IdeaFestival

Galaxy "littered with planets"

Paul Gilster reflects on the latest information from the space-based observatory Kepler, which in a period of months has trebled the number of planets outside of our own solar system. Its haul of 1,200+ candidate bodies includes five that are believed to be near-Earth sized planets in the "habitable zone" of their parent suns, or orbits where liquid water is likely to be present. Follow up observations on the ground will further characterize these finds.

Above left is the field of view for Kepler. And at right, candidate planets are identified by their approximate location in the field of view. To put this in perspective, fifteen years ago we knew of no other worlds besides the nine described textbooks. Isn't it amazing that as soon we are able to detect planets elsewhere in the Milky Way, there they are?

Wayne

Images: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech (l) and NASA/Wendy Stenzel (r)

Tapping Eden

After ten years of space travel and multiple gravity assists to reach fantastic speeds, the European spacecraft Rosetta arrived at its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, very early this morning.

The event was streamed live by the European Space Agency.

Comets offer scientists a time capsule, a look at the chemical and mineral composition of material present during the earliest periods of our solar system.

And that look will be close indeed. In November a small companion craft called Philae will gently land on the surface, which has very little gravity, lash itself to the streaking body, bore into the comet and relay its findings to the orbiting Rosetta.

If that interests you, make plans now to hear Lee Billings at IdeaFestival 2014! Author of Five Billion Years of Solitude, he'll discuss the current understanding of these ancient bodies, the recent discovery of hundreds of extrasolar planets and touch, I'm sure, on the very ancient questions of life and its place in the universe that inevitably accompany these finds.

Festival Passes are on sale now, but please don't wait too long! We're expecting to sell out again this year, and the price for a pass will go up on Sept. 2. The complete agenda and speaker line-up is available on the IdeaFestival web site!

Stay curious.

Wayne

Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The IdeaFestival is Your Able News Source

This may explain some things.

As it turns out, one of the reasons so much bad news gets aired is that it gets our attention, faster.

"Mind Hacks" blogger Tom Stafford at BBC Future:

As you'd expect from [a hypothesized "negativity bias"], there's some evidence that people respond quicker to negative words. In lab experiments, flash the word 'cancer', 'bomb' or 'war' up at someone and they can hit a button in response quicker than if that word is 'baby', 'smile' or 'fun' (despite these pleasant words being slightly more common). We are also able to recognise negative words faster than positive words, and even tell that a word is going to be unpleasant before we can tell exactly what the word is going to be.

We don't learn by accumulating more information, which is the empty promise of too much online media, but by the integration of information into a larger personal whole with an emotional, cultural and cognitive dimension. In healthy environments and robust relationships, beliefs are challenged rather than continually affirmed. When we're consumed by the bad news, and I certainly have been guilty of this in my day-to-day, we're being sold the cause of, and solution to, the anxiety bad news can produce. In this case, more is not better. And the results are predictable, not the least because our field of vision gradually, imperceptibly narrows over time.

Because we can't embrace what we don't notice, the interesting, the new, the innovative - the future, in other words - suffers. These things have sometimes required an effort and a willingness to reject the solutions on offer. This year, the IdeaFestival will bring you glamor, exoplanets, tribes, virgin media, time warped, creative capital and a hole in the sky.

Why? The news, it's everywhere.

Stay curious.

Wayne

Image of Teller at IdeaFestival 2008, Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Join us for IF @ Lunch

Seats are going fast for the January 27 Kentucky Center IF @ Lunch event! Join William Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company magazine, to discuss his new book "Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways To Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself."

The $12 registration covers lunch.

Wayne

Pic: Sunset on Mars

The sun setting over Gusev crater on Mars, snapped by the now-mired Spirit. Notice the smaller size of our star. Incredibly, you can follow the driver of Opportunity, Spirit's twin, @marsroverdriver on Twitter. Now that's a cool job! 

Wayne

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell


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