Geo Party! Crater Lake National Park Category

Posted by Zoe on 10th August 2013 in Geo Party, Main Page

This past week marked the beginning of the second full game of Zoe’s Geo Party!, starting with a category on Crater Lake National Park. Filming here was a unique experience—it’s not every day you see a lake in a caldera. Crater Lake was quite picturesque. It was also very cold, very beautiful, and very blue, more than you can even see in the videos.

Miss a clue? Rewatch all five with the links below:

Clue 1

Clue 2

Clue 3

Clue 4

Clue 5

One Year on Mars for Curiosity

Posted by Zoe on 5th August 2013 in Exogeology, Main Page, Petra's Blog

One year ago, the Curiosity rover landed on Mars.

Curiosity, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), descended to the surface of Mars at 10:32 p.m. PDT on August 5, 2012 using the science fiction-sounding “sky crane” to land precisely, and thankfully, successfully.

Since that day, Curiosity has had an exciting year. In no particular order, here are a few of the rover’s major events, efforts, and discoveries:

  • Landing safely, of course.
  • Sending home her first pictures. There’s nothing like seeing an alien vista for the first time. We had seen this area of Mars from above, but when Curiosity snapped her first few photos and sent them back to Earth, we were at ground level, close up. We saw Gale crater in a way we never had before.
  • Curiosity's first image taken from the surface of Mars. (Image credit: NASA)

  • Finding rounded rocks in a riverbed. Apart from all the alliteration, this discovery is notable because it pertains to water in Mars’ past. These rocks tumbled around as they were pushed downstream by the current. They knocked into each other and became smaller and smoother and more worn down the farther they went. This happens here on Earth, which you might have noticed, and it’s why river rocks and smooth and rounded.

Rounded river rocks on Mars (left) and Earth (right). Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS and PSI

  • An anomaly with one of her computers’ memory and a switch to the second computer.
  • Starting to use her fancy science tools. Curiosity really is a Mars Science Laboratory. She has several cameras for navigation and taking pictures of the scenery which give you an idea of what the various sights like rock outcroppings, sand, river rocks, and everything else look like. She has a drill for taking samples. She has a scoop for…taking samples. Those last two, along with some other instruments, are on Curiosity’s robotic arm. She has spectrometers to identify materials using the light spectrum. She has a laser. With all these awesome tools and more, it’s pretty exciting that Curiosity has been using these tools throughout the past year.

Holes from Curiosity's drill (large hole) and laser ChemCam (small holes) in a rock called Cumberland. Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

  • Trying to discover whether Mars has ever had a habitable environment. This one isn’t over, it’s ongoing. In fact, it’s one of Curiosity’s primary goals. An event relating to this goal is the time Curiosity found a rock sample that shows Mars may once have been habitable for microbes. There was also the time when she found evidence of water in a place called Yellowknife Bay.  Or course, I can’t wait to see what other evidence Curiosity might find.

But, Curiosity’s not done yet. The rover is on her way Mount Sharp. She’s finally driving, and even though it’s hard to leave behind the rocks nearer to the landing site, Mount Sharp promises to be even more intriguing. Why are we looking forward to investigating Mount Sharp? Well, it’s made up of layers. The layers in Mount Sharp might show us more about what Mars’ climate was like long ago and all the changes it has been through. How cool is that?

If you ask me, everything Curiosity has done in her first one year on Mars has been very cool.

-Petra Stone

Zoe’s Geo Party! Game 2 Begins

Posted by Zoe on 5th August 2013 in Geo Party, Main Page

After much anticipation, we’re finally starting the next game of Zoe’s Geo Party!, a Jeopardy!-style video trivia game YOU can play. Keep checking in for more—you’ll get an all-new clue every weekday for a total of 61 clues.

Now for our first category: Crater Lake National Park!

Click here to watch the first game.

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 10

Posted by Zoe on 19th June 2013 in Exogeology, Main Page

In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 10, we talk with Dr. Rosaly Lopes, a planetary scientist at JPL. She tells us all about volcanoes on Io, cryovolcanism on icy moons like Enceladus, and her travels to Earth volcanoes. I liked hearing about how you should do what you love, and how as a scientist, you always have to keep learning. Her story about catching a gigantic volcanic eruption on Io during the Galileo mission is really interesting. Watch it all here:

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 9

Posted by Zoe on 11th June 2013 in Main Page

Last month, I went to the last couple days of Spacefest, where I got to hear lots of interesting people speak and even got to interview a couple of people. Today, we meet Emily Lakdawalla, the Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for the Planetary Society. In this episode of Exogeology ROCKS!, we talk about where we should explore next in the solar system, landing on Titan, why communication is a useful skill, and much more. I liked hearing about how you have to be creative to be a geologist. Watch the episode below!

Episode 7 Bonus Track

Posted by Zoe on 30th May 2013 in Main Page

You’ve just met Dr. Britney Schmidt, an astrobiologist, in Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 7. Now, hear from her about plans for a spacecraft to go to Europa and what might be found there.

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 8

Posted by Zoe on 24th May 2013 in Main Page

In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 8, host Zoe Bentley meets SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory air quality program manager Kirk Stoddard. They discuss behind-the-scenes work at SLAC, the most powerful known greenhouse gas, and an unusual fossil creature. Plus, I like the hilarious story about ten minutes in!

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 7

Posted by Zoe on 22nd May 2013 in Exogeology, Main Page

In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 7, host Zoe Bentley meets astrobiologist Dr. Britney Schmidt, who talks to us about her travels in Antarctica, why ice is fascinating, and how all of that relates to Europa. Can life survive under an ice sheet? What funny things happened in Antarctica? Find out all of this in the latest episode of Exogeology ROCKS!

Bonus Track for Episode 6!

Posted by Zoe on 20th May 2013 in Exogeology, Main Page

Last year you met SETI planetary geologist Dr. Cynthia Phillips in Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 6. Now, we’ve got a little bonus to go along with the episode: we get to hear from her why Europa rocks, what it’s made of, and why we should go explore it. Dr. Cynthia Phillips really gets into this little world, and you’ll see why.

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 6

Posted by Zoe on 17th October 2012 in Main Page

Woo-hoo! I’ve just finished the sixth installment in the Exogeology ROCKS! video series. The first five can be seen here.

In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 6, we meet Dr. Cynthia Phillips, a planetary geologist for the SETI Institute. She tells us about some interesting worlds in our solar system including Europa, Io, and Mars, how to use images to study them, and much more. I particularly like her stories about her funniest and most exciting experiences as a planetary geologist.

Congratulations, Curiosity!

Posted by Zoe on 6th August 2012 in Exogeology, Main Page, Petra's Blog

Tonight, Curiosity reached its destination: Gale Crater, Mars.

Curiosity's first image taken from the surface of Mars. Woo-hoo! (Image credit: NASA)

Curiosity, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), traveled for about 352 million miles (567 million km) from a cleanroom at JPL on Earth to a place called Mount Sharp in Gale Crater on Mars. It’s hard to imagine traveling so far.

Curiosity's cleanroom, way back in 2010.

Mount Sharp, the area on Mars Curiosity will explore. (Image credit: NASA)

Tonight, August 5, Curiosity’s team worked through the “Seven Minutes of Terror” while everyone else, including myself, just hoped and wished for the best.

Can you even imagine how hard it would be to land a rover? Can you imagine just how nervous you’d be that all the work put into Curiosity would either have the chance to succeed amazingly or just fail terribly? I can’t, but that’s what Curiosity’s team must have felt.

Landing Curiosity had several stages. (Image credit: NASA)

Finally, can you imagine the relief and excitement as Curiosity landed safely on solid ground? I can, but not even half as much as Curiosity’s team, I’m sure.

I’m so, so glad Curiosity made the landing safely. Congratulations, Curiosity! You ROCK!

Speech on Why Exogeology ROCKS!

Posted by Zoe on 28th July 2012 in Main Page

You’ve heard that exogeology rocks, but just what is exogeology? Why does it rock?

I recently gave a speech on just that: Why Exogeology ROCKS!

Transit of Venus

Posted by Petra on 4th June 2012 in Main Page, Petra's Blog

Image credit: NASA

Tomorrow, you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually see a planet cross over a star. Venus transits our sun for the last time in over a century at 22:09 UTC, June 5th, so find a way to watch.

Why is this so special?

If you have any astronomer friends, they’ve probably been blabbering on for months about orbital periods this, first contact that. Why won’t we shut up? Because this is literally once in a lifetime, and it’s kinda cool.

Venus, the next planet inward, will cross directly over the visible disc of the sun. It will appear as a tiny black dot, about one arcminute, covering a minuscule fraction of the disk. This isn’t a lot, but it’s enough to see with the naked eye—not the recommended way to view it, of course.

Venus’ orbit is slightly skewed compared to Earth’s, so Earth, Venus, and the sun only line up this way every 121.5 or 105.5 years. After this much time, Venus gets in the way of the sun twice, each time eight years apart. The last transit was eight years ago. The next, after tomorrow’s, will be in the year 2117.

Transits of Venus were historically used to calculate solar parallax. This eventually led to the astronomical unit, the distance from here to the sun, giving us a way to measure the solar system. Today, scientists’ observations of the transit will help in studying exoplanets.

Do you have a way to live 105.5+ more years or own a time machine? If so, I take back what I said about this being once-in-a-lifetime. Maybe it’s not so special. Even still, what’s the harm in watching?

How can I watch?

If you have vision and plan to keep it, then just going outside and staring at the sun isn’t the method for you. Consider these options instead:

  • Try making a pinhole projector.
  • Use eclipse glasses. These can be bought online or possibly at your local science museum gift shop. Don’t count on the museum shop though—they might have sold out with all the solar viewing going on lately.
  • If you have a telescope, use a filter on the front end (not the eyepiece) to protect your eyes and your telescope. Having a bit of magnification will help turn Venus from a tiny speck to a slightly less tiny speck.
  • Do you or a friend weld? No? Huh. Well, for those who do, wear #14 welder’s goggles to safely view the transit.
  • Do you have access to a device such as a computer, phone, or tablet which can connect to the internet? If not, can you please explain to me why somebody printed my website? If you do have access, check out NASA’s webcast from Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Have fun, view safely, and keep me in the loop about that time machine!

Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 5

Posted by Zoe on 15th April 2012 in Main Page

I’m pleased to announce the fifth episode of Exogeology ROCKS! In this episode, we hear from Professor Geoff Marcy, Professor of Astrophysics at University of California, Berkeley. Professor Marcy tells us about the search for exoplanets—planets which orbit around other stars.

How are exoplanets found? Are there other Earth-like planets? Could there be aliens on them? Find out the answers to these questions and more in Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 5.

You can watch the previous four episodes here.

Meeting Michio Kaku

Posted by Zoe on 29th February 2012 in Main Page

During one of my television interviews last year, I was asked who some famous people I would like to meet are. I listed off several scientists and novelists I admire including J. K. Rowling, Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Duane. If I ever got the chance to see any of these people in person, I would be thrilled.

When I heard that Michio Kaku was going to give a talk in Berkeley, which is relatively near where I am currently, I knew I had to go. Last Thursday, February 23rd, I drove to Berkeley with my dad to hear about the Physics of the Future.

According to his website, “Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, best-selling author, and popularizer of science. He’s the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory.”

After a somewhat lengthy introduction along those lines, Michio Kaku took the stage with a joke. “That was a great introduction. I’d love to hear the speaker!” He kept up the humor for the entire talk, which I found very entertaining and impressive.

I’ve been learning a lot about what makes a good speaker lately as I improve my own speaking skills. Repeating important points, using humor, customizing for your audience, using visual aids and avoiding filler words are all important for a speaker. Michio Kaku demonstrated all of this and more.

Following the theme of his latest book, Physics of the Future, he discussed technology which may become commonplace in the near future. What will the world be like in the year 2100? A few of the many subjects discussed include: nuclear power, computers in contact lenses, biotechnology, and Moore’s Law.

In the near future, we could have computers as thin and as cheap as paper. We could talk to our wallpaper computers and access the Internet at literally the blink of an eye.

While answering questions from the audience, he mentioned types of civilizations—planet-hopping Type I civilizations, Type II civilizations capable of building Dyson spheres, and the galactic scale Type III civilizations—and how a kid had once told him he was wrong. “No, mister,” the kid had said, “there are four types! What about the power of the continuum?”

He asked the audience, “If there are any Star Trek fans out there, can you think of a Type IV civilization who uses the power of the continuum?”

There were a few mutters and some laughter, and being a Trekkie, I knew the answer. I shouted, “Q!”

A few audience members looked back to see who had shouted, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I was giddy from having correctly answered a question asked by a brilliant scientist I happen to be a huge fan of.

I stayed afterwards for the book signing. I had brought Hyperspace with me to be signed, plus a camera and my business cards. I was both excited and nervous as I waited in line.

Finally, it was my turn. I handed over my book to be signed and luckily remembered everything I wanted to say. I asked for a picture, explained that I have a website about science and wrote a book, and gave business cards for both of those. It’s not often that you give your business card to one of your heroes!

Physics of the Future was for sale nearby, so I bought it and got right back in line to have it signed. My dad and I were two of the very last people to stick around and we had time to ask a couple questions. I asked about how much say he had in the material on his television show, Sci Fi Science. The answer was that the first twelve episodes basically followed the table of contents of Physics of the Impossible, while the second dozen episodes were about the science behind various science fiction movies.

Overall, this was a great experience for me. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, I came home with two signed books, and I interacted with one of the top people I’ve wanted to meet.

Who would you most like to meet, and what would you ask them?

Zoe’s Geo Party! Game 1 Response to Finale

Posted by Zoe on 6th December 2011 in Geo Party, Main Page

Find out the correct response to the sixty-first clue of Zoe’s Geo Party!, a 61 clue long trivia game.

Yesterday’s video was the final clue of this Zoe’s Geo Party! game! I call it: Finale Geo Party! Today’s video is the correct question to yesterday’s answer.

Finale Geo Party! is a little bit different from the previous Geo Party!, because there’s only one clue. After today, Zoe’s Geo Party! will be taking a break. We’ll be back with another game in 2012.

Become a fan of Exogeology ROCKS! on Facebook for more updates about geology, astronomy, and Geo Party! While you’re there, be sure to become a fan of Fractured Fate, a novel co-written by Zoe’s Geo Party! host Zoë Bentley. Fractured Fate makes a great gift for the holidays!

Click here to watch the previous episodes.

Zoe’s Geo Party! Game 1 Finale Round

Posted by Zoe on 5th December 2011 in Geo Party, Main Page

Watch the sixty-first clue of Zoe’s Geo Party!, a 61 clue long trivia game. Look for a new video clue every weekday! This is the last clue of the last category in the last round.

Today’s video is the final clue of this Zoe’s Geo Party! game! I call it: Finale Geo Party!

Finale Geo Party! is a little bit different from the previous Geo Party!, because there’s only one clue. You’ll see the correct response tomorrow. After Tuesday, Zoe’s Geo Party! will be taking a break. We’ll be back with another game in 2012.

Write your guess on the Exogeology ROCKS! Facebook page and enjoy the finale. Remember to phrase your response to each clue in the form of a question! While you’re there, be sure to become a fan of Fractured Fate on Facebook.

Click here to watch the previous episodes.

Zoe’s Geo Party! Game 1 Round 2 Category 6 Clue 5

Posted by Zoe on 2nd December 2011 in Geo Party, Main Page

Watch the sixtieth clue of Zoe’s Geo Party!, a 61 clue long trivia game. Look for a new video clue every weekday! This is the fifth and last clue of the sixth and last category in the second round.

There’s only one clue left before this game of Zoe’s Geo Party! comes to an end.

Today on Zoe’s Geo Party!, I’m somewhere in the U.S.A., but I’m not entirely sure where. I’ve figured out where I was in yesterday’s clue and written the answer at the end of the video below. Can you help me out by telling me where today’s clue was filmed? Tell me where you think I am on the Exogeology ROCKS! Facebook page and enjoy the category. Remember to phrase your response to each clue in the form of a question! While you’re there, be sure to become a fan of Fractured Fate on Facebook.

Click here to watch the previous episodes.

Zoe’s Geo Party! Game 1 Round 2 Category 6 Clue 4

Posted by Zoe on 1st December 2011 in Geo Party, Main Page

Watch the fifty-ninth clue of Zoe’s Geo Party! , a 61 clue long trivia game. Look for a new video clue every weekday! This is the fourth clue of the sixth and last category in the second round.

Today on Zoe’s Geo Party!, I’m somewhere in the U.S.A., but I’m not entirely sure where. I’ve figured out where I was in yesterday’s clue and written the answer at the end of the video below. Can you help me out by telling me where today’s clue was filmed? Tell me where you think I am on the Exogeology ROCKS! Facebook page and enjoy the category. Remember to phrase your response to each clue in the form of a question! While you’re there, be sure to become a fan of Fractured Fate on Facebook.

Zoe’s Geo Party! Game 1 Round 2 Category 6 Clue 3

Posted by Zoe on 30th November 2011 in Geo Party, Main Page

Watch the fifty-eighth clue of Zoe’s Geo Party! , a 61 clue long trivia game. Look for a new video clue every weekday! This is the third clue of the sixth and last category in the second round.

Today on Zoe’s Geo Party!, I’m somewhere in the U.S.A., but I’m not entirely sure where. I’ve figured out where I was in yesterday’s clue and written the answer at the end of the video below. Can you help me out by telling me where today’s clue was filmed? Tell me where you think I am on the Exogeology ROCKS! Facebook page and enjoy the category. Remember to phrase your response to each clue in the form of a question! While you’re there, be sure to become a fan of Fractured Fate on Facebook.