Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ep 111: The Ultimo Science Festival, and sending text messages to aliens

This week's podcast celebrates the start of the Ultimo Science Festival - ten days and nights of science fun for families, schools, and people of all ages. The festival is presented by the Powerhouse Museum, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The University of Technology Sydney and TAFE NSW. It runs mainly in the Ultimo precinct near Central Station and Harris St - see the map on Google maps here. Most events are free and held from Friday August 21 through to Sunday August 30, 2009.
In this show, I chat to Festival Director Tilly Boleyn about how the festival started, what to expect, and what fun can be had. Some of the events we chatted about include Why the mind matters, The Dark Side of Science, Mathematics and Sex, The Science of Cocktails, and The Science of Coffee. I also chat to Jacqui Hayes from Cosmos Magazine about the Hello From Earth project. The project collects text messages on its website to send to Gliese 581d which is an exoplanet, or extrasolar planet, which means it is in orbit around a star other than the Sun. The Gliese 581 system is thought to be one of the best candidates for life outside our Solar System of the more than 350 systems with exoplanets so far discovered.

Listen to this podcast here:

After message collection closes on Monday 24 August 2009 - hurry!! - all the messages will be collected as a text file and sent to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where it will be encoded into binary code. This system of beeps and pauses will be sent back to the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, near Canberra. The signal will reach the solar system of Gliese 581 around December 2029 having travelled 20.3 light-years (192 trillion km). The soonest we could hope to receive an answer is in 42 years time in 2051. For more on the technical details, check out the Hello From Earth homepage. And check out the following youtube video:

To read more on National Science Week and the Ultimo Science Festival, see our recent blog post on the topic. Hope to see you at the Festival!

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