Crisis in Comet Formation Theories

Results from the Stardust mission last week (12/15/2006) are causing quite a stir.  Detailed analysis of comet dust particles from Comet Wild 2, published in Science Dec 15, reveal the wrong stuff.  Scientists found olivine, pyroxene and osbornite – minerals said to form at high temperatures – instead of the cold volatiles expected for an […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  Comets as Life’s Lego Jumper Cables

Results of the Stardust mission made the cover of Science this week.1  The Jet Propulsion Laboratory put out a press release that condensed the abstruse papers into a simplistic story built around the L word life.  Publicist David Agle wrote for the Lego generation: Just as kits of little plastic bricks can be used to […]

Darwin Stars at the Galaxy, by Universal Pictures

A press release from the European Southern Observatory asks, “Do Galaxies Follow Darwinian Evolution?”  One may wonder how stars, which do not bear children, can be considered progeny of Charles Darwin.  They explain: The ‘nature versus nurture’ debate is a hot topic in human psychology.  But astronomers too face similar conundrums, in particular when trying […]

Mars Waterpark a Booming Place

Two surprises about Mars came from NASA this week: (1) water may be flowing today down gullies in places (NASA press release), and (2) meteorites are still hitting the surface (NASA press release).  The water evidence comes from fresh deposits downslope of a gully on a crater wall.  One photo in the second article shows […]

Why Are We Here? Because We’’re Not All There

The anthropic principle survived another criticism.  Charles Q. Choi on reported on a critique by two physicists who think the cosmological constant is not so finely tuned.  In the end, the argument was shot down.  The story, asking “Why Are We Here?” was picked up by Fox News. Watch the new film The Case […]

SETI a Descendant of OOL

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) may seem a different subject than origin of life (OOL), but researchers in both depend on each other’s assumptions.  The common bond is illustrated in a SETI article on today.  Devon Burr of the SETI institute wrote an article not about intelligent aliens trying to broadcast signals to […]

ID Support from Unlikely Quarters

While Nature 11/24 described intelligent design (ID) as a threat to science, support for it came from two new scientific books reviewed in the same issue.  Both of them, while not using the phrase intelligent design, deal with concepts that imply science must reach beyond material causes. Just right universal soup:  Jim Al-Khalili (U of […]

Moon Gas Indicates Recent Geologic Activity

It’s aliv-v-v-v-e!  Evidence for recent geological activity on our moon has been reported in Nature.1  Katharine Sanderson introduced the findings in News@Nature, in an item titled, “The moon has gas: Eruptions confound the idea that our nearest neighbour is a geological dead zone” – Some think the Moon has been geologically dead for billions of […]

Strange Exploding Star Continues to Puzzle Astronomers

The Hubble took another image of the expanding shell of star V838 Monocerotis (see ESA and Hubblesite).  Four years after the first dramatic sequence (see 05/29/2003), astronomers are still puzzled by this star, with the most dramatic light echo ever photographed.  Leading hypothesis now is that two stars collided before the outburst.  The image made […]

Geologists Puzzle Over Egyptian Craters

A set of craters deep in the Egyptian desert has geologists scratching their heads.  Discovery Channel News says that they look neither like impact craters nor known volcanic phenomena.  “It is a strange and new thing,” reported one French scientist.  Jay Melosh of the University of Arizona remarked, “There’s nothing in our current geological literature […]

Will Cosmology Emerge from the Dark Ages?

To cosmologists, the “dark ages” were not after the fall of Rome, but the time between the release of the microwave background radiation, and the light from the first stars.  In a feature article for the November Scientific American, Abraham Loeb discussed how astronomers hope to shed light on this epoch with new telescopes measuring […]

Mars Life: Hope Against Hope

Good news: the Viking landers (1976) may have been unable to detect life on Mars if it were present.  Bad news: the dust devils on Mars probably would kill anything alive on the surface.  These contrasting stories recently tugged in opposite directions on hopes to find life on the red planet.  A report on PNAS1 […]

New Titan Ethane Theory Proposed

They wonder where the ethane went (see 09/14/2006 and its links).  The case of the missing ethane on Titan has only gotten more puzzling since the Huygens Probe landed last year and found almost none, when oceans a mile deep were anticipated.  In Nature last week,1 D. M. Hunten (U of Arizona) posited a new […]

Active SETI: If the Mountain Will Not Come to MyHomeET

SETI researchers must be getting bored sitting around waiting for a message.  To bide the time, some have come up with a game called “Active SETI” – sending our messages to the aliens.  It’s not that this game hasn’t been played before.  The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft each carried messages from earthlings, and the Arecibo […]

Science Potpourri

Interesting articles from recent issues of Science have piled up in the queue.  These might have made separate entries in CEH if time and space were unlimited. Deep Impact:  The team of the Deep Impact mission to a comet published spectral results in the July 13 issue.  “Emission signatures due to amorphous and crystalline silicates, […]
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