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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘extraterrestrial life

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • io9 argues that it’s time to survey Uranus, notwithstanding its name.
  • blogTO describes the attractive-sounding art-friendly Harbord Laundry.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes archeological evidence suggesting that Vanuatu was settled three thousand years ago.
  • Joe. My. God. has comments about the Burger King-Tim Horton’s merger that really bring American outrage over the shift of the resulting company to Canada for tax purposes home.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the creepy locker-room homophobias of ESPN.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that China is now officially building much more housing than it actually needs.
  • The Planetary Society Blog considers various designs for probes to Jupiter’s moon of Europa.
  • Torontoist and blogTO note that Yorkville institution the Coffee Mill is closing down.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts critically to a survey claiming three-quarters of whites have no non-white friends.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian concern that support for federalism in Ukraine might spread to Russia, observes the prominent role of Tatars in fighting for Russia in the First World War, and refers to the explicit concerns of Nazarbayev that Kazakhization not be carried too quickly lest the country risk Ukraine’s fate.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO wonders, in the aftermath of companies confiscating bicycles parked on city property, if Toronto should clearly mark off public and private space on its streets.
  • Centauri Dreams studies news that the Stardust probe may have captured bits of the interstellar medium.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports that sun-like Alpha Centauri A and B can both support planets in stable Earth-like orbits.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the impact of changing patterns of snowfall on Arctic ice.
  • Eastern Approaches studies Balkan volunteers in wars abroad, both that of Albanians in the Middle East and of Serbs for Russia in Ukraine.
  • Far Outliers looks at Japan’s farmer-soldiers on the late 19th century Hokkaido frontier.
  • Spacing Toronto favourably reviews the new psychogeography-themed book Unruly Places.
  • Understanding Society points to the massive success of a comparative statistical analysis of historical Eurasian populations.
  • Window on Eurasia links to a photo essay of an empty post-Olympics Sochi.
  • Writing Through the Fog’s Cheri Lucas Rowlands argues that modern social media hinders memoir writing, by making it too easy to publish quickly.
  • Wonkman points out that the problem with subtle homoeroticism in modern popular culture is that, well, it doesn’t need to be subtle any more. What needs to be hidden?

[BLOG] Some space-related links

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  • Anders Sandberg notes how the book and film 2001 are touchstones still for what we might fear of our future.
  • Centauri Dreams touched on quite a few issues while I was offline, noting a proposed solar-sail probe to Halley’s Comet, notes the positive implications of geysers and liquid water for life on Enceladus, notes the exceptional distance of exoplanet Kepler-421b from its star and precisely measures the size and orbit of Kepler-93b and looks at the dryness of hot Jupiters and studies the misaligned gas discs of the stars of binary HK Tauri, and looks at ways to keep Earth-like planets orbiting red dwarfs habitable for hundreds of billions of years.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that Gliese 1214b is an evaporating hot Neptune, looks at the search for rogue exoplanets in the Pleiades, mourns the non-existence of Gliese 581g and Gliese 481d, points to evidence that X-ray source IGR J17361-4441 was blocked partially and briefly by an exoplanet, looks at the search of exoplanets around nearbuy red dwarf stars, links to a reexamination of some Kepler exoplanet candidates and their stars by the Hubble space telescope, and notes that most worlds more than 1.6 times the radius of Earth are likely to be Neptunes.
  • At The Dragon’s Tales, the planet-reshaping impacts of the Late Heavy Bombardment on the early Earth are noted, as are forces acting on solar sails, as is a proposal to use the Voyager 1 spacecraft’s movements and signals to look for distant planets, as is a paper suggesting that Titan’s inner sea is as salty as the Earth’s.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes (1, 2, 3) the Rosetta spacecraft’s rendezvous with its target comet, notes a conference examining the habitability of Mars, looks at an odd mountain on Vesta, and links to an inventive revisiting of Venera images of the Venus surface.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell celebrates the ESA’s Georges Lemaître ATV, named after a Belgian cosmologist of note.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 12, 2014 at 3:00 am

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Centauri Dreams notes that the Milky Way Galaxy, though vast, is actually quite dim. People positioned outside of it wouldn’t see much.
  • D-Brief notes the discovery of a planet orbiting one of two stars in a reasonably close binary system at an Earth-like distance. Good news for Alpha Centauri?
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper on the exoplanet systems of subdwarf B stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper examining the methane reservoirs on Titan.
  • Far Outliers notes recent commentary suggesting that Russia would prefer Ukraine not develop a capable modern state, since that could weaken Russian influence.
  • Language Hat shares a list of 55 peculiarities of Canadian English.
  • Language Log disproves the argument that Canadians are more apologetic than others.
  • Marginal Revolution notes controversies over fracking in Australia.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the interesting results of a lawsuit lodged against a bar by a former employee claiming sexual and religious harassment.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how modernization in Russia is threatening minority ethnic groups, and looks at Russian Orthodox-tinged militias in Ukraine.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO shares pictures of the lineups for free food on Canada Day at Mandarin’s buffet restaurants.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper identifying three thousand nearby red dwarf stars as potential sites of Earth-like exoplanets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a sober assessment of the Chinese space program.
  • The Frailest Thing considers the import of Facebook’s experiment on its user base by noting the ability of complex systems to undergo unexpected catastrophes.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Google’s social network Orkut, big in Brazil and India but absent elsewhere, will be shutting down at the end of this September.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that anti-gay activists are pleased with the Hobby Lobby ruling.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Adam Block shares pictures of colliding and interacting galaxies.
  • Seriously Science notes that not only do spiders have different personality types, but that these types contribute to the maintenance of their physical cultures.
  • The Signal notes ongoing research into data recovery methods and issues with compact discs.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes cases where putting the victim on trial does matter. (Records of past violence are noteworthy.)
  • Towleroad notes an economist observing that homophobia has an economic impact and points to an upcoming Irish referendum on same-sex marriage in 2015 that’s quite likely to pass.
  • Window on Eurasia quotes a Ukrainian about Russia’s issues with a separate Ukraine and notes a statement by Kaliningrad’s government claiming some Ukrainian refugees in Russia might be anti-Russian activists in disguise.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Discover‘s Collideascape notes that, even as agricultural land is falling worldwide, the productivity of this land is increasing even more sharply.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper examining the extent to which saline water might make cooler planets better for live, and to another paper suggesting that planetary magnetic fields are so importance for life (and oxygen levels) that brief reversals in the history of Earth have led to mass extinctions.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Ukrainian report that the country’s military has captured a Russian tank.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that vehemently anti-gay Minnesota archbishop John Nienstadt is being investigated for allegedly having sexual relationships with men.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that, despite economic collapse, there are some jobs (like low-paying fieldwork) that Portuguese just won’t do.
  • The New APPS Blog’s Gordon Hull notes the gender inequity involved in the recent Hobby Lobby ruling in the United States.
  • pollotenchegg maps the slow decline of Ukraine’s Jewish population in the post-1945 era.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle writes eloquently about his connections to and love of Lake Erie.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs links to a cartographic examination of the time spent by French television news examining different areas of the world.
  • Towleroad notes a faux apology made by the Israeli education minister after attacking gay families.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler notes the future of contraception coverage under Obamacare.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on fears that Crimean Tatar organizations will soon suffer a Russian crackdown, and suggests that the West should reconsider its policies on Belarus to encourage that country to diversify beyond Russia.

[LINK] “A New Mantra: Follow the Methane — May Advance Search for Extraterrestrial Life”

Universe Today’s Shannon Hall notes advances in the search for atmospheric methane on exoplanets. This biomarker, present on worlds like Titan among potentially very many others, can now be detected at a distance of light-years in a whole variety of environments.

The search for life is largely limited to the search for water. We look for exoplanets at the correct distances from their stars for water to flow freely on their surfaces, and even scan radiofrequencies in the “water hole” between the 1,420 MHz emission line of neutral hydrogen and the 1,666 MHz hydroxyl line.

When it comes to extraterrestrial life, our mantra has always been to “follow the water.” But now, it seems, astronomers are turning their eyes away from water and toward methane — the simplest organic molecule, also widely accepted to be a sign of potential life.

Astronomers at the University College London (UCL) and the University of New South Wales have created a powerful new methane-based tool to detect extraterrestrial life, more accurately than ever before.

[. . .] Sergei Yurchenko, Tennyson and colleagues set out to develop a new spectrum for methane. They used supercomputers to calculate about 10 billion lines — 2,000 times bigger than any previous study. And they probed much higher temperatures. The new model may be used to detect the molecule at temperatures above that of Earth, up to 1,500 K.

[. . .]

The tool has already successfully reproduced the way in which methane absorbs light in brown dwarfs, and helped correct our previous measurements of exoplanets. For example, Yurchenko and colleagues found that the hot Jupiter, HD 189733b, a well-studied exoplanet 63 light-years from Earth, might have 20 times more methane than previously thought.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2014 at 7:37 pm


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