The Science Behind “Chasing UFOs” – Episode 3

6 07 2012

For those who might like to delve more deeply into (or simply know more about the science behind) the National Geographic Channel series “Chasing UFOs,” including infrared tech, fourth-dimensional geometry, and mountain lion predation, look no further!

Direct link-through to my article on the NatGeo TV blog can be found here:

http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/06/the-science-of-chasing-ufos-alien-cowboys/

Cheers!

Ben

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Confronting radiation fears through symbology

14 06 2010

Traditional Radiation Trefoil Hazard Symbol.

Just a quick note today on radiation and the irrational fear it provokes.  -Take it from someone who works around “rad” professionally in nature and in industry: Radiation isn’t scary.  It’s normal.

Radiation comes from the sun above, the mountains around, the soil beneath, our wi-fi routers, radio stations, and heck – our own bodies emit infrared and gamma radiation, just like radioactive waste.  (Though, granted, at a much lower intensity.)

Micro-waves are, literally, radiation. Yes, you "nuke" your food in a microwave oven, (though there's no danger of making the food radioactive itself.) Microwave radiation is harmful, which is why all microwave ovens are discreetly engineered as "Faraday Cages" - the same protective housings that the military uses to protect sensitive electronics from nuclear blasts.

While some radioactive elements emit particles as well as “energy,” the simple truth is that the same electromagnetic waves that stimulate our retinas (visible light) are identical in form to the elctromagnetic waves that warm our hands in gloves (infrared rays,) cook our food (microwaves,) burn our skin (ultraviolet waves,) check our bones (x-rays,) and that on the extreme end can be very physically harmful to our tissue (gamma-rays and cosmic rays).  Think of them as colors our eyes can’t see.

That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.  Radiation is natural, not just man-made.  We grew up around it, and our bodies are built to take it.  There’s even a fair amount of serious research to suggest moderate exposure to radiation helps keep us healthy by stimulating our defense systems.

So, why the mystique?  Tradition.  Radiation is associated with atomic bombs, nuclear holocaust, physics perceived to be too complex for any ordianry person to understand (which is completely untrue,) and it’s invisible to human senses.  General misunderstanding is the culprit when we really have nothing to fear but… yes, fear itself.

Radio waves are radiation, too, (even though the waves are generally too large to cause harm to our bodies.)

Now – this fear is really getting in the way of some important developments in power, propulsion, and industry.  What can we do to counter such pervasive fear?  Perhaps we should call it like it is.

See the included examples of microwave, radio, etc., radiation symbols that accurately place radiation with radiation.  Enough with the marketing – call an apple an apple. 

Perhaps if we started putting these symbols out with our appliances and various gadgets and at beaches to denote the threat of sunburns and skin-cancer, we’d realize that not all radiation is truly harmful, and that the radiation that is a hazard is something we’re more than capable of dealing with – and that we really already do.  After all, what is sunscreen but a mild, high-density radiation shield?  (Ever wonder why sunscreen is so thick?)

Two cents.

Perhaps something like this out at pool decks and beaches would stress the need for sunscreen? It's compeltely scientifically and technically accurate, too...





-Orion Nebula a Frothing Primordial Soup!

11 03 2010

HIFI Spectrum of H20 and Organics in the Orion Nebula. Credit: ESA, HEXOS

As astro-biochemists and astrobiologists have been suspecting for quite some time, the star-forming regions of space are literally teeming with the building blocks of life as we know it.  With just a few hours behind the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared, or HIFI for short, (which is currently flying aboard Europe’s Herschel Space Observatory,) researchers quickly obtained the highest-resolution infrared spectrum ever taken of the famous stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula.

What they found blew them away: Not just blurred suggestions of organic molecules, but hard fingerprints of water, methanol, sulphur oxide, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, and others.

The case for the ubiquity of life appears to be getting stronger all the while, and with it comes a strengthened rationale for continued space exploration!








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