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Is Earth’s Magnetic Field Reversing?

The New York Times and World Net Daily have stories about Earth’s magnetic field.  The strength of the field has declined 10-15% over the past 150 years.  If undergoing a reversal, which some physicists say is overdue, it could have profound effects on migratory animals like birds and turtles, and allow more dangerous radiation to […]

Saturn Runs Rings Around Cassini

“Shocked” was how Carolyn Porco, lead Cassini imaging scientist, described her initial reaction to new pictures of Saturn’s rings.  Precious images began to pour in early July 1 from science observations right after the previous night’s perfect orbit insertion maneuver (see 06/30/2004 headline).  Even though the imaging team had been confident in the capabilities of […]

Cassini to Rewrite Textbooks on Saturn

Hundreds of scientists and engineers are waiting with eager anticipation for SOI: Saturn Orbit Insertion, as the schoolbus-sized Cassini spacecraft races for its closest approach to the ringed planet tonight.  Just before closest approach, Cassini will fire its main engine for 96 minutes to slow down the spacecraft and allow Saturn to capture it in […]

Cosmos Ages a Billion Years in One Day

Physicists have found that a portion of the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen reaction thought to participate in fusion reactions inside stars runs two times slower than previously thought.  The measurements were made in the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA), a lab nearly a mile underground in Italy that offers more protection from cosmic rays.  The ripple effect […]

How Little We Know What Lies Below

Those cutaway views of the earth, with its core, mantle and crust, make nice diagrams in textbooks.  But without a Hollywood-style probe and time machine to the center of the earth, how do we know what’s down there, and how it got that way?  We know surprisingly little, admits David Stevenson (geologist, Caltech) writing in […]

Privileged Planet Website Opens

A website featuring a new book by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet, has opened.  The subtitle of the book is How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery.  The authors take issue with pessimistic views, such as those of Steven Weinberg and Carl Sagan, that our planet is “pointless” or […]

Rethinking the Geological Layers

One of the most formative ideas in Darwin’s intellectual journey was the concept of gradualism, the principle of “small agencies and their cumulative effects.”  This idea became a dominant motif in his philosophy of life.  Describing how the assumption of gradualism permeated his last book (on earthworms) shortly before his death, Janet Browne, in her […]

Anthropic Principle Won’t Go Away

The so-called “Anthropic Principle” is the observation that the universe, whether by accident or design, appears to have been fine-tuned for our existence.  Dating back decades, if not centuries, the idea has been alternately criticized and seriously pondered by the world’s greatest cosmologists.  During the 1990s the idea was ridiculed to the point that, if […]

Mercury’s Magnetic Field: Another Attempt to Save Theory from Data

Nature Feb. 121 restates a puzzle about Mercury known since the Mariner 10 encounters (1974-5): …why, against expectations, does Mercury have a global magnetic field? The planet’s diminutive size means that it should have cooled quickly after it formed.  Any molten core would have become solid, or almost completely so.  A magnetic-field-generating dynamo in an […]

Accretion: The Missing Link in Planetary Evolution

Every school child has seen artwork of planets evolving from a disk of dust and gas around a star like our sun, but there’s a missing link in the story.  How did the dust particles stick together?     Once a clump of material is massive enough, it can attract more material by its own […]

Must Life Drink Water?

Star Trek used to portray aliens made up of different stuff than the carbon and water chemistry which comprises Earth-based life.  For years, most scientists who considered the possibility of life in space, including Carl Sagan and Stanley Miller, admitted, somewhat reluctantly, that the periodic table of the elements admits no practical alternatives to water […]

The Magnetic Sky Is Falling

Space.Com reports that the strength of Earth’s magnetic field has dropped 10% over the last 150 years.  At that rate of decline, it could vanish in 1500 to 2000 years.  Scientists gathered recently at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union pondered whether a reversal is occurring, but a Harvard scientist claimed that would be […]

Cells Find Signal in the Noise

Parents at an amusement park know the challenge of picking out their child’s voice, or even hearing their own hollering, in the noise of the crowd.  Yelling won’t help much if the rest of the crowd is yelling also.  Acoustic engineers know that raising the volume while playing back a noisy tape amplifies the noise […]

Radioactive Dating: Science or Alchemy?

Richard Kerr had some surprising things to say about uranium-lead dating in the Sept. 17 issue of Science1 – surprising, because as a believer in the method and an evolutionist, he admitted there is a fair amount of unscientific methodology and controversy involved.  “For years, different laboratories using uranium-lead radiometric dating—the gold standard of geochronology—have […]

Mars Methane May Be Geological, Not Biological

Just when the ESA Mars Express spacecraft was collecting data on methane emissions on Mars, leading some to speculate it might be a biomarker, Science Now reported new findings that indicate methane can form naturally in Earth’s mantle by heating water, iron oxide and calcite under pressure (see also Physics Web).     This demonstrates […]
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