On Science – Habitable Exoplanets Not So Rare

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,327
    11-5-13: On this episode of On Science, potentially habitable exoplanets abound, now-extinct giant platypus fossil discovered, and why you shouldn’t mix acetaminophen and alcohol.


    Earth isn’t so unique after all…


    Getting bested by a robot…


    A common yet deadly combination…


    And lightning strikes!  Today… On Science!


    Hello and welcome to On Science.  I’m Emerald Robinson.


    I feel like we keep getting less and less unique here on Earth.  The now-retired Kepler spacecraft has revealed that 1 in every 5 sun-like stars has an Earth-sized planet orbiting within the habitable zone.  So breaking it down—when you look up at the sky, you can see the closest sun-like star with an Earth-size exoplanet with the naked eye because it’s only 12 light years away.  NASA says the fact that 1/5 of all stars like our sun have a potentially habitable planet is an important find because the distance of these planets from us will influence the size and kind of telescope astronomers build to replace the now-defunct Kepler telescope But remember these planets are only “potentially” habitable; we still have to consider whether they have a thick enough atmosphere and liquid water to support life.  Is it a little premature then if I start readying my welcome to Earth care packet?


    Never trust a robot at Rock-Paper-Scissors. They’ll cheat you every time.  Japanese scientists have created the Janken robot—meant to best any human opponent in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.  Janken uses a robotic “eye” to quickly determine what his challenger will throw next.  He reacts and flexes the fingers of his robotic hand before the human hand can complete its motion and victory is his.  He is an improved version with a one-millisecond reaction time and a 100% winning record.  He gets his name from the Japanese name for the game.  But Janken is meant for more than “one-upping” us.  Creators say the same quick reactions could help robots one day more seamlessly work alongside of us.  Alright Janken, in that case I forgive you.


    And there’s a new duck-billed platypus in the fossil record.  Scientists have discovered a lone tooth in Queensland, Australia that has led to the classification of a new, giant, extinct platypus. They aren’t completely certain of the fossil’s age, but they’re guessing between 5 and 15 million year old.  The size of the tooth suggests the animal was more than 3 feet long—twice the size of it modern predecessor.  They believe like today’s platypuses, it was an aquatic mammal and due to the size of its teeth it probably fed on small vertebrates like frogs and small turtles.  What’s interesting about the discovery is that scientists had previously thought than only one species of the platypus lived at a time.  However, the newly discovered species would have been a side-branch—which was bigger than the others.  So now scientists say the platypus evolution wasn’t so linear after all.


    If you think you’re getting a jump-start on a hangover by washing down a little Tylenol with your booze.  Think twice.  No think 120 times.  A new study by the American Public Health Association says that acetaminophen in conjunction with alcohol increases the risk of kidney disease by over 120%.  After looking at data from 10,000 people on alcohol and acetaminophen use they found that about half of the people who combined the two reported health problems related to their kidneys.  Neither are as bad on their own.  They recommend if you use the drug everyday avoid alcohol. If you drink everyday don’t take acetaminophen.  So there you go, pick your poison.


    Well, there’s a party in the sky and NASA’s trying to find it.   NASA’s FireStation instrument aboard the International Space Station is helping scientists learn more about what happens inside a thunderstorm.  The instrument collects data on lightning and gamma rays in an attempt to understand the connection between the two.  They likened the activity in a thunderstorm to witch’s brew.  Clouds become charged as ice crystals rub together, dramatically releasing lightning and some lightning events include terrestrial gamma ray flashes.  They say the more we understand about lightning, the better we can protect ourselves.



    And that’s what’s going on today On Science.  See you tomorrow!