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SETI Ignorance Gets Stronger

“Science is not about blind faith” begins a video posted on MSNBC about SETI.  Part of an article by AP reporter Seth Borenstein, “Evidence for E.T. is mounting daily, but not proven,” the video explains Frank Drake’s famous equation that tries to quantify the probability for extraterrestrial intelligence (09/29/2010, 11/24/2008).  Though Drake confidently asserts the […]

Plasma May Revamp Cosmology

A “diverse new field” of astrophysics is poised to revolutionize our understanding of stars, energetic galaxies, and perhaps the entire universe.  The properties and interactions of plasma, that hot, electrically-charged gas that makes up the sun and stars, have not been considered as often as matter and light have in astronomy.  A set of top […]

Using Aliens to Titillate the Public

Geologists cannot even figure out our own planet (next headline), but some of them claim to know a lot about other planets – their geological history, and even their prospects for life.  Is it fair to tease the public with the L-word life when so much remains to be understood on the ground under our […]

Are There Limits to Scientific Speculation?  A Royal Case

Question: When does science become like a priesthood?  Answer: When its practitioners engage in speculation on big questions impossible to verify with empirical observations.  Is this what the chief astronomer in Britain is doing?     Sir Martin Rees certainly would not have thought of himself as a priest as he wrote an article for […]

Man Will Never Fly (to the Stars)

It’s risky to say “never” in science.  The Man Will Never Fly Society had a short life.  However, an article on Space.com makes it seem a safe bet that, Star Trek notwithstanding, warp-speed flights to the stars are out of the question for humans.  “Warp speed will kill you,” the article announced; why?  Because interstellar […]

Divining Violent gods as Natural Cosmic Creators

Ancient stargazers imagined the violent actions of gods in the heavens giving rise to the stars, earth and man.  Today’s secular astronomers engage in a similar kind of lore.  While not naming their gods after mythical heroes, they describe them as forces of nature whose violent clashes give rise to order and design.  Sometimes they […]

Galaxy-Spangled Banner Unfurled

The Hubble team has unveiled a new deep field image of distant galaxies, the “Hubble Ultra Deep Field Infrared WFC3/IR.”  The image, available at the HubbleSite, was taken with the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) installed during the latest servicing mission.     It’s been 5 years since the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (03/09/2004; […]

Is the Universe Evolving Upward?

It’s intuitively obvious that to get from a big bang to intelligent astronomers looking for evidence of the bang through telescopes, the amount of organization in the universe must increase over time dramatically.  Lately, astronomy has uncovered much more dynamism in space than previously recognized – but much of it seems destructive, not creative. Orion […]

Cosmic Accounting Is Wildly Inaccurate

Counting faint celestial objects is admittedly hard, but the task should be within the capabilities of expert astronomers.  It is, after all, as simple as counting.  So much theoretical work relies on accurate counts of what’s out there, they need to get at least in the ballpark.  Recent indications hint that their counts have been […]

Early Large Galaxies Stun Cosmologists

Cosmology has a kind of Cambrian Explosion of its own to grapple with.  Contrary to expectations, some of the earliest galaxies appear as large as current ones, if not larger.  Astronomers, using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii, examined five galaxy clusters with ages estimated at 5 billion years after the Big Bang.  Statements in a […]

Star Children for Darwin

Why should we be looking for alien intelligence around other stars when it is right behind your eyeballs?  You may not have known that you are a star child, but that’s what a leading astronomer called you.  As a good star child, you need to pay tribute to Charles Darwin.     In New Scientist, […]

Dating Stars as Models

Many have dreamed of dating a star, but the way astronomers do it is less glamorous.  For one thing, they need to know how old she is first, and how good a model she makes.  In a Perspectives piece for Science,1 David R. Soderblom of the Space Telescope Science Institute explained the requirements for stellar […]

2009 Is Looking Up

Astronomy is looking up this year; in fact, it’s looking heavenly.  The United Nations and the International Astronomical Union have designated 2009 the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009).  The IYA2009 website explains, The International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) will be a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, highlighted by the […]

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,” […]

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 […]
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