Science Saturday: V’Ger’s Journey + Near-Miss Asteroid + Colored Poo + Planetrise + More

This week on Science Saturday, get the latest update on Voyager and her journey into interstellar space; witness video captured of a near-miss asteroid; diagnose your ailments by checking the color of your poo; and see ‘planetrise’ from exoplanet Kepler-36c. All this, and more, plus our gadget of the week: The USS Enterprise turn table!


Voyager 1 at the Final Frontier
As we reported last week, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is approaching interstellar space (we’d like to clarify that it’s not clear that Voyager has in fact left the Solar System yet, but it’s certainly very close). This week, NASA released a video giving more specifics about the sharp increase in interstellar radiation that Voyager is experiencing, which indicates that it’s closing in on the border between our Solar System and what lies beyond. When it finally crosses over, this will be a momentous occasion for all of mankind, as it will be the first manmade object to ever leave out Solar System. Will it one day return a la V’ger?

Astronomers Capture Video of Near-Miss Asteroid
The sixth-closest asteroid flyby to Earth occurred on May 29th when asteroid 2012 KT-42 came within three Earth radii of our home planet. Researchers using NASA’s infrared telescope facility in Hawaii managed to track the asteroid with a video camera as it flew past Earth at about 17 kilometers per second. The bright white object in the video is the asteroid, with the background stars whizzing past as the camera tracks with the asteroid’s movement.

More at

Colored Poo May Help Diagnose Patients
Scientists have created a disease-detecting probiotic (yogurt) drink that can color your feces to match your illness. Your poop could tell doctors if you have a range of disease from stomach ulcers to cancer. So far, researchers say that the genetically engineered dung-changing yogurt can only reliably track the progress of E. Coli, but they hope that one day it will be able to diagnose more serious ailments.

The yogurt-like drink can interact with bacteria in the stomach to give you technicolor BM

Alien Planets So Close Together They Experience ‘Planetrise’
Astronomers have just discovered two odd exoplanets around the same star whose orbits are so close together that a person living on one of those planets would see the other rise and set like the sun or moon. Kepler-36b and Kepler-36c, which are 1,200 lightyears from Earth, give credence to the so often depicted scene in science fiction of planets seen hovering on the horizon of an alien world.

More at Huffington Post.

What the view from Kepler-36c might look like in a parallel universe where Seattle has two Space Needles and is located on Kepler-36b. Image credit: NASA.

Gadget of the Week: USS Enterprise Turn Table
Any geeky DJ should be dying to get their hands on the USS Enterprise turn table to lay down some mad beats. B-b-b-b-beam me up, Scotty! It’s just a concept design at the moment, but this Star Trek 2009 Enterprise turn table could be the perfect gift for that audiophile trekkie who has everything!


The Enterprise turn table

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


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

That’s actually two views, not two Space Needles. One shows the Moon rising over Seattle, the other shows what it would look like if Seattle were on Kepler 36b.

The turn table will go along great with my Princess Leia “bun” head phones!

Love the turntable; a great mix of old and new, much like the 2009 Enterprise itself! ;-)

As for Voyager? It’ll be tens of thousands of years before it’s even in range of another solar system. But nevertheless, it’s a fascinating journey ‘where no one has gone before.’ Too bad it can’t image where it’s going (it’d be too dark to see anything anyway, at this point; it’d need very long time exposure times to see all the stars….).

And the recent asteroid 2012KT42 fly by is just another reminded that we (the human race) are locked in a cosmic billiards game. Sooner or later, a cue ball with our name on it is coming. That’s not being alarmist; that’s a fact. We’d be wise to double our current research efforts into asteroid diversion. And just ‘nuking it’ won’t help; the same mass will still be heading our way, just spread out into billions of pieces instead of one….

And a planet-rise would be a gorgeous sight to wake up to, wouldn’t it? As long as it weren’t steadily moving closer…. ;-)

Some of the leading astrophysicists today question Carl Sagan’s wisdom in providing detailed directions to Earth aboard Voyager 1. Technological advancement may not necessarily imply benevolence, as Sagan asserted, in whatever species might happen upon Voyager 1 and learn the way to Earth.


Good point.
But the light years between us and ‘them’ would seem to be an effective quarantine against an all-out invasion fleet. Even hostile radio signals from them would take years to get here…. assuming we were tuned in, of course.

4. Don’t worry too much about Voyager’s “directions to Earth”. Reportedly, scientists around the world were show the “directions” and asked what they were, but none could figure it out.

5. There’s a growing opinion that radio signals dissipate beyond a certain (rather small) radius,and thus probably are indistinguishable from background noise at stellar distances. Hence, SETI has so far failed to detect anything.

You would be able to sell off your poor as art pieces and pay your medical bills.

Those would look nice hanging on someone’s wall.

You would be able to sell off your poo as art pieces and pay your medical bills.

Those would look nice hanging on someone’s wall.

# 6

Agreed with Thorny. Who says they can read a map? ;-D
And any civilization capable of launching an Independence Day-style invasion fleet would make some kind of radio ‘noise’ if they were within 50 light years or so of us. SETI has had both multichannel and even optical searches (for possible laser signals) going on for decades and so far?
A big fat goose egg.

Now, I do believe there is other life out in the universe. I firmly believe it, in fact. Even intelligent life perhaps. But as to whether or not they’ve developed technology? That’s another question. What if the nearest earth-like planet was populated by an intelligence similar to dolphins? Smart creatures to be sure, but limited by both their biology (no hands, no opposable thumbs) and environment (aquatic) from taming fire and ultimately creating technology that we’d recognize. Or maybe they’re simply isolationists who eschew technology (a situation that could’ve easily happened even here on earth if say, people like the Amish or Luddites were the majority instead of the minority).

Coloured poo?



Yeah, and people would mention how your art literally STINKS! :-)

I would literally sh*t if I, uh… shat those.

My Main Concern about Voyager is that The Borg will find it and come to Earth and Assimulate us into their collective. Just saying!.

Mood poo? Very 70’s.

Each Voyager space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc… including works by Mozart and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” We shoulda sent: Float On by The Floaters. “Leo and my name’s Xexovix. I like a woman with four arms, who understand’s an exoskeletal man’s needs…”

“Nine Pairs of Fossilized Turtles Died While Mating 47 Million Years Ago” Was it good for you, too?

Thanks, Kayla!

Colored turds are just disturbing. Eat a can of beets, and you pee blood red. That’s alarming, too.

5. Sebastian S. – June 23, 2012

—-#4 Good point.
But the light years between us and ‘them’ would seem to be an effective quarantine against an all-out invasion fleet.—-

That’s not necessarily true.

The nearest star system is only 4 light years away. A species advanced enough to travel 1/10 the speed of light could reach us from there in 40 years. And they could even have life spans much longer than ours, such that a 40-year trip would be more feasible for them. Or, maybe they’ve developed even faster propulsion technology (something like warp drive) to travel at half the speed of light or even faster. Systems within 40 or 50 light years could be within practicable reach of the Earth. The point is that we have no idea what’s out there, and Dr. Sagan made a bet (an educated determination, he argued) that any species who might find Voyager and the directions to Earth would necessarily be non-threatening to us solely by virtue of their level of technological advancement.

I’m not sure about the soundness of Dr. Sagan’s logic there.

They’re wrong you know.

You can polish a turd.

Did I miss it? Do we even know where Voyager 1 is headed? If it stays on a straight course, what’s it going to reach? Anything? There’s a truly amazing amount of space… in space. And a lot of space between the thingies.

# 15

The Alpha Centauri system (our stellar ‘neighbor’) is a trinary star system whose stars are loaded with heavy elements (the ingredients for planets). Very likely it has multiple planets (more likely than our own system as more such materials are present in their stars than in our own Sol). But they’ve given off NO radio signatures of any kind. And we’re certainly ‘close’ enough to ‘hear’ something if they had (relatively speaking; 26-30 trillion odd miles or so, give or take). So nearby at least? We’re safe.

And Voyager 1 won’t even get close to another star for about 40,000 years (at closest encounter, it’ll get within 1.6 light years of star Gliese 445, in the constellation Camelopardalis). Even if aimed at Proxima Centauri (the closest of the 3 Centauri stars) it wouldn’t get there for 79,000 years at least. So much for the ‘ship in the bottle’, eh?

Also, the chances of developing warp drive are REALLY low. Not to say impossible, but very, very low. Even pure matter/antimatter wouldn’t necessarily give you the required energy to create ‘subspace.’ It give you a really fast rocket, but not a warp drive. Read Lawrence Krauss’ wonderful book, “The Physics of Star Trek.” It’s a sobering read….

I think the chances of aliens finding the Voyager and Pioneer probes are remote at best, and if they do it won’t happen for a very long time.

And if they are malevolent, would they really want to waste their time invading a species that colors its poo?

I just clicked this article for the poop.

I wonder if Budgineering now includes a Poop Deck, eh? :)
As for life out there… “life always finds a way”. And, the Sagan assumption is that any advanced malevolent society will eliminate itself before it reaches a point at which it would travel interstellarly and eliminate another planet’s life forms. I’m not so sure about that either, but it is a key factor in the Drake equation, as to the lifetime of a civilization. Every year we hang on, we keep increasing the probabilty, in other words.
And what is fascinating, is that with all the numerous exoplanet discoveries now, the Drake equation probability is even HIGHER as many more planets than we had imagined seem to exist. So, it’s just a matter of time before intelligent arachnoids send us benevolent greetings to the endoskeletal beings of Earth?

Colored poo!
Ha! When I was a kid I used to nibble on crayons and………..never mind…..

*ahem* So Voyager 1 is about to leave the solar system, you say. Kewl.

The enterprise turntable is very cool!

18. Sebastian S. – June 23, 2012

—-But they’ve given off NO radio signatures of any kind.—-

Maybe they don’t use radio transmissions. Maybe they long ago advanced well beyond EM transmissions that we’d detect here on Earth.

—-Even if aimed at Proxima Centauri (the closest of the 3 Centauri stars) it wouldn’t get there for 79,000 years at least. So much for the ‘ship in the bottle’, eh?—-

You’re assuming that the “bottle” would have to come to them. Maybe they’re out cruising about this part of the galaxy one day and they detect it on long-range sensors or whatever. Or maybe they detect Voyager’s radio transmissions from even farther away and come to investigate.

—-Also, the chances of developing warp drive are REALLY low.—-

Sure, given what we know. But the point is that a species advanced far beyond us would know a lot more and be capable of a lot more. Look at how far human technology has advanced in only 100 years. Can you imagine a species 1,000 years ahead of us? 10,000 years? 100,000 years? 100,000 years is a relatively short amount of time in geologic and evolutionary terms. Can you imagine what humans will be capable of in 100,000 years? I doubt anyone can, and so we can’t realistically assume to know what another species so advanced would be capable of.

P.S. — Then again….A species that would detect radio transmissions from Voyager would already have detected them from the Earth, so I guess it wouldn’t matter unless detection of Voyager prompted them to come investigate…maybe in 100 or 200 years when it’s well into interstellar space. In practical terms, I suppose Voyager is traveling too slowly to get very far even in 500 years. But, maybe some thousands of years our descendants will be cursing the name Carl Sagan for having shown some nasty species the way to Earth. Then again, by then they’ll be able to catch up to Voyager and destroy it if they’re anxious about it. But you never know what can happen between now and then!

On a completely unrelated topic, shouldn’t it be called a “near-hit asteroid” because it nearly hit us? “Near-miss” sounds like we’re disappointed that we almost didn’t get hit by it.

Everything comes down to poo
From the top of your head to the sole of your shoe
We can figure out what’s wrong with you
By looking at your poo

“Maybe they’re out cruising about this part of the galaxy one day and they d
detect it on long-range sensors or whatever.”

This is where Star Trek gets dicey. The sheer volume of space hurts the human mind. (Can’t speak for Vulcans.) The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years across, and (I think) 30,000 wide at the bulging middle.

1 ly³ = 2.03141908135 × 10+38 mi³

or, if you prefer metric:

1 ly³ = 8.46732407987 × 10+38 km³

the above should be 10 to the 38th power, or…

20,314,190,813,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 cubic miles in a cubic lightyear.

Folks, much as we all want it to be true, it’s ludicrous to think of ships going out on patrol. Space travel will be straight line shots, most like taking centuries. What we need is space colonies (or better yet, engines that can move large asteroids on which we can live for hundreds, even thousands of years.

And that’s not to make fun of anyone. But, the truth is that humans need to evolve to the point where we can grok such numbers. So, unless someone out there is really, really good at math and comes up with space folds/warp drive/worm hole technology/pixie dust.

There’s plenty of terrain left in our solar system on Luna, Mars, Ceres, Vesta, Callisto and countless Inner Belt asteroids that can support eventually-self-sufficient human colonies… who needs exoplanets in the next round, really?
Let’s get serious and settle Ceres!

Wow. Kepler-36c looks exactly like Neptune

# 28


Truly intelligent beings would be unlikely to send living beings into vast expanses of nothingness when telescopes and other far-reaching instruments could tell them EXACTLY what’s there. The only really good reason living beings would go from star to star is because they HAD to. The distances are unimaginably vast. Physicist Michio Kaku put it thusly; if our sun were the size of a grain of sand, Proxima Centauri (our nearest stellar neighbor, at 4.3 light years away) would be another grain of sand five MILES away. Not feet, not yards, but miles! And in between? A whole lot of nothing, really…

The only reason you’d leave en masse would not be curiosity; it’d be necessity (ala “Firefly”, where humans fled ‘Earth that was’). If we encountered fleets of ships in interstellar space? Most likely they’d be fleeing their parent star. And while special relativity means that interstellar travelers at close to light speed (or even a fraction of it) would age slower aboard their ships, their home planets would age hundreds of years older. So, talking to the home planet in real time, for example is not possible (even with the magic pixie dust of ‘subspace’). The time differential is too great.

Now, I love ST and the ideas behind the show, but I also accept that much of what is shows is more fantasy than science (like Star Wars). But the myth of ST seems to promise us that yesterday’s science fiction (ala communicators and tricorders) are today’s i-phones and i-pads. There is a big difference between developing great new personal electronics (the whole ‘communicators are now cell phones’ argument) vs. bending spacetime (without destroying it) just to ‘patrol’ the void. It’s most likely not going to happen. And while I’d argue against anything being completely impossible, I find it incredibly unlikely….

I see our ‘far future’ (assuming we survive as a species) as settling on (as CmdrR suggests) on asteroids, planets and artificial space colonies within our own solar system (which is UNBELIEVABLY vast, by the way; Voyager 1, the fastest object in space, took 35 years to get where it’s at; and it’s still JUST outside the sun’s influence). Even if the sun swells, the outer planets and moons will get warmer and more conducive to life, and we’ll simply settle them one (or more) at a time, as the inner solar system becomes inhospitable….

Hey: Heads up: Listening to Bob Orci live on the radio RIGHT NOW!

I got on the air with Bob! That was neat fun!

It’s sobering to think that the most likely fate of Voyager 1 and the other spacecraft leaving the solar system is that they will exist forever (or as long as anything can exist) and they will never be found. Interstellar space may be so big and empty that forever isn’t long enough for an object going in a random direction to ever encounter another object.


I remember seeing an illustration years ago of a Voyager probe, its skin pitted and beaten by eons of interstellar travel, sailing past a strange alien planet long after the Earth (and possibly mankind) has ceased to exist.

It boggles the mind.

Geez, what’s with the negativity here?

I thought “Star Trek” was supposed to be idea-provoking. As in getting people to think about the possibilities of space travel.

On this thread I’m reading posts about how space is too big to explore and the only reason to go into space is “only if we had to” and “survival”.

Well, maybe right now faster-than-light travel is theoretically impossible and technologically far beyond our means, but all it takes are a few individuals with a vision, and an idea. That vision and idea is then handed down to another generation, where they continue to develop and mold it into a possibility. Yet more visionaries, scientists and innovators add their own creative inputs and eventually the dream is realized.

Reaching into space was never going to be easy. It still isn’t. It is dangerous. It is expensive. But we shouldn’t be deterred by those challenges. It is the meeting of the challenge that brings the rewards. Just like it was a challenge for the first humans to create fire, and move across continents. I’m sure the guy who said he could invent fire encountered a lot of skepticism. Indeed, in the early days, fire was regarded as magic. It only became a tool once humans were able to grasp it and harness it.

So, even while Einstein might have said faster-than-light travel to be impossible, I say it hasn’t had the virtue of being tried. Until we try, we won’t know if it is possible. But if we don’t try, then we do know for sure that FTL travel is indeed impossible.

But I think we have the ability to surprise ourselves.

Those droppings look like some of the jewellery they sell on QVC.

Hmmm, I sense a business opportunity…

Looking for extraterrestrial life using radio signals is probably a bit of a dead end. It’s anticipated that we are likely to substantially dispense with radio transmission within a couple of decades due to most content being delivered via internet, unless Wimax or similar takes off, which just doesn’t seem to be happening.

The Earth will fall silent.

It will only have used radio broadcasting for about 100 years, an infinitesimal blip in the overall span of the universe. If ET’s are out there, which I’m inclined to think there must be, to those races capable of interstellar travel, we’d probably be so primitive they’d simply look on us as being unevolved animals and ignore us entirely. The world of Trek is attractive, but I suspect, unattainable.

That’s what I tend to believe…

From the discovery, and exploitation of fire, to the conceptualization, and subsequent realization of the Large Hadron Collider, skeptics have been there fueling the stubbornness of those who’s determination will forever make all things possible.

But we have been visited by ETs the evidence is overwhelming. Surely, if they wanted we would have been toast long ago. I’ve often wondered how is it we can envision ETs as being this way and that, but would real ETs ever envision us? I think not. We are too complex a species for any ET to dream up. Or maybe we have our photos and lifestyle as amusement on their homeworld(s).


People already say that.

Sebastian S —

I think we will settle colonies in the stars. But, I think the story will be on a vastly grander scale than even Trek envisions. And I honestly don’t think Roddenberry would disagree… I think he’d be thrilled to peak at even a fraction of the story that lies ahead.

The real science hurts my brain. But it won’t hurt the brain of my distant ancestor, as he flies off to the next world to found a colony.

We’re struggling to get to Mars. One day, we’ll be hopping Galaxies. I don’t think it’ll be easy or quick, but I do think we’ll manage it. Percieving the rules and figuring ways to break them… That’s virtually the definition of “human.”

What’s funny is that one of the Star Trek novels actually covered whether any alien species could decode the directions sent out on the probes. According to the novel, the Vulcans had come the closest, but even they couldn’t translate the message clearly enough to get any meaningful data off of it.

I’m one of those who, at least would like to believe, that intelligent life is out there in the cosmos, and quiet frequent.

However, I do tend to agree with the whole “any species capable of regular interstellar transit” would be so far advanced of us that they wouldn’t pay our little society any attention. The comparison of humans to ants is quite apt. Thinking about it, I am very impressed that ants seem to have such a highly efficient “society”, and yet, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sat down on a log, only to jump up 5 minutes later doing the “ants in my pants” dance, because I just never bother to look for them.

And really, whose to blame them? I mean, we currently question what is “Sentient” ourselves. We know we are, but are the cetaceans and higher primates also sentient? How do we know we are? Could it be after another couple million years or so of evolution, our descendants state that Homo Sapiens was only “proto-sentient”?

36: RDR: You simply can’t go faster than light. It doesn’t matter if no one tried it or not yet, you just can’t. The quick answer why is that the closer you approach the speed of light, the more massive you get. Remember that Einstein said that mass and energy are the same thing, so the more faster (kinetic energy) you go the more massive you get. It gets to a point that you are so massive that there can never be enough energy to move you. (diminishing returns) And this occurs at around 95% the speed of light.

# 36 RDR~

It’s not as easy as a ‘can do attitude.’ You’d have to literally rewrite physics. It’s not negativity or a bat attitude to understand the improbability of warp drive; it’s a recognition of how the universe works and the limits of physical laws. It’s no more negative than saying that I jump off of the Chrysler building, I will most likely be dead. Recognition of that fact isn’t being negative, it’s recognizing limitations.

Faster than light is not as easy as breaking the sound barrier; objects in nature break the sound barrier all the time (especially light beams). But the speed of light is different; as you even approach it, EVERYTHING changes. Time dilates, mass increases. These are not perceived changes; these are actual changes! They really happen. There’s a reason it’s called the cosmological constant.

One can fly at a good fraction of light speed (and use special relativity to slow down their aging; the universe’s way of cutting a space traveler a break, I suppose). But exceeding light speed or literally folding spacetime around a starship? I seriously doubt it. It’d require (literally) more energy than is IN our known universe to do so. Matter and antimatter power would be little more than a firecracker towards making that happen. As Kirk told Charlie Evans, “There are a million things in this universe you can have and a million things that you can’t.” I, sadly but firmly, believe humans flying with warp drive are in the latter column.

ST made it look too easy; like all you need is an ICBM and a drunken old scientist. Truth is, it’s NOT rocket science. It’s bending spacetime itself science (the very FABRIC of reality). Not just increasing speed. And unless you ARE Charlie Evans? Bending and folding spacetime is simply not going to happen…

Again, humanity can still have a wondrous future ahead of us. The solar system is more playground (with incredible resources) than we’ll ever need if we use it right. Perhaps Solar Trek, instead of Star Trek.

Again, I implore all serious science geek/ST fans to check out Lawrence Krauss’ brilliant “The Science of Star Trek.”

# 47 Edit; “bad” attitude, not “bat” attitude. That’s what Batman has… ;-P

# 46 VZX~

Exactly! :-)

Is anyone else occasinally getting redirected to a verify something another scam virus site? It only happens to me when I hit trekmovie’s main site for some reason.

@49 “Is anyone else occasinally getting redirected to a verify something another scam virus site?”

I don’t know for sure. But lately my AV software is routinely blocking my first attempts to load the TrekMovie main page. So I would *infer* that it is happening here as well.