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Modern Cosmology Is Clueless, Astronomy Columnist Says

A letter to the editor in the latest (November) issue of Astronomy tipped us off to something we missed in the July issue.  The subscriber wrote, Kudos to Bob Berman for bringing up the slipperiness of modern cosmology in ‘Theory chaotic’ (July 2004).  He must be one of the first to do so.  As he […]

Dating of Crater Rays Needs Overhaul

A dating method relied on by planetary geologists needs drastic revision, according to Planetary Science Research Discoveries (PSRD) scientists at the University of Hawaii.  Crater rays are the streaks that extend radially from impact craters.  Previously, planetary scientists assumed they darken over time under bombardment from the solar wind and can be used as indicators […]

Cosmologist Squirms at Thought of Fine-Tuning

Lawrence Krauss (Case Western Reserve U, Ohio) meant to talk about prospects for distinguishing between sources of so-called dark energy, the mysterious force that appears to be accelerating the expansion of the universe.  But in the process, he opened his soul and revealed feelings, dreams, and nightmares.  First, he states the problem: Dark energy is […]

PBS Airs Another Evolution Series: Origins

PBS NOVA aired its latest installment on evolution, a 4-hour miniseries entitled Origins, on September 28 and 29.  The website hype describes it as follows: Has the universe always existed?  How did it become a place that could harbor life?  What was the birth of our planet like?  Are we alone, or are there alien […]

Solar Particles Survive Genesis Crash

Scientists are relieved that they have been able to recover enough pieces from the crashed Genesis spacecraft to pursue the science objectives.  JPL Director Charles Elachi said they have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and are bouncing back from a hard landing.  The highest-priority science goals may still be attainable, at least partially, […]

Are We Lost on a Speck of Cosmic Dust?

A new Copernican revolution seems to be in the works, not another “demotion” of man from the center of the universe, but a promotion back to the ancient idea of plan or purpose for our existence.  The demotions reached their nadir with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and other books that declared we are nothing special, that […]

SETI Needs to Read, Not Listen

What technology would an extra-terrestrial intelligence use to communicate with us?  For fifty years, the search has presumed that an ET would use radio waves to announce “we’re here.”  Not a good idea, says a professor of computer and electrical engineering at Rutgers.  He thinks investors on distant planets would put their money not on […]

Multispectral Galaxy Studies Contradict Theories

The latest issue of Caltech’s magazine Engineering and Science1 has beautiful pictures of galaxies taken in ultraviolet by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), and in the infrared by Hubble’s sister, the Spitzer Space Telescope.  Combining images of the same galaxy in visible, ultraviolet and infrared is helping astronomers figure out their structure, and as D. […]

Delicate Planet Dance Disturbs Theories

Theorists have been thrown a curve ball with the discovery of a planet orbiting a binary star.  It appears that the gravitational tug on a hypothetical dust disk would have prevented the possibility of a planet forming around one of its members, but Gamma-Cephei has one.  “The formation of a planet in a binary star […]

Earth’s Ugly Sister Can’t Get a Date

Venus is the subject of an interview with David Grinspoon of NASA’s Exobiology Research Program in Astrobiology Magazine, and admits that the entire surface of our hellishly hot sister planet looks young.  It appears the globe was resurfaced almost simultaneously in the relatively recent past. Grinspoon relives the surprises from the Magellan mission: We’ve begun to […]

SETI Ponders the Silence

Since no clear signals from space aliens have yet arrived in 40 years of looking, SETI thinkers are asking why.  They’re coming up with a variety of explanations.  Here are three possibilities from recent articles. Too Soon to Tell.  Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, writing in the September cover story of Astronomy Magazine, isn’t […]

Jupi-Tar?

Among the incomprehensible titles of most papers in the Astrophysical Journal, this one stood out: “Jupiter Formed with More Tar than Ice.”1  Looking at Galileo spacecraft data for oxygen abundance and other things, Katharina Lodders was led to propose the following model: Carbonaceous matter, which has high sticking probabilities, was the agent that sped up […]

“Toy Model” of Planetary Migration Partially Explains Neptune, but Not Uranus

When we last saw Hal Levison (Southwest Research Institute), the genius-at-work was going crazy in fairyland over the difficulties of explaining Uranus and Neptune (see 05/30/2002 headline).  He’s been recovering sanity slowly; he thinks he has a working hypothesis for why Neptune stopped migrating at 30 AU (astronomical unit = sun-earth distance).  Uranus, though, is […]

Our Solar System Is a Rare Gem

As if in time for the upcoming film release of The Privileged Planet (see 06/24/2004 headline), Philip Ball wrote a line for Nature Science Update that would have dismayed Carl Sagan and a host of SETI researchers: “Earth-like planets may be more rare than thought… In cosmic terms, our solar system could be special after […]

Solar Systems Defy Theories

Stuart Ross Taylor (Australian National University, Canberra) feels left behind.  The astronomers have their nice, neat H-R diagrams to explain stars, but no such diagram exists for planetary scientists.  Our hodgepodge collection of planets, moons and small bodies defies classification, to say nothing of the extrasolar planets that have been discovered so far, mostly in […]
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