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Young Galaxy Cluster Already Mature

“Isn’t that special.”  The remark, in common parlance, is a generic way of avoiding a judgment call.  When astronomers were confronted with the sight of a galaxy too mature for its age, Space.com reported the response: “And that makes it special, researchers said.”     The headline was, “Surprise!  Ancient Galaxy Cluster Still Looks Young.”  […]

Busted!  Planet-Making Theories Don’t Fit Extrasolar Planets

Famed planet-hunter Geoff Marcy is giving theorists headaches.  The leading theories of planet formation won’t stand up to observations of hundreds of planets we know.  In National Geographic News reporter Richard Lovett lamented, “The more new planets we find, the less we seem to know about how planetary systems are born, according to a leading […]

Is Star Formation Understood?

Astronomers often speak with apparent confidence about regions of active star formation in nebulae or galaxies. A look at the fine print, however, shows plenty of wiggle room when observations don’t quite match theory.

Planets a-Plenty, but Are They Lively?

The Kepler spacecraft has found over 1,235 planets so far (Space.com), 54 in their star’s habitable zone, and some Earth-size or smaller.  Science media are having a field day reporting the discoveries, portraying them with artist imaginations, licking their chops at the possibility of life in outer space.  What does this mean?     Space.com […]

Science Done by Humans Is Mushy

Discoveries in science must be mediated by flawed agents: human beings.  Though the most hardened scientific realists maintain strong beliefs in external reality, the perceived reality is mediated by senses, then interpreted by minds that are not omniscient.  Those are some of the reasons that science keeps changing, as illustrated by some recent examples: Endangered […]

SETI Reinvades Oz

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first SETI search, astronomers from around the world are going to tune into the stars, listening for aliens.  Frank Drake named his first attempt in 1960 after the land of Oz: Project Ozma.  Today’s searchers, looking at promising candidates with much better resolution, are once again paying tribute […]

Life: Do Ingredients Imply Emergence?

Science articles continue to push the idea that if water is found somewhere, life is certain to emerge.  Other articles look for so-called “building blocks of life” or “ingredients for life,” implying or even plainly stating that life simply emerges from its parts.  While many have complained that this kind of thinking is as ridiculous […]

Probability Life Not Found on Exoplanet: 100%

Headlines are screaming that an earthlike planet in its star’s habitable zone has been found.  Many sources, though, are claiming that life must certainly exist on this planet.  Their hubris stems from the words of Steve Vogt, an astronomy professor at UC Santa Cruz.  “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever […]

Exoplanet Hunters Fail Predictions

Before the first extrasolar planets were discovered, astronomers had high confidence that other solar systems would resemble ours.  We have rocky planets close to the sun, and gas giants farther out.  Planetary scientists were pretty sure the pattern would hold up around other stars.  Now that we have hundreds of examples to compare, the reality […]

Wishing ET Upon a Star

What are the odds of finding extraterrestrials?  That subject has been discussed ad infinitum, but David Shiga at New Scientist thinks the odds just went up.  “Solitary suns like ours are not as rare as we once thought, boosting the likelihood that there are other life-friendly solar systems in the universe.”  It should be noted […]

Who in the Universe Makes Music?

A cosmologist and some musicians want to “sonify the universe” by making music out of stellar events like supernova explosions.  In an unusual article for a science media outlet, “Reaching for the Stars to Create Music of the Universe,” Science Daily reported that Nobel laureate George Smoot was inspired by the wishes of a Grateful […]

Bad Math Gets a Pass When It’s Naturalistic

“Now we know our place in the universe,” gloated Ohio State University astronomer Scott Gaudi, who told the science press that 15% of solar systems in the universe are like ours.  “Solar systems like our own are not rare, but we’re not in the majority, either.”  His calculation was based on how many relatively earthlike […]

Outer Limits Not Lively

One of the “cosmic coincidences” cited in the intelligent-design treatise The Privileged Planet1 is the “galactic habitable zone” – a fairly narrow region of the galaxy where planets can form and exist safely.  The outer regions of the galaxy were described as lacking the heavy elements necessary for planet formation.     Score one for […]

Earth Size Gives Life Edge

The earth seems to be holding onto its status as a privileged planet.  New Scientist reported that a rocky planet’s size is linked to its ability to sustain a magnetic field and plate tectonics.  This means that some of the “super-earths” found around other stars (5-10 times the size of earth) may not be habitable.  […]

Planet-Makers Ask Miracles to Evade Death Spiral

Remember the old artwork of planets gently forming out of dust orbiting a young star?  That’s all gone.  Reality has set it.  Clumps of material a meter across need help – almost miraculous help – to avoid getting sucked into the star in a giant death spiral.  If you don’t believe it, ask John Chambers […]
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