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Need help with a film

  1. Jul 17, 2012 #1
    I am a writer for a newly forged independent film studio. We've managed to drum up some (surprisingly) considerable funding and support from our local community, and along with that we have been allowed access to an observatory and astrophysics department on a nearby college campus. We've managed to come up with a story concept and characterizations, though as a blustery English major, I find myself lacking in the technical knowledge in order to pull off the story gracefully.

    What I am hoping to get from the community is this: I need to be referred to an event involving a hypothetical observation of celestial bodies that would potentially forever change the way astronomers and astrophysicists think about the universe. Basically, I want to know what the unicorn everyone is chasing might be. Think Higgs Boson for the stars.

    I don't want to write something cheap and uninformed, and I hate it when even a simple hobbyist like myself can see gaping holes in the scientific explanations of otherwise realistic filmmaking. Please help me represent the scientific community in an interesting, engaging, and accurate manner.

    Thank you. I look forward to any and all responses.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2012 #2

    mfb

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    Some possible life-related discoveries which would be extremely interesting:

    - an earth-like exoplanet with significant oxygen in the atmosphere, maybe combined with traces of methane (as far as I know, there is no known natural way to get this without life)
    - radio signals or something else SETI-related, which would be a direct signal from aliens.
    - a large, relatively cold object, with significant signs of heavy elements in the spectrum, as it could be a Dyson sphere.
    - oceans of liquid water under the surface of Jupiter moons (might be there, but there is no direct evidence yet), and chemical traces of life (or a direct observation) inside
    - chemical traces of (extinct) life on mars


    Some other things:
    - direct detection of gravitational waves, as it would add a completely new observation method for astronomy.
    - discovery of very earth-like planets, without an observation of the atmosphere.
    - oceans of liquid water under the surface of Jupiter moons, without chemical data
    - direct observation of a black hole (in other words: a resolution good enough to see its size), with our galactic black hole as the best candidate.

    All these observations are possible within the next decades, most of them with existing or planned telescopes / probes.
     
  4. Jul 17, 2012 #3

    Drakkith

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    That's kind of difficult. Are you wanting to confirm something, or find evidence that counters a well established theory? MFB has a lot of good ideas above, so feel free to look at any of those ideas.
     
  5. Jul 17, 2012 #4

    phinds

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    I agree w/ Drakkith,

    is not likely to happen, based on current knowledge, and we don't know what we don't know so can't say if there will ever be such an event.

    Stick w/ thinks like what mfb proposed.

    Personally, the only one of them that to me even comes CLOSE to what you are looking for is confirmed discovery of extraterrestrial life. Although I doubt it would do any significant shaking of astronomers and astrophysicists (who would be more likely to respond with "well, it's about time"), it WOULD shake up some of the world's populace.
     
  6. Jul 17, 2012 #5
    How about following something that is happening right now that is quite a bit more accessible to the general public which is the Mars Curiosity rover scheduled to land on MArs on Aug 6th - this is as close to real time as you can get and serves to revitalize the excitement associated with exploration. The possibility of finding the roots of the origin of life on another celestial body is quite exciting!!

    From the Curiosity web site - Mars Science Laboratory will study Mars' habitability
    To find out, the rover will carry the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the martian surface. The rover will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. The record of the planet's climate and geology is essentially "written in the rocks and soil" -- in their formation, structure, and chemical composition. The rover's onboard laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the martian environment was like in the past.

    http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/overview/
     
  7. Jul 17, 2012 #6
    Nice project! Personally, I like MFB's use of the the detection of gravitional waves, or a variation on your idea, dectecting variations in the higgs field. Twisting the sceince of either of these, you should be able to odserve anything you want. Of the two, the gravitational waves will be the easier to get 'real sceince' to backstop your storyline (because there is something valid to extrapolate from).

    Regards,

    Noel.
     
  8. Jul 17, 2012 #7

    mfb

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    Hmm...
    If you want something which violates current theories:

    - a variation of the fine-structure constant in time or space. While lab experiments are more precise in terms of "chance per time", the changes might have happened in the past only, which cannot be excluded in the lab today. If fundamental constants are not constant, this would really change the way particle physicists (!) view the world.
    - variations of the cosmic microwave background, which do not agree with predictions. They are difficult to interpret, but they might reveal the structure of the whole universe.
    - stars with a mass above 300 solar masses, planets significantly larger than jupiter and so on would violate current theories about stars/planets/..., but not change the whole view of the universe.
     
  9. Jul 18, 2012 #8
    Mfb made some great suggestions but a few words of caution:
    1 dont touch SETi , its been done already see the movie "Contact"
    2. Gravitational waves are not going to be observed witha conventional telescope , see here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational-wave_detector

    3 I would add discovering the B mode polarisation of the CMB, maybe thats a bit technical for a film but this is to cosmology what the Higgs was to particle physics. If we discover this it might lead us to the correct model of the early universe (inflation or epyrotic ?big bang or big bounce?)and maybe the right model of quantum gravity. Just like the Higgs most experts thinks its there, it could be discovered soon and it will be a major guaranteed Nobel type discovery. Read here for more:
    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/150409/full/458820a.html
     
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