‘Cosmos’ returns to TV in 2019 with new twists

Ship of the Imagination on 'Cosmos'

The Ship of the Imagination is getting ready to set sail again in “Cosmos: Possible Worlds,” due to air on Fox and National Geographic in the spring of 2019. (Fox via YouTube)

Like hope, “Cosmos” springs eternal.

That’s the message Ann Druyan is delivering with the news that “Cosmos,” the science-minded TV show pioneered by her late husband, world-renowned physicist Carl Sagan, is returning to Fox and National Geographic in the spring of 2019.

“I would love for this show to be a kind of initiation experience for as many people around the world as possible, into the awesome power of science as a way to keep us from lying to each other, and lying to ourselves,” she told reporters today during a teleconference.

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Gravitational waves play role in black hole show

Black hole

A disk of superheated debris blazes around a black hole. The bright circular pattern is caused by the gravitational lensing of light from the part of the disk that’s behind the black hole. (NOVA via YouTube)

Black holes are the collapsed stars of the show on “Black Hole Apocalypse,” a two-hour “NOVA” presentation that’s premiering Jan. 10 on PBS. But the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, also known as LIGO, gets its share of the spotlight as well.

“LIGO both opens and closes the show,” said Barnard College astrophysicist Janna Levin, who wrote a book about the gravitational-wave quest and hosts the “NOVA” program. “It’s the most important thing going on right now for black hole astrophysics.”

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Moon upstages Quadrantid meteor shower


A Quadrantid fireball lights up the sky. (Jimmy Westlake Photo via NASA / Colorado Mountain College)

The good news is that the annual Quadrantid meteor shower is reaching its peak tonight with relatively clear skies in the forecast for Western Washington. The bad news? It’ll be hard to spot shooting stars, due to the night-long glare from a moon that’s just past its super-sized full phase.

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Alien megastructure? Forget about it, scientists say

Tabetha Boyajian

Astronomer Tabetha Boyajian discusses Tabby’s Star, “the most mysterious star in the universe,” during a TED talk in February 2016 in Vancouver, B.C. (TED via YouTube)

The astronomers who once speculated that an alien megastructure might be responsible for the weirdly fluctuating light from a distant star have now fully ruled out that way-out explanation.

Their conclusion, reported in a paper published today by Astrophysical Journal Letters, is based on a crowdfunded analysis of the light patterns in a wide range of wavelengths.

The authors of the paper include Louisiana State University’s Tabetha Boyajian, who led the discovery team for the star known as KIC 8462852 or “Tabby’s Star”; and Penn State’s Jason Wright, who first proposed the alien-megastructure hypothesis.

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Amazon wins patent for 3-D printing on demand

It’s been a long time coming, but today Amazon can say it holds the patent for a retailing system that can take custom orders for 3-D printed items, get them made, and have them sent out for delivery or picked up by the customer.

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Titanic sub’s launch pad is ready for liftoff

OceanGate platform

Workers install an air tank on the mobile subsea platform that OceanGate will use to deploy its Cyclops 2 submersible. (OceanGate Photo)

Construction work is complete for an essential part of the dive system that’s due to carry scientists and amateur adventurers down to the world-famous Titanic shipwreck this summer.

The nearly 11-ton mobile subsea platform will be used to launch a five-person submersible into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and bring it back to the surface at the end of each dive.

Everest Marine. a division of Burlington, Wash.-based Penn Cove Shellfish, spent five months on the custom fabrication of the 38-foot-long aluminum platform. It’s designed to be used with the Cyclops 2 deep-sea submersible that’s been assembled by OceanGate at its headquarters in Everett, Wash.

The submersible and its platform are due to go through a round of shallow-water dives in Puget Sound this month, followed by deep-water testing in the Bahamas in April.

Those tests will lead up to the inaugural Titanic campaign in June, which will make a series of dives to the ship’s remains, 13,000 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic.

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Blended-reality mirror shows off virtual clothes

Amazon mirror

A diagram shows how Amazon’s blended-reality mirror could put an observer into a virtual scene. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

How would that glitzy cocktail dress look on you when you’re on the dance floor at the GeekWire Gala? Now Amazon has a patented technology for that: a blended-reality display that puts your image into a virtual scene, and puts you in a virtual version of the dress.

The magic mirror would be a step up from Amazon’s Echo Look camera, which is currently being marketed on an invitation-only basis as a fashion “style assistant.”

Echo Look lets you take your picture with the assistance of Amazon’s voice-commanded Alexa AI assistant, and then produces blended-reality photos that show you wearing the clothes you’ve picked out.

The blended-reality display, described in a patent published today, relies on a system of cameras, projectors, displays, mirrors and lights that can add layers of pixels to your moving image on a real-time basis.

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