A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘extraterrestrial life

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Big Picture looks at the uses of oil barrels around the world.
  • blogTO wonders if the Annex is ready for a condo boom.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage noting how odd spectra on Mars were misidentified as proof of life.
  • Crooked Timber notes a student occupation of the University of Amsterdam’s headquarters.
  • Discover‘s The Crux makes a poor argument that space probe visits to Pluto and Ceres will lead to the redefinition of these worlds as planets.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at an odd pulsating hot subdwarf B star with a brown dwarf.
  • The Dragon’s Tales suggests chemical mechanisms for life on Titan, and explains the differences in water plumes between Europa and Enceladus.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes political conflict in Germany.
  • Discover‘s Inkfist notes that birds from harsher climates are smarters.
  • Joe. My. God. shares Madonna’s critique of ageism.
  • Languages of the World examines the genesis of the English language.
  • Marginal Revolution notes Japanese funerals for robots, suggests Facebook usage makes people less happy, and notes family formation in Europe.
  • John Moyer examines punctuation.
  • Steve Munro maps out routes for a Scarborough subway.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at science on Pluto.
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of ethnically mixed households in Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at how Panama successfully made use of price controls, and why.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell wonders what is the rush for three-parent IVF therapy.
  • Transit Toronto explains how old TTC tickets can be exchanged.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the importance of Belarus for the Baltic States, notes the newly-debatable borders of the former Soviet Union, suggests Tatarstan is unhappy with Russian federalism, and looks at the small grounds for Russian-Ukrainian hostilities.

[LINK] “‘Rotisserie’ Planets Could Host Alien Life — If Wet Enough”

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Space.com’s Charles Q. Choi notes a new study suggesting that exoplanets with extreme axial tilts, like that of Uranus in our solar system, could be quite habitable so long as they would have oceans.

“The expectation was that such a planet would not be habitable — it would basically boil, and freeze, which would be really tough for life,” lead author of the exoplanet study David Ferreira, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in England, said in a statement.

However, Ferreira and his colleagues’ new findings challenge those expectations, showing that such extremely tilted planets may remain habitable if covered entirely by oceans. “In the search for habitable exoplanets, we’re saying, don’t discount high-obliquity ones as unsuitable for life,” Ferreira added in a statement.

To see what life might be like on habitable planets with extreme tilts, researchers simulated Earth-size planets covered entirely in water circling their stars at the same distance as Earth orbits the sun. The 3D models simulated circulation among the atmosphere, ocean and sea ice on “aquaplanets” with oceans 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) deep and “swamp” planets with relatively shallow oceans that were 33 feet (10 meters), 165 feet (50 m) or 655 feet (200 m) deep.

[. . .]

The investigators simulated planets at three obliquities. The first was 23.5 degrees, like Earth’s. The next was 54 degrees, the point at which the poles receive more annual sunlight on average than the equator. The last was 90 degrees, the point at which a planet is essentially lying on its side — the poles would each point at the star for a quarter of the year, and then away for another quarter, alternating between extremes of light and darkness.

Ferreira and his colleagues found that a global ocean would absorb enough solar energy from the star and release it back into the atmosphere for such a world to maintain a rather mild, springlike climate year round.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 25, 2015 at 11:25 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • io9 notes that kale, cauliflower, and collards all are product of the same species.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze speculates on the detection of Earth analogues late in their lifespan and notes the failure to discover a predicted circumbinary brown dwarf at V471 Tauri.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares Lockheed’s suggestion that it is on the verge of developing a 300-kilowatt laser weapon.
  • Far Outliers considers the question of who is to blame for the Khmer Rouge.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that One Million Moms is hostile to the free WiFi of McDonald’s.
  • Spacing Toronto notes an 1855 circus riot sparked by a visit of clowns to the wrong brothel.
  • Torontoist notes how demographic changes in different Toronto neighbourhoods means some schools are closing while others are straining.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes a California court ruling not recognizing the competence of the Iranian judicial system in a civil case on the grounds of its discrimination against religious minorities and women.
  • Window on Eurasia considers the implications of peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine, notes the steady integration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia into Russia, and notes Russian fascism.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Big Picture shares photos from the war in Ukraine.
  • blogTO maps the distribution of young adults in Toronto.
  • Crooked Timber despairs at evidence in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing with its (betrayed?) faith in elections.
  • D-Brief examines a binary star set to become a supernova in seven hundred million years.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the formation of icy distant super-Earths.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting Mars’ salts formed from freezing and notes that chimpanzees apparently learn food calls from others.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell wonders what Russia wants in eastern Ukraine, just the Donbas or a broader sustained destabilization of Ukraine.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money calls for an end to New York City’s tipped minimum wage.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the complexities of Russia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the relationship between the formation of planets and the evolution of life thereon.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer continues to look at the mechanics of the Nicaragua Canal and notes the complexities of Grexit.
  • Towleroad notes that the first same-sex couple married in Alabama is a pair of lesbian African-Americans.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy worries about the freedom of the press in Argentina.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Big Picture shares photos of aspiring K-pop stars.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly notes how being rich and being happy do not necessarily coincide.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage looking at the potential habitability of more than two dozen exoplanets. (Three look good.)
  • Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin reports on the election in the Australian state of Queensland.
  • D-Brief notes the numerous surprises associated with the Rosetta comet probe.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that near-contact binary star system ZZ Eridani might have a brown dwarf in orbit.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Uranus’ moon Ariel is warmer than expected.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes the potential for change in Greece.
  • Language Hat links to an Irish Times essay arguing Ireland stayed much more Irish in language than people give it credit.
  • Language Log suggests in a guest post that the Chinese script is responsible for high levels of myopia.
  • The Planetary Society Blog features a report by Marc Rayman on the Dawn probe’s approach to Ceres.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that the small Caribbean basin states which depend on Venezuela’s Petrocaribe can survive that corporation’s collapse.
  • Savage Minds recommends that writers should read more.
  • Spacing Toronto wonders what will be next for the TTC after the decision to let minors ride for free.
  • The Transit Toronto blog notes the expansion of wireless Internet across the GO Transit network.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at the growth of fascism in Russia, notes the politicization of the Russian diaspora, observes the launching of websites for Russophone secessionists in the Baltic States, and wonders about whether or not Putin distinguishes between lies and the truth.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Big Picture shares photos of the falling shoreline of the Dead Sea.
  • blogTO shows the heritage buildings that have survived condo development at Yonge and St. Joseph.
  • Crooked Timber wonders at the threat of anti-vaccination people.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that red dwarfs might help produce abiotic atmospheric oxygen comparable to Earth on some worlds and suggests that certain low-mass stars which produce abundant extreme ultraviolet radiation may dessicate their potentially habitable worlds.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper examining the ancient likely shorelines of Mars.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a Christian activist’s takeover of the microphone at a Muslim event in Texas.
  • Language Hat links to a paper that finds weak links between language and genetic history.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a robot-run hotel in Japan and suggests Sweden is overrated.
  • Spacing calls for much-improved mass transit in Halifax.
  • Torontoist wonders about possible improvements in snow removal.
  • Towleroad notes a legal challenge mounted by an American dismissed for anti-gay attitudes.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that Herbert Hoover’s vice-president, Charles Curtis, was an American Indian.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russia’s turn to fascism and examines how Russian Internet trolls are recruited by the state.

[LINK] “Mars had its own mini, Iron Theia”

I prefer the title of The Dragon’s Tales’ link post to EurekAlert!’s “The 2 faces of Mars”. The suggestion that the topographical differences between Mars’ two hemispheres can be explained in terms of a southern hemisphere impact is new, and apparently plausible. As the EurekAlert! report on the paper concludes, the environment created by this impact would have been very hostile to young life.

The two hemispheres of Mars are more different from any other planet in our solar system. Non-volcanic, flat lowlands characterise the northern hemisphere, while highlands punctuated by countless volcanoes extend across the southern hemisphere. Although theories and assumptions about the origin of this so-called and often-discussed Mars dichotomy abound, there are very few definitive answers. ETH Zurich geophysicists with Giovanni Leone are now providing a new explanation. Leone is the lead author of a paper recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Using a computer model, the scientists have concluded that a large celestial object must have smashed into the Martian south pole in the early history of the Solar System. Their simulation shows that this impact generated so much energy that it created a magma ocean, which would have extended across what is today’s southern hemisphere. The celestial body that struck Mars must have been at least one-tenth the mass of Mars to be able to unleash enough energy to create this magma ocean. The molten rock eventually solidified into the mountainous highlands that today comprise the southern hemisphere of Mars.

In their simulation, the researchers assumed that the celestial body consisted to a large degree of iron, had a radius of at least 1,600 kilometres, and crashed into Mars at a speed of five kilometres per second. The event is estimated to have occurred around 4 to 15 million years after the Red Planet was formed. Mars’ crust must have been very thin at that time, like the hard, caramelised surface of a crème brûlée. And, just like the popular dessert, hiding beneath the surface was a liquid interior.

When the celestial object impacted, it added more mass to Mars, particularly iron. But the simulation also found that it triggered strong volcanic activity. Around the equator in particular, numerous mantle plumes were generated as a consequence of the impact, which migrated to the south pole where they ended. Mantle plumes are magma columns that transport liquid material from the mantle to the surface.

[. . .]

It has become increasingly clear to Giovanni Leone that Mars has always been an extremely hostile planet, and he considers it almost impossible that it ever had oceans or even rivers of water. “Before becoming the cold and dry desert of today, this planet was characterised by intense heat and volcanic activity, which would have evaporated any possible water and made the emergence of life highly unlikely,” asserts the planet researcher.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2015 at 11:44 pm


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