TED Talk: Finding planets around other stars

How do we find planets — even habitable planets — around other stars? By looking for tiny dimming as a planet passes in front of its sun, TED Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz and the Kepler mission have found some 1,200 potential new planetary systems. With new techniques, they may even find ones with the right conditions for life.

A prior method of detecting planets around other stars was looking for the wobble. As planets orbit their star, they affect the position of the star. The more mass the planet has, the more the wobble and easier to detect. Of course, a shorter orbit also makes it easier to detect. So it was really good at locating gas giants like Jupiter or larger as close as Mercury or Venus. It would not find an Earth.

Kepler has done a fantastic job so far locating planets, especially those near the size of Earth. Apparently we can even participate by looking for the light dips through the Planet Hunters web site. (Kind of surprised this is not automated. But then, getting credit for having helped find a star is pretty cool.)

If you cannot see the video below, visit Finding planets around other stars.

Every Movie Geek Needs His Quotes

GeekDad published a list of top 100 Geek quotes. I happen to like movies and quotes. However, this list seems lame. None of my favorites even made the top ten.

  1. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Obiwan Kenobi, Star Wars. Of course, I got more attached to this quote when a coworker used this to perplex our boss. I’m sure there are days he regretted hiring so many twenty somethings.
  2. “Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” Mal, Serenity.
  3. “I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on… hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her. Marooned for all eternity, in the center of a dead planet… buried alive. Buried alive.” Khan Noonien Singh, ST:TWOK
  4. “I must not fear. / Fear is the mind-killer. / Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. / I will face my fear. / I will permit it to pass over me and through me. / And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. / Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. / Only I will remain.” – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Dune
  5. “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn’t you say?” Captain James T. Kirk, ST:TWOK
  6. “Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, SW:TESB. Yes, I have a teeshirt about this.
  7. “Raspberry. There’s only one man who would dare give me the raspberry: Lone Star!” Dark Helmet, Spaceballs.

What are your favorite movie quotes?