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It’s Still a Rare Earth

Now that hundreds of extrasolar planets are known, how do they compare to ours? The Kepler spacecraft has found a varied assortment of all sizes and distances away from their parent stars. Only a few reside in their star’s habitable zones. But that’s only the first of many requirements for life. Two recent studies indicate that Earth remains a rare bird in the celestial aviary.

Where Do Gems and Precious Metals Come From?

Gold, diamonds, and other precious metals and gems... they are found close to the surface of the earth where humans can mine them and make jewelry. But they shouldn’t be there. Heavy elements should have sunk deep into the core of the Earth soon after it was formed. Wait till you hear some of the latest ideas about how precious metals and gems arrived near the surface. Maybe they shot up from the mantle. Maybe they came from outer space.

Science Without an Object: Astrobiology, Alien Science

Can science exist without an observable object? In recent years we have seen serious scientists ponder alternate universes and parallel universes, dark matter, dark energy and other imponderable entities. String theory has yet to rest on observable data, and physicists at CERN are getting worried about not finding the hypothetical Higgs boson. Sooner or later, these theories need to detect their subjects or lose credibility in the science club. Perhaps nowhere else has the disconnect between hype and observation reached the absurd limits of astrobiology and alien science.

8.7 Million Species Is Not a Scientific Fact

Human beings love to classify things. We pigeonhole items into bins of our own making, for whatever the reason, to give us a feeling of having things organized and understood. Do our pigeonholes reflect categories that are “out there” in nature, or are they constructs of our own minds? Science reporters are announcing in bold print that there are “8.7 million species on Earth,” but a look at the fine print shows the error bars to be so enormous, there is more error than data. What does this imply about the scientific validity of human classification schemes?

Playing Fast and Loose with Evolution

The word evolution gets used and misused often. Strictly speaking, neo-Darwinian evolution demands that mutations and natural selection operate with no foresight or oversight, no purpose or direction, no impetus toward a desired outcome. In actual practice, scientists and reporters play fast and loose with the term, making it into a designer substitute.

Pagan Gods Launched into Space

The latest Jupiter probe from NASA is named Juno, after the name of the wife of Jupiter, Roman chief of the gods. Launched today (August 5), the Juno spacecraft will use Earth for gravity assist in a complex path, to arrive at Jupiter in 2016, where it will study the largest planet from a polar orbit. As “part of a joint outreach and educational program developed as part of the partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” according to a press release from the Jet Propulsion Lab, the spacecraft carries 1.5-inch likeness of three figures: Galileo Galileo, who discovered Jupiter’s moons, the Roman god Jupiter, and his wife Juno.

Another Crash in Lunar Tunes

Our moon has two faces. One is the familiar man-in-the-moon side that always faces Earth. The other side is mountainous and heavily cratered, possessing a thicker crust with almost none of the large impact basins we see as dark maria on the Earth-facing side. The giant impact theory for the origin of the moon – that a Mars-size object hit the Earth and the debris coalesced into our planetary companion – has been controversial since it was first proposed. Will adding another impact help? It all depends on what one means by “scientific progress.”

Earth Uniqueness Up; SETI Down

Our earth seems special – maybe because it is. Some astronomers are seriously considering that life might be rare or unique on our rare (or unique) planet. If so, hopes for finding sentient aliens on the celestial radio dial drop accordingly. The 50th anniversary of the first SETI search came, unfortunately for search enthusiasts, came at a time when funding is harder to get.

Planetary Eruptions

Eruptions can come in two types: literal and figurative. Some planetary bodies are literally erupting. Others are causing figurative eruptions in theories. Here are some recent news stories about planets, moons, comets and other objects circling our sun and other stars. There hasn’t been much news from Mercury or Venus this month, so we’ll start on the home planet and work outward.

OOLs for Evolution

Soviet communists may or may not have needed Rules for Revolution, but Darwinists, without doubt, need OOLs for Evolution: i.e., origin-of-life scenarios. Obviously, Darwinian evolution won’t get past square one without a self-replicating system complex enough to call “life” in place. Whether or not a given evolutionist is a Marxist materialist or a theistic Darwinist, OOL is a key link in the naturalistic dream of an unbroken chain of natural causes from big bang to man. It’s proving a tough link to find.

Wrong Again: Planetologists Embarrassed

In most careers, being wrong too often is grounds for dismissal. False prophets in ancient kingdoms were stoned or shamed out of town. Only in science, it seems, can experts consistently get it wrong, and not only keep their jobs, but be highly esteemed as experts. Among the guiltiest of the lot are planetary scientists, whose predictions have been consistently wrong for almost every planetary body studied since the dawn of the space age. Their orbital mechanics is solid; they do get their spacecraft to arrive at the right place at the right time with uncanny accuracy. But what the missions reveal is often completely different from what scientists had told the public they expected to find. This has been true of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, comets, asteroids, and most of the moons of the solar system, where hasty revisions have had to be made after spacecraft data falsified the predictions. Here are some recent examples of “theory fail” in planetary science.

Mars as Anomalous Runt

The Mars rover Spirit is now dead in its tracks, but the planet under it continues to rumble, in theoretical overhauls and anomalies. Mars has been much on the mind of news reporters this week after a new paper speculated that the red planet grew up fast and then stopped as a runt.

Earth Still Privileged Planet

Astronomers have found over a thousand extrasolar planets now. How does our solar system compare? Thanks to the Kepler spacecraft, we now have a catalog of 1,235 alien planet candidates after just four months of operation. Of the 408 that have been found in multiple-planet systems, 170 of these containing two to six planets have been pictured in a “Kepler Orrery” posted by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The press release says, “most of those look very different than our solar system”.

Eye on Io

Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io continues to erupt, its heat flowing into science journals.  Planetary scientists are mapping its surface and devising new ideas about what drives its activity.     A paper in Icarus presented a new global geologic map of Io’s surface.1  The most common feature is plains (65.8%), followed by lava flow fields […]

Science Out of Touch

When science became a profession instead of an avocation, there were some unintended consequences.  Scientists began to lose touch with the public.  When a scientist goes to work doing science for a living, he or she sometimes takes public support for granted, thinking the work is justified for its own sake.  Recent articles, however, warn […]
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