Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sweet Molecule Could Lead Us To Alien Life


ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2008) — Scientists have detected an organic sugar molecule that is directly linked to the origin of life, in a region of our galaxy where habitable planets could exist.

The international team of researchers, including a researcher at University College London (UCL), used the IRAM radio telescope in France to detect the molecule in a massive star forming region of space, some 26000 light years from Earth.

The molecule – glycolaldehyde - has previously only been detected towards the centre of our galaxy where conditions are extreme compared to the rest of the galaxy. This new discovery, in an area far from the galactic centre, also suggests that the production of this key ingredient for life could be common throughout the galaxy. This is good news in our search for alien life, as a wide spread of the molecule improves the chances of it existing along side other molecules vital to life and in regions where Earth-like planets may exist.

The study is published on the Astro-ph website. Dr Serena Viti, one of the paper’s authors from University College London, said, "This is an important discovery as it is the first time glycolaldehyde, a basic sugar, has been detected towards a star-forming region where planets that could potentially harbour life may exist."


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"Imagine" that! Sweet science.  Life outside of planet earth has always fascinated me ever since I was a child.     Of course now, with all of the technology out there beaming information back to us, that imagination is more of when than if.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why the universe may be teeming with aliens

No, this is not a continuation of my zombie post of this morning; it is science.  The title is from the NewScientist website. 'We are not alone!' has always haunted me over the decades.  My interest in the stars and planets piqued in late grade school when my father purchased an 8 in. reflecting telescope.  On dark evenings he and I would peer at the stars and wonder what and who were out there.

The article states:

Now, though, it's becoming increasingly clear that the question of what makes a planet habitable is not as simple as finding it in just the right spot. Many other factors, including a planet's mass, atmosphere, composition and the way it orbits its nearest star, can all influence whether it can sustain liquid water, an essential ingredient for life as we know it. As astronomers explore newly discovered planets and create computer simulations of virtual worlds, they are discovering that water, and life, might exist on all manner of weird worlds where conditions are very different from those on Earth. And that means there could be vastly more habitable planets out there than we thought possible. "It's like science fiction, only better," says Raymond Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist at the University of Chicago, who studies planets inside and outside of our solar system.

Near the end of the article is this:

Last year, a team of astronomers led by St├ęphane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, Switzerland, discovered Gliese 581c, the first likely rocky planet orbiting a sun-like star in another solar system.Given the size of its orbit around its star, initial calculations suggested it should be in the Goldilocks zone - at about the right temperature for liquid water. But other scientists soon pointed out that if it had an atmosphere containing greenhouse gases, it would most likely be far too hot for liquid water. However, the same effect could make a planet called Gliese 581d, orbiting further out round the same star, suitable for life.Then again, Gliese 581d may be too big to be a rocky planet. The team that discovered the planets point out that Gliese 581c could still be habitable if it is very cloudy, and it remains the best candidate so far for a habitable planet in another solar system. With new planets being discovered all the time, though, there are sure to be others.

Naturally, all of this science conjecturing complicates the philosophical, ethical and religious fields of study.  The complication is this: are the theorums and theories of these fields of study earth-bound or do they apply to all creatures, alien and all?

"Wrap it up in Iraq"

Wrap it up in Iraq is the title of an editorial in today's Toledo Blade.  Interesting title. The sham war, the Bush Folly. We Americans will be plagued for decades for this war not unlike the fate of the German citizens over the two world wars.  

When ideologues get into office all judgement and rationality are left at the doorstep as we Americans easily witnessed with this Bush Administration.

The painful memories [and the pain of injuries to our military] will last a long time.  The question that is most important as we look back on the fiasco is this: Has the American electorate learned an  lesson on the the importance of carefully vetting their choice for the highest office in the land?  The jury is still out on that one.

Ohio's Blackwell Still Doesn't Get it

George W. Bush owes his 2nd term largely to Ohio's evangelical Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.  Voters in Ohio 'rewarded' him two years later by electing his rival as governor. Too bad they weren't as keen in '04, but the voters rectified their gross error in judgement in '08.

Mr. Blackwell, however, continues to do his dirty work for the GOP. He penned an OpEd for the Washington Times today which says, "Now, after two disastrous election cycles, it is clear the Republican Party must refocus again. A reenergized GOP must make Republican principles appealing both to its base and also to the changing face of America. If the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan wants to return to power, it must become the party of the 21st century"

The party of Lincoln. Is that so?  Our 16th president must roll over in his proverbial grave each time he hears a christocrat refer to him.  And TR as well?  The man who fought to preserve the environment and railed against Big Business?  At least Blackwell got the Reagan reference correct.  That bloated Reagan deficit that he created pales in comparison with the Bush whopper!

Yet here is the most humorous part of the Blackwell tome:  "On these and many other issues, the Republican Party embraces what the majority of Americans believe, and the Democratic Party opposes those same positions." 

Yes, he said that.  He, like other christocrats, live in the 'I believe' world of their own creation. Why would anyone doubt that the majority of Americans support Republican issues?

Let's see:  Obama won 365 to 173 electoral votes, 53% to 46%, 67,000,000 to 58,000,000.  Democrats took 8 Senate seats from the GOP and more than 20 House seats.

Looks like Blackwell was right:  America favors the Republican Party.

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