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We chatted with legendary astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on extraterrestrial life and more.
Popular Science: Would you rather have a jetpack or flying car?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: What I would rather have is a transportation system that requires neither: a wormhole.
PS: What incredible thing will we see in our lifetime?
NDT: I think that we will know whether or not there’s life on planets other than Earth. And I think the best location would be on Mars or on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
PS: When we find life on other planets, is it going to come and eat us?
NDT: No. People’s first thought every time scientists discover something new is, “Oh, my gosh, you created a virus, so there’s gonna be a killer virus.” I’m not more afraid of something I might find on Mars than I am of a polar bear who’s pissed off because his ice floe is melting.
Read the rest of the Q&A here.
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions—times when the diversity of life on Earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out large dinosaurs. And this time, the cataclysm is us.
In our latest podcast, hear from Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the new book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, and Michael Novacek, senior vice president and provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History, as they discuss the process of extinction—and the role humanity plays in it.
They flew with their fingers. They walked on their wings. Some were gigantic, while others could fit in the palm of a hand. Millions of years ago, the skies were ruled by pterosaurs, the first animals with backbones to fly under their own power.
Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs opens in just one month!
Disk-winged bats, Thyropteridae, are rarely found by the usual method—mist nets—because their sonar is so sensitive they can detect even the fine threads of the net and fly above it. Researchers have to search carefully for males and their harems in their roosting sites of choice, large furled leaves.
This is what Museum Curator Rob Voss was doing early last year in Peru when he accidentally discovered an entirely new species.
From the archives: a deep sea diver’s clothing and equipment on display in the Hall of Ocean Life, 1933
This suit was used by Museum artists on expeditions to document the Andros Coral Reef. The artists documented the reef’s astounding colors and shapes in paintings completed underwater (See footage here!)
Want to see the newest generation of diving gear? Come see The Exosuit on view at the Museum through March 5.
(c) AMNH Library/314193
For the first time, scientists have shown that deep-sea fishes that use bioluminescence for communication are diversifying into different species faster than other glowing fishes that use light for camouflage.
"The first time Ben Novak saw a passenger pigeon, he fell to his knees and remained in that position, speechless, for 20 minutes." As reported today in The New York Times Magazine, Novak has dedicated his life to bringing the Passenger Pigeon back from extinction.
Learn more about the Passenger Pigeon on the Museum’s blog.
Image: Stephen Wilkes for The New York Times
(Source: The New York Times)