Science in 140 characters: Next stop Titan

Science in 140 characters: Next stop Titan

With data from Rosetta, the team believes it can now drill into the nucleus of the comet to retrieve at least 100 grams material.

Next stop Titan @tweetsoutloud

Bobak Ferdowsi, NASA engineer

NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi tweeted his congratulations to the teams behind the Caesar and Dragonfly robotic missions selected for launch in the next decade as part of the New Frontiers programme. Dragonfly, led by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, is a rotorcraft that will land on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, which has a dense atmosphere and a hydrological cycle similar to Earth’s and is flowing with organic material essential to life. Dragonfly will “explore diverse locations” for evidence of “water-based and/or hydrocarbon-based life”. According to the concept paper, prepared by researchers from various institutes, “the mission need not commit to landing sites that have not first been assessed to be safe. This conservative approach… enables the contemplation of much rough terrains that may be associated with more appealing scientific targets…” Caesar, short for Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return and led by Cornell University, travels to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet of the Jupiter family previously explored by the European Sapce Agency’s Rosetta mission. Comets are believed to carry material from the time when the solar system was just forming. With data from Rosetta, the team believes it can now drill into the nucleus of the comet to retrieve at least 100 grams material. To The New York Times, Cornell Prof Steven W Squyres has given Caesar’s return date as November 20, 2038.

Word restriction


After The Washington Post reported that the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was allegedly told not to use the words “fetus”, “transgender”, “evidence-based”, “science-based”, “diversity”, “entitlement” and “vulnerable” in budget documents, a barrage of tweets followed from scientists. “Reality doesn’t care if you believe in it or not — it just is. Science-based means trying to match reality. Making decisions without understanding reality is a recipe for disaster,” tweeted seismologist Dr Lucy Jones. “Whether the censorship was a formal ban or recommended self-censorship, whether it was directed at the CDC or any other science-based organization, whether there were sevens words or 100, the objective is the same. #CDC7words,” tweeted March for Science, which organised a nationwide march in April against what it called Washington’s disregard for evidence-based knowledge. “It is precisely 0% less appalling if @CDCgov is being *encouraged* to avoid those 7 words vs. being *told* not to. Self-censorship by scientists shouldn’t be a requirement to secure @GOP support for @CDCgov’s life-saving work. Do you agree, @SenatorIsakson and @sendavidperdue?” tweeted epidemiologist Chelsea Polis. Amid the criticism, CDC chief Brenda Fitzgerald tweeted, “There are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC—period.”