Category: Q & BA

Q&BA: How do we know some meteorites come from Mars?

By Phil Plait | October 2, 2012 10:34 am

This Q&BA video’s a bit longer than usual, but what the heck. It’s a fun topic!

First: every now again when I have time I do an interactive live video chat on Google+ where people can ask me questions about space and astronomy. I call it Q&BA, and it’s always fun to hear what questions are on people’s minds.

In this episode of Q&BA, I was asked about Mars meteorites: how do they get to Earth? I talk about their transport mechanism, as well as how they get blasted of the surface of Mars, and how we know they come from the Red Planet at all. It’s a pretty common question, and a pretty cool little slice of science.

[Note: I was having software issues when I recorded this on a Google+ Hangout in January 2012, and the aspect ratio is a bit wonky.]

So there you go. I’ve seen a few Mars meteorites, and they’re pretty nifty. One of these days I’ll have to see about getting one to add to my collection of iron and stony meteorites, too. It’s be nice to have a chunk of actual planet that’s not Earth sitting on my display shelf.

I have an archive of Q&BA links and videos. Take a look and see if there are other ones that tickle your imagination.


Related Posts:

- Q&BA: Can we build a space habitat?
- Q&BA: The Science of Science Fiction
- Q&BA: Which moon has the best chance for life?
- Q&BA: Why spend money on NASA?
- Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Q & BA, Science

Q&BA: How many exoplanets have been discovered?

By Phil Plait | April 26, 2012 12:52 pm

[Q&BA is a live video chat session I do every weekend, more or less, on Google+ where people can ask me questions about space and astronomy.]

I’m very excited about all the news we’re getting of planets orbiting other stars. For Q&BA I got a good question about them: How many exoplanets are there?

[Note: the aspect ratio on this video is messed up a bit, like it was on the last one. I understand the problem now, but cannot fix it in this video. They should be back to normal next time!]

I wonder how many of the thousands of candidate planets known will turn out to be real? Probably most of them. And there are billion, hundreds of billions, of planets in our galaxy alone! How many of those are like Earth? Maybe soon we’ll know.

I don’t care if it’s a curse or not. We do live in interesting times.

I have an archive of Q&BA links and videos. Take a look and see if there are other ones that tickle your imagination.


Related Posts:

- Q&BA: Which moon has the best chance for life?
- Q&BA: Can we build a space habitat?
- Q&BA: The Science of Science Fiction
- Q&BA: How does a gravity slingshot work?
- Q&BA: Why spend money on NASA?
- Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Q & BA

Q&BA: Which moon has the best chance for life?

By Phil Plait | April 20, 2012 10:04 am

Every weekend when I can I do an interactive live video chat on Google+ where people can ask me questions about space and astronomy. I call it Q&BA, and it’s always fun to hear what questions are on people’s minds.

Apropos of my recent post about Saturn’s moon Enceladus, I got this question: "Which moon has the best chance for life: Titan, Europa, or Enceladus?" This is a common question, and worth exploring! Here’s what I said:

Mars is still an interesting place to look for life, but those moons — all three — are very, very enticing. I’d love to see us launching future space probes with some icy targets in their sights.

[P.S. The aspect ratio of the video is stretchy for some reason; the video looked fine before I uploaded it to YouTube. I'll try to track this problem down.]

I have an archive of Q&BA links and videos. Take a look and see if there are other ones that tickle your imagination.


Related Posts:

- Q&BA: Can we build a space habitat?
- Q&BA: The Science of Science Fiction
- Q&BA: How does a gravity slingshot work?
- Q&BA: Why spend money on NASA?
- Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Piece of mind, Q & BA, Space
MORE ABOUT: Enceladus, Europa, life, moons, Titan

Q&BA: Can we build a space habitat?

By Phil Plait | April 4, 2012 2:30 pm

Every week (or so) I do an interactive live video chat on Google+ where people can ask me questions about space and astronomy. I call it Q&BA, and it’s always fun to hear what questions are on people’s minds.

I recently got a great question: "What do you think of the concept of a space habitat? Is it possible to replicate Earth’s environment in space?" I really leaned into this one — I’ve spent some time thinking about it — so here’s my answer:

That last minute or so is important to me. One of the reasons I do any of this — write, speak publicly, and share my joy of science — is to help increase public perception of science and space, and hopefully to help inspire people to be excited about space travel the way others inspired me when I was younger. I imagine this will be a recurring theme in future Q&BAs.

I have an archive of Q&BA links and videos. Take a look and see if there are other ones that tickle your imagination.


Related Posts:

- Q&BA: The Science of Science Fiction
- Q&BA: How does a gravity slingshot work?
- Q&BA: Why spend money on NASA?
- Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?
- Q&BA: Getting kids into science

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Piece of mind, Q & BA, Space

Q&BA: The Science of Science Fiction

By Phil Plait | February 27, 2012 2:17 pm

On Sunday, February 26, 2012, I did one of my Q&BA live video chats on Google+. This one was a little different than usual: it was part of the online convention Dot Con Fest 2012, celebrating geek life. In honor of that, the topic was "The Science of Science Fiction". I talked about time travel, faster-than-light travel, Star Trek, Contact, Ringworld, Dyson spheres, artificial gravity, and a lot of other fun nerd topics. I got a lot more comments than usual, which was fantastic! I’ll have to do more themed chats in the future, I suppose.

And if you missed it, never fret: the entire chat is now on YouTube:

If you like it, please give it a "Like" on the YouTube page, and also take a look at the Q&BA archive for other videos.


Related Posts:

- Q&BA: How does a gravity slingshot work?
- Q&BA: Why spend money on NASA?
- Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?
- Q&BA: Getting kids into science

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Q & BA, Science, SciFi, TV/Movies

Special Q&BA tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST!

By Phil Plait | February 26, 2012 12:07 pm

This weekend I’ve been participating in Dot Con 2012, an online convention celebrating the geek lifestyle (see my previous post for moreinfo). For my part, tonight I’ll be doing my Q&BA live online video chat on Google+ at 20:00 EST (01:00 UTC). Since this is part of Dot Con, I’m going with the theme of "The Science of Science Fiction", a favorite of mine. Got a question about astronomy, time travel, rockets, aliens, whatever, from something you saw on a TV show or movie? Ask me about it!

If you want to participate, it’s easy. You don’t have to be registered with Google+ to watch; when the chat goes live I’ll update this post with the link (and I’ll put it on Twitter as well). Click it and off you go! You can also send me a question via Twitter as well. I do suggest you join Google+ though. For one thing, it’s a really nice social platform with smart, interesting folks on it. Also, it means you can read and leave comments on the actual chat page where I’m doing the video, and that’s more fun.

I’m also hosting Logan Bonner’s video gaming panel at 15:00 EST (20:00 UTC), as well as an actual game of Refuge in Audacity he’s holding at 16:30 EST (21:30 UTC). That will be open to all comers! If you want to play the game with Logan, sign up to play on the Google Doc Logan set up for it. You have to be registered on Google+ and then you have to circle me. You’ll also need a webcam and microphone, so if you’ve ever video Skyped with friends or whatever, you’re probably all set. [Update: Unfortunately, we didn't get enough people signing up to make the online game play viable.]

[Logan's Online Gaming Panel is now live! The panel's done, and went quite well. Thanks to everyone who participated!]

Hope to see y’all there!


Related Posts:

- Dot Con 2012!
- Q&BA: How does a gravity slingshot work?
- Q&BA: Why spend money on NASA?
- Q&BA: Pound for pound, are humans hotter than the Sun?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, Q & BA, SciFi, TV/Movies
MORE ABOUT: Dot Con, Logan Bonner

Q&BA: How does a gravity slingshot work?

By Phil Plait | February 17, 2012 11:00 am

In this episode of my live Q&BA chat session, I answered a question about how "gravity slingshots" work. This is the process of using the gravity of a planet to accelerate (or decelerate) space probes so they can more easily get to the inner and outer planets. It turns out gravity is not the only process at work here.

This technique is used all the time for spacecraft, and engineers are pretty good about nailing them perfectly, too. Sometimes the probes pass by Earth and take amazing pictures of us, like when Rosetta did in 2009, and in 2007, or when it passed Mars in 2007.

Be sure to check out all my other Q&BA videos!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Q & BA, Science

Q&BA: Why spend money on NASA?

By Phil Plait | February 13, 2012 3:53 pm

During last week’s Q&BA live video chat session on Google+, I got the question, "Why spend money on NASA when we need that money here on Earth?"

This is a common question, and very apropos given the terrible budget news we got about NASA earlier today. So I put my answer up on YouTube. We’ll be hearing this argument a lot in the upcoming budget battles, and hopefully this’ll help show why we need to spend money on NASA, even more than we are now.

I have a lot of blog posts dealing with this issue, since it comes up so often. You’ll find all them linked in this blog post: Debating Space. We need to be exploring space, and we need to be investing in our future. Science and exploration are our future.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Politics, Q & BA

Q&BA: Pound for pound, are humans hotter than the Sun?

By Phil Plait | February 2, 2012 11:19 am

[Note: Every week I hold a live video chat on Google+ where I answer questions from readers. I call it Q&BA, and when I get a question that stands alone, I'll make it its own video. ]

Every now and again, I hear this urban legend that pound for pound, the human body is actually hotter (or has more energy) than the Sun. I got this question in a recent Q&BA video chat session, so I tackled it. The answer is pretty interesting, and depends on how you ask the question!

I actually wrote about this legend on the blog a while back, and I show all the math. I really like this question, since it has a straightforward answer that makes it seem wrong, but then if you look at it more carefully the answer is a little trickier. And even in the video and that other post, it’s not really a complete answer; if you read the comments on the post you’ll see people arguing over it.

That’s really the best kind of question: the ones that keep on going! There’s always more stuff to figure out.

Visit the Q&BA Archive to see more videos like this one!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Q & BA, Science

Q&BA: What happens if you are exposed to the vacuum of space?

By Phil Plait | January 31, 2012 12:21 pm

[Note: Every week I hold a live video chat on Google+ where I answer questions from readers. I call it Q&BA, and when I get a question that stands alone, I'll make it its own video. ]

A lot of people, it seems, have morbid thoughts about space. Why else would I get asked this so much: "What would happen to the human body exposed to the vacuum and cold of space?"

Of course, this sort of thing is depicted in scifi movies a lot, and people are curious about it. And even though the movies always get it wrong — you don’t explode, or freeze instantly — it does make folks wonder about it. And while the reality isn’t maybe as gooey as in the movies, it’s still pretty nasty.

I wrote about this in my review of the movie "Mission to Mars", as well as answering a question many years ago from a reader. And even though it’s an icky thing to think about, it does give me a chance to talk about heat transfer, which is pretty, um, cool.

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