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How to answer cosmic queries

23 Aug 2018, 09:30 UTC
How to answer cosmic queries
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

When you create a blog (Astroquizzical) whose sole raison d’être is answering questions from the general public about space, you anticipate that there will be some unusual questions coming your way. But some of these are so unexpected and stray so far afield from the sorts of questions that, as a trained scientist, I would pose, that you really have to stop and think about how best to answer them.
These unanticipated queries come in three broad forms. The first are questions that have mixed up or jumbled concepts, and what brings you pause is how to best untangle the knot of confusion. This gets us into questions like “How come the signal from our spacecraft doesn’t get lost on the way back to Earth? Wouldn’t objects in between them and us block the signal?” To answer this takes an understanding that spacecraft must ping information back to Earth, that astronomical distances make this task harder, and that a solid object (like a planet) must do something to that signal. What is missing from this picture, though, is a grasp of how fundamentally empty most of space is. To answer this, I must go into a combination of the emptiness ...

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