This Sunday: Cosmic volcanoes, future humans and Neanderthals!

November 5, 2019 • 5:03 am

by Matthew Cobb

This post is an unashamed plug/PSA.  RATIO is a regular popular science festival held in Sofia, Bulgaria. I have spoken there a couple of times, as has Jerry. The event attracts hundreds of attendees, and is a major event. Now they are opening their doors to everyone, all over the planet – you can live-stream the upcoming talks, on Sunday 10 November, for JUST FIVE EUROS. (That’s basically five dollars.) Full sign-up details here. As well as the talks there will be a panel discussion. Here’s an example from 2018, including the fabulous Erica McAlister, keeper of flies at the London Natural History Museum.

There are three talks this Sunday:

Robin Andrews: From Alien Volcanoes To Terminator Asteroids: The Solar System Is A Freak Show

Our solar system is stranger than you think. There are earthquakes that can last for nine days without anyone noticing them on Earth. On Saturn, it rains diamonds. On a moon of Jupiter, thanks to its awkward orbital ballet, the rock moves in the way that tides move on Earth, which fuels volcanic eruptions that outshine entire worlds. On Titan, the atmosphere is so soupy that if you flapped your arms, you could fly around…

Martin Moder: Human Оptimization

The world’s first designer babies premiered about a year ago. Time to consider, whether we’re even capable of defining what “optimization” should mean.

Which of our traits are affected by genetics? How far are we from influencing their biological foundation? Could we enhancing general intelligence without tedious studying to finally become less stupid?

Jonathan Pettitt: May Contain Neanderthal

Your DNA is not your destiny, but it is your ancestry; or at least it’s a record of it. Genetics has given us extraordinary insights into our collective human past, showing the patterns of migrations and unions that have shaped our individual genetic inheritances.Investigations into human evolutionary genetics have revealed some deeply non-intuitive findings, which have implications for both the present and future оf human biology and medicine.

I know that PCC(E) would want to join me in encouraging you to sign up. RATIO is a brilliant initiative, and the people behind it – mainly volunteers – have slowly created a really important piece of science communication in eastern Europe. They deserve all our support!

19 thoughts on “This Sunday: Cosmic volcanoes, future humans and Neanderthals!

    1. Seriously? You don’t expect me to read a whole book whose description is below so I can satisfy your curiosity, do you? Read Faith Versus Fact and you’ll already know.

      Summary of that screed:

      “I believe in science, so I couldn’t be religious.” That’s the repeated meme in the marketplace of ideas. And, in churches, Christians ask themselves, “Can science and Christian faith live in harmony?”

      This easy-to-read book puts these fears to rest. There is no irreconcilable conflict between mainstream science and Christian belief.

      Written for students, teachers, clergy, parish groups and interested lay people, this is an attractive and engaging introduction to the relationship between science and Christian faith.

      You put your phone number in your post, and I’ve removed it as it’s not good to make such things public

      1. Hi Jerry – the NEW zefrank could have been written for you. There’s a little segment at the very end [after the credits] about Jerry & penguins! I’ll remind you when you get back to DeepDishPizzaLandia.

        For those with bandwidth here it is:

    2. The author, Chris Mulherin, believes “new atheism” is a religion because proponents are on a crusade. Oh & he likes to have a go at Dawkins as is traditional these days. Jerry did a short piece on Mulherin back in 2012 & you can find it HERE.

  1. Robin Andrews: From Alien Volcanoes To Terminator Asteroids: The Solar System Is A Freak Show

    “Our solar system is stranger than you think. There are earthquakes that can last for nine days without anyone noticing them on Earth” 2016, Turkey: There was a “slow slip” event lasting 50 days & nobody felt it

    “On Saturn, it rains diamonds”
    From Nature, 2013. Diamond drizzle forecast for Saturn & Jupiter, but somewhat disputed by others. READ HERE

    1. “On a moon of Jupiter, thanks to its awkward orbital ballet, the rock moves in the way that tides move on Earth, which fuels volcanic eruptions that outshine entire worlds”
      A “High tides in Io” article with nice pics is HERE. The “outshine entire worlds” is astronomer speak as it refers to the brightness in the infra-red as observed from Earth during an “outburst eruption” of a volcano – one was observed in 2001 at nearly 10^14 Watts. This would obviously outshine bigger planets as observed in the IR from say Earth.

      “On Titan, the atmosphere is so soupy that if you flapped your arms, you could fly around…”
      Quite a bit of artistic licence here given that it’s so cold you’d be in a heavily insulated spacesuit with little arm movement – average surface temp 98K [−179 °C, or −290 °F]. The surface gravity is only 0.138 g [similar to Earth’s moon], but with a surface atmospheric pressure approx 1.45 times that of Earth. It would also be pitch black, given that Titan gets 1% the sunlight of Earth. WIKI

      1. the rock moves in the way that tides move on Earth

        Many people get uncomfortable with descriptions of the twice-daily “earth tide” that distorts the rocks under their feet. They seem to find the idea that the Earth is fluid, and that rock is not solid to be … discomforting.
        As a well-known figure is reputed to have said, though I think it pretty unlikely, “Eppur si muove“.
        On flying on Titan, a mission plan was recently accepted for flight, to put an eight-rotor/ four-motor “drone” onto the surface, powered by a radioisotope thermal electric generator. These are not exactly renowned for their high power-to-mass ratio, but a nominal 70W power unit will fly a ~450kg research station between field locations while preventing the science package from freezing. So, for a ~ 100kg astronaut+suit package, you’d be needing on the order of 25W to achieve flight. Flapping your arms might be hard, but some mechanical linkages to et the leg muscles into play should be well within the realms of do-ability.

        It would also be pitch black, given that Titan gets 1% the sunlight of Earth.

        (And correction.)
        Most people don’t realise how bright sunlight is compared to artificial indoor lighting. You friendly neighbourhood photographer of sufficient vintage to know how to use a light meter would have a better idea. Direct sunlight is around 30,000 lux, but office lighting is 300 to 500 lux, a 60- to 100- fold difference. Full moon on a clear night is a further 100-fold less intense. When the Moon is down, or the fog is thick is when you dig out your headtorch from the rucksack.
        A good darkroom, or several miles inside a mountain can get down to a big fat zero. A poor darkroom can be perfectly acceptable for processing work, but the light leaking around the door is perfectly adequate to orientate yourself and even to find an open film cannisters that you’ve dropped on the floor. Eyes are really broadband instruments.
        What Michael is thinking about is the intensity of sunlight at the top of the atmosphere. A little calculation tells you that Titan at 9.58 (average) times the distance from the Sun, gets about 1/91.8 times the amount of sunlight at the top of it’s atmosphere.
        Brute fact – the furthest from the Sun that NASA has powered a spacecraft from solar panels is the Juno spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter with high eccentricity. That is somewhat under half the distance of Saturn and Titan.

    1. Hi Jeannie,

      We’re setting up the landing page and you should receive your view code with full instructions by Thursday. Sorry if the info on the success page wasn’t clear.

      Please, let us know how you enjoyed the event after.

  2. Wow! I love the poster designs! I wish I could buy them!

    This is a great initiative, science communication at its best.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. What absolutely splendid graphic art. Who’s responsible? Is there a link to see more?

      1. They are lovely. I was intrigued by the write-up of the one about the solar system…

        I’ve just been playing a sublime game called The Outer Wilds(not to be confused with The Outer Worlds, which is very different) in which you explore a kind of shrunken, toytown solar system, which is wiped out by a supernova every twenty two minutes. At the end of each cycle you return to your home planet for another play through and you slowly gather information about the history of the solar system itself, in 22 min. bursts.

        It has most of the basic Newtonian physics intact, only the distances are massively attenuated. Gravity still works in the same way, everything orbits everything else, there is even a crazy binary system of planets called the Hourglass Twins, one of which deposits its sand into the cave system of the other over the 22 minutes as it slowly revolves. So you need to get there early on in the solar system’s life cycle otherwise the caves will be drowned in sand.

        You can just press jump while running around some of the smaller planets…and you’ll go into orbit. It’s wonderful, like Mario Galaxy’s physics extrapolated into something serious and contemplative.

        I don’t know why I brought it up except that some of the crazy phenomena apparently mentioned in Robin Andrews’s talk actually occur in the game…

        It’s a scientifically scrupulous game(relatively speaking) while also still being a work of sci-fi, and it kind of got forgotten a little this year.
        But there’s no fighting in it, just travel and exploration in 1st person using your character’s little tinpot ship, and it’s not that hard. You can die, but it just deposits you back at the start of that 22 minute loop.

        I’ve got to stop posting about my favourite games on WEIT…but this one does at least have scientific appeal. It even deals with quantum mechanics in a way that isn’t just complete woo. It’s completely unique. I’ve never played anything like it.

    2. The original art is exactly square & looks best square – postage stamp style. At the bottom of THIS PAGE on the RATIO site you will see the four RATIO designers.

      I strongly suspect the artist responsible is most likely the first one, Dana Tileva, judging by her preferred colour palette, her interest in calligraphy & because her other work, to my eyes, echoes early Soviet era Constructivism. Those four images we all like could almost be postage stamps from any Soviet-era Eastern Bloc nation celebrating space achievements & the like.

      HERE is her Dribble where she goes by “ladeviant”

      Her Bio at RATIO [translated] reads:

      In 2017, I joined the Ratio team as a graphic designer. I am involved in the development of visions for small and large events, graphical facilitation during major events and the production of all materials that accompany the work of the big R.

      In the world outside of Ratio, I am a graphic designer at Receipt Bank, a graphic facilitator in 500 tags, and a freelance designer. I am interested in calligraphy, animation, painting and everything related to art.

    3. Another possibility is Nevena Niagolova – the second one of the four on the page. Her style is evident in other areas of the RATIO site.

      Her translated bio reads:

      For Ratio, I’m excited to do graphic things from 2018. I am an artist and designer who has also embarked on the path of architecture. I work with many different techniques and techniques and am constantly striving to learn something new. I spend my time working at RED Studio as an intern architect, as a freelance graphic and web designer, as well as in art creation, exhibitions, animation, games, and other art. My site is and you can find me on instagram as @nevcheart”

      PLEASE NOTE: To see stuff at instagram or pinterest without popups you need to open an account.

  3. Hey there! So happy to see you like the art! Yes, Dana is the one responsible for them. We’re actually also doing stickers that will look exactly like postage stamps, so Michael isn’t too far off 🙂

    1. That’s a bit groovy Vassy. Who owns those images we like? Available free as a print or digital file? Or are you printing them for sale?

Leave a Reply