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Episode 157 - Special Cross-Over Episode with The Reality Check, Astronomy Edition

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Recap: In a special cross-over episode, the cast of The Reality Check (Cheque?) podcast come over and we all did short-ish segments on astronomy-related topics: Do we live in a black hole, the Drake equation, are aliens likely to be hostile, did Earth's magnetic field recently collapse, and lunacy. I also did a quiz and learned how difficult it is to make quiz questions that work over a podcast.

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Episode Summary

As this was a live recording with guests, there is no specific transcript. Topics discussed include:

  • Are we living in a black hole? (request by Chris from over the pond)
  • The Drake Equation (request by James K.)
  • Are aliens likely to be hostile towards us?
  • Did Earth's magnetic shield recently collapse? (request by Adam J. D.)
  • Lunacy! (request by Dori J.)
  • A horribly structured quiz on powers-of-10 in space.


Cosmic Water Hole (21cm radio signal): I got this slightly wrong about 14 minutes into the show where Pat was discussing why SETI would look at 21cm radio light for intelligent signals. What's going on is that hydroxyl (OH - an oxygen and hydrogen atom) emits light at 18cm, and hydrogen can emit at 21 cm. Combined, these form water. Combined, they also radiate energy at both 18 and 21 cm, while the spectrum between the two is relatively "quiet" in terms of background noise. Hence, this is a good range to look at for intelligent life (the thinking goes) because there is not much natural stuff that emits light between the two, and because we think water is important for life, an intelligent civilization might also think to transmit there as though saying, "Yeah, we know this is important for life, too."

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