Science series is changing location

The free, eight-week science program, “Amazement 101 – Life, the Universe, and Everything!” that started on Jan. 1 at the Pendragon Theatre is moving to a new location for the last three weeks of its run.

If you missed out on the earlier presentations, you will have a chance to get caught up; the last week of the program is called Bonus Week, when all seven topics will be revisited for seven days in a row.

The free shows still start at 7 p.m., but the new location is next door to the Lakeview Deli in the commercial space sometimes referred to as the Clarkson Room; many thanks to deli owners John and Buffy VanAnden for donating this space. Pendragon Theatre originally agreed to the full eight-week run, but a change in rehearsal schedules prompted the change late in the program.

Week 6 of the program is titled “Discovering ALIEN Life” and is traditionally the most popular presentation in the series. It will be at the Clarkson Room for only three days, though, instead of the usual four. The dates are Friday (Feb. 7), Saturday (Feb. 8) and Monday (Feb. 10).

Don’t be fooled by the title; the “aliens” mentioned refer not to UFOs but refer to the possibility of finding life outside planet Earth. When we do find life “out there,” it will most likely be microscopic; after all, that’s how life started on this planet. Many scientists are confident that life will be found someday. There are more than 200 billion stars (and likely many more planets) in our Milky Way galaxy, and there are more than 200 billion galaxies out there beyond the Milky Way. A common quote you hear from astronomers is, “There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth.”

Surely conditions are right to start and support life on some other planet, or even a moon. Organic molecules called amino acids are the building blocks of life, and they’ve been found repeatedly on comets and meteors studied by scientists. The ingredients for life as we know it are pretty simple: the right chemicals, some water to help mix things together, and then add some energy, either from the sun or from the internal heat of a distant planet or moon.

Mars once had flowing water, more heat and an atmosphere – could life have started there and then died out? It’s one of the things the robotic Mars rovers are searching for, the telltale evidence that life once existed there. In fact, Mars cooled before the Earth did; life could have started there first. Some scientists say it’s possible that Martian microbes could have hitched a ride on debris after an asteroid impact and then traveled to a young Earth; if that’s the case, then we are all really “Martians” at the core. And then there are two moons of Jupiter and Saturn where it’s been discovered that liquid water exists, along with abundant internal energy. Life could be there. Science is even developing special telescopes that will be able to analyze the light signature coming from newly discovered planets in other distant solar systems. Soon we will be able to detect the signature of living things thanks to some powerful computers.

Week 7 of the program is titled “REAL MAGIC – The Quantum Leap.” Quantum Mechanics, or the physics of tiny atomic parts, is not a new science. It’s been around since the 1920s, and Einstein hated it because it was weird and illogical. He has been credited with saying, “God does not play dice with the universe” since the weirdness involves particles that appear and disappear, objects that can be in two different places in the same time, and super-weird “quantum entanglement” which involves two particles that can “communicate” instantaneously over any distance. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” It was proven to exist after his death, and the implications of this mean that signals can actually travel faster than the speed of light, something that was once thought impossible.

This show will run the traditional four nights in a row: Friday (Feb. 14), Saturday (Feb. 15), Sunday (Feb. 16) and Monday (Feb. 17).

The last week of the program is called Bonus Week. All seven topics will be covered, one per day over one week.

The schedule begins Tuesday (Feb. 18) with “Einstein’s Three Mistakes.” Why did he not want to believe in the Big Bang theory, and what changed his mind?

Wednesday (Feb. 19) is titled “Let There be Light” and looks at the nature of light itself, the weirdness of the sun and other stars, and how light actually provides almost all the power to run our world and our bodies.

Thursday (Feb. 20) is called “The Majesty and Mystery of Gravity.” Gravity looks like a force and acts like a force, but it is something far, far stranger, and you would not exist without its weirdness.

Friday (Feb. 21) is “Meet your Mega-Great-Grandparents: Super Nova Explosions.” The iron in your blood, the carbon in your cells, the calcium in your bones were made by special stars that were born, lived and then died in flash so bright they can outshine an entire galaxy.

Saturday (Feb. 22) is “Ghost in the Machine,” a humorous look at what Americans believe about the paranormal will be covered, but the atom itself is “ghostly” since it is almost entirely empty space, and you are made of these weird, ghostly atoms.

Sunday (Feb. 23) is “Discovering ALIEN Life,” described above, and the program finishes on Monday (Feb. 24) with a repeat performance of “Real Magic – the Quantum Leap.”

So take advantage of the opportunity to expand your mind and feed your curiosity. Hope to see you next door to the Lakeview Deli for all of these exiting presentations.

Randy Jones is co-founder of the nonprofit project ASAP (American Science Ambassador Program) and owner of the Off The Beaten Path bookstore in Tupper Lake.