Posts Tagged ‘Earth’

Bastardi’s Wager

January 14th, 2011 01:44 admin View Comments

DesScorp writes “AccuWeather meteorologist Joe Bastardi has a challenge for climate scientists. He wants one or more of their rank to accept a bet about temperature trends in the coming decade. Bastardi is making specific predictions. ‘The scientific approach is: you see the other argument, you put forward predictions about where things are going to go, and you test them,’ he says. ‘That is what I have done. I have said the earth will cool .1 to .2 Celsius in the next ten years, according to objective satellite data.’ Bastardi’s challenge to his critics — who are legion — is to make their own predictions. And then wait. Climate science, he adds, ‘is just a big weather forecast.’ Bastardi’s challenge is reminiscent of the famous Simon-Ehrlich Wager, where the two men made specific predictions about resource scarcity in the 80′s.”

Source: Bastardi’s Wager

NASA Says 2010 Tied For Warmest Year On Record

January 13th, 2011 01:33 admin View Comments

An anonymous reader writes “It may not seem like it, but 2010 has tied 2005 as the warmest year since people have been keeping records, according to data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. The two years differed by less than 0.018 degrees Fahrenheit. That difference is so small that it puts them in a statistical tie. In the new analysis, the next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007, which are statistically tied for third warmest year. The GISS records begin in 1880.” Adds jamie: “This was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average — 0.62 +/- 0.07 C above, to be precise. It was the wettest year on record too, according to the Global Historical Climatology Network.”

Source: NASA Says 2010 Tied For Warmest Year On Record

In the Google Navy

January 11th, 2011 01:17 admin View Comments

theodp writes “Having already assembled a private Air Force, Google’s top execs now seem to be turning their attention to building a personal Navy. At last count, CEO Eric Schmidt’s wife had assembled a stable of three classic racing boats — the Swan 80 Selene, the 46-foot W-class Equus and the Alerion Mischief. Perhaps not to be outdone, the press is reporting that Google founder Larry Page just snapped up a $45 million superyacht called Senses from New Zealand businessman Sir Douglas Myers, who referred to the ostentatious-yet-awesome yacht as his ‘adventure boat.’ As Google likes to say, ‘just the latest steps in Google’s commitment to a clean and green energy future.’ So, do Google execs eat their own carbon footprint calculator dogfood?” All I know is if Larry wants to go fishing, I’ll bring bait- or he can come here and fish on Zen’s pontoon boat. It only leaked once, the engine usually starts right up, and while there’s no helipad, I’d love to watch someone try.

Source: In the Google Navy

The Royal Society Asks: Are We Ready to Meet E.T.?

January 10th, 2011 01:38 admin View Comments

You know the old routine in sci-fi: Aliens show up, people of Earth freak out. Whether we provoke  aliens a la The Day the Earth Stood Still or they arrive foaming with blood lust like in Mars Attacks, storytellers’ general feeling is that the mass of humanity would not respond well to the real presence of extraterrestrial life. We need Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to keep ‘em separated from us.

In 2011—the year after we were supposed to make contact—are we humans still a backwater mob of talking apes who would crumble into pandemonium, or cosmic self-doubt, at the discovery of life beyond Earth? This week, a special issue of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society addresses that question and more.

You’ve come a long way, baby

Albert Harrison, psychologist at the University of California, Davis, may live to regret saying nice things about humanity. But it’s nice to see somebody giving us a vote of confidence:

The Brookings Report warned in 1961 that the discovery of life beyond Earth could lead to social upheaval. But [Harrison] says “times have changed dramatically” since then. Even the discovery of intelligent aliens “may be far less startling for generations that have been brought up with word processors, electronic calculators, avatars and cell phones as compared with earlier generations used to typewriters, slide rules, pay phones and rag dolls,” Harrison writes in one of the papers. [MSNBC]

SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) hasn’t been successful in its half-century hunt for alien civilizations, but it has ingrained into people the idea of looking for life beyond Earth. The continually increasing exoplanet count (one discovery was announced just today) is showing people just a small glimpse of the variety of worlds out there. Thus, Harrison says the people of Earth would respond to the discovery of alien life with “delight or indifference,” according to the Press Association.

If you would greet the discovery of alien life with “indifference,” you need to reevaluate your worldview.

These creatures are not your friends / The sound of silence

Not everyone’s outlook is so rosy. The idea that extraterrestrial life would at the very least dislike humans—and probably try to wipe us out—doesn’t exist simply in the realm of sci-fi movies; Stephen Hawking made waves last April for articulating this argument. And in another paper in the Royal Society’s special issue, Simon Conway Morris argues that we ought to expect hostility.

Any life that might look like us, Morris reasons, probably would have emerged the same way that we did, though evolution by natural selection. And if you want to guess their temperament, look in the mirror.

“Why should we ‘prepare for the worst’? First, if intelligent aliens exist, they will look just like us, and given our far from glorious history, this should give us pause for thought,” wrote Morris in the journal’s special issue. [The Guardian]

The fact that alien civilizations haven’t swung by Earth to wipe us out with death rays or plagues, he argues, is evidence for the case that they don’t exist.

“At present, as many have observed, it is very quiet out there,” study author Simon Conway Morris, of the University of Cambridge, [said] in an e-mail interview. “And given many planetary systems are billions of years older than ours, I’d expect us to be best grilled on toast back in the Cambrian.” []

What about God?

Suppose that extraterrestrial life—whether microbe or walking, talking alien—appears, and doesn’t destroy all humans. Will it destroy human religion? Ted Peters, a professor of systematic theology at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in California, considers this conundrum.

Most religions were formed with the notion of life on Earth being special, a notion that could be dashed in one swift stroke. Yet religion survived the revelation that the Earth is several billion years old and not the center of the universe. Most likely, he writes, it shall go on.

His conclusion … is that faith in Earth’s major religions would survive intact. “Theologians will not find themselves out of a job. In fact, theologians might relish the new challenges to reformulate classical religious commitments in light of the new and wider vision of God’s creation. Traditional theologians must then become astrotheologians…. What I forecast is this: contact with extraterrestrial intelligence will expand the existing religious vision that all of creation – including the 13.7bn-year history of the universe replete with all of God’s creatures – is the gift of a loving and gracious God,” he speculated. [The Guardian]

Who’s forming the welcoming committee?

Questions like what alien life might look like or how religion will change in a brave new universe make for fine conversation starters. But there’s one pressing matter we need to settle first: If E.T. shows up, what are we going to do?

The head of the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs, Mazlan Othman, presents her view that the United Nations should take a leading role in coordinating the global response to evidence of extraterrestrial life. Othman got in hot water when news reports made it sound as if she was angling to become an “ambassador to the aliens.” In the journal, however, Othman presents a sensible case: She draws an analogy to the role played by the United Nations in considering what should be done in the event Earth is threatened by an incoming asteroid. [MSNBC]

Let us know what you think about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and how humanity would respond to it. And if you want to read the full Royal Society papers, many are now available free at the journal’s website.

Image: flickr / Jay Adan

Source: The Royal Society Asks: Are We Ready to Meet E.T.?

Kepler Finds a Super-Small, Super-Hot Rocky Exoplanet

January 10th, 2011 01:46 admin View Comments

The Kepler space telescope, launched nearly two years ago, has already proven its worth as an exoplanet hunter many times over. But the discoveries keep on coming. NASA just announced that Kepler has found its first rocky planet–and that the rocky world is only 1.4 times the size of Earth, making it the smallest exoplanet ever found.

Phil Plait explains that this nearly Earth-sized isn’t actually Earth-like and habitable:

[I]t orbits extremely close in to its star, circling over the star’s surface at a distance of roughly 3 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) — amazingly, it takes less than an Earth day to make one circuit. But being that close to a star comes at a price: the surface temperature of the planet must be several thousand degrees!

The planet, Kepler-10b, may not be habitable to life as we know it, but Plait is still plenty excited. Get the rest of the story on how the planet was found and what its discovery means over at Bad Astronomy.

Source: Kepler Finds a Super-Small, Super-Hot Rocky Exoplanet

The Moon Has a Fluid Outer Core

January 8th, 2011 01:18 admin View Comments

mapkinase writes with this excerpt from Discovery News: “The Apollo Passive Seismic Experiment recorded motions of the ground from moonquakes and other activities generating sound waves until late 1977. The network was too limited to directly monitor waves bouncing off or scattered by the moon’s core, leaving scientists dependent on more indirect techniques, such as measuring minute gravitational changes, to craft a picture of the moon’s interior. Those models turned out to be pretty accurate, says lead scientist Renee Weber, with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The new research confirms the existence of a solid inner core and liquid outer layer, similar to Earth’s. Unlike Earth, the moon also has a partly melted, mushy layer over that.”

Source: The Moon Has a Fluid Outer Core

California County Bans SmartMeter Installations

January 7th, 2011 01:35 admin View Comments

kiwimate writes “Marin County in California has passed an ordinance (PDF) banning the installation of smart meters in unincorporated Marin. Among the reasons given are privacy concerns associated with measuring energy usage data moment by moment and the potential for adverse impact on emergency communication systems used by first responders and amateur radio operators. The ordinance also comments that ‘the SmartMeters program … could well actually increase total electricity consumption and therefore the carbon footprint,’ citing ‘some engineers and energy conservation experts.’” The ordinance also mentions “significant health questions” raised about “increased electromagnetic frequently radiation (EMF) emitted by the wireless technology in SmartMeters.”

Source: California County Bans SmartMeter Installations

Magnetic Pole Shift Affects Tampa Airport

January 6th, 2011 01:42 admin View Comments

RFSSystems writes “I thought this was an amazing and rather rare phenomenon and wanted to share. ‘The airport has closed its primary runway until Jan. 13 to repaint the numeric designators at each end and change taxiway signage to account for the shift in location of the Earth’s magnetic north pole.’ It appears that the shifting poles have began to affect air travel in a somewhat modest way. Could this also be the explanation for the falling/dead birds this week?” I hope the gradualists are right, but scenarios for rapid magnetic pole shift are fun to think about.

Source: Magnetic Pole Shift Affects Tampa Airport

Has the Industrialized World Reached Peak Travel?

January 1st, 2011 01:12 admin View Comments

Harperdog sends this excerpt from Miller-McCune: “A study (abstract) of eight industrialized countries, including the United States, shows that seemingly inexorable trends — ever more people, more cars and more driving — came to a halt in the early years of the 21st century, well before the recent escalation in fuel prices. It could be a sign, researchers said, that the demand for travel and the demand for car ownership in those countries has reached a saturation point. ‘With talk of “peak oil,” why not the possibility of “peak travel” when a clear plateau has been reached?’ asked co-author Lee Schipper … Most of the eight countries in the study have experienced declines in miles traveled by car per capita in recent years. The US appears to have peaked at an annual 8,100 miles by car per capita, and Japan is holding steady at 2,500 miles.”

Source: Has the Industrialized World Reached Peak Travel?

Our Lazy Solar Dynamo — Hello Dalton Minimum?

December 31st, 2010 12:13 admin View Comments

tetrahedrassface writes “Solar maximum is supposed to be occurring, and everything from satellite communications to your toaster or radio could be affected. The only problem is that this just isn’t happening, and NASA continues to revise downward the original prediction. In fact, the new forecast for Solar Cycle 24 is a lot smaller, and is now pegged at almost 40% of what was previously predicted. Recently, two scientists at the National Solar Observatory have followed the lead of a prominent Russian scientist, who almost five years ago forecast a dearth of sunspots and the subsequent cooling of Earth for the next several cycles. With Britain currently experiencing the coldest winter in over 300 years, and no new sunspots for the last week, are we heading for a Dalton Minimum, or worse still, yet another Maunder?”

Source: Our Lazy Solar Dynamo — Hello Dalton Minimum?