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WATCH: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Cast Google+ Hangout With Astronauts

WATCH: J.J. Abrams and 'Into Darkness' Cast Hangout With Astronauts

On Thursday morning, Star Trek Into Darkness writer/producer Damon Lindelof and stars Chris Pine, Alice Eve and John Cho talked with NASA astronaut Chris Casidy aboard the International Space Station and representatives from the Smithsonian and the Intrepid Air and Space Museum as part of a Google+ Hangout.

Discussion ranged from science-fiction’s impact and influence on the space program, thow realistic certain onscreen elements of Star Trek are, and he challenges faced by astronauts.

Watch the video below.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Weller, Bruce Greenwood and Alice Eve, is in IMAX, 3D and 2D theaters now.

via Google+

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why Star Trek Is Better Than Star Wars

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why Star Trek Is Better Than Star Wars

In a recent interview with Business Insider, world-renowned astrophysicist, Star Talk Radio host and admitted Trekkie, Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed the age-old battle of Star Trek versus Star Wars.

“I never got into Star Wars,” Tyson said. “Maybe because they made no attempt to portray real physics. At all.”

He does appreciate one aspect of George Lucas’ creation, saying “I like the double star sunset scene (on Tatooine). Most stars you see in the night sky are double and triple stars, so that’s a very common thing we would expect in the universe.”

Check out the clip below to watch Tyson talk Star Wars, Star Trek and who his favorite captain is — Kirk or Picard.

via Business Insider

‘Vulcan’ Leads Poll To Name Pluto’s Moon [UPDATED]

Vote To Name Pluto's Moon 'Vulcan'

‘Vulcan’ could be the name of Pluto’s recently discovered moons. The name, which Star Trek fans will know as Spock’s home planet, is currently leading an online poll which could decide one of the two 20-30km moons discovered by the Hubble telescope between 2011 and 2012.

While ‘Vulcan’ was accepted as a possible name for the moon by organizers, ‘Romulus’ was rejected as both Romulus and Remus are already in use as names of two moons of the asteroid 87 Silvia.

Pluto, which was demoted from planet status in 2006, has five moons. The three already named are Charon, Hydra and Nix.

An image from the Hubble Space Telescope showing Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, along with four smaller moons. (Photo: M. Showalter / NASA / ESA)

An image from the Hubble Space Telescope showing Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, along with four smaller moons. (Photo: M. Showalter / NASA / ESA)

Naming one of the remaining moons ‘Vulcan’ has garnered the attention of two of Star Trek‘s heavy hitters. Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have backed the name via their Twitter accounts.

The poll is being run by the Seti Institute in California with votes being tallied on the website Pluto Rocks. The poll ends on Monday (February 25th).

Pluto Moon Poll

As of Sunday, ‘Vulcan’ led the poll with over 150,000 votes.

To cast your vote and for more information, visit plutorocks.org.

UPDATE

On Monday, the plutorocks.org closed. With a total of 450,324 votes cast, the ‘Vulcan’ was the clear winner with around 175,000 votes. While winning the poll doesn’t guarantee the moon will carry the ‘Vulcan’ name, it definitely makes it a top contender. According to the website, it could take up to two months for the final names of P4 and P5 to be selected and approved.

Stay tuned to TrekNews.net.

photo: Paramount Pictures

WATCH: William Shatner Calls Astronaut Aboard the International Space Station

WATCH: William Shatner Speaks Live to NASA Astronaut in Space

Following an earth-to-space Twitter exchange last month, William Shatner spoke to Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, who is currently aboard the International Space Station, on Thursday.

Shatner began the conversation by telling his fellow Canadian “I’m so moved to be able to speak to you for this brief moment,”.

The entire 20+ minute conversation was captured by NASA and is available for you to watch below.

After the call, both Shatner and Hadfield tweeted about the monumental experience.

WATCH: Leonard Nimoy Explains NASA’s Mission to Asteroid Belt

WATCH: Leonard Nimoy Explain NASA's Mission to Asteroid Belt

In a new video, Star Trek‘s Leonard Nimoy explains NASA’s Dawn Mission, which launched a spacecraft in 2007 destined for the asteroid belt. The hope of the mission is to collect data which could possibly explain how the planets formed during the origin of the solar system.

Check out the video below.

Video description:

Have you ever seen a meteorite streaking across the sky? If so, you may very well have seen part of the asteroid, Vesta! Narrated by Leonard Nemoy, this fascinating video gives you a glimpse into NASA Dawn mission’s journey to Vesta & Ceres and its hope to unveil clues as to what was going on at the very beginning of our solar system’s formation!

via Open Culture

Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Dies at 82

Neil Armstrong, First Man on Moon, Dies at 82

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, has died at the age of 82.

Armstrong passed away on Saturday while recovery from heart-bypass surgery, a procedure he underwent just a few weeks ago.

His first words after setting foot on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” have been etched in our memories and will live on as we continue to reach out and explore the unknown.

Within minutes of the news NBC News breaking the story, thousands took to Twitter to react to Armstrong’s passing.

Watch the July 20, 1969 moon landing below.

Armstrong’s family released the following statement through their website.

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

NASA’s Curiosity Successfully Lands on Mars [PICS]

NASA's Curiosity Successfully Lands on Mars [PICS]

On Sunday, August 5th, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity landed safely on Mars a few hours ahead of schedule, despite some minor complications. The first images it returned to us were spectacular!

Curiosity Descending onto the surface of Mars

Curiosity Descending onto the surface of Mars

A color image of Curiosity while still in its heat shield, just shortly after disembarking from its spacecraft. While this is a low resolution photograph (and a higher resolution image is expected to be released in a few months), the detail of the heat shield is quite remarkable and appears surreal in the context of the Martian landscape.

Curiosity awakens to a new world

Curiosity awakens to a new world; the first images captured by its frontal camera before (left) and after (right) the dust settled from the landing.

The science team at NASA is still publishing images from the Martian rover, so these are not the only ones. In fact, NASA has compiled many more images (not shown here), some of which were rendered in a 3D format to allow viewers a glimpse of what it would be like to walk on Mars before we finally and actually do (get your red and blue 3D goggles ready!). Visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/gallery-indexEvents.html for a gallery of these exciting pictures!

Curiosity from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera

A zoomed-in orbital snapshot of Curiosity from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera. The small dark dimple at the very center of the image is Curiosity.

But taking pictures of this enigmatic world is not our ultimate goal. Rather, we hope to find clues regarding its habitability: did it have life at one point, was its geological history conducive to a world capable of supporting life, can it still support life, can we hope to visit and eventually start a colony on this planet? Many questions perplex us, and even more shall arise before we answer them. But are we there already? That point, that crucial precipice, before we take to the planets and beyond? Are we really that far advanced that the prospect of colonizing other worlds is amenable and practical to us? It seems only yesterday when Star Trek presented to us a futuristic view of Mankind reaching out to foreign stars and planets, eventually meeting, trading, and uniting with other races. Is that future still science fiction, or are we now open to pursue it? While that dream is still in the far future, one thing is certain: we are closer to a manned mission to Mars than we were ten years ago when the last Star Trek series was still on the air. Curiosity is the most advanced rover we sent to Mars yet, and it is just a start before we do reach Mars and walk on its surface with our own feet.

Be patient Trek fans: science and reason will take us to “where no Man has gone before!”

NASA’s Curiosity and the Exploration of Mars

NASA's "Curiosity" Rover Lands on Mars Tonight

To boldly go where no man has gone before…

In continuation of NASA’s tradition of extending Man’s reach beyond the confines of Earth and in the realization of the dream of exploration purported in Star Trek, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity, will land on the surface of Mars on August 6th, 2012. Curiosity was launched from Earth on November 26th, 2011 with the intent of understanding the geological evolution of the fourth planet from our sun and to determine the planet’s suitability for an eventual manned mission as well as, in the far future, a habitable colony. It will be an emotional ordeal for me as I once visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in early 2011 with one of my undergraduate professors and saw Curiosity first-hand (or rather its descent module) while in development. To await such an accomplishment, to be there at its beginning, wait anxiously for months, and finally witness Curiosity’s visitation to this foreign world produces a feeling so sublime and euphoric that words could not explain how I feel. Strange how one could view a machine with a spiritual, almost life-like quality, as though Curiosity was a conscious being with its own values and purpose in life. I saw Curiosity as Dr. Soong saw Data: the MSL rover was as alive to me as any other sentient being.

Here is a quick video describing the most crucial part of the Mars mission: its landing:

Unlike its predecessors, Spirit (which is still stuck in a ditch on the Red Planet) and Opportunity, Curiosity is nearly the size of a small minivan, containing a myriad of complex, computer-automated laboratory equipment that can analyze Martian soil and terrain topography (from orbit), information that could give scientists a clue as to what Mars was like millions of years ago before it lost its atmosphere.

From previous investigations, we have already confirmed the existence of water on Mars by examination of the polar ice caps and by deduction of metallic rust on the surface (which was likely produced by a chemical reaction involving iron, water, and oxygen). The Valles Marineris, a large canyon on Mars that spans more than 4,000 kilometers, was likely carved out and eroded by water and shredded apart by millions (perhaps billions) of years of tectonic activity. In light of this and the observation of dead Martian volcanoes, Mars had an active core at some point in its past (it doesn’t anymore due to the absence of a magnetosphere surrounding the planet); one of the goals of the MSL rover is to find clues of that active past, as understanding how Mars evolved geologically may help us understand how Earth also evolved geologically. Another similarity between Mars and Earth is the fact that both planets are tilted on its rotational axis, which means that it has seasonal temperatures and a fluctuating climate as it revolves around the sun, like Earth does. If Mars had oceans of liquid water, plate tectonics, and an active core, it is highly probable that Mars was once Earth-like. But what of other more elusive Earth-like qualities?

Curiosity

Curiosity (photo: Nasa.gov)


Mars. In addition to the occasional inactive volcanoes that are spread throughout the planet, the large canyon shown across the surface is Valles Marineris.

Most pressing of all of our questions regarding Mars pertains to the emergence of life: has life ever existed on the planet? If so, in what form? Scientists hope that, where Opportunity didn’t have the equipment necessary to make that determination, Curiosity may give us the answers we need. While, in Star Trek, alien visitors can take a soil/water sample and examine it under a powerful microscope (more sensitive than even our electron microscopes) to find swimming organisms, modern scientists are limited by applications that seem quaint by comparison. In fact, it is nearly impossible to survey tons of soil and look for a microfossil of a bacterial cell sandwiched between two rock samples. Our search is more comprehensive than that.

Mars with Valles Marineris

Mars with Valles Marineris

Our understanding of life (or rather, the building blocks of life) on Earth is that the amino acids that make up the proteins of any living organism exists in a specific chirality (L or D forms). Amino acids can be generated spontaneously on any planet, moon, or asteroid; however, it would form L- and D-amino acids in equal proportions, which on its own is not conducive to the emergence of life. Observing equal abundances of L- and D-amino acids in an extraterrestrial rock sample would not constitute as sufficient evidence of extraterrestrial life. However, should a spectrophotometric analysis of a Martian soil sample yield the finding that there exists amino acids of a specific chirality, then it is indirect evidence, though not an absolute confirmation, that life may have very well existed on a planet other than Earth. Such a finding, no matter how apparently menial or tedious, would be a significant discovery, one deserving sincere admiration and celebration. And yes, scientists must, even at that point, remain skeptical and conservative: the discovery of a certain type of amino acid is not a be-all-end-all answer to our questions, but rather a stark indication that life MIGHT have existed on Mars. Further investigation is required before we can convince ourselves that it is true.

It is an incredibly daunting task, the search for life, so may the reader be warned: as are all things in science, we will inevitably run into failures and misses before we finally discover something truly remarkable. But in addition to skepticism, optimism is our greatest virtue! Certainly, detecting a single microbe, either living or dead, or even unearthing the residual hallmarks of life in Martian soil would be enough to change the way we view life in the grand scheme of the entire Universe. The search for life is a scientific process, shared and revered by all things Star Trek, and endorsed by the dream of Star Trek. We will step out into the enigma that is our Cosmos: one step at a time, one rover at a time, one dream at a time. Curiosity IS the embodiment of that dream coming true.

Curiosity’s landing on Mars can be watched tonight (August 6th) on NASA’s website. A “Live Events Schedule” can be found on the same webpage.

WATCH: William Shatner & Wil Wheaton Narrate Mars Rover Video for NASA

WATCH: William Shatner & Wil Wheaton Narrate Mars Rover Video

William Shatner and Wil Wheaton have both submitted their narration for a new NASA video which explains the descent and landing sequence of a new Mars rover, named “Curiosity.”

Curiosity is a one-ton nuclear-powered rover which is set to land on the surface of the red planet, next Thursday, August 5th at approximately 7 p.m. ET.

Watch both videos and let us know who you think does a better job in the poll below.

William Shatner narrates “Curiosity’s Grand Entrance”:

Wil Wheaton narrates “Curiosity’s Grand Entrance”:

Strangers of the Cosmos: Tribbles, Part 2

Strangers of the Cosmos: Tribbles, Part 2

Last week, we discussed the reproductive nature of tribbles and what it implies about their evolution: they likely live in a state of stagnant evolution due to their simplistic biology and reproductive behaviors. Moreover, elucidating their mode of reproduction allows us to emerge on startling new revelations regarding their natural habitats. It may be that tribbles are native to a world so hostile that their extreme reproductive behavior is necessary to avoid extinction among incredible hazards, yet it can, at the same time, threaten its survival. Today, we’ll discuss population dynamics with regards to the tribbles’ mode of reproduction and finally conclude why predation is crucial to achieve an appropriate ecological balance in nature.

The Malthusian Nightmare: How the Tribbles could Destroy an Entire Ecosystem

The only way for nature to favor such an adaptation (that is: to be born pregnant while reproducing asexually) is if the tribbles on their home planet (revealed to be Iota Geminorum IV in the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”) were constantly hunted and that it was their only means of survival. Since any stable (stagnant) population is one in which an individual is able to create a new offspring to replace itself before dying (no net gain or loss in population size), tribbles’ natural reproductive rate of 10 every twelve hours would have to be sufficient to replenish their numbers if 10 individuals were killed every twelve hours per original parent (of course, there’s a lot that should go into making that determination, like life expectancy, which sadly was never revealed on Star Trek). This yields a stagnant population over time, one that neither grows nor falls.

When talking of population dynamics, I must refer to the work of Thomas Malthus, a late 18th century British rationalist who is currently famed for his formulation of the Malthusian Growth Model, which predicts population size given growth rates and environmental pressures. The growth model is an equation adapted from his theories, which states the following:

Malthusian Growth Model

Given an initial population, Po, a growth rate, r, and a population capacity, M, the final population, P, can be predicted after a given number of generations. The variable, M, is the most important factor to consider; it takes into account the finite amount of resources and the prevalence of any survival threats in the environment that could sustain a population. In other words: M is the maximum number of organisms that could live in a given environment before dying out. Should the population ever exceed or approach this limit too quickly, the species will die out due to uncontrolled resource consumption.

Spock holds a Tribble in "The Trouble With Tribbles"

Spock holds a Tribble in the classic TOS episode "The Trouble With Tribbles"

We can plug the known values into their proper variables: where r is equal to 10 for the average number of offspring per tribble and Po is equal to the initial population at the current generation (for simplicity, let’s assume that it’s 1). Accounting for the variable M is where we encounter some serious issues: it was never revealed on Star Trek how high the tribble population has to be before it dies of starvation. Therefore, the assignment of the M variable becomes arbitrary. It gets even worse, unfortunately. In my attempt to ascertain a sufficient population capacity given a growth rate of 10, it appears as though tribbles were destined to breed themselves to extinction! This is a hypothetical scenario termed the “Malthusian Nightmare” in which a population has grown so far beyond its means that it now stands poised to die out. How could a species evolve an adaptation that would eventually cause its extinction and still survive?! The situation gets dire still.

No realistic population capacity could be found that would avert this inevitable extinction. Even at an M value of a googol (10^100, or 1 followed by 100 zeros), the growth model predicts that the tribbles would breed so quickly and so uncontrollably that they eventually consume all natural resources in its environment and die out completely in just 52 days! There probably isn’t enough resources in an entire solar system, let alone a single planet, to support a tribble population for longer than 52 days. This is NOT a stable evolutionary trend to say the least. The answer to this problem isn’t that the tribbles’ home planet houses an infinite supply of resources (which is impossible), but that the effective growth rate is not 10; rather, it is a much lower number.

Kirk surrounded by Tribbles

Kirk surrounded by Tribbles

The only way to lower the effective growth rate of a population to a more agreeable, steady value, in any natural habitat, is either with extremely short life-spans (on the order of seconds, rather than days or weeks) or extreme predation. The former isn’t very likely as tribbles do not appear to have short life-spans on the shows, while the latter presents itself as the only logical solution. It means, thusly, that most (at least 70%) of the offspring produced in one generation have to be hunted and killed before they have enough time to reproduce uncontrollably. It is absolutely crucial to eradicate most of the population every 12 hours, otherwise the tribbles would overbreed and consume so many natural resources that it would devastate, not just the tribble population, but the entire ecosystem!

Tribble population growth curves at varying reproductive rates

This paints a very grim reality for life as a tribble: they’re born pregnant, they give birth to 10 individuals every twelve hours, they have to consume enough resources to make up for their high metabolism, and most of them die due to predation just in that amount of time. Given the reproductive characteristics of tribbles, one can predict with an appreciable level of certainty that tribbles inhabit an ecological niche among a predominant population of malicious predators that may have to compete aggressively for sustenance and whose survival may also be threatened by limited resources. The emergence of tribbles likely provided these hardened natural hunters with an “easy” means of acquiring food. The niche in this sense is one of a mutually beneficial “arrangement”: the predators can have all the food they want from a species that reproduces rapidly and possess no apparent fight/flight mechanism, and further that the survival of the tribbles in a given environment depends on the eradication of a large majority of their offspring. In a way, the predators are doing the tribbles a favor by hunting them so belligerently. One can certainly appreciate the complexity and beauty of nature’s precious yet fragile ecological cycles.

A Word of Advice to the Klingon Empire

It was revealed on Deep Space Nine by Worf that the Klingons exterminated the entire tribble species and forced it to extinction. Though the use of brute force is not uncanny in Klingon culture as a means to resolve problems, it was perhaps overkill to deal with their Public Enemy Number 1 in such a brutal manner. Considering the delicate balance between tribbles and their ecosystem, it would have just been easier and less of a headache to kill off their major predators. It would allow tribbles the unrestrained means to reproduce, consume every available resource, and eventually die out all on their own. You don’t even need to harm a single tribble in the process (I know that’s hard for you to do, but please try to refrain). To any Klingons out there, just as a word of advice, if you want to get a problem fixed: trust in science and reason. There’s always a better way…whether you do it peacefully or not is your choice.

Read Strangers of the Cosmos: Tribbles, Part 1.

All photos courtesy CBS Studios Inc.

James “Scotty” Doohan’s Ashes Reach the Final Frontier

James Doohan's Ashes Reach Space Aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket

On Tuesday May 22nd, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying James “Scotty” Doohan’s cremated remains into space along with those of of 307 other individuals (including Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper).

The company previously attempted to send a portion of Doohan’s ashes into orbit back in 2008 aboard the Falcon 1, but the rocket failed to achieve orbit and was destroyed in atmospheric reentry. However, the Falcon 9 launch is not expected to incur any failures and should successfully and finally bring Scotty to the stars.

“He’ll be there with his buddy, which is wonderful,” said Doohan’s agent and longtime friend, Steve Stevens, speaking of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry.

SpaceX is an aerospace company that carries out contracts with NASA and other government and private agencies to help launch satellites into space; sending the remains of famous celebrities into space isn’t their only role. They are currently under a 300 million-dollar contract to deliver supplies to the space station for NASA and are hoping to sign a 1.6 billion-dollar contract to make those deliveries regular.

James Doohan in 2004 receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

James Doohan in 2004 receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Everyone, both Star Trek fans and non-fans alike, knows James Doohan. He was famed for playing the role of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott aboard the starship Enterprise on Star Trek: The Original Series. Occasionally referred to as “Scotty” by Captain Kirk, he was ultimately responsible for starship maintenance, balancing the antimatter intake into the warp core, and purposefully overestimating his repair times for his assigned duties in order to impress Jim Kirk (it is also the reason why Kirk called Scotty a “miracle worker” during times of duress).

James Doohan was much loved and admired by Star Trek fans. He passed away in 2005 due to pneumonia at the age of 85; the news of his death was heart breaking, especially for people like me that looked up to him and other Star Trek figures as a child, wanting one day to pursue a scientific career. Now, we no longer have to be content with just watching reruns of Star Trek to see James Doohan in action; whenever we want to look up to Scotty, we need only look to the stars.

Space is in good hands now. Rest in peace, Scotty.

Watch video of the launch below.

Strangers of the Cosmos: Tribbles, Part 1

Strangers of the Cosmos: Tribbles

Perhaps one of the cutest, and most annoying, creatures on Star Trek, tribbles were first revealed on the Original Series. In the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” where Cyrano Jones, a well-known smuggler in the Federation and at large, brought a few tribbles aboard the deep space station K-7 to sell as exotic pets to unsuspecting human customers. Much to the dismay of Kirk and especially the Klingons, the tribbles reproduced and multiplied beyond control until eventually compartments and hardware systems on the station and the Enterprise were flooded with tribbles.

Tribbles

Asexual Reproduction, Energy Conservation, and Being Born Pregnant

How and why would tribbles multiply so quickly? What natural purpose could such an adaptation serve? After analyzing a specimen (without harming a single hair on its head…wherever that is), Dr. McCoy identified the root cause of the issue: tribbles are born pregnant. Capable of replenishing its numbers 10 times per parent every twelve hours, tribbles reproduce asexually, meaning they do not need to find a mate to produce offspring. Asexual reproduction tends to be a beneficial adaptation for species on Earth that cannot afford to spend energy on maintaining sexual organs and searching the environs for a potential mate; its only disadvantage is that the asexual trait correlates with lesser species and it contributes to low genetic variability (i.e. a child that is genetically identical to its parent and so on). Essentially, a genetically identical species would be highly prone to extinction if a virus or parasite enters the population and eradicates more than 90%, if not all, of the animals because none of its members were genetically distinct from one another to offer a sizable portion of the population some resistance to the disease.

Spock and Bones in "The Trouble with Tribbles"

Spock and Bones in "The Trouble with Tribbles"

Genetic diversity enables species survival: a varied genome could produce offspring that are resistant to a particular pathogen and overcome environmental disasters. Clearly, the benefit that asexual reproduction offers must outweigh the dangers it leaves behind. It follows that tribbles may be naturally immune to most diseases, meaning it can overcome microscopic threats like viruses and bacteria, but it may have trouble faring against predators; more on that later.

Sexual versus Asexual Reproduction

Sexual versus Asexual Reproduction

Tribble reproduction is completely understandable from the standpoint of bio-energy conservation: it would expend less energy with the same benefit to the species’ fitness to reproduce asexually than it would sexually. But this doesn’t explain why tribbles are born pregnant, and more importantly, tribbles would have to divert more energy to generating a new copy of themselves while still in embryonic development (and not just one copy, but ten copies). It seems to me that the energy tribbles could’ve saved from reproducing asexually would actually be consumed in order to create an offspring of themselves upon birth! What an amazing feat of environmental adaptation! Tribbles might as well have reproduced sexually: it would’ve generated the same outcome with the same expenditure of energy as asexual reproduction coupled with being born pregnant. Instead, it seems that nature favored asexual reproduction, perhaps because it was somehow crucial to this species’ survival. The current question is: how and to what extent? This line of thought led me to consider a possible explanation: population dynamics.

Tribbles invade Deep Space Nine

Tribbles invade Deep Space Nine

Next week’s installment of Strangers of the Cosmos will continue this discussion to answer new disturbing topics: the same forces that threaten a species’ survival can also save it from extinction.