The origin of life is a pretty enormous mystery. There are several theories for how life might have come about, but it's difficult to design experiments to narrow down these options. In the meantime, researchers continue to look for clues and evidence for life that didn't originate on our planet. Here are just a few examples that could one day lead us in the right direction.
Space travel is inherently risky, so it shouldn't be too surprising that spacecraft missions to Mars haven't all been successful. Sending people inside metal cans aimed at Mars isn't an easy task -- especially if those people want to return to Earth alive. But as more and more space programs target Mars as a destination, it looks increasingly likely that humans will make it there someday. Here are just a few milestones on the road to Mars.
Manned space exploration is a lofty goal that requires quite a bit of groundwork before people crawl into a metal cage strapped to a rocket. Only about a dozen countries have successfully launched objects into orbit, and the list of nations that can send people into space is much shorter (with the retirement of the space shuttles, the US arguably is not on the list anymore). But rocket technologies are only getting better and less expensive, and there are more and more plans (both governmental and commercial) for humans to explore space.
While digital forms of payment are becoming increasingly popular, cash probably isn't going away anytime soon, and a lot of people still like to collect coins. For the amateur numismatists out there, here are just a few interesting coin stories.
Our solar system is a pretty big place, and we haven't really seen that much of it. But as we send out more and more probes and get fancier telescopes, we're learning about a ton of interesting phenomena that occur beyond our own planet. Here are just a few fascinating factoids and links on how we're exploring space without sending astronauts anywhere (yet).
Space exploration is starting a new era. With more and more commercial ventures taking over low earth orbit missions, government space programs can focus on more long-term missions to increasingly distant places in our solar system. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be many collaborative international efforts for missions to other planets, so it's looking like a new nationalistic space race is emerging. Here are just a few space projects aimed beyond our planet.
Over the next few years, we should be learning quite a bit more about our Martian neighbors. The Curiosity Rover is just starting out, but if it performs as well as its predecessors, then it should provide tons of interesting data about Mars and its geological history. When Curiosity ceases to function, maybe we'll be more willing to send manned missions, but robots seem to be doing a pretty good job so far. Here are just a few interesting tidbits on the red planet.
Manned missions to Mars aren't going to happen for decades (if ever?), but in the mean time, we have awesome robots roaming the surface of Mars for us. We also have some simulations of living on Mars -- like the Mars500 project -- and the unforgettable original Total Recall movie. Here are just a few more Martian simulations if you need some help escaping from the realities of Earth.
The successful landing of NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars will hopefully be followed by several years of fascinating data collection about our planetary neighbor. The mission has already gathered tons of useful radiation measurements on its journey that will give scientists a better idea of what kind of radiation levels a future manned mission would face on a similar trip to Mars. Here are just a few other interesting Mars-related missions to peruse while Curiosity performs its self-diagnostics before roaming around the surface of Mars.
We hear from copyright system supporters that bogus copyright takedowns are rare and we only highlight the "exceptions." Of course, it seems like there are an awful lot of these exceptions. The latest is that with the massive success of last night's Mars landing of the Curiosity Rover, NASA posted the video to YouTube for those who didn't watching the thrilling, suspenseful landing live... except, if you checked out NASA's own YouTube page a few hours later, you got this:
It's back now, but as Vice's Motherboard blog explains, this kind of thing happens all the time. They spoke with Bob Jacobs, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications, who said that this happens about once a month, and almost always happens with NASA's popular videos.
“We spend too much time going through the administrative process to clear videos slapped with needless copyright claims,” says NASA’s Bob Jacobs. “YouTube seems to be missing a ‘common sense’ button to its processes, especially when it involves public domain material paid for by the American taxpayer.”
Jacobs is quite reasonably annoyed at the lack of consequences for these bogus takedowns:
“There seems to be few consequences for companies that engage in such activities, which often include legitimate news organizations. We do agree that people who make false copyright claims against our material should be held accountable, regardless of their automated systems.”
What's amazing here is that Scripps is a repeat offender with NASA. Back in April, people noticed that it had forced the removal of NASA's (again, public domain) footage of the Boeing 747 that carried the space shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian (its "final journey"). But, of course, there aren't many (or even any) serious consequences for these kinds of mistakes. While it's not clear what happened, it seems likely that Scripps replayed the footage itself somewhere, and via some semi-automated process uploaded it to YouTube's ContentID, in which it claimed copyright on all its works. But, of course, it was actually broadcasting public domain video from NASA. Unfortunately, YouTube can't recognize that Scripps is the latecomer here, rebroadcasting others' public domain material, and thus took down the material, only to have it corrected later.
Given that Scripps is now a repeat offender, it seems that perhaps YouTube should cut it off from automatically censoring others' videos.
Oh, and if you want to know one of the reasons we're so concerned about a possible broadcast treaty (which the US government is now supporting), it's because it actually would make these kinds of claims quasi-legal, in that broadcasters who broadcast public domain material could then claim a separate "broadcast right" over that footage. Even without that, we see operations like Scripps abusing the law. Do we really want to expand that power?
Now, since the video is back up, here's the actual (public domain) footage, in case you missed it (and if you did miss it, you should watch it, as it really is incredible):