Choose You This Day: Multiverse or I.D.
December 18, 2005
If Leonard Susskind is right, cosmologists are escaping the conclusion of intelligent design (ID) by backing into a radically speculative idea: a near infinity of universes. Susskind, a theoretical physicist from Stanford, just published a book, Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design (Little, Brown 2005), that explores current cosmological thinking about […]
Planet Out of Bounds
December 14, 2005
There’s a small planetary object where it shouldn’t be. New Scientist reported the discovery of a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) with a high inclination of 47° and a nearly circular orbit. Astronomers can’t figure out how it got there. It’s too far out to have been flung by Neptune into such a strange orbit. They […]
It Was the Year of Titan
December 5, 2005
Of the top 10 astronomy stories for 2005, Astronomy Magazine gave #6 to Cassini’s year at Saturn, and #1 to the Huygens landing on Titan last January 14 (01/14/2005, 01/21/2005). The official science papers from that event are now in. In a special online edition, Nature1 published 9 new papers and articles with […]
SETI vs. Intelligent Design
December 3, 2005
Intelligent Design proponents have often pointed to the similarity between what they are doing and what SETI is doing. For example, SETI is attempting to detect evidence of intelligence in coded signals from space, and design biologists are detecting evidence of intelligence in the DNA code. Seth Shostak, Director of the SETI Institute, decided to […]
Enceladus Eruptions Caught on Camera
November 28, 2005
Enceladus, one of the small icy moons of Saturn, is undergoing eruptive activity right now. Evidence from previous flybys has now been corroborated visually in stunning images that made the lead stories on NASA, JPL and Cassini. Amateur enthusiasts were already expressing excitement at the images before the announcement (see Unmanned Spaceflight). The complete set […]
News from the Solar Neighborhood
November 28, 2005
Here’s a collection of recent items of interest under the sun. (Don’t miss the big story above, too.) My Rhea Lies Under the Spacecraft: Cassini added another trophy to its moon collection Saturday, skimming just 300 miles above the surface of Saturn’s large moon Rhea. (Saturday is named after Saturn, hey). Rhea is the largest […]
SETI: Search for Educational Targets Inc.
November 18, 2005
SETI may be the laughingstock of Congress, refused funding since William Proxmire gave it his Golden Fleece Award in the 1980s, but privately it is moving apace. The Science Channel gave it prominence in its weekly report Friday, visiting with pioneering signaler and listener Frank Drake. It surveyed everything from the first humble attempts to […]
Extraterrestrials Likely to Be Unicellular
October 25, 2005
An AP story printed at HeraldNet jokes that extraterrestrial life probably won’t look like “the negligee-clad Number 6 from [Battlestar] Galactica, the television series that features a genocidal war between humans and their robot creations.” Instead, according to the authors of a new book about extraterrestrial life, you would need a microscope to see it. […]
Grown Man in the Stellar Crib: Now What?
October 14, 2005
The cover of Science News has a strange cartoon explained on the inside in an article by Ron Cowen: Imagine peering into a nursery and seeing, among the cooing babies, a few that look like grown men. That’s the startling situation that astronomers have stumbled upon as they’ve looked deep into space and thus back […]
Make Your Own Privileged Planet
October 6, 2005
NASA-Ames Research Center has produced an online simulation game called AstroVenture that allows kids to try to design a habitable planet. After they pick half a dozen parameters, the game tells them whether humans could live there or not. This is a cute feature that, with caveats, could be useful for parents and teachers. The […]
Another Record Distant Galaxy Found
September 29, 2005
The Spitzer Space Telescope found a “positively gigantic” galaxy at a time the universe was supposedly only 800 million years old – just 5% the assumed age of the universe – according to a press release from Jet Propulsion Lab. For the galaxy to be this big that far back, it must have “bulked up […]
Do Dead Meteorites Tell Tales?
September 28, 2005
Several researchers lately have claimed that meteorites can tell us the history of our solar system. How can this be? Messages from Heaven: Richard Kerr in Science1 reported on work by Strom et al. in the same issue2 that the asteroid belt was the source of the so-called “late heavy bombardment” that is said to […]
Carl Sagans Cosmos Is Back
September 27, 2005
MSNBC News reported that Carl Sagan’s popular 13-part series Cosmos is returning to TV this week, digitally remastered and enhanced with new up-to-date animations. The 1980 series, which began with its own Agnus Dei invocation “The cosmos is all that is, all that ever was, and all that ever will be,” went far beyond the […]
Is Archaeology Like SETI, or is SETI Like Religion?
September 24, 2005
Archaeologists have their Rosetta Stone, but so far, SETI investigators have no artifacts. Still, Douglas Vakoch wrote for Space.com, archaeologists and anthropologists can teach SETI researchers how to prepare for encountering “exotic cultures with strange languages.” Vakoch recounted the interest in this angle at an anthropology conference last year: One of the best-attended […]
Can Chemicals Be Fertile?
September 21, 2005
Simon Conway Morris wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for the following entry in Current Biology.1 Ostensibly he was trying to be light-hearted and funny about mass extinctions. We’ll see if anyone is laughing about whether massive impacts are a blessing or a curse: Manna from heaven. So yet more violence, with the Earth […]