Three new planets: astrologers not bothered

Of course it turns out that the planetary scientists opted not to demote one planet but to promote three new ones. Brilliant. I can see Michael Hanlon’s Daily Mail story already: “Dumbing down is out of control: now even frozen lumps of rock qualify as planets. What next: asteroids?”. Remarkably, it looks like the new… Continue reading Three new planets: astrologers not bothered

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Space Brother

Switching between Big Brother Live (this has to be the best ever, right?) and NASA TV is entertaining. NASA’s 24/7 output is mind-blowing – a sort of hyper-purposeful parody of reality confinement shows like BB. I can’t wait for week 10’s Big Brother Task, which is called ‘Crew Swap’. For 48 hours, Anthony, Craig, Makosi,… Continue reading Space Brother

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Sounds from another world

No point taking a microphone to space. No sound in a vacuum. In thirty years of increasingly hyper-real media coverage of space exploration we’ve never, ever heard space. Just those crackly radio transmissions across the void (and all those made up noises in Sci-Fi movies). That’s what makes these sounds, the first ever recorded on… Continue reading Sounds from another world

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Podcasting Saturn

You’ve got to love Radio 4’s brilliant Cassini-Huygens total immersion radio experience. Listen to this lot and you’ll know about as much as a grown-up with a day job should reasonably know about Saturn and the extraordinary Cassini-Huygens mission . There’s a Real stream of an excellent half hour documentary called Running Rings Around Saturn… Continue reading Podcasting Saturn

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Cassini-who?

It’s midnight GMT. What are you watching? On Channel 4, Jackie Stalone is out of the house. On BBC 2 Cassini’s baby Huygens (after a 3 billion kilometre flight) has arrived on Titan’s surface. I learn from the Open University’s terrifically enthusiastic coverage that that surface is hard – perhaps clay or frozen snow. Photos… Continue reading Cassini-who?

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To space…

Why is this video from SpaceShipOne’s Winning X Prize Mission so impressive (I mean, apart from the fact that this guy just flew an aeroplane about the size of a double bed to space and back)? Is it because of the team’s unlimited American self-confidence? Or because of the acres of competence and sophistication on… Continue reading To space…

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The great glass elevator

As usual, the space scientists leave me open-mouthed with wonder. Latest preposterous challenge: getting stuff into space is expensive – rockets and space-suits and beef stroganoff in a tube and all that – so why not forget the big bang and winch your satellite up a long cable ‘anchored’ 100,000 km up there in an… Continue reading The great glass elevator

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Enlightened old men

I wonder if there’s a generation of scientists, artists and technocrats ready to succeed Freeman Dyson, Arthur C Clarke and all those other admirable, enlightened, imaginative old men who came of age before the bomb. Clarke dreams of a time when a majority of humankind can’t quite remember which way to point when asked where… Continue reading Enlightened old men