What's Your Big Question?

We know you're curious. Curious about the universe, the environment, technology, and nature. Curious about animal intelligence and space travel and the human brain. Now, our research team wants to harness the power of all that curiosity to discover new story ideas for NOVA scienceNOW. So, tell us: What's your big question?

Our NOVA and NOVA scienceNOW Facebook and Twitter followers have already taken on the challenge. They're curious about everything from the soul to nanotechnology to energy--especially energy. Here are their big questions in a Wordle:


Some of the questions they've raised:

Tama Smith Filipas How does the variety of marine life living right on the thermal vents in the deep sea suvive and thrive?

Devon Kyle Why is there "something" rather than "nothing"... Has "nothing" ever even exisited???

Nicole Thomas I'd love to hear about the search for Earth-like exoplanets.

Leon Landry Is hydrogen a viable energy sources. Can we actually do artificial photosynthesis efficiently?

Robb Smith I'd like to see some segments on geo-engineering. Can we use it to control climate change? Can we use it to control extreme weather? Is terraforming Mars or an exoplanet even a remote possibility?

Ravi Narine Will we ever be able to leave our solar system?

Ryan Munkwitz Where happens to matter that enters a black hole?

Join the conversation: Let us know what your big question is, and you just might see it answered--or at least get to meet the scientists who are working every day to answer it--on NOVA scienceNOW.

User Comments:

My big question is what should we consider when evaluating the appropriateness of an energy source? If I compare coal, natural gas (shale gas vs. conventional), nuclear, wind, hydro, garbage, biomass (of different sorts), solar (PV and thermal), and on and on, how do they compare in terms of their carbon emissions, other sorts of pollution, the amount of land required/unit of energy, economic cost, and whatever else I'm not thinking of that also really matters?

Piece of cake, huh?

Can Earth sustain 7 billion people?

I watched a great NOVA program on early Judaism. Samaritans were shown sacrificing animals in "Palestine". As there is currently no Palestine, was this filmed before 1948?

My big question actually came from my three-year-old.

How does bone marrow release blood cells into our system? When I look it up all it says is "the marrow releases blood cells" etc. But we're concerned with the how. Would like to know more about how bone marrow works.

If the universe is expanding, it implies there was space to expand into. Thus, what is on the other side of our universe?

If the universe is expanding, and we have been told eventually we would not see anything, does that mean the expansion would be moving faster than the speed of light?

if the are multidimentions, then what seperates them? And a related question, what contains them?

How much time is left for the Great Lakes before they are are emptied by our thirst and our greed?

Will cold fusion ever become a reality? What progress has been made recently?

While your programs, such as "The Bible's Buried Secrets" featured on Nova represent a clearly a Jewish point of view rather than historical fact, I would like to know how much of our tax dollars go into funding this propaganda? I understand that Nova is a Jewish organization, but still this is PBS we are talking about - which is clearly not representing unbiased research in the interest of public enrichment and education.
I happen to tune in to your shows quite often to find them to be stupid jokes prepared by uneducated riffraff trying to push the Israel agenda on everyone with tax payer and public funds.
Are you sure that your religion is "the first monotheistic religion" and have you even opened a single book before making these god awful programs? What a lame attempt to rewrite history. You will ultimately fail.

on your latest program secrets of the bible.
where do i order a copy and how much do i send.
n kagan

I live in the middle of a hundred year old oil field. In this field salt water and oil are pumped from the ground at about 110 degrees F.Thousands of gallons per hour of salt water are injected back into the ground.
How can we turn this heat into electric power?

Not a big Idea just an observation, When speaking of animal intelligence I don't think how well they manage to communicate with us is as important as the fact they realize we are trying to communicate. That, to me, speaks volumes about animal intelligence.

Where do photons get their power? To travel that fast, and as far as they do, where do the batteries go?

I've seen a rising interest for groundbreaking scientific discoveries and gadgets in the last decade. Much of this is spurred by the average person's anticipation for a real and futuristic technology that will be tangible and accessible to them in the near future. Is there a company (shouldn't there be a company) whose mission statement is to improve the lifestyle and future survival of the human species through advancement in technology and the education/unifcation of research towards this goal?
Just think about all of the great independant research that is going on right now. Many researchers are looking into similar challenges and solutions that could be improved rapidly with sharing of progress and breakthroughs. (printing human organs and growing scaffolding for new organs are two different areas of research that could compliment each other greatly). A mechanism to communicate before even starting research along all technical avenues would be a step in the right direction for humanity...

Question, for clarification is: Is there a company out there right now that is doing this, and if so why aren't they as big as google?

What is the universe expanding into/on?

Watched your show on Energy tonight. April 20th.
Wondered why Thorium LFTR
plants were not talked about.?
Safer than uranium.
Ah well GE and Westinghouse have too much invested in the latter?

Forget 7 billion...within 12 to 15 years it will be closer to 9 BILLION!

Though I am not a chemist, I have been watching the NOVA episode on power. It seems like everyone is running around trying to figure out how to sequester CO2. Why is it not possible to BREAK the CO2 molecule into Oxygen and Carbon. The Oxygen can be released into the atmosphere and the Carbon can be used for Carbon Fiber! We wouldn't even have to cut our 'Carbon Footprint'. Come on...plants do this, blue-green algae have been doing it for almost 3 BILLION years. This cannot be THAT difficult.

If I were not 53, I would go back to school to study chemistry to figure this out. Whoever does will be SUPER-RICH!!!!

There are so many efforts to push humanity towards a more 'green' life. The people behind the seens of all our greatest institutions, trying to work out better ways of living. The average consumer, quite often is targeted as the potential solution to all our foundational movements, movements to change, to save, respect, our ever strugleing Earth. My question: Why is noone helping the consumer? Why is government, corporations, not insisting on quality products? The energy it takes to create an inferior light bulb, inferior clothing, car parts, damn near everything! When I was young, 20 years ago; A light bulb goes out ,it was quite something! A car headlight...was rare, now a brand new car is commonly cruising around ,looking all NEW, ,with lights out...BRAND NEW ! It strikes me that if we are all o.k. with this, then all the other campaigns to change the WORLD, mean very little. Oh wait, I just blew out my whole outfit, I must change.
A long winded apology, grammar and all ,really sorry, Sincerely Andrew.

I viewed your Power Surge episode, on April 20th.

I see that you have been bought and paid for by the church of Global Warming. That's religion, not science.

I wondered why Thorium LFTR plants were not talked about? Thorium is safer than uranium, much less expensive and cleaner to produce, and we already have a five-year supply stored out west.

Even if you believe in global warming, there are other, more effective ways to combat global warming that do not involve alternative energy sources.

When Iwas in High school shop class (more years ago than I care to mention),to temper steel we heated it up untill a magnet would not stick to it.Why then does the earths core which is molten iron generate a magnetic field?

if the universe's expantion is slowing down and will someday actually start to contract, could the big bang not have been the begining but just the most recent in a series of expantions and contractions, where the universe dies and is reborn over and over.

If my telescope catches only 125mm (4.9") of light how do I see the whole moon/planet?

Just what does it take for someone to get people to look at something. All I ask is go to You Tube, White Gasoline Vapor, (IAMBILLYTHEKID). Read the description. Lab tests will prove what I have done.

If the research about global climate shows that global climate will cool down in the long term, will anyone support raising the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere? The Antarctic ice cores show atmospheric carbon dioxide levels varying with the Milenkovich cycle over the previous 400,000 years. The repeating pattern shows a spike followed by a long decline. Currently were near the top of the carbon dioxide spike and following the natural cycle we're headed for a "global cooling" over the next tens of millenia. Would anyone support raising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to avert little ice ages in the future for the welfare of human kind... I mean to "save the planet"?

My question(s) are about stellar formation and the gravity involved.
If you are positioned about 2 AU away from the center of a forming stellar cloud, would the gravitational pull on you by the resultant star be the same as exerted by the initial cloud? I know that gravity follows the inverse square law, but am unsure of the effect of the much denser material of the star itself. Also, would there be a shockwave propagated outwards by the newly ignited star, or would it simply "wink" into existence? Thanks!

My big question is:

If I tunneled through the earth, under vacuum, could I jump in said tunnel, and travel through the earth hopping out the other side?

I figure, as gravity acts on me approaching the core, I accelerate, but as I travel past the core, gravity is acting on me to slow me down, so I should simply just hop out the other side.

It this correct? Would I fly out the other side, or not reach it at all?

Disregard the immense heat, and pressure.

Could somebody shoot the moon either from the Antartica or from the equator from by digging an line around the earth to fill with water. Could somebody make a metal or steel plate big enough to stabilize the earths rotation. Could somebody make a glass globe around the earth like a greenhouse.

Could there actually be an alien being right outside our atmosphere only behind some type of cloak.

How many questions do you get in a day and how quickly do you respond and how?by email?

To whoever answers these questions i would like a response fairly quickly please.

life is glorious and continues to improve, but in the meantime
living things of all species are suffering unspeakable agonies. realizing the torture others endure, why play the game at all? why hasn't the human race comited suicide?

Thanks everyone for these terrific questions! We'll consider them all as we research new "big questions" for NOVA scienceNOW. Though we can't answer each question personally, we're grateful to everyone who has shared their ideas and their curiosity in this space!

I've always wondered about the Sargasso Sea, "The only sea without a shore"... What causes the creation of an ocean gyre? Does the sea life take advantage of these currents to survive? Why is it a popular literary setting for strange events?

How long would life (humans in particular) survive if the sun were to suddenly stop its nuclear fusion?

I assume the existing heat and light would continue to move from the sun's interior to the "surface" for years? centuries? Or not?

In science class we made small batteries using beaker,salt water,copper strip and lead I think . My question is why can we not take something the size of a oil storage tank build a giant battery and charge it with a lighting bolt ? In Texas last week Sulpher Springs had 956 cloud to ground strikes .

Has anyone checked to see if the closer proximity of the moon has had any effect on earth quakes, plate movements, and other seismic movements? I would assume that there would greater force from the moons gravity when it is closer and would trigger movement that was about to happen. Isn't the orbit closest about every 11 years? Thanks for any information on this idea.


The pursuit of happiness.

Could the modern depiction of aliens be evolved human beings from the future? If we start to live in space, would we lose color in our skin(greys), would our eyes become big and black for night vision, would we lose body mass and enlarge our brains?

is it possible that some prehistoric life could be preserved under the Antarctic ice?

Spinning off of Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us", what would the planet be like if humankind had NEVER existed?

I've seen a similar article in National Geographic, detailing New York being a vast forest with a great river dividing it. Wondering if similar research has been done.

Which is more sustainable. Electric cars like the Toyota Prius powered by batteries, or machines built to last like the original Hummer?

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