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Tricks to Preserve Deep Time

It’s not always easy to prove that things are very, very old.  After all, no one has ever experienced deep time (millions and billions of years).  The key is to maintain a public “feeling” in the oldness of things.  Once that feeling is in place, some pretty major tweaks can be made by the experts […]

Are Saturn’s Rings Evolving?

Can ring particles grow into moons? And is that how planets grew from rings around stars?

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 […]

The Limits of Scientific Speculation

How far can a scientist speculate and get a respectful hearing, just because he or she is a scientist?  One case to examine is a story on PhysOrg, “The Chance for Life on Io” (see also Astrobio.net).  Jupiter’s innermost large moon Io might be considered the last place to look for life.  It is the […]

Could Cosmology Be Based on Flawed Calibrations?

This is the era of “precision cosmology,” we have been told (09/20/2004 04/13/2007).  Especially since the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), measurements of faint deviations in the cosmic microwave background have reached exceptional detail (02/14/2003, allowing cosmologists to discriminate between cosmological models and, hopefully, provide insight into the nature and origins of the universe.  But […]

Making Model Earths

Modeling how the earth got here can be fun.  One doesn’t have to be right, just creative.  There are certain accepted paradigms to work within, and certain accepted constraints that are taken as a given.  Beyond that, there is a lot of leeway.  This is illustrated by two teams who published in two different journals […]

Not Life on Titan Again

Something weird is going on at the large moon of Saturn.  “What is Consuming Hydrogen and Acetylene on Titan?” teased a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory”s Cassini mission: Two new papers based on data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft scrutinize the complex chemical activity on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.  While non-biological chemistry offers […]

Jupiter Scores Another Hit

Amateurs saw Jupiter get struck by something again on June 3.  Last year, an asteroid also hit the giant planet.  Good thing Jupiter caught it and not Earth.  The asteroid, believed to be about 500 meters across, left a scar as big across as the Pacific Ocean.  National Geographic and the BBC News have photos […]

How Science Is Done: Upsetting Applecarts

Hardly a week goes by without some scientific finding upsetting an applecart – a long-held belief.  Often, those beliefs are scientific theories taught in textbooks by science professors.  Defenders of science say that this is the way science works.  It’s a self-correcting process, they argue; it’s to be expected that new data will lead to […]

Titan Continues to Surprise Saturn Scientists

Since reaching Saturn in 2004, the Cassini spacecraft has now made 68 flybys of Titan, the large smog-shrouded moon.  Space.com highlighted a recent picture showing the rings appearing to bisect the moon.  What are some of the latest findings of this alien world – the only moon in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere? […]

Conflicting Reports About Earthlike Planets

Are earth-like planets rare or common?  Your opinion might depend on which news stories you read.  “Polluted Old Stars Suggest Earth-like Worlds May Be Common,” reported Space.com and Science Daily.  The idea is that hydrogen in the atmospheres of white dwarfs might have come from water, which might be remains of rocky planets that got […]

Venus May Be Hot with Active Volcanoes

We already know Venus is hot from its suffocatingly dense atmosphere, but additional heat could be coming from underground.  Results from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express orbiter suggest that volcanoes have erupted any time between now and 2.5 million years ago, a “geologically recent” time compared to the assumed age of the planet (4.5 […]

The Earth Should Have Frozen

According to stellar evolution theory, the earth should have frozen solid four billion years ago, because the young sun could not have put out the heat it does in its middle age.  Called the “faint young sun paradox,” this problem has puzzled scientists for decades.  A new study has failed to solved the puzzle.   […]

Comets Are Cracking Up

An amateur astronomer observed a comet splitting in two, reported (PhysOrg), but it’s not just the comets that are breaking up.  Theories about them have undergone a revolution at revelations they are not all they were cracked up to be.  They used to be pristine remnants of the formation of the solar system.  Analysis of […]

Explaining the Undetectable: Science or Faith?

Scientists routinely portray themselves superior to religious people who (in their estimation) accept things on faith.  This ignores the fact that many theories in science walk by faith, too.  Theories frequently posit entities that cannot be detected by any means – and may not exist at all, except as props for the consensus.  When a […]
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