.
Tim Mendham: [00:21:23] not a big issue. You're probably paying twice the amount of money you would go see a movie and, you know, and you could easily say, yeah, dunk. I see a heavy approximately because it's full of. Yeah, it's supposed to be, it's either see the psychics in the same way as a bit of fun, but don't take their prognostications seriously.
And certainly don't trust them to say I saw this in the spirits when they could easily have found that on Google or, or what the big issue is when one customer recommends the psychic to another person who then phones up and the psychic often pumps the first customer for information on there. And that happens quite a lot.
Oh yeah. I can tell him about, there must be a problem, you know, and the frames, Mike actually give all the [00:22:00] information,
Stuart: [00:22:01] look at them with your wand and go when guardian levy, you could very much do that.
Tim Mendham: [00:22:06] Actually. I think it would be just as effective.
Stuart: [00:22:09] From Australian skeptics
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