Science Matters with Lawrence Krauss

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Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss will explain the latest science news in his monthly appearance on Arizona Horizon.

TED SIMONS: A button on the bottom?

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: The button and these things are moving. The way clouds form here is water vapor goes up and it gets cold at the top of our atmosphere and those form clouds. Here what happens is because of the seasons and the seasons, each of the seasons is like 7 ½ years long, part of the moon is hotter than the other part and gas and in this case it's organic material gas moves from one end of the moon to the other and as it sinks, it gets colder and the atmosphere is so dense that you can form frozen bits of hydrocarbon and so these are frozen clouds sitting on a dense atmosphere of liquid, ultimately liquid methane and ethane. It's amazing to see these frozen clouds that can happen in our solar system.

TED SIMONS: We have another shot of this. A different vantage point.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: And it's about 100 miles above the surface, and it's literally a frozen cloud but it's not water vapor, it's hydrocarbon, all these weird things and if you could look at it, it might be orange and gray. And so it's a frozen cloud.

TED SIMONS: With all that in mind, a lot of folks think that might be -- it wouldn't be our kind of life but is it the best place to find any kind of --

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: It's got liquid and gas and so some people think it might be an interesting place because it has liquid oceans on the surface and there's lots of organic materials. Some people think you might want to find life there. If there were life, it would be a very different kind of life because it's 250 degrees below zero. If I had to put my money, I would still say maybe it's Io, which we showed guiders of water and organic materials coming from or Europa or maybe even Mars. We don't have to go to Titan to look for life but it would be interesting because there's so many organic materials is if we found life on Titan. That would mean there's life everywhere in the universe because if you could have a new form of life that evolved in a liquid hydrocarbon atmosphere at 250 degrees below zero, it means it could be anywhere and everywhere.

TED SIMONS: We've got a minute left but our brains, which most of them still can't figure out quantum mechanics, could we -- could there be life all over the place we just don't have the capacity to figure it out? Discover it.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Well, of course there can be but what we try to do is build the capacity to do it. That's why we send rovers to Mars and we're talking about a mission to Europa to drill down into the ice. The only -- people say one of the limits to science and the only limits to science are the ones we don't know about, namely we don't know if there are limits to science. The only way we can find out is to keep trying and so far, there haven't been any limits. We keep pushing those limits back every time we make a new experiment. You're right there could be new kinds of life. The only way we're going to find out is look and that means we have to be willing as a civilization to spend the money and time and effort to look and I hope in our society we'll continue to want to look outward and not always look inward because once we do, game over.

TED SIMONS: You've got to look a little bit inward don't you?

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: To learn about ourselves but every time we see the pictures, we get a new appreciation of ourselves and our place in the cosmos like art, music and literature. Weird and beautiful. That's what the cosmos is.

TED SIMONS: Alright, we'll stop it right there. Always a pleasure.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Great to be back.

TED SIMONS: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us on this special science edition of "Arizona Horizon." You have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you. When you want to be more informed, eight delivers news and analysis with multiple perspectives, thanks to financial support from you and...

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