Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Immortals

Princess Enheduanna

Today on Far Future horizons we present the eleventh episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In this installment we explore the how life may have developed on Earth and the possibility of life on other planets.


Tyson begins by explaining how the human development of writing systems enabled the transfer of information through generations, describing how Princess Enheduanna (voiced by  CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour) ca. 2280 BCE would be one of the first to sign her name to her works, and how Gilgamesh collected stories, including that of Utnapishtim documenting a great flood comparable to the story of Noah's Ark.

Model of a Viking Lander

Tyson then explains how DNA similarly records information to propagate life, and postulates theories of how DNA originated on Earth, including evolution from a shallow tide pool, or from the ejecta of meteor collisions from other planets. In the latter case, Tyson explains how comparing the composition of the Nakhla meteorite in 1911 to results collected by the Viking program demonstrated that material from Mars could transit to Earth, and the ability of some microbes to survive the harsh conditions of space. With the motions of solar systems through the galaxy over billions of years, life could conceivably propagate from planet to planet in the same manner.

Nakhla meteorite (BM1913,25) inside surfaces after breaking in 1998. NASA photo # S98-04014. Multiple fragments of the Nakhla meteorite were seen to fall as a shower in the hamlets surrounding the village of El-Nakhla, El-Baharîya in Egypt (near Alexandria) on June 28th, 1911 at 9:00 a.m. Dr. W. F. Hume, Director of the Geological Survey of Egypt, personally visited the site and collected both the evidence of eyewitnesses of the fall and about a dozen specimens including the largest known fragments. It is recognized that it originated from the planet Mars.

Finally Tyson travels in the Ship of the Imagination across the cosmos to discover the possibility of beings that live forever and explain why other civilizations perish. Then, he visits the Cosmic Calendar of the Future and contemplate what lies ahead with a hopeful vision.

If you want to learn more about the scientists mentioned in this and other episodes in the series here is a very good reference page ~ The Scientists of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

This episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey can be purchased from Amazon Instant video.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey ~ “The Immortals”
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