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Are Long-Term Climate Models Trustworthy?

Everything from global warming policy to evolutionary history depends on long-term climate models.  Textbooks make it seem like earth keeps reliable recordings that allow scientists to simply read off the record of years, decades, centuries, millennia and millions of years objectively.  It’s not that simple, wrote Maureen E. Raymo and Peter Huybers in Nature last […]

SETI Signals Could Be Loaded with Information

Unusual properties of electromagnetic waves allow for a higher carrying capacity of information than thought.  SETI researcher Seth Shostak reported on Space.com that Swedish researchers have found a possible “subspace channel” in the orbital angular momentum of narrowband radio waves that might allow the encoding of information.  This information would be impervious to the jumbling […]

Million-Degree Plasma Found in Orion

The Orion nebula, an object of beauty to stargazers (picture, Hubble view) is pervaded by plasma heated to two million degrees Kelvin, reported astronomers in Science.1  Two funnel-shaped regions of x-ray emitting plasma in the extended nebula were observed by astronomers using the X-Ray Multi-Mirror (XMM)-Newton satellite.     “The energy requirement to heat the […]

Comet Woes Lamented

Space.com posted an article on “The enduring mysteries of comets.”  The mysteries include: Where did earth’s oceans come from?  For a long time, scientists expected comets delivered the water, until measurements showed a discrepancy in the hydrogen/deuterium ratios.  It’s also highly improbable there was enough wet stuff in those assumed delivery vehicles.  No secular scientist […]

Geology Sinks in the Mud

Question: what is the most abundant sedimentary rock in the world?  Follow-up question: what would happen to the science of geology if the consensus theory of how this most abundant sedimentary rock was deposited turns out to be wrong?  Prepare for a paradigm shift: experiments have shown mistakes in long-held assumptions about mudstone formation. Here’s […]

SETI: Physics Conspires to Keep the Aliens Isolated

Where are the aliens?  They’re too far away to get to know.  Don’t look for galactic federations to join any time soon, said SETI Institute Director Seth Shostak at Space.com.  The harsh realities of the speed of light make fellowship, both in person and via radio signals, too remote to be feasible.     Shostak […]

Is Making Planets Child’s Play?

Are star children good at child's play? Like making mudballs, it should be easy to roll up dust into planets.

Active Moons Challenge Old-Age Beliefs

Beyond the asteroid belt, where sunlight is weak, small bodies that should be old and cold seem young and active.  Here are some recent papers and reports about some of the moons around the gas giants showing more signs of vitality than expected for bodies assumed to be billions of years old. Jupiter’s Io: Astronomers […]

Dealing with Light at the Extremes

“Light is the most important variable in our environment,” wrote Edith Widder, a marine biologist.  The inhabitants of two different ecosystems have to deal with either too little or too much.  Let your light so shine:  A thousand meters below the sea surface, all sunlight is extinguished.  Yet for thousands of meters more, creatures live […]

Moon Dust Can Kill

Future astronauts preparing to operate on the moon, beware.  High-speed dust is deadly, reports PhysOrg.  With no atmosphere on the moon to slow its path, dust flying from rocket engines can blast anything in its path.  “Small grit can travel enormous distances at high speeds, scouring everything in its path,” the article says – at […]

Pangea Stuck at Square One

Students in their physical science classes learn all about Pangea, the supercontinent that broke up 200 million years ago and ended up with today’s familiar continents after millions of years of continental drift.  What they don’t often learn is how scientists come up with these ideas, and how they pull their hair out when observations […]

The Stars That Shouldn’t Exist

Theories in astronomy are fun to model on paper with equations, but once in awhile they need to stand up to observations.  Phil Berardelli wrote for Science Now: It seems as though every time astronomers point their telescopes at the night sky, some weird new finding forces them to revamp their theories.  And so it […]

Nature Inspires Useful Products

Some day soon you may be able to extract water out of thin air, decorate your walls with detachable wallpaper, read street signs clearly in fog, and employ reusable tape underwater.  These are some of the innovations coming from biomimetics – science inspired by nature’s designs. Venus flytrap:  Alex Crosby at University of Massachusetts was […]

Inner Ear More Complex than Thought

Another level of complexity has been added to the mystery of hearing.  Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that another membrane in the cochlea of the inner ear, once thought to be passive, is actively involved in transmitting sound waves to the hair cell receptors.  Their work was published in PNAS.1     […]

One Special Universe: Take It or Leave It

If you think this universe is odd, to what would you compare it?  Adrian Cho asked this and other basic questions in a whimsical review of cosmology since WMAP in Science.1  Closer analysis of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as revealed in detail by WMAP (03/06/2003, 05/02/2003, 09/20/2004, 03/20/2006), has uncovered features so surprising (e.g., […]
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