As a group of us were walking along a path at #scicommcamp, we stumbled upon a gigantic bug! At first, it almost looked like a giant ant, or maybe a bee of some kind. But on closer inspection, it didn't have any wings, and instead had a giant (and creepy-looking) set of chompers. It turns out that it was a Jerusalem cricket!
A neuroscientist at #scicommcamp told us a really interesting fact about the human eye. It's apparently designed in a completely illogical way (at least, it seems so at first glance)! The photoreceptors are in the of the eyeball, with a whole network of nerves on top of them, blocking light from getting to the receptors. So our eyes aren't as sensitive as they could be.
This may seem completely obvious, but I honestly believed that barnacles were just deposits left behind by little critters after they attached to rocks and boats. A marine biologist at this conference explained to me that these little critters are alive, and spend almost their whole lives attached to a surface.
I should start out this post by pointing out that, at the time of writing, I am still in graduate school and have not, in fact, gotten my PhD yet. That being said, I think I can look back at the past 4 and a half years and come up with some sort of kernel of wisdom that might be useful to someone else.
As an astronomer, the question people ask me most often is: “Do aliens exist?” Most people believe that astronomers possess some secret insight into this age-old question that we are simply hiding from the public. In reality, there is no consensus among scientists. Astronomers generally settle into two camps; those who believe that life is extremely rare, and we may be the only intelligent life in the universe, and those who believe that life is common, and the only reason we haven’t heard from E.T. is the vast distance between habitable worlds. Here we examine both arguments.