Ep. 400: The State of the Universe

It’s time for us to go back and catch up with all of the projects, news stories, weird star systems, and other topics that need updating!

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Female Speaker: This episode of Astronomy Cast is brought to you by Swinburne Astronomy Online, the world’s longest running online astronomy degree program. Visit astronomy.swin.edu.au for more information.

Fraser: Astronomy Cast, Episode 400, The State of the Universe. Welcome to Astronomy Cast, our weekly facts-based journey through the cosmos. We’ll help you understand not only what we know, but how we know what we know. My name is Fraser Cain, I’m the publisher of the Universe Today. With me is Dr. Pamela Gay, a professor at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and the director of CosmoQuest. Hey, Pam, how you doing?

Pamela: I’m doing well. How are you doing Fraser?

Fraser: Happy 400th episode!

Pamela: Yay! It’s really kind of amazing that we’ve been able to do this and so many people have come along with us for the entire ride and have been there supporting us through messages, through donations, through wearing our T-shirts. That’s actually kind of my favorite thing is to see an Astronomy Cast shirt in the wild.

Female Speaker: This episode of Astronomy Cast is brought to you by 8th Light, Inc. 8th Light is an agile software development company. They craft beautiful applications that are durable and reliable. 8th Light provides disciplined software leadership on demand and shares its expertise to make your project better. For more information visit them online at www.8thlight.com. Just remember, that’s www.the digit 8, T-H-L-I-G-H-T.com. Drop them a note. 8th Light. Software is their craft.

Astronomy Cast is proudly sponsored by cleancoders.com, training videos with personality for software professionals.

Fraser: It’s amazing. We started in the fall of 2006, where I wanted – people who don’t know the story, I wanted to start a podcast. You were already doing a podcast. I pitched the podcast to Phil, Phil Plait and he said, “That’s great, but I’m super busy.” But he’s like, “But I know Pamela’s got some time and she’s awesome.” And I’m like, “Who’s this Pamela person?” So I listened to your show, listened to Slacker Astronomy, became a total fan and then Phil was like, “Fraser, Pamela. Pamela, Fraser.” And then we talked and I think within days of having that first conversation we had already recorded our first show. And here we are, seven, eight years later, nine years later, still going strong.

Pamela: Yeah, we talked I think August 18 or so and then we launched our first episode either the last Monday of August or the first Monday of September and have just kept going.

Fraser: Yeah, and it’s great. And, you know, now podcasting is cool, but we’ve been podcasting for a while and we were just waiting for everybody else to catch up, as we do.

Pamela: As we do.

Fraser: And when you think about over time, right, like it started as a very – it was a private audio Skype show that we recorded and we then with [inaudible] [00:03:25] pushed it to being something that we do publicly, where our fans get to hang out with us and we talk to them and answer their questions, which is great. A little stressful, but great. We started CosmoQuest, right?

Pamela: Yeah, yeah, that’s huge.

Fraser: All the stuff that’s happening with Astrosphere, CosmoAcademy, all of that stuff that’s been going on and some highs and lows with that.

Pamela: Sequestration. We survived two government shutdowns, we survived – and for people who don’t realize the scale of what happened, when the sequestration bills hit in 2012 our non-donor funding went down by literally a factor of ten in about four months. And that was brutal. And I’m happy to say that we are going – we have been awarded from NASA funds, there’ll be a full press release coming shortly, but I can safely say, since NASA’s press release is already out, we are going to be not just at pre-sequestration funding, but we are funded to grow and thrive and I will have job postings. So if you want to work for me and live in the middle of the country, yeah, I might just need you.

Fraser: Yeah, and that just shows how seriously NASA and stuff take the kinds of education and outreach and stuff that’s going on via the internet. We knew that what we were doing was of value, but I think a lot of other people thought that the traditional way of reaching out via press releases, via conferences, things like that was the way to perform education and outreach. But we knew the internet was the way and now NASA is dominating the internet, they’re doing a really great job of it. And they really support, now, the stuff that we’re doing. So it’s fantastic. That’s all crazy.

Pamela: And we pioneered with that NSF grant that we had live blogging from conferences back pre-Twitter, there were days before Twitter. That’s shocking. And now conferences are partnering with people to microblog the entire conference and that’s amazing.

Fraser: You had a job as a professor at Edwardsville, still do.

Pamela: I still do, yeah.

Fraser: Still do?

Pamela: I shifted around, you shifted around.

Fraser: I was the publisher of Universe Today and I still am, so again, held the job for a long period of time. I had a three and a five year old when we started, now I have a 12 and a 14-year-old.

Pamela: Now you have a teenager.

Fraser: Yeah, which is crazy.

Pamela: I shouldn’t embarrass Logan, but the first time I met your youngest son he was still periodically wetting the bed.

Fraser: Oh, poor guy. Yeah, and I got remarried. So it’s been – you know. But you still got the same husband so it’s all good.

Pamela: I didn’t have a horse, I had a horse. I had a horse that tried to kill me. I sold that horse, got a different horse that did not try to kill me. Retired him so that he is now the grumpy old horse that chases around the baby horses and doesn’t have to get ridden by me, and am now looking for a horse again.

Fraser: Wow, and the space community I think is one of the things that’s changed the most over these years. It’s just really – it’s everywhere. A lot of the people that we’ve been friends with for a long time have become really successful and it’s just great to see how inclusive…

Pamela: Ian O’Neill.

Fraser: Yeah, Ian at Discovery. [Inaudible] [00:07:09] with Discovery and writing her own books. Brian Koberlein, Phil Plait, obviously dominating Neil deGrasse Tyson who we hung out with at…

Pamela: He was already dominating.

Fraser: He was starting to become popular, but he still – we could hang out with him at a double AS.

Pamela: I think we could still hang out with him.

Fraser: Maybe we still could, yeah. So, yeah, so I think it’s been crazy and here’s to another 400 episodes. And I promise, we won’t make this long until this happens again. So now I’m gonna focus here for a second and I’ll do my official intro. So here we are, 400 episodes after starting Astronomy Cast back in 2006. And in that time we’ve learned a tremendous amount about the universe around us. It’s time to take a second and consider how our knowledge of the universe has changed since we began this show. Now we are going to go all over the place, mostly by our collective excitement. So I think let’s just start with water.

Pamela: It’s everywhere. It is insert expletive everywhere.

Fraser: Yeah, you know, when you think about – I don’t know if you ever read – did you ever read The Case for Mars by Bob Zubrin?

Pamela: No.

Fraser: Okay, so in this book, he’s the one who really sort of pushed forward this idea of living off the land, sending a spacecraft that goes and makes fuel on Mars and then it – and that’s how the astronauts are getting home. And that was the plot of The Martian and things like that. And that’s really NASA’s – the way they’re planning to return to Mars. And in that book he was like, “We don’t know if there’s any water on Mars and so we may need the rocket to take its own hydrogen.” And that once on Mars they’ll then use that hydrogen to make rocket fuel and water for the astronauts and so on. No problem. There’s water on Mars.

Pamela: And what’s amazing is the number of different ways that – we started pre-Phoenix. That little – we are post Spirit and Opportunity, and Opportunity is just gonna keep going forever.

Fraser: Yeah, it’ll bury itself.

Pamela: Outlive us all. But little Phoenix flew, landed, tweeted with fabulous empathy, dug up ice, watched it sublimate and was the start of yes, yes, there is water on Mars. And since then we have identified that the dark streaks are definitely briny liquid and we now have entire regions of thou shalt not pass for Curiosity and Opportunity because we don’t wanna accidentally kill life on Mars.

Fraser: And not only is there water now, but there was water in the past.

Pamela: Exactly.

Fraser: In the ancient past, this was discovered by Spirit and Opportunity just after we – before we started the show. But Curiosity helped turn up that water had been active on the surface of Mars for long periods of time in the ancient past, which is just what you want for potential of life. But Mars is just one place. All of these icy moons, like Enceladus, we’re seeing just so much water on them now under the surface.

Pamela: And Mercury. Little Mercury snuggled up next to the sun, so close that it’s getting atoms blasted off its surface by the incident ions, little Mercury has water.

Fraser: Yep. Vast amounts of water on the moon, both in these craters in eternal sunset and eternal shade, as well as just under the regolith on the moon. And, again, these were all discovered within the last decade.

Pamela: But on the other side of that, we now know that all of the water on Earth probably didn’t come from comets. So the science giveth and the science take us away. We no longer quite know where our water came from.

Fraser: Saturn’s rings. If you’d asked us back when we started Astronomy Cast, “How old are Saturn’s rings?” The question is we don’t know. They could be old, but they also look new. And within the last couple of years astronomers now know that the rings are old, but they look new.

Pamela: Which is one of those kind of tricky things. Now before you start sending the hate letters, we do fully understand that some of those rings are getting refurbished by geysers and things like that, but overall the constant collisional, kinematics dynamics of those rings, this is what builds them up, breaks them down and gives them those nice, shiny, new looking surfaces. And we now are starting to understand that.
Fraser: When we started, was there such a thing as a dwarf planet?

Pamela: It existed as of the week we started.

Fraser: As of the week we started. Okay, well then never mind.

Pamela: Yeah, that was our very first episode.

Fraser: But it wasn’t – I mean, so Pluto became the first, and I think and Ceres at that point were considered the first dwarf planets, but after that a bunch of other dwarf planets were added.

Pamela: And we now understand that Haumea is this really weird spinning thing with a moon that we can’t understand. And in fact, as of just last week, again with the giveth and taketh away, Pluto killer Mike Brown at Cal Tech, one of the far too many Michael Brown’s out there so we’ll just call him Pluto killer.

Fraser: Pluto killer Mike Brown, yeah.

Pamela: Right. So he found all of these interesting things, Eros being the biggest of them at that point, that are now being understood to have weirdly chaotic orbits that aren’t actually chaotic. They seem to be dictated by a high mass object that we’re now calling the new ninth planet.

Fraser: And maybe in 100 episodes we’ll have – it’ll have already been either confirmed or the evidence will mount against it. But speaking of dwarf planets, we saw imagery of Pluto up close from New Horizons, which has gotta be almost my highlight of the entire run that we’ve been doing this show.

Pamela: And maybe in another 100 episodes we’ll understand how the heck we ended up with a brand new surface on Pluto. Pluto should not have a young surface. It’s highly confusing. So give us two years and maybe we’ll have hints, but probably another 400 episodes to actually understand it.

Fraser: I love to ask space scientists, mission planners, “What are you expecting to see when your mission goes to this world?” And the answer that I love to hear them say is, you know, they’ll say like, “We’re looking for the magnetosphere of this and the surface composition of that and the aging of the craters of that.” But the thing they’re really looking for is the big surprises. The stuff that they had no plans for. And with the new imagery of Pluto and Charon, it’s all kinds of surprises.

Pamela: And speaking of spacecraft, we’ve seen Hubble not get decommissioned, but actually get refurbished. And that’s a spacecraft that was originally built under the justification that it would solve the expansion rate of the universe, which it didn’t quite do, we needed Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. But because of it, it was supposed to figure out planetary nebula and didn’t only help us understand planetary nebula, but it pointed out so many things that we had no clue of. And one of the coolest things that it brought us was the realization that, as you put it as we were prepping for the show, dark matter is stuff and gravity’s not bad. And not bad gravity is how you said it, which was far more cool.

Fraser: What’d I say? Dark matter is stuff and not gravity.

Pamela: Yeah, bad gravity is how you put it.

Fraser: Oh, did I? Right. So this idea, right, that now we’re fairly certain, and by ‘we’ I mean astronomers, are fairly certain that this mysterious dark matter that they clearly see out there, or through its gravitational interaction, clumps, they found whole galaxies that appear to be almost entirely only dark matter. They’ve seen how galaxies can collide with each other and then the dark matter sort of passes right through with the stars, but the dust and gas collects in the middle and starts new star formation.

They’ve really started to understand the scope and scale of dark matter, but they still don’t necessarily even know what it is. So I look forward to that being a thing that we can finally stick a pin in and call that one done. Although, whenever I ask astronomers, the answer that I’m getting these days is, “I think it’s a particle with a very small cross section.”

Pamela: Right. And the fact that we can start to identify the characteristics of the stuff that the dark matter is, we now know it’s not Acme bricks, it’s not white dwarf stars. It’s none of those things that MACHO was looking for. But we are starting to say, “Okay, we need to justify growing up the Large Hadron Collider so that it can do higher energies. We need to expand Fermi National Labs so that it can collide at higher energies. And as we’ve worked on these higher energies, we got to witness, not firsthand, but through the media, the discovery of the Higgs particle and that was really cool.
Fraser: Yeah, I mean, that’s a whole other – that was one of those things – I mean, that’s classic, right? That back in the ‘60s Higgs and team predicted the existence of the Higgs particle, this particle that would provide mass, help explain mass in the universe, and bigger and bigger particle colliders had to get built to the point where it could actually detect this particle. It was only within the last two, three years they finally nailed it down and confirmed existence of the particle, which is just amazing.

Pamela: And it’s been amazing to cover it, from everything from the baguette that broke the world basically, that stupid bird dropping a baguette and breaking everything, to just the – well, if you haven’t watched the movie Particle Fever, go watch it. It explains everything, but it’s been amazing to see from the sidelines the struggle to make some of these discoveries.

Fraser: And then of course, hopefully in the next decade, it will turn up all kinds of new particles and maybe even confirm…

Pamela: Or rule them out.

Fraser: Or rule them out. Or confirm supersymmetry, maybe detect the actual particle that causes dark matter, maybe create microscopic black holes as predicted by Stephen Hawking and see them evaporate. So this journey has only just begun. What else? But, you know, we’ve been talking about all these things that have changed, all this new information that we have, dark energy I would say…

Pamela: We still know nothing.

Fraser: We don’t know anything else. Like, no.

Pamela: We have a noun. We have a noun.

Fraser: I think we mostly are probably are pretty sure that the Big Rip is not gonna happen, probably. But that’s about it. That it doesn’t appear that the expansion of the universe is accelerating – the acceleration of the universe is accelerating, but apart from that, no, we don’t really know what it is. But we do know how old the universe is.

Pamela: And it changed.

Fraser: Yeah, yeah, we thought we knew, but we didn’t know.
Pamela: We knew within error bars it turns out. We now know that we live in a 13.8 billion-year-old universe. [Inaudible] [00:19:46].

Fraser: Yeah, it used to be 13.7 when we started the show.

Pamela: And it turns out WMAP got it mostly right. It had the error bars. I no longer know the error bars, they’re evolving, but we used to say it was 13.7 plus or minus .2 billion years old. We now know it’s 13.8, with smaller error bars that Pamela can’t remember. And, yeah, that’s been cool. And we’ve had lots of mysteries to chase down with the cosmic microwave background because there was the cold spot discovered that we still don’t understand, but there’s been lots of crazy theories.

Fraser: Yeah, crazy theories, like other universes bleeding in, all kinds of stuff. I was gonna mention one thing that we thought we discovered. If we’d done this show a couple years ago we would have thought that in the cosmic microwave background radiation had been discovered evidence for primordial gravitational waves, confirming inflation.

Pamela: But it was wrong.

Fraser: But it was wrong. So what have we learned? We’ve learned that science is hard and that dust inside the Milky Way can maybe cause you to think that you might have seen primordial gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background. So be careful.

Pamela: Dust and magnetic fields continue to be the two things that are hardest to deal with.

Fraser: So you’re talking about light echoes – sorry, I don’t mean to like – light echoes are our friend.

Pamela: No, it’s cool. So we have discovered that AGNs turn on and turn off, which we knew, but we have now actually seen the evidence of the light echoes turning off. And the MACHO Project has revealed light echoes of supernovae in the past, where we’ve been able to now identify past supernova in our own galaxy that we knew statistically should have happened, but weren’t seen by anyone interested in putting it into the archaeological record. And so we’ve been filling in the history of our own galaxy, one light echo at a time.

Fraser: We’ve watched stuff fall into the super massive black hole, the heart of the Milky Way, stars, gas clouds, maybe, maybe stars.

Pamela: Probably not stars. I’m gonna go with the gas clouds.

Fraser: Maybe. I have it on authority. But still, we’ve watched things of mass get torn apart by the super massive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way and sort of let out a scream as it died. But then for a future state of the universe, we still haven’t actually seen the event horizon of a black hole. There’s a ground telescope in the works, the Event Horizon Observatory, that will help us do that. So that’ll be a future roundup.

Pamela: And just to be clear, you don’t see the event horizon, you see the stuff that is suffering the event horizon.

Fraser: Yeah, the edge of the event horizon, what’s happening right at that environment around the event horizon. But that’s for the future.

Pamela: Science fiction movies would be so much less interesting if event horizons were politely marked so that you couldn’t just kind of wander past them accidentally.

Fraser: Speaking of black holes, we now know that there are super massive black holes at the heart of every galaxy.

Pamela: Yeah, yeah, the only ones that escape are the oddball dwarf spheroidal galaxies, which kind of like don’t match galaxy dynamics but they aren’t globular clusters. So they’re just weird. But ignoring those little dwarf spheroidals of weirdness, yeah, there’s – if you are a galaxy that isn’t a wannabe globular cluster, you have a super massive black hole in you.

Fraser: One of the mysteries that we’ve been hanging on to, still to this day, is which comes first? The black hole or the galaxy around it? And that still, we haven’t got a satisfactory answer to that question. So we’re gonna stop – put a pin in that one and hopefully we’ll have a better answer next time we do this.

Pamela: But we did get a cool answer on, are galaxies built bottom up or top down? And the answer is both.

Fraser: Both, yeah.

Pamela: And that’s cool.
Fraser: Speaking of black holes, we still haven’t found that intermediate mass black hole for certain.

Pamela: Yeah, yeah, how do you get to the super massive? We don’t know. We don’t know.

Fraser: Yeah, but you would think that you would see these – you know, we definitely see the stellar mass black holes, like Cygnus X-1.

Pamela: They’re cool. They’re chilling everywhere.

Fraser: Yep. All over the place. And you would think that those black holes over the billions of years would have accumulated a lot of material, just gotten more and more massive, especially in places like globular clusters, and turned into super massive black holes. But that middle range, there doesn’t seem to be anything in between stellar mass black holes and the super massive black holes. There’s been a few stories, but I don’t think anyone has really out and out confirmed and said, “Okay, that’s it. We’ve definitely found – and we’re finding more of these intermediate black holes.” So that’s another thing that we – I think if you would ask, you know, that would have been something that we would have expected to have been found by now.

Pamela: Yeah, black holes are passive aggressive, not actually aggressive.

Fraser: Right. Man, what else? Okay, so let’s talk about planets. Let’s talk about exoplanets. So when we started the show, we did a couple of episodes, some of the first ones, we did one on just regular exoplanets and then we did one on some weird ones like hot Jupiters and pulsar planets and things like that.

Pamela: But Kepler hadn’t launched yet.

Fraser: And the ground based methodologies for finding planets had not been perfected yet. Yeah, and so here we are now. When we started there was probably dozens of extrasolar planets that had been discovered.

Pamela: And when people talked about finding them, they talked about the Doppler shift method as the primary method of look at a star over and over and over again doing high resolution spectroscopy, lots of difficulty, can only use bright objects because the spectroscopy is hard and you need lots and lots of light to shove it down that slit. But then we started launching things like Crow and Kepler and Gaia is coming. And now the primary way to find them is just watch stars to see if they dim a bit.

Fraser: Yeah, and so we now know of thousands of planets. And the kinds of planets, planets with the mass of the Earth, planets in habitable zone of their parent stars, planets with hot Jupiters and planets in weird eccentric orbits, and binary stars with planets, and quadruple star systems with planets. There’s all kinds of crazy multiple star systems – sorry, multiple planetary systems with sometimes multiple planets in the habitable zone, super Earths, Neptune mass objects. The list just goes on and on and on.

Pamela: Yeah, and what’s weird to think about, though, is while we know so much more about whether or not there’s planets out there, we still know nothing about the probability of alien life, whether it be intelligent, bacterial, or intermediate. All we know is there’s more planets. So I’ve been saying since we launched that any year now we’re going to be able to start measuring atmospheres, which we can do. We started doing that, first half of the sentence was good. Second half of the sentence was, “And we will find the chemical signature indicative of life.” And so far we just haven’t and it’s driving me crazy. This is my…

Fraser: Right. But we are really in the nascent stages. We are to studying atmospheres to what we were to finding planets ten years ago. And so there are plans in the works to build these coronagraphs, these really interesting new kinds of observatories, James Webb, using some of these other space observatories to assist in this process. So I think if we did this show whatever, eight years, nine years from now, ten years from now, we would have a much better conversation about looking at atmospheres. Literally we’re at the yeah, it’s possible to see an atmosphere of another planet on a good day.

Pamela: And we’ve seen a major revolution in technology that is still under way. We saw in 2012, I think it was 2012, ALMA started completely changing how we see things in the longer wavelengths of light. We have Curiosity is a workhorse on one world, but it took a whole mobile lab with us. It’s CSI on the red world. And now we have James Webb Space Telescope getting ready to hopefully start in 2018 and with that…one, two punch of ALMA and James Webb space telescope, we have opened up the early universe and planetary to levels of observation that we just haven’t ever been able to do before.

Fraser: Now, one of the things that I think we would have expected by now was more robust human exploration.

Pamela: Yeah, we got that one wrong.

Fraser: Yeah, we got that one wrong. So I think that we – oh, you know what? Next week we should predict. That’ll be funny. Let’s totally do that. Oh, it’s gonna be fun.

Pamela: Oh, things I hate to do, but yes.

Fraser: Oh, that’d be awesome. So yeah, but I think the stages are coming together so this big revolution has really been the rise of the private space industry. And especially really driven by what’s happening with SpaceX and Blue Origin and with all of these private companies. And that is just – that’s proceeded at a pace that I don’t think anybody expected.

Pamela: But at the same time, I was totally expecting that by now we would see regular launches of Virgin Galactic with space tourists. I was expecting Bigelow to be a little bit further along with their space hotel plans. So we’re in this weird place where it seems that commercial space at the low to high Earth orbit is chugging right along with its plans. And you’re right, it’s the folks – Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, SpaceX, these companies are doing excellent work hand in hand with NASA in a lot of cases. But when it comes to that suborbital space flight and commercial tourism, it seems like we’re three years away, nine years later.

Fraser: Yeah, and so then also there’s what’s happening with the Chinese. So the whole Chinese space exploration really has happened under our watch with Astronomy Cast, going from launching humans into space, to launching a space station, to sending a Rover to the moon, sending an orbiter around the moon, and very definite plans to put humans on the moon in the near future.

Pamela: And in India, without the human space flight, is making amazing progress as a scientific explorer of space.

Fraser: Yep. And many other countries as well. So India did a great job with the MOM mission, but then there’s other even smaller countries are putting together their own space program. So I think we’re – and Europe, I mean, that’s not like a smaller country, but Europe has been fantastic with the Rosetta, with a lot of really interesting missions. So I think all the countries of the world are really starting to just take this seriously and play a part as well, which is great. It’s great to not just have it be an American story. It’s a worldwide story now.

Pamela: And worldwide stories – we have Russia currently launching all of the humans and also getting attacked from space. So…go ahead.

Fraser: Oh, I was gonna say, yeah, we learned that we are, remember, in a cosmic shooting gallery.

Pamela: Yeah, yeah, and Chelyabinsk was one of those amazing moments of wow, they have a lot of dash cams. And thank science they have so many dash cams. For those of you who don’t remember, on Valentine’s Day in, what, 2012?

Fraser: ’13? ’13.

Pamela: Oh, a lot of stuff has happened over the years. Anyways, the Valentine’s Day massacre occurred. It was still Valentine’s Day here in the U.S., I think it was February 15 in Russia. And during the morning commute, it could not have been better timed, a Apollo class meteorite, asteroid that became a meteorite, encountered the atmosphere, plunged through it, exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia to be captured by many, many cameras. Generated a giant flash of light that attracted everyone to their windows where they then got attacked by the sonic boom a few moments later.

Fraser: And we now have pieces of this asteroid.

Pamela: We do. We do. It’s – thank you Richard Drumm, you are awesome.

Fraser: Cool. I’m trying to think what else we’ve learned. So a few other things, did you mention Voyager’s left the solar system?

Pamela: I did not, but it has multiple times in fact, if you follow all the press releases. But we think it’s actually left for good this time.

Fraser: For good this time. Astronomers found a ring around an asteroid, which was unexpected.

Pamela: And moons. More moons.

Fraser: More moons around asteroids. And I think we learned that NASA is very complicated.

Pamela: Yes, that’s true. Another great quote from our prep time was Fraser’s like, “Our relationship with NASA is complicated.” And this comes down to watching so many different things both with our own funding and just how you learn to communicate about NASA discoveries from things like there were all the warp drive press releases. And we’ve both had to explain to so many people that NASA funds people to do exploratory research that are sometimes random university professors trying to do awesome things.

And when you see the press release NASA is working on warp drive, sometimes that just means that it’s random dude, you got awesome grant to try something and that doesn’t mean that NASA’s leveraging all of its governmental resources to work on warp drive, because really it’s not. It’s not.

Fraser: So there you go. I think that kind of wraps – I’m sure we could go down this rabbit hole and come up with many, many more, but these are some great examples of the things that have happened over – since we started Astronomy Cast, all of the big new discoveries, all the new things that we know. And it’s been a total honor and a pleasure to sort of do this journey with you, Pamela. It’s been a lot of fun.

Pamela: It really has. And it’s great to work with someone that – yeah, we keep showing up and laughing across basically ten years and we didn’t even meet for the first year and a half.

Fraser: Yeah, totally. So let’s do that. Let’s do that. Next week I’ll cue up a bunch of topics and we’ll make some predictions.

Pamela: That sounds great.

Fraser: We’ll just like just make stuff up. So that’ll be great. And then we’ll see…

Pamela: And this is the only time that Fraser can make up anything he wants and I can’t shoot him down.

Fraser: Absolutely. And then 100 episodes later we’ll look back and see what else is new and see how our predictions held up.

Pamela: And just I also wanna say thank you to all of the people who have donated to keep us going over the years. You have paid Preston through his undergraduate and graduate studies to keep being our editor. You helped in our early days, Rebecca Bemrose-Fetter who was a different student that worked with us. If we get enough donations…

Fraser: Nancy.

Pamela: …I would love to hire another student in the future. There’s been – we’ve gone through a whole series of Nancy’s. We had Nancy Atkinson who worked with us for years, we now have Nancy Graziano who’s helping us out. There’s Suzy. Suzy is our new herder of awesome. We aren’t easy to herd. We need her.

Fraser: Yeah, totally.

Pamela: And a shout out to all of the people at SIUE who have supported us and all of our sponsors. There’s Uncle Bob, who has supported us across multiple of his organizations, Swinburne Astronomy Online has supported us over the years.

Fraser: Casper mattresses have been great, yeah.

Pamela: Casper mattresses. Yeah, we only take sponsorships from things that we believe in and XE.com, so many good people have helped make sure that we can keep going. And here’s to hoping that everyone comes along with us on the same ride for the next 400 years of figuring out…

Fraser: 400 years? Whoa, robot body.

Pamela: Whoa, wrong units, wrong units. Sorry, here’s to hoping that everyone…

Fraser: No, let’s go with your 400 years. That is my – I like to think long term and that’s…

Pamela: You do want to live forever.

Fraser: Yeah, I wanna live forever, so that’d be great. Robot body.

Pamela: So, yeah, let’s keep exploring.

Fraser: All right. Well, we’ll see you next week, Pamela.

Pamela: Sounds great, Fraser. Talk to you later.

Male Speaker: Thanks for listening to Astronomy Cast, a nonprofit resource provided by Astrosphere New Media Association, Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay. You can find show notes and transcripts for every episode at astronomycast.com. You can email us at info@astronomycast.com, tweet us @AstronomyCast, like us on Facebook or circle us on Google+. We record our show live on Google+ every Monday at 12:00 p.m. Pacific, 3:00 p.m. Eastern or 2000 Greenwich Mean Time. If you miss the live event, you can always catch up over at cosmoquest.org.

If you enjoy Astronomy Cast, why not give us a donation? It helps us pay for bandwidth, transcripts, and show notes. Just click the donate link on the website. All donations are tax deductible for U.S. residents. You can support the show for free, too. Write a review or recommend us to your friends. Every little bit helps. Click ‘Support the Show’ on our website to see some suggestions. To subscribe to this show, point your podcatching software at astronomycast.com/podcast.xml. Or subscribe directly from iTunes. Our music is provided by Travis Serl and the show is edited by Preston Gibson.

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One Response to Ep. 400: The State of the Universe

  1. Doug February 4, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

    Excellent show! Congratulations on 400! I have been listening for a few years and never miss a show. I subscribe through iTunes and have you marked as a favorite. I find it extremely informative while not being condescending as I have found a few other shows to be. I appreciate your enthusiasm and look forward to much more!

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