Science Saturday: Support SETI + Extend Your Brain + 10,000 Year Clock + Missing Moon Dust + More

This week in Science Saturday: help support the search for ET life, get a brain memory extension, tell time for 10,000 years, and discover some missing moon dust. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: HD cameras streaming live from the ISS!


SETI Needs Your Help to Find ET
SETI, the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, announced last month that it would shut down its campaign of scanning the skies for radio signals from other intelligent life in the universe. And it couldn’t come at a worse time. Just when NASA’s Kepler telescope is discovering hundreds of confirmed and candidate habitable alien worlds orbiting other stars, a lack of funding from the state of California and the National Science Foundation has forced SETI to shut down the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), the main searching tool used by SETI.

Now, SETI has launched a campaign to help raise money to keep the ATA operating for one year. Their goal is to raise $200,000, and they have 35 days left to do it. As of this writing they’ve raised over $30,000 from over 600 donors, and the numbers continue to grow. But, that’s only about 16% of their total goal. PLEASE consider making a (tax free!) donation to SETI. Even a little bit counts. And, tell your friends! Still not convinced? Watch this Segan Series video by YouTuber damewse.

Save SETI!

Scientists Creat First Brain Extension
They day you can insert a memory card into your brain and know anything instantly may be here sooner than you’d think! Scientists have successfully built a prosthetic chip that can be implanted into the brains of rats. The chip stores neural signals, acting like a memory expansion for the brain. Dr. Berger from the University of South California’s Viterbi School of Engineering explains:

“Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget […] These integrated experimental modeling studies show for the first time that with sufficient information about the neural coding of memories, a neural prosthesis capable of real-time identification and manipulation of the encoding process can restore and even enhance cognitive mnemonic processes.”

I know jiu jitsu

Amazon CEO Building 10,000 Year Clock
A clock designed to run for 10,000 is being built in the Texas desert by founder Jeff Bezos. The clock is not just any timepeice, it’s a symbol for long-term thinking and will be built on a monumental scale inside of a mountain. “Over the lifetime of this clock, the United States won’t exist,” Bezos told WIRED. “Whole civilizations will rise and fall. New systems of government will be invented. You can’t imagine the world — no one can — that we’re trying to get this clock to pass through.” Bezos has even launched a website to promote the clock where people can sign up to visit. Although they’ll have to wait a while as it’s not scheduled to be finished for a few years. And, visiting the clock will take a commitment. The nearest airport is several hours away by car, and the foot trail to the Clock is rugged, rising almost 2,000 feet above the valley floor.

The 10,000 year clock

Missing Moon Dust From Apollo 11 Mission Found at St. Louis Auction House
Some 40 years after it was collected by Apollo 11 astronauts, some lunar dust that went missing was discovered for sale on the black market at a St. Louis auction house, and it was returned to the Johnson Space Center this week. It’s just a speck, “the size of a fingertip” but because the stuff is so rare, it’s worth a lot of money. NASA believes that the dust came from the film cartridge of a camera used by astronauts during the first moon landing. The dust was lifted from the cartridge using a small piece of clear tape. The auction house estimated its value at $1,000 to $1,500.

$1500 moon dust speck

Video of the Week: NASA Autonomous Lander Hovers in Mid-Air, Seen in Infrared

In a test earlier this month, a new autonomous NASA lander hovered 7 feet above the ground for 27 seconds, proving that it can execute its own commands. The hovering system might be used in missions where a lander needs to touch down on airless surfaces such as the moon, where a parachute would be useless. The infrared camera, shown in the below video, demonstrates the vortex that keeps the lander afloat. Very cool!

Gadget of the Week: Live HD Cameras Aboard the ISS
Yes, you read that right. UrtheCast is a company that is sending two high-definition cameras into space, with the help of the Russian Space Angency, to be attached to the outside of the International Space Station and pointed at Earth. They will stream LIVE high-def video (1 meter resolution!) of earth to all of us here on the ground. This unprecidented “combination of Google Earth and YouTube” is set to go live in Spring 2012.

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


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Not a bad price for the moon dust!

Perhaps this prosthetic memory chip could be placed in people with brain injuries, alzheimers and physical disabilities, where it might help these people to recover memory of events etc and how to perform certain tasks that the person has forgotten to do due to disease or injury.

So many positive applications here and unfortunately, of course, the potential for misuse and abuse.

I’m just glad they abandoned the project to integrate an Etch-a-Sketch into the human brain. One bump in the road and your mind goes blank!



Giving new meaning to “drawing a blank”!

Of course, any results from the Etch-a-Sketch would be “sketchy” at best!

hmmmm … brain extensions = Pandora’s box.

10,000 year clock? Why only 10,000 years? People 10,000 years from now will think it’s a countdown of some sort like we do the Mayan calendar.

“oh why is there a clock in a mountain!”

run for hills.

I love the Seti video though. Somebody’s gotta keep their ears open.

The problem withe SETI is that they postulate that advanced civilizations will still be using standard radio-waves to communicate. That seems wishful thinking to me. Advanced civilizations will use advanced means of communications…hence, that is why we don’t hear jack-shit using standard SETI.

SETI also had an optical based line of research using lasers and other forms of light for communication. It’s not just radio waves that were analyzed. We’ve only been doing this for fifty years; that’s only 50 light years of light/radio waves that have traveled to earth that we’ve been able to listen to so far. The galaxy is roughly 100, 000 light years across… that’s a hell of a lot of ground to cover….

And if we give up? We’ll NEVER know. SETI is not an exact science. It is also largely dependent upon luck and timing… and a lot of hope!

That remote site in West Texas is also where Bezo’s company Blue Origin is testing new rockets and building the New Shepard spacecraft. Lots of intersting things happening out there, but they don’t talk publicly about it often.

MJ, wow thanks for clearing that up. I’m sure the world is looking forward to reading your scientific paper on the subject, Einstein.

#5 so intelligent people who are smart and know what’s going on can look at all the idiots and whatever media is professing the doom of the earth and laugh.

The 10,000 year clock in the mountain reminds me of an episode of The Twilight Zone—the one set after a nuclear war where a small town depends on a big computer in a cave to keep the survivors alive.

Anyone else remember this? I think Lee Marvin was in it…

I would love to spend a little money and make the SETI project more pupular, but it seems they have no paypal, do they? I have no credit-card, but paypal. Is there a possibility? From Germany that is possibly the easiest way to spent money.

@9 Go ahead, keep on believing that advanced civilizations will be using radio for communications. However, even a number of researchers involved in SETI have begun to question this in research years. In particular, I recommend:

Send me additional one-liner quips if you must, but please give this some critical thinking if you get a chance…you might actually learn something.

UrtheCast (earth cast / you’re the cast) sure gives new meaning to the old term ‘eye in the sky’.

Wonder if it’ll capture anything ‘unexpected’.

Only 10k years ?

Why not 100k years ?

Better yet a million year clock…..

Whatever kinda life is here in 10k years we won’t know, ’cause we won’t be here, however said life might think that digital watches are ‘quaint’ along w/ the clock that no longer works, as no way could they find a battery that lasts 10k years for it to keep going…..

For all we know said life might be worshiping said clock as it was sent or made by the gods, 10k years is a long time, civilizations rise and fall all the time after all, folks then might be living primitive lives for all we know, or they’ll be so advance they don’t even realize it’s a clock even….

Archeologist 1 : What’s this thing ?

Archeologist 2 : I donno, maybe it was used as a sacrificing alter ?


Re: #13

“However, even a number of researchers involved in SETI have begun to question this in research years. In particular, I recommend”

I’ve read that book. It’s superb, and the chapters towards the end are particularly mind-blowing. Some fantastic out-of-the-box thinking by Paul Davies.

Someone should recommend that book to Bob Orci too. He may find some useful ideas for the Star Trek sequels.

In Star Trek, ships use subspace communication. This communication exists outside normal space. Would a pre-warp civilization have the technology to detect and receive this form of communication? I think not.

Awsome, Kayla. Keep us up to speed on the URTHECAST cam. Exciting stuff, thanks. }:-D>

@16. Agreed. I think that we are more likely to see some visual artifact through standard astronomy (e.g. a Dyson Sphere, Ringworld, or something just as exotic) than the current primitive radio SETI.

And hopefully withing a 100 years, we can build in orbit around the sun and gravitational lens telescope (actually many small telescopes networked together) that would be multiple orders of magnitude better than any telescope today. I have read that with such a telescope, we would be able to make out signs of civilization (e.g. city lights at night) on extrasolar planets within 100 years from Sol.

It’s probably time to pull the plug on SETI.

And there is, of course, the inescapable problem of lightspeed – since SETI’s effectively looking thousands of years and more into the past, (1) if we ever saw anything, the species in question could well be dead by now & (2) if there’s anything happening there now, we won’t see it in our lifetimes…

Keanu Reeves sees the memory card you can put in your brain and says, “Whoooooa.”

The battery for the clock is no problem. Civilization will advance and not forget that installation and continue to run it. Only because our civilization *might* end someday doesn’t mean it cannot exist virtually forever. Don’t be so pessimistic.

Gee, if THIS crowd is this anti-SETI … there’s no hope for it. Sheesh.

Kayla often buries the best story in the “Science Bytes” — now, if there was a tax-deductible charity to fund a trip to Enceladus to look for exo-microbes, I’d give to that!

Scott B. out.

I wonder what the dustbunnies under my bed are worth??