Three Science Stories Strangely Told

All of these items have been distributed by Business Insider.

Let’s start with a story about the unsuccessful attempt by SpaceX to land a rocket on an platform in the ocean [www.businessinsider.sg/spacex-rocket-crash-landing-vine-images-2015-2/].

Here is a photo of the crash:

Space X Rocket Exploding

And here is the opening line of the article that immediately follows the photo:

“SpaceX launched and landed a rocket in January, but the event did not go as well as hoped.”

The second item concerns the collision between the Milky Way and Adromeda galaxies [http://www.businessinsider.com/when-will-the-adromeda-and-milky-way-galaxies-collide-2015-2]. Here are the three opening paragraphs:

“Take a good, hard look at the Milky Way Galaxy in the image above—eventually, this view will be completely destroyed by a collision of galactic proportions. Earth itself will survive, but when this galactic war happens, Earth’s night sky will look like nothing any human being has ever seen before.

“A war of epic proportions is coming: A gruesome battle between two, gigantic galaxies will be well underway in a just a few billion years, and one of the contenders is our home, the Milky Way.

“Right now, the Andromeda galaxy is racing toward the Milky Way at a speed of 250,000 mph—fast enough to circle the world in just six minutes. And it’s scheduled to collide, head-on, with the Milky Way in approximately 3.75 billion years.”

If you started to crap yourself at the news of this impending catastrophe of, literally, galactic proportions, there is some good news, which becomes increasingly less good.

First, as the article notes, the galaxies include so much empty space that there really won’t be all that many collisions between the stars and planets in each, even as they merge.

Second, that changed earthly view of the night sky is not something that any human is likely to see. Dinosaurs dominated the Earth for longer than any other category of animals, about 135 million years, and even if one includes birds as descendants of the dinosaurs, their total time on Earth amounts to about 230 million years. That’s more than 3.5 billion years less than the period before the galaxies will collide. And the dinosaurs are a clade, a whole category of animals; the timelines of individual species have been much, much shorter.

Lastly, even if human beings somehow managed to survive for 3.75 billion more years, they would not be viewing the new night sky from Earth. In 4 billion more years, the Sun will transform into a Red Giant, signaling its end stages as a star and as its size expands it will probably engulf at least the three planets closest to it—Mercury, Venus, and Earth. In fact, about 1.5 billion years before it is completely engulfed by the Sun, the Earth will likely become uninhabitable. If human beings are somehow still around at that point and living in our solar system, they will be living on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn.

The third article highlights the “morbid” details from three of the finalists vying to be selected for the Mars One mission [http://www.businessinsider.com/strange-video-interviews-with-mars-one-finalists-2015-2]. For those unfamiliar with it, “Mars One is a not-for-profit organization that, in 2012, announced a plan to launch a one-way manned mission to Mars that would maroon four humans on the red planet to live there and eventually die. Anyone could volunteer to be a part of the mission, which has been widely criticized by experts. If everything goes according to plan, the mission would land a spacecraft carrying colonists on the red planet in 2025. Right now, Mars One is whittling down its pool of volunteers who signed up for the mission.”

The article then links to a video interview with three of the 860 finalists posted online by the British newspaper The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/news/video/2015/feb/09/volunteers-first-manned-mission-mars. As you will find in viewing the video, there does not seem to be very much interest, at least among this small sampling of finalists, in working together to create a “new world.”

 

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