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SETI at 50: Onward with Style

51; It’s been fifty years since the first scientific paper suggested listening in on the stellar radio dial for signs of intelligence.1  Nature celebrated the occasion with two articles and an Editorial that said,2 “Despite the long odds against success, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has come a long way.”     SETI sure has […]

Questioning Earth’s Privileges

51; Two articles this week downplayed considerations that would make the Earth seem like a special place in the universe.  Both have ties to NASA.     Are life-friendly stars limited to a narrow band in the galaxy called the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ)?  NASA-supported Astrobiology Magazine cast doubt on the idea.  Citing a study […]

How Precise Is “Precision Cosmology”?

When data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) came in, cosmologists heralded it as the era of “precision cosmology” and immediately began to make claims that resulting data map confirmed some cosmological theories and falsified others (see 02/14/2003 headline).  Two papers in the Astrophysical Journal, however, are discounting the precision of the data and […]

Dark Energy Is Embarrassing

Robert Scherrer is trying to come up with a theory that combines dark matter and dark energy, reports Space.Com.  “It is somewhat embarrassing to have two different unknown sources for the dominant forms of matter and energy in the universe.  On the other hand, that may just be the way things are.  We don’t get […]

A “Completely Different Slant” on Solar System Formation

51; “Did great balls of fire form the planets?” New Scientist asks.  A new theory “challenges the notion that the solar system started out as a placid sea of dust motes which simply clumped together to form planets.” If accepted, it “puts a completely different slant on what happened in the early solar system in […]

Hiding Comets Out of Bounds

51; There’s a new theory floating around about where most of the comets came from: other stars.  For many years, astronomers hid them in an unobservable region called the Oort cloud that was assumed to be partly a remnant of the sun’s primordial disk, and material that was ejected outward.  Now, according to the BBC […]

Inflation: Cosmic, Comic, or Cosmetic?

The science media seem beside themselves with enthusiasm over some dots and lines.  When scientists analyzing data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) told reporters they determined the polarization of certain points in the cosmic microwave background, one could almost hear the yawns.  But when they suggested that this tells us something about what […]

SETI Sans ETI So Far

There’s “no din of alien chatter in our neighborhood,” writes Richard Kerr in the Feb. 20 issue of Science.1  “Early-generation searches for extraterrestrial intelligence are coming up empty-handed, but the SETI community is carrying on,” he writes.  Search pioneer Frank Drake admits “We found nothing” in the latest Project Phoenix, a survey of 700 nearby […]

Define Pseudoscience

A couple of articles lately have lumped creationism in with astrology, ESP, space aliens and lucky numbers.  How valid is this grouping?     Randolph E. Schmid (Associated Press; see Live Science) conveyed statistics presented by Jon Miller (Michigan State U) and a panel of researchers at an AAAS meeting in San Francisco this past […]

Reality or Hubris in Scientific Claims?

51; The amount of trust the public puts in scientific claims stems partly from their incomprehensibility.  The claims presented in scientific papers are often so dense and abstruse as to be unapproachable by all but specialists.  Undoubtedly many people trust scientists because of their specialized education, their knowledge of mathematics, their special equipment, and their […]

Is Dark Matter Going Out of Style?

Dark matter has been a staple in cosmological theories for decades.  One of the initial reasons was that galaxy rotation curves could not be explained without it.  Another was that galaxy clusters, to be held together over long ages, needed more “stuff” to bind them.  Finally, Big Bang cosmologists invoke copious amounts of dark matter […]
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