Tag Archives: universe

Remembering A Genius

While we are mourning the passing of the epically brilliant Stephen Hawking, we are comforted by the fact that his profound insights into the workings of our Universe will live on and will inspire and inform future generations of humans who simply long to understand.

At CuriosityStream, we will always be grateful that Stephen Hawking passionately wanted to share his enthusiasm for the wonders of the Universe with his fellow humans.  His dedicated and tireless work on television projects that took viewers to the furthest reaches of his mind and the cosmos he sought to deeply understand are treasured gifts to humanity.  Although Stephen Hawking demonstrated a remarkable optimism about our capacity to understand the Universe, he also cautioned us about the fragility of our human condition as we currently remain bound to a small planet subject to meteor strikes and other natural and manmade catastrophes.  In the end, he urged us all to get on with the quest to explore and populate worlds beyond our origin.  He will always remain a towering figure in the history of human thought and inspiration.

In tribute, please enjoy our complete Emmy® Award-winning series, Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places, including the newly released third and final episode, free of charge until March 23, 2018.

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A day in the life of a filmmaker: Working with Commander Chris Hadfield

We are just one week away from the premiere of one of our most exciting original documentaries to date, Miniverse.  The film features the always wonderful CuriosityStream advisory board member Michio Kaku, as well as astronomers Derrick Pitts and Laura Danly, and is hosted by former astronaut Chris Hadfield.  All of you space fans out there may remember Commander Hadfield as a YouTube sensation for his performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station.  Well, it turns out he’s just as fun and creative to work with as you might imagine.  We sat down with Doug Cohen, executive producer of Flight 33, to live vicariously through him about working with one of the world’s greatest astronauts.

Q: What was Chris Hadfield (CH) like to work with?

A: Chris is a former fighter pilot and an astronaut, so the things that felt like challenges to the rest of us were no sweat to him.  To quote one member of our crew, “Chris Hadfield is the best human being I’ve ever met.”  It’s not just that he’s charming, curious and tireless; it’s also that he sings, plays guitar, tells great stories and, of course, he’s been to space!

Q: What was the funniest thing that happened while shooting Miniverse?

A: Chris had spent the whole day driving at about 40 miles per hour through the Mojave Desert while chatting with astronomer Laura Danly.  We kept his speed down to reduce the amount of road noise during the conversation.  As the sun set, we prepped to shoot beauty shots of the car driving down the lonely desert highway.  I radioed to Chris that he should drive past the camera, and since we weren’t rolling sound he was now free to go as fast as he wanted.  When I called “action”, he put the pedal to the metal and whipped past us at 122 miles per hour with poor Laura Danly holding on for dear life!  That’s the last time I tell a former fighter pilot to drive as fast as he wants!

Q: Describe the dynamic between CH and Michio Kaku.

A: They were excited to meet each other!  It was fun to watch the contrast between astrophysicist and astronaut. Michio made it clear that despite his fascination with space, he had no interest in doing something risky like traveling to Mars.  Chris, on the other hand, said that the danger is precisely what makes him want to do it.

 

Q: Between CH and Derrick Pitts?

A: Derrick would have liked to be an astronaut himself, so he was thrilled to be Chris’ guide for the outer planets.  The two of them bonded over some packets of freeze-dried “astronaut ice cream.”

 

Q: Between CH and Laura Danly?

A: When we asked Laura if she wanted to participate in the program, she said “you had me at Chris Hadfield”.  They had a lot of time to talk as we drove from the mountains to the desert, and it was amazing how many things they saw reminded them of Star Trek episodes.

 

Q: What’s the hardest part of shooting so much inside of a car?

A: We had five cameras rolling inside the car at all times, plus cameras affixed to the exterior and to a chase car.  That’s a lot of cameras that need a lot of tending.  You are constantly stopping to troubleshoot misbehaving gear.  We studied how James Corden does it for Carpool Karaoke and how Seinfeld’s team does it for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and took the best ideas from both.  The difference with our show is that we were really traveling from place to place, so we couldn’t just stake out a route on a local road and keep circling.  The entire country was our “set”.

Q: Why did the cops keep pulling CH over?

A: We had no problems in most of the country, but in New York and Washington, D.C. the police were extremely “curious” about this car with cameras all over the windows.  Sometimes, we would neglect to remove our prop license plate that said “ROCKET”.  That also drew the attention of the police on a couple occasions.  One officer removed the license plate and cut in half!  Luckily, we had made an extra one.  In general, when we would tell the cops that we were making a science documentary with an astronaut and a bunch of astrophysicists, they let us go with nothing more than a confused look.

Q: Are there any funny stories from shooting in NYC near the Freedom Tower?

A: We shot at the Brooklyn Bridge across the river from Freedom Tower just before sunset, and as we were shooting, people were lining up to meet Chris and Michio.  This actually happened almost everywhere–hotel lobbies, the steps of the Washington Monument–people from all over the world would show up and ask for an autograph or a selfie.

Miniverse premieres the week of April 17, only on CuriosityStream, and will be available in standard, HD and Ultra HD 4K resolution.

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Destination: Jupiter + The Year of the Rooster

February 2nd will mark one of NASA’s Juno space probe’s closest flybys to Jupiter.  We are celebrating by sharing what we’ve learned along the way since Juno first set out to Jupiter with a newly released episode in our original series Destination: Jupiter!  Then, travel to China during the peak of this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations with our newly curated content collection, China.  It’s a busy week for curious minds and we’ve got you covered with content spanning the globe and the Universe.

Destination: Jupiter

Seven months since the Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter on July 4th, 2016, the mission has started to lift the veil on the largest and most mysterious planet in our solar system.  Since its initial approach, the craft has been on a 53-day orbit around the gas giant.  Thus far, there have been three close flybys in August, October, and December of 2016.  During that time, Juno has flown a mere 2600 miles above the Jovian clouds, employing eight cutting-edge space exploration instruments to collect images and peer below the thick atmosphere of the planet, hoping to reveal its inner most secrets.

As the next flyby approaches on February 2nd, the Juno team will be tasked with making an unexpected and critical trajectory decision, impacting the future of the carefully-planned mission.  Review what has been uncovered so far in Mission Update, the second episode in our exclusive, original Destination: Jupiter series, and learn how you can become an active participant in the Juno Mission to Jupiter!

 

Chinese New Year

The most anticipated global event in China’s calendar is in full swing, when people take to the streets to ring in another year.  Unlike the festivities of many countries, which always take place at midnight between December 31 and January 1, Chinese New Year is a moveable festivity.  This year, the celebration began on January 27 (New Year’s Eve) and continue for around two weeks (ending on February 2) and the year will last until February 15, 2018.  This year is the “Year of the Rooster” – those born in 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993 and 2005 are known as Roosters.

To honor the occasion, we have created a new content collection, full of our most fascinating and informative documentaries about China.  The collection contains 11 programs and spans over 12 hours, guaranteeing that you can become an expert on all things China by the time this year’s New Year celebrations come to a close.

Find the collection in its entirety here.  Happy New Year!

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Mars: The Red Planet

If you have been following NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, then you know it has had quite an eventful couple of months!  It has recently discovered an odd-shaped iron meteorite that some likened to “an alien egg,” viewed spectacularly layered rock formations and, just last week, slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges were discovered that likely originated as cracks in drying mud.  This makes it a perfect time to explore our new collection, Mars: The Red Planet.

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury.  Named after the Roman God of War, it is often referred to as the “Red Planet” because the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance.  50 years of space exploration have brought us closer to understanding Mars, but is it as hospitable as many experts think?

This newly curated collection is made up of eight programs, totaling just over six hours of content all about Mars.  Perfect for all age ranges, the content covers everything from whether or not there is water on Mars to the likelihood of life on Mars to what it would take for humans to colonize Mars.

So, why not make it a night of star gazing and dreaming of far away galaxies?  Grab some popcorn and get ready to binge on facts and speculations about the Red Planet.  Find the full collection here, only on CuriosityStream.

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Stay curious in 2017

Happy New Year!

Part and parcel with a new year arrives both reflection on the past and excitement (hopefully) toward the future.  Here at CuriosityStream, we are very much looking forward to 2017 and to helping you become more curious about the many wonders in science, technology, history and nature.  Our team has been hard at work over the holidays putting together a release schedule of original and exclusive titles debuting on CuriosityStream over the next few months.  Take a look at some highlights below and stay tuned for their official premiere dates.

 

January 2017

New year, new you!  Hosted by Dr. Michael Greger, MD, author of the New York Times best-seller How Not to Die and editor of the world renowned website NutritionFacts.org, explore the dramatic health benefits of plant-based diets and the amazing revolution in how we approach our relationship with food.  New episodes will be released bi-weekly beginning in early January.

February 2017

Travel back in time to visit the three most powerful extinction events in Earth’s history.  This original series explores the major events that wiped out between 70-90% of Earth’s species developed during the Permian, Triassic and Cretaceous periods.

March 2017

Join former astronaut Chris Hadfield – a YouTube sensation for his performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station – along with hitchhikers Michio Kaku and more on a joyride across our Solar System, scaled down to the size of the continental United States.

April 2017

You will be captivated by this epic story of our origins told through the story of one extended family.  This group of men, women, and children are your guide to over 15 million years of human history, including the trials, drama and joys of being human across the ages.

May 2017

Can a team of scientists reveal unknown chambers in the Great Pyramid using special muon detector plates beneath the pyramid?  In this expedition, experts use high-tech drones, thermal cameras, laser scanning to create a 3D map of inside and out of the famous Giza plateau tombs.

Stay curious!

Cheers,

Elizabeth Hendricks North
President & CEO, CuriosityStream

Elizabeth Hendricks North is President and CEO of CuriosityStream. Follow her on Twitter @ehendricksnorth.

 

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Top 10 Curious Moments of 2016

As we look back on 2016, we want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of our curious community.  This past year has been monumental for science and technology and CuriosityStream been there every step of the way with documentaries that explore key moments in science, history, space, technology, nature and the human spirit.

Journey down memory lane by binge-watching our top 10 curious moments of the year.  Who knows what 2017 will have in store?

               

               

               

               

               

 

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How ‘Deep Time History’ Just Got Personal

They say knowledge is power. If that’s the case, then I felt on top of the world after watching CuriosityStream’s new 3-part series Deep Time History. It stuck with me for several days because I couldn’t help feeling a little overwhelmed by our universe’s astonishing 14-billion year history. It got me thinking about how brief the human experience is in comparison. And yet, there are humans who have significantly impacted our existence throughout time. Julius Caesar. Christopher Columbus. Albert Einstein. Mother Teresa. Malala Yousafzai. The list goes on.

As a marketer, reflecting on the human experience made me curious about the history of CuriosityStream’s community of viewers and followers. That curiosity felt like a natural alignment to the very premise of Deep Time History. So, we put the question out there as a way for people to bring their personal history into the larger conversation about the series: “What’s YOUR story?” Centered around the hashtag #MYdeeptimehistory, we asked people to share photos from their past for the world to see. I’ve been inspired, I’ve laughed and I’ve reflected on my own history while scrolling through the responses.

I dug up my old family photos and stumbled upon a few gems that I couldn’t help but share, including the baby picture below of me (in a very coordinated outfit, if I do say so myself) standing between two vintage cars.

Little Michael

I soon expanded to my father’s photo library and the scenery he has captured on camera. You see, my father is a world traveler and a few years ago, he put some of his favorite photos on a disc so that my brothers and I could cherish them forever. I learned that one of the places he has been to is The Perito Moreno Glacier, located in the Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. I had no idea. But here is the photographic evidence to prove it.

Perito Morena Glacier

As the #MYdeeptimehistory hashtag started to spread, it wasn’t long before some people within my personal network got in on the game. While I hate to play favorites, it was my friend and colleague John’s post that took my breath away. John is an educator who has trekked across the globe and fortunately, he always brings his camera along with him.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 10.55.39 AM

In summary, the three engaging hours I spent watching Deep Time History turned into something much bigger. I loved the series and by learning about the history of our universe, I was inspired to reflect on the history of my own family and friends, which has taught me new things about some of the people I am closest to. And I hope you will do the same. Check out the series for yourself and share your photos with our curious community by tagging them on Twitter and Instagram using #MYdeeptimehistory.

We all have some amazing stories to tell. What’s yours?

Michael Hammerstrom

Michael Hammerstrom is CuriosityStream’s Manager of Marketing and Engagement. Follow him on Twitter @mhammerstrom.

Deep Time History is available now in ultra HD 4K, HD and standard definition on CuriosityStream.  The exclusive, original 3-part documentary series offers captivating insight into the links between astronomy, deep time geologic events and human civilization.

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“Einstein Would Be Beaming…”

It’s a stunning breakthrough in physics, proving once again that Albert Einstein was right. Scientists have announced they’ve detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space and time that Einstein predicted 100 years ago.  And the proof was captured in audio form, so we can now actually listen in on the sounds of the universe, hearing two black holes collide more than a billion light years from Earth.

Dr. Sean Carroll is a physicist and a professor at Cal Tech, who describes himself as a theorist who thinks about the fundamental laws of nature, especially as they connect to cosmology.  And, Dr. Carroll is a 2016 Curiosity Retreat Luminary.  He wants to make sure we all truly understand the magnitude of this new discovery.

The following was originally published on Dr. Carroll’s blog, PreposterousUniverse.

ONCE upon a time, there lived a man who was fascinated by the phenomenon of gravity. In his mind he imagined experiments in rocket ships and elevators, eventually concluding that gravity isn’t a conventional “force” at all — it’s a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime. He threw himself into the study of differential geometry, the abstruse mathematics of arbitrarily curved manifolds. At the end of his investigations he had a new way of thinking about space and time, culminating in a marvelous equation that quantified how gravity responds to matter and energy in the universe.

Not being one to rest on his laurels, this man worked out a number of consequences of his new theory.  One was that changes in gravity didn’t spread instantly throughout the universe; they traveled at the speed of light, in the form of gravitational waves.  In later years he would change his mind about this prediction, only to later change it back. Eventually more and more scientists became convinced that this prediction was valid, and worth testing. They launched a spectacularly ambitious program to build a technological marvel of an observatory that would be sensitive to the faint traces left by a passing gravitational wave. Eventually, a century after the prediction was made — a press conference was called.

Chances are that everyone reading this blog post has heard that LIGO, the Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory, officially announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves. Two black holes, caught in a close orbit, gradually lost energy and spiraled toward each other as they emitted gravitational waves, which zipped through space at the speed of light before eventually being detected by our observatories here on Earth. Plenty of other places will give you details on this specific discovery, or tutorials on the nature of gravitational waves, including in user-friendly comic/video form.

 

What I want to do here is to make sure, in case there was any danger, that nobody loses sight of the extraordinary magnitude of what has been accomplished here. We’ve become a bit blasé about such things: physics makes a prediction, it comes true, yay. But we shouldn’t take it for granted; successes like this reveal something profound about the core nature of reality.

Some guy scribbles down some symbols in an esoteric mixture of Latin, Greek, and mathematical notation. Scribbles originating in his tiny, squishy human brain. (Here are what some of those scribbles look like, in my own incredibly sloppy handwriting.) Other people (notably Rainer Weiss, Ronald Drever, and Kip Thorne), on the basis of taking those scribbles extremely seriously, launch a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of decades. They concoct an audacious scheme to shoot laser beams at mirrors to look for modulated displacements of less than a millionth of a billionth of a centimeter — smaller than the diameter of an atomic nucleus. Meanwhile other people looked at the sky and tried to figure out what kind of signals they might be able to see, for example from the death spiral of black holes a billion light-years away. You know, black holes: universal regions of death where, again according to elaborate theoretical calculations, the curvature of spacetime has become so pronounced that anything entering can never possibly escape. And still other people built the lasers and the mirrors and the kilometers-long evacuated tubes and the interferometers and the electronics and the hydraulic actuators and so much more, all because they believed in those equations. And then they ran LIGO (and other related observatories) for several years, then took it apart and upgraded to Advanced LIGO, finally reaching a sensitivity where you would expect to see real gravitational waves if all that fancy theorizing was on the right track.

And there they were. On the frikkin’ money.

ligo-signal

Our universe is mind-bogglingly vast, complex, and subtle. It is also fantastically, indisputably knowable.

I got a hard time a few years ago for predicting that we would detect gravitational waves within five years. And indeed, the track record of such predictions has been somewhat spotty. Outside Kip Thorne’s office you can find this record of a lost bet — after he predicted that we would see them before 1988. (!)

kip-bet-1

 

But this time around I was pretty confident. The existence of overly-optimistic predictions in the past doesn’t invalidate the much-better predictions we can make with vastly updated knowledge. Advanced LIGO represents the first time when we would have been more surprised not to see gravitational waves than to have seen them. And I believed in those equations.

I don’t want to be complacent about it, however. The fact that Einstein’s prediction has turned out to be right is an enormously strong testimony to the power of science in general, and physics in particular, to describe our natural world. Einstein didn’t know about black holes; he didn’t even know about lasers, although it was his work that laid the theoretical foundations for both ideas. He was working at a level of abstraction that reached as far as he could (at the time) to the fundamental basis of things, how our universe works at the deepest of levels. And his theoretical insights were sufficiently powerful and predictive that we could be confident in testing them a century later. This seemingly effortless insight that physics gives us into the behavior of the universe far away and under utterly unfamiliar conditions should never cease to be a source of wonder.

We’re nowhere near done yet, of course. We have never observed the universe in gravitational waves before, so we can’t tell for sure what we will see, but plausible estimates predict between one-half and several hundred events per year. Hopefully, the success of LIGO will invigorate interest in other ways of looking for gravitational waves, including at very different wavelengths. Here’s a plot focusing on three regimes: LIGO and its cousins on the right, the proposed space-based observatory LISA in the middle, and pulsar-timing arrays (using neutron stars throughout the galaxy as a giant gravitational-wave detector) on the left. Colorful boxes are predicted sources; solid lines are the sensitivities of different experiments. Gravitational-wave astrophysics has just begun; asking us what we will find is like walking up to Galileo and asking him what else you could discover with telescopes other than moons around Jupiter.

grav-wave-detectors-sources

For me, the decade of the 2010’s opened with five big targets in particle physics/gravitation/cosmology:

  1. Discover the Higgs boson.
  2. Directly detect gravitational waves.
  3. Directly observe dark matter.
  4. Find evidence of inflation (e.g. tensor modes) in the CMB.
  5. Discover a particle not in the Standard Model.

The decade is about half over, and we’ve done two of them! Keep up the good work, observers and experimentalists, and the 2010’s will go down as a truly historic decade in physics.

This blog was originally published at PreposterousUniverse.com.

You can explore more about the origins of the universe on CuriosityStream.  Our 2 part series, The Ultimate Formula, details the journey as physicists search for a blueprint of the universe in the form of a single mathematical formula.  And, go inside Monster Black Holesin an episode from our Cosmic Front series.

And, our original, short form series A Curious World explores the reality of black holes:

 

 

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The Search for Intelligent Life and a Champagne toast

It is a question as enduring as time itself: “Are we alone in the Universe?” Astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter, who is the former Director of the SETI Institute (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has been asking that critical question for most of her professional life. And, of course as we know – it remains unknown, and perhaps unknowable – for now. I interviewed Dr. Tarter about the potential for such an historic discovery at our Curiosity Studio in Gateway, Colorado:

“I think there is a possibility for life, and some of it being intelligent to exist beyond the earth…We are made out of the elements that were fused up inside massive stars that blew up billions of years ago…Although we can’t tell you exactly how the chemistry turned into biology, it clearly did on this planet a long time ago.”

An intriguing and unanswered key question is what should Planet Earth do if intelligent life is found elsewhere in the Cosmos? Should humans actively reach out? Or should we stay silent? Are there inherent dangers and risks if Earth does make contact with alien life? Are we prepared as a planet? Are the right protocols in place? Who would actually speak for Planet Earth, and what would we say? Well, Dr. Tarter thinks it is worth the risk:

“Well, I think it would change everything and change everything quite quickly. So the very first thing that we’re going to do is drink champagne that’s been sitting in the refrigerator for all these decades. And then we’ll get busy with the follow up protocol. This is pretty big stuff.”

I asked Dr. Tarter what are the tools and technology scientists are using to explore the universe for intelligent life? It is called a radio telescope and Dr. Tarter explains how it works:

“We can take a lot of energy and compress it all into just one channel on a radio dial where nature is more profligate. Nature spreads the energy she emits over many, many frequencies. For efficiency, we compress it into one and that doesn’t look like Mother Nature. So that’s our sandbox, kinds of signals that don’t appear to be the sorts of things that nature can create.”

So for now, fifty years or so into the search, Dr. Tarter and the scientists at SETI continue their unique exploration of the Cosmos, hoping that one day, or night, Planet Earth might hear that ping…and then…!

 

Richard Sergay
Chief Curator
CuriosityStream

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