The Transit of Venus was a bit of a bust due to cloud cover today. But that's OK. I did still make it to the Exploring Space Lecture. The archived video will be available over the next few days, but let me give you the run down of how awesome it was. They started with a brief video from Experiment about Van de Kamp's invisible planet (that turned out to be nonexistent). It only got better from there.
The host of the event began by explaining how, despite it being a story of a man who turned out to be wrong, it was actually a hopeful story. Because we're still looking for Earth-like planets. When he introduced the actual speaker, Dr. Dave W. Latham, they opened with some semi-topical questions. Where I learned about this. NASA doesn't know what to do with them, since despite some reports, he was under the impression that they are just being given lenses, not actual, fully functioning telescopes. Where do they get the money to do things with them? My suggestion: A NASA Kickstarter.
When we actually got to the lecture part, Latham began with a very powerful statement: "We are poised to find planets enough like Earth that we could imagine being comfortable on them." He went on to show some shots and artists' renderings of Kepler-found candidates to be planets using a combination of two methods: the Doppler method (basically watching stars wobble to determine if they have planets) and the Transit method, which similar to the transit of Venus, uses the planet passing across the star to observe properties and existence.
The point is, since about February 2012, there are more than 2,000 potential candidates for being Earth like (though they are not likely to be twin Earths due to variance in size). NASA would obviously like to be doing some more sky watching, and Latham told us that it was "very possible by the law of physics (to see more of the sky, deeper into the sky, etc.), but it is currently not allowed by the law of economics." And reality, once again, crushes dreams.
Overall, keep an eye out here; I'll try and update once the lecture goes live. Until then, there are at least two other recordings up on Air and Space's site. So, go be informed.
One note: If you need to check if a microphone is on, do not tap it. It is just not nice. Be kind to your equipment. Unless you are willing to do a quick ventriloquist comedy bit with a talking microphone like Ron Lucas. No link. YouTube it yourself.
Secondly, Latham mentioned they have some scientists who try to recreate life using estimated building blocks available on planets (well, will have, once they have that information. I was a bit unclear on if this is happening right now, or will happen, because I immediately thought that would be a wonderfully bad science fiction story: "They proved life could evolve on KD000145C by evolving it on Earth!")