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Hopes Die for Enceladus Longevity

Ever since Enceladus, the little 300-mile-across moon of Saturn was found in 2005 to be erupting out its south pole, scientists have tried to explain how it could be possible.  They have looked high and low for an energy source to power the geysers of the little moon dubbed “Cold Faithful” for billions of years.  […]

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, […]

Alien Messages via Neutrinos

Three scientists are suggesting that SETI researchers comb neutrinos for alien messages.  Nothing natural could produce high-energy neutrinos, they said in Science,1 so aliens may use their cosmic accelerators to send neutrino packets across the intergalactic internet.  They suggested watching for them in the neutrino detector at the South Pole. 1.  Random Samples, Science, Volume […]

Cosmology in Crisis Over Dark Energy

Ten years ago, cosmologists invented dark energy to explain certain features of the expansion of the universe that could not be reconciled with observations of supernova magnitudes.  Now, reported National Geographic News, dark energy remains the most profound problem in physics.  It’s like theory and observations are refusing to cooperate with an arranged marriage.   […]

Hubble Snaps Colliding Galaxies

A new catalog of colliding galaxy images has been released by the Hubble Space Science Institute.  The 59 images show “close encounters that sometimes end in grand mergers and overflowing sites of new star birth as the colliding galaxies morph into wondrous new shapes.”  The release coincided with the 18th anniversary of the Hubble Space […]

Mars Lacks Safety Shield for Humans

Forget all those optimistic, futuristic sci-fi tales of humans landing on Mars.  It isn’t safe, said Space.com.  NASA’s space radiation program doubts that a human body could survive prolonged exposure to space.  This is a problem for long stays on the moon, too.     “The magnetic field of Earth protects humanity from radiation in […]

Seeing Vision in a New Light

The eye is like a camera, right?  That picture is way too simplistic.  The eye-brain visual system does image processing and gleans information from photons in diverse and remarkable ways.  Here are some recent findings by scientists: Upward mobility:  A team of Harvard scientists found some retinal ganglion cells that sense upward motion.  Writing in […]

Enceladus: Hotter Chemical Plume Found

Initial results of Cassini’s March 12 flyby of Enceladus have been published.  You can watch a replay of today’s press briefing, read the blog, and read illustrated bulletins about the organic material, chemical signatures, hot spot locations, the stellar occultation (see also the Quicktime animation).  Another article shows the plume locations.  An astrobiologist (Chris McKay) […]

Crater Dater Deflator: Impactors Can Be Recycled

They came from outer space – that was the old paradigm about impactors that made craters on planetary bodies.  Then, we learned how secondary craters can confuse a surface’s history (06/08/2006, 09/25/2007).  Now, two papers in Icarus show that moons can do a lateral pass.     Alvarellos et al,1 showed that Jupiter’s moon Io […]

How to Avoid Dark Energy

Who needs dark energy?  Copernicus?  George Ellis (U. of Cape Town) said we could get rid of dark energy by throwing the Copernican Principle overboard.  Writing in Nature,1 he said that dark energy may simply be an artifact of the geometry of space-time.     Copernicus did not invent the Copernican Principle.  He was just […]

Falling Rocks Leave Holes in Science

Hard data in astronomy is hard to come by, except when it comes by special delivery – as with meteorites.  If there is any class of phenomena that should be well understood, it should be space debris and the craters they form, because the processes involved can be watched in real time.  Meteorites adorn many […]

Is Cosmology Getting Wimp-y?

Physics and astronomy are usually thought of as the “hard” sciences, where empiricism is king.  Read the following excerpts from a story on the BBC News science page with that in mind (suggestion: replace “dark matter” with “mysterious unknown stuff”). The first stars to appear in the Universe may have been powered by dark matter, […]

Fast Protein Fine-Tunes the Ear

Remember prestin?  It’s a motor protein in the inner ear, discovered in 2001 (03/27/2001), that acts so fast – within millionths of a second – its discoverers named it after the word “presto!” (02/21/2002).  Scientists have been studying its role as a volume adjuster (07/31/2007) that allows it to amplify sound 10,000-fold (09/19/2002) .  New […]

Did Birds Evolve Aeronautical Engineering?

Two news stories on birds may not seem to flock together.  One is about their supreme aeronautical engineering.  The other ponders when they evolved.     A story on EurekAlert and Science Daily describes how engineers are eyeing birds, bats and insects for design ideas.  The appeal is clear from the following comparisons: A Blackbird […]

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 […]
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