It’s official. Apparently. It wasn’t on Tuesday, though. The existence of an exoplanet, known as Proxima b, that is located within the habitable zone of the Proxima Centauri solar system, that is situated about four light years from Earth.
So, might there be life of some sort there? For that matter, might there be life anywhere, beyond our solar system? Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at SETI Research, discusses the possibility.
Tabby’s Star, or KIC 8462852, to use its Kepler Input Catalog title, has been making headlines in recent months, on account of mysterious fluctuations in its brightness. Explanations have varied. Some astronomers think a swarm of comets orbit the star, dimming its light.
Others have suggested a Dyson Sphere, a large, artificial, structure that harnesses a star’s energy, may be present. Something that would point to the presence of extraterrestrial life. Further recent research into the star’s unusual behaviour, concludes that yes, the star is acting strangely, but still no reason is forthcoming.
Knowing that aliens are succeeding in quenching KIC 8462852 at a rate of approximately .34 percent per year, we have to ask why they are shutting down a primary energy source. The obvious answer is that they’ve realized that we Earthlings are on to them and are reentering this dimension via a sort of astroengineered “death star” portal-vessel to deal with the perceived threat (us!), but given that KIC 12557548’s distance from Earth is over 2,000 light-years, we have to ask how they would even know? How aliens determined that they were being observed by humans before humans even had telescopes or cars will without a doubt be the astrophysical mystery of the coming decades.
If we compare the present age of the universe, against its projected lifespan, possibly twenty trillion years, then it has an age comparable to an eighteen day old child, who would be expected to live for seventy years. Eighteen days. That’s pretty young. The cosmos isn’t yet mature enough to be teeming with life.
The dominant factor proved to be the lifetimes of stars. The higher a star’s mass, the shorter its lifetime. Stars larger than about three times the sun’s mass will expire before life has a chance to evolve. Conversely, the smallest stars weigh less than 10 percent as much as the Sun. They will glow for 10 trillion years, giving life ample time to emerge on any planets they host. As a result, the probability of life grows over time. In fact, chances of life are 1000 times higher in the distant future than now.
“Science is very good at finding cause and effect,” Dr Fekete says. “You make a perfect cup or a perfect roast, but it’s a bit of luck, a matter of trial and error. By doing coffee science, we’re taking some of the guesswork and mystery out of making good coffee.”
I wonder if they have any vacancies for field testers?
I’m not sure what drew me to this experiment. That it was being conducted by someone, Taras Kul, calling himself the CrazyRussianHacker, or that it involved throwing dry ice into a swimming pool. It’s something I must try one day.
This tendency is codified in the second law of thermodynamics, which dictates that everything ages and decays: Buildings and roads crumble; ships and rails rust; mountains wash into the sea. Lifeless structures are helpless against the ravages of thermal motion. But life is different: Protein machines constantly heal and renew their cells. In this sense, life pits biology against physics in mortal combat. So why do living things die? Is aging the ultimate triumph of physics over biology? Or is aging part of biology itself?
The atmosphere of our planet could be confirmed as containing 400 parts of carbon dioxide per million within a matter of weeks, a level from which they may be no return, and something that is likely to see temperatures continue to rise.
While the 400 figure is in itself of no particular note, compared with 399 or 401, it was a marker likely to carry important symbolism. “People react to these things when they see thresholds crossed,” Dr Etheridge said. While the fraction may seem small, it is 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. By comparison, a similar level of alcohol would be close to the legal driving limit in Australia. “These things act at low concentrations,” he said, noting that ozone-destroying chemicals at levels of parts per trillion were enough to damage that important component of the atmosphere.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is due to resume operations soon, after a maintenance shutdown, and some scientists think that a batch of upcoming experiments will prove the existence of a new particle, one that might redefine their understanding of the universe. Fascinating…
Last year, researchers there recorded faint but extremely promising signs of what could be a new particle that does not fit within the current theoretical model. The LHC is now about to resume operation after being shut down since December for annual maintenance. If its next run confirms the existence of the new particle, that could open the long-sought passage to ‘the new physics’ – and, hopefully, answer some big, longstanding questions.
Hadn’t people thought this to be the case already? British physicist Stephen Hawking thinks that black holes, rather than being objects from which nothing can escape, including light, could possibly be portals to other universes. Anyone game enough to find out?
“For more than 200 years, we have believed in the science of determinism, that is that the laws of science determine the evolution of the universe” Stephen Hawking said. If information was lost in black holes, we wouldn’t be able to predict the future because the black hole could emit any collection of particles.” In an earlier talk, Hawking had said things can escape out a black hole, both from the outside and probably through another universe.