Featured Post

The Declaration of White Independence: Fourth Political Theory

A unilateral assertion offered to and for consideration by the European Descended People of the fifty united States of America and all ...

26 February 2014

NASA's Kepler telescope finds 'mother lode' of 715 planets

This artist's illustration shows stars with multiple planets transiting in front of them. Data form NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has revealed 715 confirmed planets among the 3,601 candidate planets the spacecraft discovered. (NASA)
Using a brand-new technique, scientists using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope have found 715 confirmed planets huddling around 305 stars, nearly triple Kepler’s previous total of 246 confirmed planets in the Milky Way galaxy. Nearly 95% of them are smaller than Neptune, and four of them are in their star's habitable zone, the region where liquid water – a necessary ingredient for life as we know it – could exist.

The research, which covers the first two years of data after Kepler's 2009 launch, has turned up a smorgasbord of smaller planets – and all in multi-planet systems. The scientists increased the number of confirmed Earth-sized planets by 400%, super-Earths by 600% and Neptune-sized planets by 200%. The number of Jupiter-sized worlds, on the other hand, rose by a mere 2%.
This highlights the transition away from the massive gas giants that characterized Kepler’s first finds and more toward planets that are in the right size range to potentially host life as we know it.
“I’m super excited about this,” said Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the work. The multi-planet systems will help scientists understand our own solar system’s development, she said. For example, many of these systems seem to have multiple planets clustered in an orbit smaller than Venus, or even Mercury. Why are our own solar system’s inner members relatively spaced out?
The findings will also shed light on strange planets like mini-Neptunes, which have no analog in our own solar system, and sharpen scientists’ search for Earth-sized, potentially Earth-like planets, scientists said.

Scientists Detect Water On Exoplanet, Opening New Chapter In Search For Alien Life

The Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets, including many that are similar to our own. But how many of these alien worlds have water, and do any host extraterrestrial life?
No answers to those questions just yet. But astronomers using a new infrared technique say they've discovered water vapor in the atmosphere of a nearby gas giant planet called "tau Boötis b."
The finding suggests that the technique may play an important role in identifying which exoplanets might be hospitable for life.
“The information we get from the spectrograph is like listening to an orchestra performance; you hear all of the music together, but if you listen carefully, you can pick out a trumpet or a violin or a cello, and you know that those instruments are present,” Alexandra Lockwood, a graduate student at Caltech and first author of the study, said in a written statement. “With the telescope, you see all of the light together, but the spectrograph allows you to pick out different pieces; like this wavelength of light means that there is sodium, or this one means that there’s water.

21 February 2014

The wings of the owl of Minerva

 DNA; deoxyribonucleic acid; the stuff of which genes are made; the fabric of inheritance. The metal plate is cool in my hands. As I look at this relic that could easily be mistaken for a nondescript piece of scrap metal, fragments of family history flicker through my mind — great-great-grandparents on my mother’s side, part of Imperial Britain, who were married in Calcutta Cathedral in 1867; my father’s ancestor, known in the family as “the original Horace Judson” who fought for the North in the Civil War and whose saber we still have; and his forebears, religious Puritans I suppose, who came to the American colonies from the north of England early in the 17th century. 
Then the frame shifts, and I seem to see the way the double helix connects every life-form on the planet, through a lineage that can be traced back billions of years, to the dawn of life on earth. And here I am, sitting among filing cabinets and bookcases and stacks of paper, holding a fragment of the object that first revealed how it all works.

20 February 2014

quark to quasar


A telescope to find rocky worlds around other stars has been selected for launch by the European Space Agency's Science Policy Committee.

It will be tuned specifically to seek out rocky worlds orbiting in the "habitable zone" - the region around a star where water can keep a liquid state.

"Plato will be our first attempt to find nearby habitable planets around Sun-like stars that we can actually examine in sufficient detail to look for life," said Dr Don Pollacco, the University of Warwick researcher who leads the Plato Science Consortium.

"Nearly all the small transiting planets discovered so far have been beyond our technology to characterise. Plato will be a game-changer, allowing many Earth-like planets to be detected and confirmed and their atmospheres examined for signs of life.

"Plato planets will allow us to develop and test theories of planet evolution, understanding the type of small planets in the Universe and the real frequency of Earth-like planets," he told BBC News.
Like everything else that we know of in the Universe — galaxies, stars, and planets — human beings are made out of atoms.
And just like galaxies, stars and planets, over 99.9% of the mass of your body isn’t just made up of atoms, it’s made out of the nuclei of those atoms.
The proton is so stable that it actually presents a problem for a significant number of Grand Unified Theories. In fact, just based on this constraint, we can say that, at most, there’s only a 0.001% chance of even one proton in your body decaying over your entire life! And that’s how stable, at a fundamental level, the stuff we’re made out of really is!

17 February 2014

but some animals are more equal than others

But why not? All men are created equal. So what difference would it make? Humanity is fungible. Everybody knows that. And Israel is "the light unto the nations." After all, people are all the same, and diversity is good.
The one-state solution is the only solution.
 I have a dream that one day Israel will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "Light Unto the Nations."
I have a dream that one day on the West Bank the sons of former Palestinian prisoners and the sons of former Zionist masters will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the besieged Gaza Strip, a prison sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that all Palestinian little children and all Jewish little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the name of their holy book but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, in Tel Aviv, with its vicious Zionist racists, with its Israeli prime minister having his lips dripping with the blood of meaningless slogans such as “peace process” and “self-defense”; one day right there in Jerusalem, little Palestinian boys and Palestinian girls will be able to join hands with little Jewish boys and Jewish girls as sisters and brothers.

Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth

 "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?"
If you answered the latter, you're among a quarter of Americans who also got it wrong, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation.
A survey of 2,200 people that was released Friday revealed some alarming truths about the state of science education across the country, with many failing to an answer even the most basic astronomy and science questions, according to a release about the survey.
Out of nine questions in the survey, participants scored an average 6.5.


15 February 2014

Swiss vote on immigration boosts far-right parties in Europe


When Christian Ragger heard that the Swiss had voted to cap immigration into their country in a referendum last weekend, he was "deeply impressed", he says. "All over the world, immigration is protected [from being limited]. It required a special courage to vote in that way. This was a typically democratic Swiss action."
Ragger heads the local branch of the Austrian Freedom party (FPÖ) in its mountainous stronghold of Carinthia, in the south of the country. Once led by the flamboyant Jörg Haider, the FPÖ has been called everything from populist to neo-Nazi, yet it would be hard to imagine anyone less like the stereotype of a bull-necked, red-faced Alpine far right-winger than the FPÖ's trim and cosmopolitan young leader.
Ragger speaks good English and excellent Italian and, before joining the regional government, was a partner in a law firm that has branches in Milan and Florence.
When Haider's party joined the Austrian government after winning 27% of the vote in the 1999 general election, other European Union countries were so horrified that they took the unprecedented decision to reduce to a minimum their contacts with Austrian officials. Since then, Haider has died and the FPÖ has split. Now it is back – and with a vengeance. It came second in each of the last five opinion polls in Austria – and those were all carried out before last weekend's vote.

Is the Universe a Simulation?


Many mathematicians, when pressed, admit to being Platonists. The great logician Kurt Gödel argued that mathematical concepts and ideas “form an objective reality of their own, which we cannot create or change, but only perceive and describe.” But if this is true, how do humans manage to access this hidden reality?
We don’t know. But one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.
This may strike you as very unlikely. But the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not. If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.
Are we prepared to take the “red pill,” as Neo did in “The Matrix,” to see the truth behind the illusion — to see “how deep the rabbit hole goes”? Perhaps not yet. The jury is still out on the simulation hypothesis. But even if it proves too far-fetched, the possibility of the Platonic nature of mathematical ideas remains — and may hold the key to understanding our own reality.

Did life’s building blocks fly to Earth and Mars on solar winds?


New research out of the University of Hawaii suggests that both water and organic molecules travel the universe in tandem, seeding planets with “little reaction vessels” that could help provide dead planets with that first, all-important step in life’s development. This is another piece of evidence in favor of the panspermia hypothesis, which argues that life on Earth began thanks to an influx of molecules from outer space. Comets and meteorites are the typical carriers for this material, but this study suggests that even dust blown through the solar system on solar winds could provide a planet with both life’s most complex precursors and the water needed to allow those precursors to assemble into life.

The finding that water can be generated within dry space rocks and solar wind was coupled with the fact that space rocks are known to deliver organic compounds to the surface of the Earth. Other recent papers have suggested that life’s important molecules arrived intact from Mars — a primitive version of RNA is one major proposed molecular stow-away — but these researchers claim only that “complex organic molecules” came from somewhere else in space. Complex organic compounds and liquid water, in conjunction, could theoretically provide the potential for non-living material to come alive.

Evolutionary theory can adequately explain how a bacterium becomes a protist that becomes an animal, but it cannot explain how a pile of non-living molecules ever became a living cell. Evidence seems to be mounting that, whether it was seeded with dust or fused into existence by huge asteroid impacts, life on Earth needed a kickstart in its earliest days. Interestingly, Earth’s atmosphere and the abundance of messy lifeforms on its surface could mean that Earth is the single worst place to search for such evidence; the origins of life on Earth might well be discovered on Mars or the Moon, even if the event happened right here on Earth.

DNA decoding will reveal Richard III's colouring and more

ascensional transudation
What color were Richard III's eyes and hair?
According to Smithsonian magazine, if successful, Richard III—who reigned during the 15th century—will become the first famous historical figure whose remains have undergone a complete genetic analysis. The study is expected to last about a year and a half.


Tawny crazy ants have their own formidable weapon—a protective acid sheath—that protects them against fire ant enemies. The revelation comes from a new study published this week.

Named for their butterscotch color and erratic movements, tawny crazy ants are the newest insect invaders sprawling throughout Texas and the Gulf states, unseating the reigning imported fire ants that have infested the region. Teeming out of electrical outlets and short-circuiting electronics, the tiny reddish-brown crazy ants have been making headlines as their numbers climb in the southeastern U.S. In some locales they can be so tightly packed together they are initially mistaken for dirt. Then they move.  

13 February 2014

Human genes reflect impact of historical events

Each population has a particular genetic ‘palette,’” said Dr. Daniel Falush of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, co-senior author of the study. “If you were to paint the genomes of people in modern-day Maya, for example, you would use a mixed palette with colors from Spanish-like, West African and Native American DNA. This mix dates back to around 1670CE, consistent with historical accounts describing Spanish and West African people entering the Americas around that time. Though we can't directly sample DNA from the groups that mixed in the past, we can capture much of the DNA of these original groups as persisting, within a mixed palette of modern-day groups. This is a very exciting development.”

12 February 2014

Darwin, you're no Socrates

"Darwin Day" - how passé
we must follow the evidence where it leads

To the stars...

Fusion Energy Breakthrough

The ultimate goal, Hurricane says, is a safe method of harnessing the force that powers the stars.

"Fusion is probably one of the most promising energy technologies that we could possibly develop. The resource, if we get it to work, is this deuterium we find in seawater—and that's essentially limitless, or more so than pretty much any other resource," he says. "And we're all scientists, and it's a very interesting puzzle to try to make this happen."

Humans have gotten pretty good at nuclear fission. But fusion, bringing two atomic nuclei together, has been much more tricky—at least for peaceful purposes. But In a new study out today in Nature, physicists from the National Ignition Facility report clearing a major hurdle toward harnessing the power of stars.

"For the first time anywhere, we've gotten more energy out of this fuel than was put into the fuel. That's a major turning point," said Omar Hurricane, lead author of the new paper and a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. To be clear, the NIF has not achieved its namesake goal of igniting a sustained fusion reaction. But these indications of a process called bootstrapping—in which particles created by the reaction feed energy back into the reaction—are a major step along the way.
Hohlraum geometry with a capsule inside through the cut-away of the hohlraum wall. Credit: Eddie Dewald.

"You can't see it. You don't have a map. You don't know what the terrain is … And someone calls you on your satellite phone and asks you, ‘How long is it going to take you to climb the mountain?'" he says. "You don't know. You look down at your feet, you see what the terrain is, you try to choose the best path based on what you see. That's what we hear when someone says, ‘How long is it going to take before you guys get to ignition?' It's anyone's guess."
A view inside the gold cylinder where hydrogen is compressed to incredible densities.

evolutionary religion

At the Trollstigen lookout, Norway. Photo courtesy Vegard Haugland
Looking forward from where we are into the abyss of future time, imagining what yet may be, is not something we’re used to doing. But it’s something I believe we ought deliberately to do much more often, in order to correct what amounts to an unbalanced outlook and to discover our place in time.
To see things as they are includes seeing them as they will be, and that means picturing ourselves and our own position in time not as coming at the end, jutting out into empty space with nothing beyond, but as tucked in with manifestations of life both behind us and ahead of us. Tucked in, just as Darwin’s or Hutton’s time is for us as we look back on it now. This is how things will be.
Why has recognising the deep future been so difficult for humanity? Why, after discovering the place of the Earth in the solar system, the place of the solar system in the universe, the age of the Earth, the age of the universe, and evolution by natural selection over aeons of Earth’s history, do we still need to be prodded to perform the simple act of turning around, to position ourselves to see both forward and back in time?
The first, and most obvious reason, is simple human self-preoccupation. The line of evolution reaches us, and we find it hard to imagine it moving further. Hugely impressed with our own accomplishments, including those just listed, we give little thought to beings who might come after us or to ideas not yet a twinkle in evolution’s eye. There is also a more practical reason. Most human goals, including altruistic ones, rise or fall over the short period of a human lifetime. And although we might look back – even far back – with interest, perhaps to learn from our kind’s history, there is nothing in the far future that is similarly tied up with our goals. As a result, we haven’t developed the habits of mind necessary to consider it carefully.
The past has another kind of allure for us, one tied closely to the way we see ourselves. When we do lift our heads from immediate human concerns and exert the imagination needed to think in scientific timescales, our attention is often drawn in a special way to times gone by. As attested by hundreds of television programmes, many narrated by the enthusiastic David Attenborough, things that occurred in the recesses of evolutionary time can touch us deeply, for they affect our very sense of identity. Having discovered evolution, we now know that many secrets about who we are might be exposed by the palaeoanthropologist’s shovel or brush. But there is no bed of deposits where one can dig up the fossils of one’s descendants.
The Bible does not tell us ‘The beginning is near!’ but rather ‘The end is near!’
Realising that our enquiry into the fundamental nature of the world is just beginning, we might have to say that, for all we know, some of the new ideas of the future will be old ideas, whose time has finally come.
Finally, we can always blame the Bible. Whether you think of it as casting a long shadow across the history of Western culture or as fathering a great light within it, there is no denying the Bible’s powerful influence on the way that we think today. And you might have noticed that there’s not much about a billion-year future in it. The Bible does not tell us ‘The beginning is near!’ but rather ‘The end is near!’ When I was a child, I helped my father put an actual sign at the end of our driveway that said ‘Jesus is coming soon!’ And although his brand of enthusiastic evangelicalism sponsored endless disputes with other Christians – even other evangelicals – as to how things will transpire in the near future, on the matter of whether we are living in the end times he was in lockstep with other biblical believers. If you allow for secular eschatologies, he was also in lockstep with the rest of the culture, which has by now spun out rather a large number of variations on the biblical Armageddon-just-around-the-corner theme. We all want to live in the most exciting, most consequential chapter of time, it seems.

All of these consequences, and many others too, might be waiting for us in a proper perspective on deep time and our place in it, which cannot be far off now. None of these consequences – do notice – requires us to say that intelligent life (whether in a human form or as configured in some species coming after us) necessarily will travel on a great deal further, traversing much more of the 20ft line, or that deep new insights will necessarily be won. In particular, our travels so far through logical space – the space of ideas – might not be as near a beginning as our travels through temporal space, scientifically construed. But, by the same token, they might be. Even half the humility of Darwin will lead you to see that there might be aspects of reality we’ve not yet evolved the ability to handle intellectually. And so, allow yourself to get giddy. For all we know, human enquiry on our planet is still in its infancy.

Newfound Star May Be Oldest in the Universe

Remnant of a supernova known as Cassiopeia A in its namesake constellation, located about 11,000 light-years from Earth. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Steward/O. Krause et al.
“Stars are like time capsules; they lock away a chunk of the universe as it was when the star formed,” he says. ”This is an important time in the evolution of the universe—our Milky Way is formative, the first stars have switched on, and the first heavier elements, which we need for life, are starting to disperse.”

The old-timer star could serve as a prototype system to explore matter metamorphose in the universe.
Spectral analysis of the composition of the newly-discovered star shows it formed approximately 13.6 billion years ago, shortly after the creation of the universe. Modern cosmological science maintains that our universe came into being as a result of a Big Bang event some 13.7 billion years ago. Our Sun is approximately 4.57 billion years old.
SkyMapper telescope seen under the Milky Way at the Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia (AFP Photo / Space Telescope Science Institute)
“It's giving us insight into our fundamental place in the universe. What we're seeing is the origin of where all the material around us, that we need to survive, came from,” Keller said.
 “This is the first time we've unambiguously been able to say we've got material from the first generation of stars," Keller said. "We're now going to be able to put that piece of the jigsaw puzzle in its right place,” the astronomer told Reuters.

09 February 2014

Swiss voters back quotas on immigration from EU

Swiss voters on Sunday narrowly backed proposals to reintroduce immigration quotas with the European Union, Swiss television reported - a result that calls into question bilateral accords with the EU and could irk multinational companies.

While neutral Switzerland is not a member of the EU, its immigration policy is based on free movement of people to and from the EU, as well as allowing in a restricted number of non-EU citizens.

The vote, which comes 12 years after an agreement with the EU on free movement of people came into force, could hurt an economy dependent on foreign professionals by increasing red tape and jeopardising bilateral accords.

In a nail-biting vote, 50.3 percent backed the so-called "Stop mass immigration" initiative, which also won the required majority approval in more than half of Swiss cantons or regions, Swiss television said.

The outcome obliges the government to make the initiative, spearheaded by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), into law.

It reflects growing concern among the Swiss population that immigrants are eroding the nation's distinctive Alpine culture and contributing to rising rents, crowded transport and more crime.

Opponents of the move say it could exacerbate a shortage of skilled workers in Switzerland, the home of Roche, Novartis, UBS, Nestle and other multinationals filled with foreign professionals.

"Explanatory and constructive talks with the EU are needed urgently," the Swiss Banking Association tweeted after the result.
The development of fungible, abstract, detached exchange-value (e.g., consider Aristotle's discussion of commodities, money, barter, usury, exchange-value, and use-value) helped to unleash the forces of economic materialism, and as we witness the course of history, we can see an ongoing world historical struggle taking place, and this titanic clash - which is not yet over - is being waged between Vitalism and Mechanism, between spiritualism and materialism, between particularism and universalism, between soil and profit, between blood and commerce - in short, between Beauty and Mammon.

08 February 2014

quantum biology

 “What is particularly exciting about these experiments is that the fish we tested had never left the hatchery and thus we know that their responses were not learned or based on experience, but rather they were inherited,” said Nathan Putman, a postdoctoral researcher in Oregon State Univ.’s Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife and lead author on the study.

“These fish are programmed to know what to do before they ever reach the ocean,” he added.

“The evidence is irrefutable,” said co-author David Noakes of OSU, senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center and the 2012 recipient of the American Fisheries Society’s Award of Excellence. “I tell people: The fish can detect and respond to the Earth’s magnetic field. There can be no doubt of that.”
“What is really surprising is that these fish were only exposed to the magnetic field we created for about eight minutes,” Putman pointed out. “And the field was not even strong enough to deflect a compass needle.”

Israeli Zio-fascist Liberman defends U.S. Zio-fascist Kerry

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting in Jerusalem, January 3, 2014 (photo credit: AP)

Israel's right-wing foreign minister on Friday defended U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry whose Middle East peace drive has seen mounting criticism from within the Israeli government.
The conciliatory remarks by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has previously been a vocal critic of international efforts to set up a Palestinian state on Israeli-occupied territory, could help Kerry cobble together consensus for pursuing the peace negotiations.
"I want to make clear - Kerry is a true friend of Israel," Lieberman told business leaders in Tel Aviv.
To me, this is horror flick action: these two look like their faces aren't real, almost as if their faces are molded into place. But it gets worse. These aren't even the really sinister ones; it's strings all the way up.
Put your glasses on.
This is the international Zionist-plutocracy in action.

06 February 2014

The Camp of the Saints

More than a thousand would-be North African migrants were rescued by the Italian navy about 120 miles southeast of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, authorities say.

The BBC says that 1,123 people, from sub-Saharan Africa, were intercepted on Wednesday as they tried to make the passage in inflatable boats, but were intercepted by authorities. They included 47 women, four of them pregnant, and 50 children, the BBC says.

For background:
"Some 2,000 migrants landed on Italian shores last month, nearly 10 times the number recorded in January 2013."

"According to the government, last year saw an 'incessant and massive influx of migrants' with a total of 42,925 arrivals by sea, or more than three times as many as in 2012."

"The true number of migrants who died attempting the perilous crossing is unknown, but in October more than 400 people drowned in two shipwrecks near Lampedusa, the closest Italian territory to North Africa."
Separately, The Associated Press reports that seven people drowned Thursday as they tried to evade border guards near a land-crossing into Cueta, a near the Strait of Gibraltar. Some 150 others "were driven back by border guards, prompting many to attempt to swim around the frontier fence," The Associated Press says.

The Associated Press writes:
"With two Spanish enclaves on its coast, Morocco is a magnet for immigrants from all over Africa seeking jobs in Europe."

"Every month, hundreds of immigrants attempt to force their way into Ceuta, near the city of Tetouan, and Melilla to the east using human wave tactics to scale the high fences. Rights groups have repeatedly criticized the treatment of migrants at the hands of security forces, describing beatings, arbitrary arrests, abuse and expulsions across desert borders without water."

"Morocco has an estimated 25,000 illegal immigrants on its soil and has announced a new policy to regularize their status though authorities admit that would only affect a few hundred people."
 Migrants are seen in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship San Marco off the coast to the south of the Italian island of Sicily on Wednesday. HANDOUT/Reuters/Landov

Trees Act As Global Thermostat: Gaia comes into focus

Mountain trees could regulate global temperatures. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Tree roots in mountains might play a crucial role in regulating long-term global temperatures, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters. In fact, through a complex sequence of steps, mountain trees could work as a thermostat of sorts for our planet.

Here's how it works: The thickness of leaf and soil layers on forest floors varies depending on temperature. This in turn affects how quickly tree roots grow; in warmer climates, tree roots commonly extend into the soil's mineral layer, breaking down rocks. Scientists call this process weathering, and as the rocks break down, they release components that bind with carbon dioxide, removing the gas from the atmosphere and cooling the planet.

This cycle prevents the planet from cataclysmic overheating or cooling, the paper suggests.
A simple lesson lies beneath these new findings: As humans infringe on mountainous forests, they could be reducing the effectiveness of a natural climate regulator. Of course, this study comes hot on the heels of recent research suggesting that a lack of trees can prove fatal for humans and that elderly forests disproportionately fight atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Repeatedly scanning the sky, Gaia will observe each of its billion stars an average of 70 times each over five years. In addition to positions and motions, Gaia will also measure key physical properties of each star, including its brightness, temperature and chemical composition.

04 February 2014

New Analysis of Stardust Provides Evidence of Life's Ingredients

While the origin of life remains mysterious, scientists are finding more and more evidence that material created in space and delivered to Earth by comet and meteor impacts could have given a boost to the start of life. Some meteorites supply molecules that can be used as building blocks to make certain kinds of larger molecules that are critical for life.
Researchers have analyzed carbon-rich meteorites (carbonaceous chondrites) and found amino acids, which are used to make proteins. Proteins are among the most important molecules in life, used to make structures like hair and skin, and to speed up or regulate chemical reactions. They have also found components used to make DNA, the molecule that carries the instructions for how to build and regulate a living organism, as well as other biologically important molecules like nitrogen heterocycles, sugar-related organic compounds, and compounds found in modern metabolism.
"Despite their small size, these interplanetary dust particles may have provided higher quantities and a steadier supply of extraterrestrial organic material to early Earth," said Michael Callahan of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Unfortunately, there have been limited studies examining their organic composition, especially with regards to biologically relevant molecules that may have been important for the origin of life, due to the miniscule size of these samples."

Did Alien Life Evolve Just After the Big Seed?

An artist's representation of the 'habitable zone,' the range of orbits around a star where liquid water may exist on the surface of a planet. A new study unveiled Nov. 4, 2013 suggests one in five sunlike stars seen by NASA's Kepler spacecraft (Erik A. Petigura)

Earthlings may be extreme latecomers to a universe full of life, with alien microbes possibly teeming on exoplanets beginning just 15 million years after the Big Seed, new research suggests.
Traditionally, astrobiologists keen on solving the mystery of the origin of life in the universe look for planets in habitable zones around stars. Also known as Goldilocks zones, these regions are considered to be just the right distance away from stars for liquid water, a pre-requisite for life as we know it, to exist.
But even exoplanets that orbit far beyond the habitable zone may have been able to support life in the distant past, warmed by the relic radiation left over from the Big Seed that created the universe 13.8 billion years ago, says Harvard astrophysicist Abraham Loeb.