Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earth II: Electric Boogaloo

Screw you Peter Ward, the "Rare-Earth Hypothesis" is looking more and more like a great big pile of steaming crap. Now that Gliese 581g is on the map, it seems highly likely that plenty of earth-like planets are populating the heavens.
While the Kepler team is suffering from severe eye strain trying to analyze all their data, the Kasting brothers have utterly pwned those exoplanet hunting noobs by finding the first earth-like planet in a star's goldilocks zone. Even better, the star is relatively close by, only 20 light years (basically next door). And it is a red dwarf, the most common type of star in the galaxy, with 5 other known planets that all orbit in roughly circular shapes. No crazy elliptical orbits gumming up the works, or hot jupiters laying the smack down on other planet formation. And guess what, another one of those five planets, Gliese 581d is also within the habitable zone.
Gliese 581g is a few times bigger than earth, but almost certainly made of rock. It also sits in the dead center of its parent stars habitable zone, and without an atmospheric greenhouse effect factored in its average temperature is around -10C. Of course, earth's average temp is about the same without an atmosphere, so Gliese 581g could conceivably be sunny and tropical, with 5 star resorts, and beautiful beach condos at low prices.
Gliese 581d is much larger, and is probably more like Uranus or Neptune, but still has the possibility of holding liquid water, though the surfing is most likely not as good as its sister planets.
Let's not understate how much ass this discovery kicks. Gliese 581 is the 117th closest star to earth. So out of 117 stars we have at least 2 confirmed earth like planets, earth being 1. This is a small sample with a large return rate, astronomically speaking. We have also only studied a few of these stars in any detail, about 9 of them. So let's get cracking! I am looking at you Kepler. Oh, and before anyone else asks, yes I did claim the mining rights, and no I do not tolerate claim jumpers. I will defend my space property with planetary rail guns, as is my right as an American. It is in the Constitution people!

An artist's conception shows the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star.

Lynette Cook

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010


No big deal.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Double Trouble in Dinosaur Town

... it's almost a triple meteor!

Now, everyone knows the dinosaurs were wiped out when a meteor crashed into the Yucatan peninsula at Chicxulub with the force of one hundred megatons, which filled the earth's atmosphere with billions of tons of ash, broiled the earth's surface, triggered some of the largest mega-tsunamis ever, ignited world-wide volcanic eruptions, and fractured the planet's crust with countless earthquakes, right? It's simple shit, people.

But now, some scientists in the UK have published evidence suggesting that the dinosaurs were driven to extinction as the result of not one, but TWO meteor impacts! Another meteor impact crater was discovered in Boltysh, Ukraine in 2002. Geologic and fossil remains in the crater show that this meteor impacted a thousand or so years before the Chicxulub meteor and that it created similar extinction-scale conditions. Bummer, dinosaurs. That must have been pretty rough.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Decoding Language from Brain Recordings

Science non-fiction: a badass lab at the, soon to be PAC 12 school, University of Utah just published a paper on discriminating between words from the part of the brain that controls face movement. This could allow locked in patients like the especially stylish one that wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to communicate with the outside world using their thoughts alone. Here's a picture of the recording technology: The researchers tried to decode from the part of the brain that has been attributed with language comprehension, but it wasn't active while the patient was speaking, only while he was listening to the researcher's talk in between sessions:
Then when the patient started talking they could record the brain signals from the face motor area and discriminate between words the patient said based on the brain signals alone. Wow.