Comments on The Cool Universe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cool Universe.

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  • 1. At 09:44am on 06 May 2010, Peter Hayes wrote:

    'Millions of tonnes of interstellar dust are landing on the earth every year'. Does this mean, I suppose it must, that the earth is getting bigger every year? How many years before there would be a noticeable impact on eg, the force of gravity?

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  • 2. At 09:45am on 06 May 2010, barriesingleton wrote:

    (Melvyn Bragg 6th May 2010)

    “You get into meaningless numbers”
    The lady astronomer said.
    Nine and a half million million
    Kilometres did in my ‘ed.
    She said “That equates to one light year!”
    And it suddenly seemed clear to me
    That the really meaningless number
    Is our local anomaly.

    I haven’t done the mathematics
    Can’t tell where the point would be!
    But feel sure OUR approximation
    Is to zero - viewed cosmically.
    So let us do Mote and Beam science
    While we still have a few cognate days
    According to Feyman’s line drawings
    Meaninglessness can travel both ways!

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  • 3. At 10:10am on 06 May 2010, charlie r wrote:

    an interesting debate but on a slightly fuzzy subject, perhaps unsuprisingly!
    I felt slightly uneasy towards the end of the discussion as the subject was stretched to include extra solar planets - objects that although their formation from dust discs can be viewed in the infra red the discovery of the 500 or so planets found so far has not been typically done at this wavelength.
    What about a programme soley on exoplanets? It is fascinating, with an interesting story to tell. And provides an obvious question mark for the end of the programme...

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  • 4. At 1:13pm on 06 May 2010, devonlady wrote:

    Was it just me, or did Melvyn Bragg (unwittingly?)rush over one of the most earth shattering pieces of information discussed this morning, that of the polycyclic aromatic hydrcarbons PAHs. If I understood correctly, they have synthesised these and, resembling tubules are very similar to the membranes of cells. These, therefore, could be the very first structures to enable life as we know it, and are formed in interstellar clouds and rain down on the instead of claiming life 'began' on earth we now have to say life 'continued to develope' on earth. So, hey, we all come from alien beings after all...

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  • 5. At 5:57pm on 06 May 2010, jp1940 wrote:

    So how did William Parsons detect infra-red from the moon, presumably with his big telescope but what form of detector? anybody know?

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  • 6. At 6:57pm on 06 May 2010, Jane wrote:

    Like 'devonlady', I was also aware that Melvyn (almost certainly due to pressures of time and schedule) glossed straight over the information about experiments with ultra violet light and these tubules - ie. leaving behind something chemically and structurally like the membranes of cells. That doesn't seem like a small finding. A really interesting programme - even 'though the usual theme of 'the more we know the more we realize...etc.' was our companion throughout. Many big thanks as always. Best wishes to all - Jane.

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  • 7. At 6:59pm on 06 May 2010, Jane wrote:

    ps. maybe he'll mention it in his newsletter...or devote a programme....

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  • 8. At 8:50pm on 06 May 2010, Tony Stutters wrote:

    Dear Melvyn, I can't believe there is no programme on Kant in the wonderful IoT archive! What about a series of two or three, even, given his difficulty? I have had to turn to Australia and America for help with the Sage of Konigsberg. Please ask your wonderful team to contemplate and organize a brush with the noumenal. Thanks! Chuffed to hear it's the most popular programme on R4.

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  • 9. At 6:26pm on 07 May 2010, Ged wrote:

    Regarding the millions of tons of interstellar dust that are added to the earth every year, I've been unable to find out how science arrived at this figure. I understand that small grains of dust burn up in the upper atmosphere as meteors, so I can't figure out how we know what lands on earth. Is it an extrapolation of, say, the mass of meteorites found in Antarctica where they're easy to spot?
    Also, could the increasing mass of the earth explain why my bathroom scales show my weight increasing by a small but significant amount every year? It's a great excuse!

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  • 10. At 7:03pm on 07 May 2010, Ged wrote:

    jp1940 wrote: So how did William Parsons detect infra-red from the moon, presumably with his big telescope but what form of detector? anybody know?
    I've been to Birr Castle where Parsons-Rosse built his Leviathan telescopes and I can tell you what they told me, if that's any use! They said he used the method discovered by Herschel in about 1801. Herschel was looking at light from the sun, but WPR used one of his massive telescopes to spread moonlight with a prism and found that, as with sunlight, the temperature went up just beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. He needed the enormous "light bucket" because the moon is something like 450,000 less bright than the sun. Hope that helps.

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  • 11. At 7:20pm on 07 May 2010, RedHeadPeter wrote:

    "There was much talk about a book by Piazzi Smyth. Italian-English? Emphatically! He became the Astronomer Royal of Scotland. He wrote a book, ‘An Astronomer’s Experiment: A Journey to Teneriffe’ (those were his two ‘f’s and not mine), which was hugely praised by Paul Murdin especially. It is now a collector’s item and almost impossible to obtain. "
    Being republished next month - £22.99

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  • 12. At 9:38pm on 07 May 2010, Rosalind Stewart wrote:

    I thought your "p.s." comment in today's email about the unsung heroes who are repairing great tracts of central London's sewers particularly apt and perceptive. So many people do so many things that save lives or help people, with so little mention. How wondrous.

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  • 13. At 11:32pm on 09 May 2010, Givemesomethinghere wrote:

    I'm not sure about the figure of "millions of tons" - wikipedia gives a figure of 40 tons a day or 14600 tons a year. Anyway, even a figure of a million tons a year would only increase the Earth's mass by about a ten thousandth of a billionth of a per cent per year. A figure of 14600 tons is apparently only enough to cover the earth with a 1.5 inch layer of dust over its entire lifetime.
    Overall a tiny effect, unless the dust really did kickstart life...

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  • 14. At 9:27pm on 10 May 2010, KP wrote:

    As usual, a very informative programme. However, I distinctly heard one of the experts say that hydrogen 'burns' in the sun. Why do erudite astonomers, still go on saying that, when, as scientists, they know quite well that 'burning' is oxidation, and there ain't no oxygen at the centre of the sun.

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  • 15. At 05:31am on 13 May 2010, LanguedocFox wrote:

    Not a comment, but a suggestion. Is there room for a programme on why the first universities in England were established at Oxford and Cambridge. I believe that Cambridge was established by academics who were expelled from/chased from Oxford, but why these two cities and not (say) Winchester, Canterbury or London?

    Thanks for the best radio programme in the world.

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