Reading Sci-Fi with Astrobioloigist David Grinspoon

David Grinspoon is a comparative planetologist and an astrobiologist. He’s also a big book nerd, and his love for both fiction and nonfiction are proudly on display in his own new book, Earth In Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future. Grinspoon’s book uses insight from the study of the other planets in our solar system […]

Rosetta and Philae: Plucky siblings for life

On September 30, the Rosetta orbiter will make a controlled collision with Comet 67P/C-G. It is not designed for landing, so this is the last we will hear from it. This date also marks an end to a happy period for my family that started in 2013 when my son was just four years old […]

A Concatenation of Extraterrestrials

The past few days have been a cosmic convergence of opinions about extraterrestrial life.  First, I’ve been interviewing scientists and engineers who think that funding searches for planets that might support life isn’t unreasonable.  Second, a neighbor told me he’d read in the New York Times that extraterrestrial life almost certainly had evolved somewhere, some […]

“The Martian” and Ice Age Astronauts

Two nights ago I sat in a theater watching the film “The Martian.” I loved seeing a viable spacecraft making gravitational slingshots around planets while a stranded, potato-growing astronaut claimed himself the first colonist on Mars. What’s there not to love? Meanwhile, in my coat pocket I carried an object from an entirely different age […]

On the Discovery of Liquid Water on Mars

The first memory I know for sure is the smell of rain. I remember a screen door with holes in it big enough to let in a hummingbird, and outside I could see blue bellies of clouds over a dirt road. I can only figure it was somewhere in Arizona where I was born. I’ve always […]

Mocking Tricks

Caveat: I’m possibly having something like a Cassie-Willyard-Hubble-Moment here – in this case, I learn something new, don’t quite understand it but get all excited about it, and it’s, you know, wrong.  Never mind because I’m all excited anyway because science has found a new way of being confident that what you know is right.  […]

Truth vs. Beauty, Again

I haven’t got much on my mind today that I want to think about so I distract myself with pictures. This one, as science pictures often do, conflates beauty and truth and let me repeat, beauty.  It’s a result of letting the Hubble Space Telescope take repeated pictures of a single cluster of galaxies.  Clusters […]