Science Friday: Enceladus Plumes + LHC Discoveries + Alternate Universe Life + WISE Images + iSun +more

Welcome to Science Friday! This week, explore newly discovered plumes on Enceladus, do some science with the LHC, contemplate life in other universes, and glimpse the universe in a whole new light (infrared, to be exact). All this and more, plus an astonishing video of a sonic boom you can see and our gadget of the week, 3D Sun!


Cassini Watch: Latest Enceladus Flyby Reveals Plethora of Plumes, Hotspots
Newly released images from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft of a very closest flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus have revealed a ton of new jets spewing out from the so-called “tiger stripe” features on the moon’s surface. The new images from the imaging science subsystem and the composite infrared spectrometer teams also include the best 3-D image ever obtained of a “tiger stripe,” a fissure that sprays icy particles, water vapor and organic compounds. There are also views of regions not well-mapped previously on Enceladus, including a southern area with crudely circular tectonic patterns. For Cassini’s visible-light cameras, the Nov. 21, 2009 flyby provided the last look at Enceladus’ south polar surface before that region of the moon goes into 15 years of darkness, and includes the most detailed look yet at the jets. Check out the image below, and see many more at

Icy jets spew from Enceladan “tiger stripes”

First Physics from the LHC CMS Detector
Remember that thing that was supposed to suck us all into a tiny black hole? Yeah, the Large Hadron Collider? Yep, well, the good ol’ LHC has been colliding away, and scientists have published the first scientific results from the LHC’s CMS detector.

“Our findings provide the first information on the characteristics of charged particle production in this new energy range,” says Prof. Guido Tonelli, Spokesperson of the CMS experiment, “The results confirm previous measurements, and expectations for the new energy regime. They are important to help us modeling the experimental backgrounds for future measurements at even higher energies.”

CMS is one of two so-called general-purpose experiments which look into the unknown and search for new physics. It is designed to see a wide range of particles and phenomena produced in the LHC’s high-energy collisions and will help to answer questions such as: What is the Universe really made of and what forces act within it? And what gives everything substance?

The LHC’s CMS detector has published science results!

MIT Physicists Weigh in on Life in Other Universes
Whether life exists beyond Earth is something that has kept exploration going. But, for some physicists, an even more interesting question is whether or not there is life beyond our universe. Physicists at MIT have pondered this question, and they have determined that life in other universes, even those with laws of physics very different from our own, is very possible, even probable. In work recently featured on the cover of Scientific American, a group of MIT physicists demonstrate that universes quite different from ours still have elements similar to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and could therefore evolve life forms quite similar to us. Even when the masses of the elementary particles are dramatically altered, life may find a way. Who knows, maybe there is an alternate staff out there. I wonder how I’d look in a goatee…

Don’t dogs get goatees, too?

NASA Releases First Images from WISE Satellite
The public got new views of the universe last week when NASA released the first wave of images from its brand new Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). On Jan. 14, the WISE mission began its official survey of the sky in infrared light; NASA plans to eventually scan the entire sky. By observing space with infrared light, WISE is expected to reveal previously unseen objects. The first images from WISE include striking depictions of a comet blazing across the sky, a cloud of stardust, several images of Milky Way neighbor the Andromeda galaxy, and a nearby cluster of galaxies. See more images at Information Week.

NGC 3603, a nebula containing young and massive stars

Video of the Week: Atlas V Rocket Creates VISIBLE Sonic Boom!

An Atlas V rocket blasted the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) into space on February 11th. On launch, the rocket went supersonic as it passed a sundog (basically a glare halo from the sun). As it did, onlookers had their cameras going and caught some astonishing video where you can actually see the waves created in the atmosphere by the sonic boom. Check out the video below (and watch it in 720p high-def!). The rocket goes supersonic around 1:50.

Gadget of the Week: 3D Sun Brings Real-time Solar Images to Your iPhone
As the sun exits an anomalously quiescent period in its life cycle, NASA is watching and waiting for more and more sun spots, solar prominences, and solar flares to crop up on the sun’s fiery surface. To this end, NASA has sent a pair of spacecraft known as STEREO to monitor the suns day-to-day status. Now, you can keep up with the real-time status of the sun right on your iPhone! With 3D Sun, a free iPhone app from NASA, you can set your phone to alert you when a new solar flare erupts, watch video of a solar prominence or a comet heading into the sun. You can even manipulate an image of the sun in three-dimensions with your finger. STEREO covers 87% of the sun’s surface, including the side that we can’t see from Earth. That means that in the palm of your hand, you can see part of the sun that even the most powerful Earth telescopes can’t. Cool, right? You can download 3D Sun from iTunes.

Download the new3D Sun iPhone app!


If you are on Twitter, you know there are plenty of amazing people out there tweeting away. And, many of them are scientists! Every Friday I’ll be bringing you a new list of great scientists and techies to follow on Twitter. This week, science women!

  • @thevolcanolady: Volcano Hunter,National Geographic Photographer/Explorer, Devoted Wife, If I was a drink I’d be a peppermint hot chocolate.
  • @Polar_Gal: Research Assistant at International Arctic Research Center, worked on NABOS expedition in Arctic, love to share passion for poles with kids and the public
  • @jennifurret: I’m a liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted atheist feminist trapped in the Midwest

Science Quickies
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.

TrekMovie’s Science Friday is an homage the the great NPR radio show Science Friday. Science Friday® is a registered service mark of ScienceFriday Inc.

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Love the Sundog effect!!! First!!!

OMG! That Vid was amazing, the waves do look so surreal, I surely need to attend a rocket start sometime…

Thanks again Kayla.
Even more incentive that humans need to become a space-faring species; before we lose sight of curiosity and become another unsuccessful evolutionary experiment…

#3 “before we lose sight of curiosity and become another unsuccessful evolutionary experiment…”

Amen, brother.

Faster to Mars (Paxton would be proud, eh?):

Newer VASIMIR rocket endorsed by former US Astronaut and others:

@2 – go see a shuttle launch whilst you still can! Exhilarating just doesn’t cover it!

Regarding other universes:

If one were to look at it from a religous point of view, God is said to exist outside of space and time. From that place He created the universe, with all the matter and laws that go along with it. He was outside the universe, and chooses to dwell within it as well as outside of it.

I know people get edgy when you mix faith and science, but it’s interesting to ponder the possibilities when you consider how they might relate to each other.

I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to reconcile faith and science, and it’s just one perplexing problem that can’t be solved. But perhaps in another universe there did/does exist a supreme being, that put this universe into motion.

I’m not sure where or how He would have gotten his existence in that other universe. But on the otherhand, matter and energy suddenly exploding from nothiness isn’t an easy concept to get a handle on scientifically, either.

7 – read, or listen, to deepak chopra. He reconciles science and religion very well. He’s big into quantum theory too. I highly recommend his theories on life death and the universe to anyone who believes there is more to this life than just science or just religion. There’s something in everything but no one thing explains everything.

#8 — Thank you. I’ve been a believer in God my whole life, but I’m going through a bit of a midlife crisis and am trying to reconcile some things. For the first time in my life, I started to have doubts.

I reread the book “Show Me God” by Fred Heeren, which really gets into the nuts and bolts of the Big Bang Theory. It shows how the universe seemed to be rigged from the start in order for us to eventually end up existing. More than just blind chance was at work, would be his position.

I would suggest that book to someone who is scientifically-minded, yet feels that there is something more to all of this than fluke random chances. It’s a nice blend of science and faith.

7,8,9 – A simple thought for you.

Science is based on what is observable, observed and proven.

We know what we know by reverse-engineering and building on past proven facts.

Weigh in the facts that have been gathered to date, that have been proven, against a set of writings and traditions dating back 2000 years, with little evidence to corroborate the contents, and with contents that have been disproved.

When you look logically at this, which set of information is reliable?

Hey! Where is the news about the IUPAC naming element 112. Compernicium ftw.

BTW, I WILL say that there is nothing to disprove the existence of God, but by the nature of God’s attributes, his existence is impossible to prove or disprove anyway.

#9 There are so many decent books out there. The best thing they can do is make you think, analyse, re-evaluate, and question everything.

Kirk questioned everything, including his own superiors, beings posing as superior beings, societies perceivably in heaven but stagnating as a culture… He’s a good role model, albeit a fictional one. “What does God need with a starship” — not the greatest movie, but what a line!!!

I don’t believe there is a person called God. I believe like the universe, we are a part of the whole. The whole isn’t a person or being, it is consciousness itself. Apparently neurologists can’t account for the place in the brain where the consciousness actually exists — there’s no physical location. Science can not explain everything. Or science is unwilling to accept the supernatural, and when it does, it will all make sense.

Perhaps. But I’ll probably change my mind if some better information comes along.

#10 Perhaps science will eventually prove life after death. If our lifeforce (soul) is a form of energy, which it has to be. We are electrical beings by nature. Every signal your brain sends is electrical. Science tells us that no energy is ever wasted. All energy is recycled and reconverted. Yet we still do not yet know for sure what happens when we die.

#12 Again I don’t think there is a “he” someone with a beard looking down from a cloud judging people’s lives. A lot of scripture make a supreme being sound like some sort of South American dictator. If there is something beyond us, it has to be superior and better than us. Surely it is a force for good, forgiveness and acceptance. Perhaps all “God” is, is love! Wouldn’t that be cool!!!

@#13 Re: #12

The Bible Says God is love. So there you go!

I don’t see the need for science and “god” to be mutually exclusive.
(religion is another story…)

Just as creation does not preclude evolution, or vise versa.

To presume to believe that we are knowing of our existence,
and knowing of the divine godly existence is conceited delusion.

And if we continue in this delusion, we live our lives asleep,
unconscious, dreaming of being awake.

No one is evil, but unconsciousness is evil.
And as long as we are ignorant and unconscious we are serving evil.

Other universes? Good, because I’m so bored by this old one.

Doesn’t the word “universe” basically include these other planes of matter? Do we really need to start saying “metaverse?” Also, if my tiny understanding of physics is right, the laws of physics change in certain parts of ‘this’ universe… maybe even in this galaxy, when you get close enough to a black hole. If you’re a metaverser and you’ve got a strong pair of eyes, Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem” is worth a read.

The Sun’s back, and it’s pissed-off!

Anyway — Thanks, Kayla!!

14, 13 – Before we can discover whether there IS a god, we have to have a concrete definition.

#12 To be a devil’s advocate (no pun intended), there is no proof that you exist, either.

The words that are written on this page might have been generated by some random quantum fluctuations. Or a cat walking across a keyboard, randomly typing out words and hitting the submit button.

Not likely, you say? Well, the chances of those things happening are far more likely than the universe being created out of nothingness. Or of DNA mutating into a real human being.

I think you could sit a computer out for 5 billion years and wait for something to happen to type out your post. Be honest, what are the chances that your few simple sentences will ever be recreated?

But DNA is far more complex than the few words you just wrote. So how are we to say that mutations are the cause of all living things seen on earth, or that they are caused by a divine intelligence? Which is provable? And which has a higher chance of being the cause, when you really stop and think about it?

So, again I say, there is no proof that you exist, either. But I only have faith that there was actually an intelligence behind the words that were typed out on that screen.

Thanks for responding, it’s been fun :-)

18 – There is evidence that I exist.

– The post you are replying to has a definate origin.
– There is information and accounts over the web created by myself, as an individual.

Something must exist for it’s effects to be observed.

When discussing probablilities, I’d say the probability that we came essentially from “Nothingness” (not actually true), aka the Big Bang (well, rapid expansion of spacetime) is high.

The reason I say this is that the expansion has been observed, and that a definate origin is indicated by that.

I also say this because we have seen a great distance to see objects in a far earlier state, calculated based on our knowledge of Red Shifting and the speed of light.

Observations and logical deductions are far more reliable than taking the word of a book when assessing the truth of any claim or idea.

Whoa, awesome stuff. Love all of it! I’m actually planning on being a Physics major when I go off to college, and my big dream is to go work for NASA. ;3 This stuff gets me pumped and helps me look past all the crazy formulas and such, hehe. Thanks again to the writers who put these out every week. ^__^


I see . . . but one could ask, “Isn’t God’s fingerprints all over the universe and the world, proving that He exists?”

Perhaps that cat walked over the keyboard again, and just happened to randomly select the right buttons to press in order to create a response. At the moment, the evidence that I am seeing does not support that you exist, therefore until I get proof you are not there.

Futhermore, even if you showed up at my doorstep and told me that you exist, it still might not be true. It could be another person. Or I could be insane. Or maybe it’s all a dream.


See, if a person doesn’t want to believe in something, they will find their evidence to support that position. Likewise if they decide to believe in something.

So in the end, who really knows. It remains a mystery.

Thanks for the conversation. It’s a nice diversion on this cold, wintery day when I had to stay home with the kids from school.

Once again, good work Kayla! Really liked the “sonic boom” video.

words cant describe a shuttle launch you just have to see it for your self go while you still can it is amazing!!!!!!!!! all rocket launches are something to see thnx for vid

That video of the sonic boom is just so cool that I had to post it on Facebook. Even my non-geek friends loved it! Awesome!

Science Friday is starting to be my favorite thing about this web site. Thanks a ton!

I think that I no longer believe in God, but I do believe in his possible existence in an alternate universe. I suppose. I think that ultimately we make a decision one way or another and it’s subject to change.

It’s the question I believe is for the ages: We know that the question of whether God can create something so heavy that even he cannot lift it is a bit of a logical artifact. Nevertheless, the postmodern version exists:

Can God create a universe in which he doesn’t exist?

And I think that he can. And he has.

In a way, each one of us may be… that universe.

One question: How did God become a topic on this thread?

Nothing against people who believe in God, but I didn’t see anything in the article mentioning the existence of God. I think the real question should be: Does “Q” exist? :-)

looks like my post got dropd

wtf is a sundog
never heard that b4
must be a regional thing.


i too noticed it
but not wooried bout it

blame it on the earthquake
i was 27 first then it was removed and ryan was 27. so i repost and now MY 27 is back, ryan gets bumbed to 28.
GOD i love it :)


Actually I am #27

This is the strangest life I’ve ever known


God became a topice because the article speculated about other universes and/or dimensions, and if other lifeforms dwell there. Hence, if there is a God, perhaps he exists there. Outside of our space and time.

Then the next question would be, can a being from a timeless reality be able to cross into ours and create the universe we live in?

#31 heh!

28, thanks.

The acceleration of consciousness may or may not open up new frontiers in time.

32, some years ago I read about the creation of programs that were essentially identical in behavior to lifeforms; I’ve forgotten the exact terminology, but they existed as primitive emulations of lifeforms purely inside the computer.

Imagine, if you will, a holodeck-like level of sophistication. This technology would have philosophical implications. If you will recall, Moriarty was captured inside a holocube in an episode of TNG; in a sense, time is irrelevant for him — it proceeds at its own pace, or at least it could depending on the programming. What happens outside the holocube is entirely irrelevant to Moriarty.

It is analogously possible that human beings are biological program emulations running in a cosmic computer (see: Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality). The computer would be running in a different flow of time, or perhaps a meta-time that would be non-time, for all intents and purposes, in much the same way that the flow of time (realtime) outside the holodeck or holodeck has become completely irrelevant for Moriarty.

its not over yet

the being would therfore occupy all space at all times…..
what a trek fan would call warp 10 :)

Sure you have the Big Bang Theory, that appears to be a very long process of all matter in the universe expanding and then contracting again upon itself and eventually repeating the process…

The real question is… Who or what created all that matter originally and set the expansion and contraction process into motion the first time?

Thus the science and God question will never end from my point of view.

You can explain away everything else as a natural scientific process, but when it comes to the very beginning of the universe, even the big bang theory still needs a catalyst.

I don’t rule out the existence of God, but I deem it highly unlikely from my experience that the God that is portrayed actually exists in this universe. He or she or it may exist outside of this universe, but that’s kind of like saying that there is a fortress full of goodies for you and me, only it’s outside the spacetime continuum. I fail to see why I should care right now.

Pascal’s Wager dictates that we SHOULD care, but that’s a forensic argument, not an ontological one, in my view.

However, I do have some kind of faith. I do believe in love and compassion and I have some residual belief that there is a Great Soul out there, somewhere, that exists. Whether it is looking after us, or looking the other way, or the absent watchmaker of eponymous fame, I don’t really know.