Well, it now looks like Ganymede, one of Jupiter's moons, has a subsurface ocean. Ganymede's great distinction among moons - apart from its size - is that it has its own magnetic field. Hubble has managed to track that field's behaviour by watching how it draws in and excites space particles, generating a glow of … Continue reading Subsurface oceans everywhere and the possible pervasiveness of life
In case you haven't heard yet, there's a comet headed for Mars. It will pass pretty close, close enough for the various orbiters we have in there to get pictures, and for them to be in a little bit of peril. But apparently there is a plan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq8lEKAY_fI Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will make … Continue reading Comet Siding Spring: A Close Encounter with Mars
David Warmflash (a very cool name) has a post up at Discovery looking at the issues with establishing off world colonies: Forget Mars. Here's Where We Should Build Our First Off-World Colonies. The collective space vision of all the world’s countries at the moment seems to be Mars, Mars, Mars. The U.S. has two operational rovers … Continue reading The real goal and challenge of establishing off-world colonies
Megan Scudellar has a fascinating article up at The Scientist Magazine on the mystery of why sexual reproduction evolved to be so pervasive: The Sex Paradox | The Scientist Magazine®. Sarah “Sally” Otto was sitting in a lab meeting of evolutionary biologist Marcus Feldman’s group at Stanford University in 1988 when she overheard a graduate student … Continue reading The evolutionary paradox of sex
When I first saw the title of this article, I thought it might be an alarmist piece of some kind about passenger safety from higher radiation doses while in the air, but it's actually about a broader and more serious problem: The $8.5M Race to Protect Planes From Cosmic Rays. It’s an invisible, but looming threat … Continue reading Cosmic rays becoming an increasing problem for microchips. Threat to Moore’s Law?
My initial reaction to this was, where are the gas giants? Then I woke up and realized this was about definable surfaces. (Click through for full sized version.) Note the tiny size of Pluto in relation to moons like The Moon and Titan. However, note also Mercury's size in relation to many of those moons. … Continue reading xkcd: Surface areas in the solar system
As something of a balance against the environmental issues we've been discussing, here is an encouraging sign of progress: New NASA images highlight U.S. air quality improvement -- ScienceDaily. Anyone living in a major U.S. city for the past decade may have noticed a change in the air. The change is apparent in new NASA satellite images … Continue reading New NASA images highlight U.S. air quality improvement
When pondering how likely life is to develop on other worlds, or what types of life might develop, we always have to always bear in mind that we currently only have one example to work with. And that example has one extremely unusual attribute, a large moon, at least large in relation to the size … Continue reading Did a cosmic fluke make life on land possible?
In my post on how similar or dissimilar life might be if evolution started over, I observed that much of the environment that life operates within is itself generated by other life. It turns out that goes deeper than I imagined. I knew that things like oxygenated atmosphere and soil were products of life, but it turns … Continue reading How life transformed the planet – Robert Hazen – Aeon
Zach Zorich has an interesting piece at Nautilus asking if the world began again, would life as we know it exist? In less than five milliseconds, a Hydromantes salamander can launch its tongue—including the muscles, cartilage, and part of its skeleton—out of its mouth to snag a hapless insect mid-flight. Among amphibians, it is the quick draw … Continue reading If evolution started over, how similar would its results be?