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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Cosmic Baby Boom Becomes Baby Explosion
September 21, 2005
There has been a trend in deep space astronomy to find more and more mature-looking stars and galaxies farther back in time (04/06/2005, 03/10/2005, 07/08/2005). That trend just doubled or tripled. An announcement in Nature1 (see press release by European Southern Observatory), a thousand galaxies were found at distances corresponding to estimated ages of 9 […]
Who Needs a Big Bang?
September 13, 2005
Noted in passing: there are astronomers who don’t accept the Big Bang theory. Spaceflight Now had an article denying that the WMAP microwave data supports the big bang. Also, a small but active Alternative Cosmology Group decries the “unjustified limiting of cosmological funding to work within the Big Bang framework.” They held their meetings last […]
Can Atheism Breathe in an Anthropic Universe?
August 16, 2005
Astronomers Martin Rees and Mario Livio considered “Anthropic Reasoning” in a Science perspectives article.1 The question bears not only on SETI, and whether intelligent life exists elsewhere, but why it exists here. They state the issue: We can imagine universes where the constants of physics and cosmology have different values. Many such “counterfactual” universes would […]
Tailpipe Soot: Can It Live?
July 28, 2005
Better stay clear of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). They come out of your tailpipe and furnace, line your chimney, and generally are products of unhealthy processes like industrial waste and cigarette smoke. According to Environment Canada, “PAHs are a concern because some of them can cause cancers in humans and are harmful to fish and […]
First-Generation Star Claim Discounted
July 18, 2005
e first generation of stars, made of pure hydrogen, might have been detected, are now shown to be erroneous (this is an update on the 04/24/2003 entry). Iwamoto et al. in Science1 have shown that the two hyper-metal-poor stars are actually second-generation stars, seeded with heavy elements by supernovae. Timothy C. Beers (Michigan […]
The Cause of a Teapot: Can Physics Explain Design?
June 8, 2005
George F. R. Ellis (U. of Cape Town) wrote a Concepts piece in Nature1 this week that asks fundamental questions about ordinary things, particularly, can we get from fundamental physics to complex hierarchical structures through a chain of cause and effect? A simple statement of fact: there is no physics theory that explains the nature […]
Variable Constants Dept.
April 11, 2005
Is nothing sacred? EurekAlert reported that the fine structure constant alpha may have changed from its once-thought invariable value, based on new observations from the Keck telescope. “Sacred constant might be changing,” it says. Another study, by contrast, shows no change in the fine structure constant, according to a press release from UC […]
Late Stars Found Early On
April 6, 2005
A press release from the Spitzer Space Telescope team reports that the oldest, most distant galaxies ever seen already had well-developed stars. It claims that the light has taken 13 billion years to reach us. “It seems that in a couple of cases these early galaxies are nearly as massive as galaxies we see around […]
Baloney Detecting Exercise for Students
March 17, 2005
Jeff Barbour’s brief history of everything was published on Universe Today. His essay, entitled “Where does intelligent life come from?” paints a short but sweeping panorama from the Big Bang to humans. Its style is somewhat like watered-down Carl Sagan or gilded Neil deGrasse Tyson (see 09/29/2004 entry). Here’s a sample about the origin of […]
Complex at the Beginning: Distant Galaxy Cluster Highly Developed
March 10, 2005
Observations from the European Southern Observatory have pointed to a “surprise” discovery: a cluster of galaxies 9 billion light-years away that is “in a very advanced state of development.” The press release points to just how surprising is this find: “The discovery of such a complex and mature structure so early in the […]