Europa Off the Jersey Shore
I have tweeted excitedly a few times now about the Exoplanet App (free iTunes link
) that I have been playing with lately. This is the kind of thing that I can get really worked up about. As of this writing it reports 526 exoplanets. The three-dee galaxy has me practically bouncing around like a kid.
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Here is a thought experiment: Imagine there is a deep, dangerous chasm that you must cross. To fall into it means certain death. Two bridges are available. The first was built by an expert engineer, the second was built by a monk with no engineering knowledge. The monk assures you that he prayed earnestly that his bridge would not fail. The engineer assures you that his construction uses scientifically tested principles.
It's not much of a choice, is it? Think about it honestly.
Now suppose that the monk claims his prayers are always answered. I don't know about you, but I would still cross on the engineer's bridge.
Twiddling the Dials of the Universe
There is a widespread ignorance about the scale of the universe in which we live. It's like someone in Nebraska asking, mouth agape, if you mean as unimaginably far away as New York City
. These are the people who tell each other that algebra is something you'll never use in the "real world."
To all of you I say emphatically No, the universe is not fine-tuned for human life. There is not a magic set of basic constants that, if ever-so-slightly modified, would snuff out our fluttering candle flames. We already live in that universe. If you would care to vacation for a month on Saturn, you might see my point. The volume of the known universe is boggling: 4.1 x 1034
cubic light years. The land surface area of the earth is 148,940,000 km2
. Don't even pretend you comprehend the difference in scale, because you don't. If you divide one into the other you just get another number that will make as little practical sense as the two you started with. (And nevermind that the two numbers use totally different units. What are you, a brainiac?)
Put another way, the land surface area of the Earth is so small compared to the rest of the universe, that we might as well say 0% of the total available space. Let's be super-generous, though, and say that there are billions of other habitable worlds out there, which brings us to...I don't know, 0% of the total available space. Okay, let's pretend it's just barely above zero for argument's sake.
But have you ever spent February in the "fine-tuned" environment of northern Minnesota? You can't live there. Well, of course you can, but it is not what you would call habitation-friendly. That's what's common, though. We can't even survive well on most of our own surface area. About 75 percent of it isn't suitable! We cling to 25% of a scarcely nonzero number, and still we're killed off all the time by too-hot days and too-stormy weather.
So where is this universe designed for my benefit? I don't see it.
Welcome, Humans !
Alternate titles for this article: Monkeys On Parade!, The Nose Knows: Snouts in the Spiritual Community.
Taking a break from my cruel treatment of old B.P. to inspect a spongy, brain-like crumb
] from EcoWorldly.com, which seems to be a limb of Green Options Media, who are dutifully Empowering Sustainable Choices for us all.
I am always very excited and happy to see research results like these, because it makes dualistic philosophies that much more unsustainable. Said another way, I get my ego stroked because I am right, which is a sensation I seek out with laser-focused determination. The laughable juxtaposition here is that I am ego-boosted to be classified as an animal. That's what this research really says. Elephants aren't revealed to be more like us. Rather, we are revealed to be among a class of creatures that also includes elephants. It's regarding this point that I think the article goes astray.
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Will to Life
Astronomers Mark Swain and Gautam Vasisht of Caltech in Pasadena, US, and Giovanna Tinetti of University College London, UK, used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the giant planet HD 189733b, which is slightly more massive than Jupiter and lies 63 light years from Earth. The observations confirm an earlier tentative detection of water vapour and reveal the presence of methane gas.
I tend to be against the Drake equation, or any other equation regarding the probability of alien life. Instead, perhaps going against reason, I subscribe to the notion more-or-less put forward by Stephen Baxter, that life is, in fact, everywhere.
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