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Dream On, Astrobiology

An astrobiologist at Open University (UK) has classified habitable worlds into four types, even though only one of them is known to have life.  Astrobiology Magazine reported the list by Jan Hendrik Bredeh?ft: earth-like, Mars-like, Venus-like and water-worlds.  After considering all the facts, Bredeh?ft says our best bet to find extraterrestrial ecosystems is to hunt […]

Water, Water Everywhere

A press release from the Max Planck Institute says that water has been detected at a distant quasar 11.1 billion light-years away – the farthest detection of water yet.  “The water vapour is thought to exist in clouds of dust and gas that feed the supermassive black hole at the centre of the distant quasar,” […]

Cosmologists Taste the Forbidden Fruit

Everyone agrees: our universe appears fine-tuned for human existence.  You have two choices: it was designed by God, or there is a multiverse (other universes we cannot detect).  Amanda Gefter is unhappy with that choice.  In New Scientist, she asked, why can’t we have more options?     Calling the God-vs-multiverse choice a false dichotomy, […]

It Takes a Stellar Village

Do galaxies embark on a purpose-driven life?  The language in an article about galaxy evolution in Science Daily makes such seamless use of personal terms with natural processes, it’s hard to know where the data ends and the interpretation begins.     “Galaxy Zoo, which uses volunteers from the general public to classify galaxies, and […]

Far-Out Science

The following list of bizarre stories coming from science news outlets is jarring on two fronts: it shows how little scientists understand, and calls into question what counts as science these days.  Some stories illustrate one or the other; some both. Roar of the aurora aura:  Both Saturn and Mars turned up auroras that are […]

Desperately Fleeing God in Cosmology

Does the fine-tuning of the universe require belief in God?  Or will multiverse theory allow for a self-perpetuating, eternal, godless cosmos?  Tim Folger explored this topic in an interview with Andrei Linde, a cosmologist currently at Stanford, in Discovery Magazine.  The opening line sums up the controversy: “Our universe is perfectly tailored for life.  That […]

Antimatter Or Anti-Consensus?

Where’s the antimatter?  If the universe began in a big bang, there should be equal amounts of matter and antimatter.  Instead, there is only regular matter as far as our telescopes can see.  (If antimatter were present, the annihilation of antimatter and matter would give a characteristic gamma-ray signature.)  This is a big matter; the […]

Science Cannot Validate Itself

Science is an unbiased, objective, disciplined, cooperative method for progressively uncovering truth about the natural world.  That’s the way most of us were taught to think about it in school.  Further reflection, however, produces a host of questions rarely discussed in science class.  How does science differ from other unbiased, objective, disciplined, cooperative methods of […]

Dark Energy May Be an Optical Illusion

Cosmologists can get rid of the burden of their worst imponderable substance, dark energy, if they are willing to jettison the Copernican Principle.  Science Daily reported thinking by a team of Oxford physicists who make the apparent acceleration of the universe an artifact of our viewing position.  When distant galaxies are viewed without the assumption […]

Bangin’ Around to Get Something New Under the Sun

You’ve heard of the Big Bang, and the Cambrian Explosion.  Now, to get the solar system started, astronomers have added a Little Bang to move things along in the naturalistic path from nothing to everything.  Science Daily, Space.com and PhysOrg all reprinted a press release from the Carnegie Institution claiming that a nearby supernova led […]

Dark Matters, When All You Have Is Light

A cluster of galaxies equivalent to a thousand Milky Ways was observed at a distance of 7.7 billion light-years.  What does it mean?  According to astronomers mentioned in an article on Space.com, it can only mean one thing: dark energy makes up 70% of the universe.     “The existence of the cluster can only […]

Early Magnetic Galaxies Surprise Astronomers

Astronomers reported in Nature that early galaxies have normal magnetic fields.1  That is surprising because magnetic fields were supposed to start small and strengthen over billions of years.     The team tried to be careful to distinguish intervening magnetic signatures from those in quasars.  Their measurements indicated that “organized fields of surprisingly high strengths […]

What Mean These Stars?

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in current astronomical models.  Two articles recently underscored the fact that astronomers still have a lot to learn. Cluster generation conundrum:  The members of globular star clusters were long thought to be old stars of the same age, like seniors at a care […]

Cosmology at the Outer Limits

Those who think cosmology could not get any weirder than it already is (01/15/2008) may want to take note of recent pronouncements by the gurus of universal physics.  Physics teachers in particular may feel an obligation to state Bob Berman’s disclaimer (10/06/2004) before class: viz, “Warning: The following contains contemporary cosmology.  Reading it can produce […]

Divining the CMB

What do you see in this pattern?  Look very closely.  The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is a faint glow of electromagnetic radiation that pervades the universe.  What it means is a matter of intense and sometimes bizarre speculation by cosmologists.     The spectrum of the CMB matches almost perfectly that of an ideal radiator, […]
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