Cosmic Queries – New Mysteries of the Universe

3D visualization of gravitational waves produced by 2 orbiting black holes. Image Credit: Henze, NASA. Courtesy of LIGO.

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About This Episode

Alien megastructures? Gravitational waves? Time travel via wormhole? Crack open the latest cosmic conundrums when astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson answers fan submitted questions, thrown at him by co-host Eugene Mirman. Find out what Neil thinks is actually going on around star KIC 8462852, and whether it’s more likely that aliens are building a Dyson Sphere or we’re seeing the signs of a comet swarm. Explore the recent discovery of gravitational waves with StarTalk All-Star host and frequent guest Dr. Charles Liu, who Skypes in to discuss LIGO and what it found. You’ll hear about the current debate over whether space is continuous or granular that’s dividing quantum physicists and supporters of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. But that’s not all. Neil answers your questions about carbon nanotubes and space elevators, bases on the Moon, water on Mars, black holes and accretion disks, Voyager and New Horizons, the impact of universal expansion on the Higgs field, and whether asteroid mining could affect the orbits of the Earth and the Moon. Plus, Neil speculates on life extension technologies and whether living forever might be overrated, and tells us about a recent discovery that has him freaking out: that there seem to be some places in the Universe where the fabric of space-time “melts.”

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Cosmic Queries – New Mysteries of the Universe.

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  • Joseph Romeo

    i <3 startalk!

  • Bloempje

    I already asked this on Youtube once, but is there a way to have video with these podcast? I ask this because segments with video are posted on Youtube and there are also video’s from conferences and such that Neil hosts..

    • Thanks to our new studio, we are now shooting video versions of our podcasts. Up until now, we’ve put some full-episode videos from both our Cosmic Queries episodes and our StarTalk Live shows on our YouTube channel, in addition to segments, but it was a much more labor intensive process (editing, synching sound, etc.). We are currently exploring options for putting up all of these full-episode videos. In terms of segments, we’ve already put up a segment from this episode (about the Gravitational Wave discovery) on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xIiipD7dsw

      • Bloempje

        Thank you for answering my question, I look forward to seeing more. It’s always a pleasure listening to StarTalk Radio.

  • Bloempje

    I already asked this on Youtube once, but is there a way to have video with these podcast? I ask this because segments with video are posted on Youtube and there are also video’s from conferences and such that Neil hosts..

    • Thanks to our new studio, we are now shooting video versions of our podcasts. Up until now, we’ve put some full-episode videos from both our Cosmic Queries episodes and our StarTalk Live shows on our YouTube channel, in addition to segments, but it was a much more labor intensive process (editing, synching sound, etc.). We are currently exploring options for putting up all of these full-episode videos. In terms of segments, we’ve already put up a segment from this episode (about the Gravitational Wave discovery) on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xIiipD7dsw

      • Bloempje

        Thank you for answering my question, I look forward to seeing more. It’s always a pleasure listening to StarTalk Radio.

  • Blackfork

    How would a Dyson sphere structure deal with the sun’s solar wind, solar radiation, magnetic storms and solar flares?

  • bjauw

    Due to the accelerating expansion of the universe, is it less accurate to say that gravity is the distortion of space-time and more accurate to say that it is preserving it (or rather, that matter is preserving the state of space-time)?

  • Andy Van

    So physics may make traveling to the past impossible. But if you went deep enough into space I think you could in theory, look back at the earth and watch the past happen. This would require getting deep enough into space fast enough to get ahead of the light reflected off our planet at whatever time in history it was you intended to witness. So the travel method or even the method of viewing the light out there in deep space are technologies that don’t yet exist but.. maybe eventually…

    • Andy Van

      If you believe this will ever becomes possible for humans to do, you could assuming the future is watching right now… but later, much later, they are watching now later.

    • grizy2033

      i dont think exist travel in time. because wath really happen just happen no one can change that. Its like 2 Train station and 2 person one person in station Mother wait in B station and the sun its waiting on A soo the mother dont see if the sun got the train unless when the train(the lightspeed on space) arrive at station B where mom wait. If he take airplane to go back at station A he cant change the momentum when the sun take the train.Soo we just can observ the past just because exist the limit of lightspeed but we can change the past.

  • Jiří Drozd

    That piano string question was so clever, the best question there. And Neil misunderstood it.
    The question was if you could DETECT a gravitational wave passing through, by “listening” to a huge string. “Playing” a string creates a standing wave on it at a particular frequency, which depends on several things, including the length of the string. A gravitational wave going through the string changes its length and thus also its resonant frequency. The question suggests you would play a string and monitor its frequency, in hope you would “hear” an influence of gravitational waves. I imagine in practice, a resonator more precise than a string would be used for this. I also imagine it would be advantageous to compare two of these resonators via interferometry, in a similar fashion LIGO does with lightbeams. The precision required would defintely be completely insane, but after all, that’s what everybody thought about LIGO too.
    Such an awesome question.

  • Brian Klock

    Oooo. Ouch. You guys totally misunderstood the person’s piano-string question. The person wanted to know if a mile-long piano string could replace LIGO as a gravitational wave detector.

  • Snake

    Eugene has been very discrete during this podcast, on contrary from the usual. I don’t know if it’s because he had echoes from the complains people had about him in passed cosmic queries, or if he was just feeling blue; I hope he’s okay, but that was really better then usual.

    Thanks, Eugene. Being funny isn’t always speaking the loudest, and it was awesome this way, as you let time for science to breathe.

    Great episode !

  • Very

    This is so cool😃

  • Very

    Hunger games

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