Hi all. First, thanks to EVERYONE who entered the Zenn Scarlett book giveaway with the “Name a Star” prize package. You people are grand. And the blog posts that many of you left were, frankly, inspiring and simply wonderful to see. I wish I had prizes for ya all. Seriously, this was my first raffle and I come away feeling like you all deserve more than my humble thanks, but I’m afraid that’ll have to do for now. So please know how much I appreciated your time and know that I can’t thank you enough for your thoughts/posts/entries.
And without further ado-ness, our winner is… *snazzy snare drum/high-hat kicker* “Snellopy,” a teacher working in exotic SE Asia who recently spent some class time getting his students interested in the subject of terraforming on Mars. A cool subject and a noble effort; kudos for that, Snellopy, and I hope you enjoy the book and the cosmic prize assortment.
Again, thanks to all for entering. This was so much fun I may have to do it again before too long. Please keep an eye out and come back when I do! Cheers!
NASA’s in the tractor beam chase too – in this hypothetical case, a rover is suckin’ in atmospheric particles for analysis using lasers. Mmmmm… particles!
OK, so don’t go and open your interplanetary tow-truck service just yet. But this is still some pretty cool tech. The lab-coated humanoids at Scotland’s University of St Andrews (pretty sure Scotty’s lineage was in on this) and the Institute of Scientific Instruments in the Czech Republic have demonstrated tractor-beamish behavior on a micro scale using, yes, a beam of light.
The article, over at the usually excellent studentnewsie.com describes the beam as having a “negative light force” with, unfortunately, no explanation. I’m fairly well read in a lazy-science-news-scanner sort of way, but I’ve never come across this totally trekked out “negative light force.” I do, however, sure as hell like the sound of it.
Early applications might include medical use, shoving molecules or organelles around inside cells while said cells are still in a patient’s body. Which, I gotta say, sounds a lot like the mag-genis tissue repair device my exoveterinarian heroine Zenn Scarlett employs when she reconstructs the badly damaged body of a pet that’s been badly mauled in an accident. Yeah, I’m prescient that way, what can I say?
Anyway very intriguing stuff going on in the sci-fi-future-is-here-and-wants-to-say-hi category. So… next? Get to work on that Alcubierrian warp drive already! Thank you. Thank you very much.
Some juicy numbers to start the new year with, courtesy of the Kepler planet-sniffing satellite, which is doing a great job, exceeding expectations and deserves a raise. Recent data sez Kep has found reasonable evidence for no less than 461 new planets. Some of ‘em orbit within their stars’ watery-microbial-maybe-more habitable zone. So that’s nice.
(….Hey, look! A chart! Thanks, NASA.)
But even more Sagan-licious: the data indicates that virtually every sun-like star in our galaxy has an Earth-size planet careening around it. Doing the math in my head (yeah. right.) that totals up to roughly 17 billion-with-a-B Earth-twins out there just waiting for us to discover and shortly thereafter begin bombarding with reality TV shows and used car commercials. Some of these earthy orbs orbit tighter than our Mercury, so could be a little too hot (but it’s a dry hot) for life. On the other hand, lots of the host stars are red dwarfs, so burn much cooler than Sol, so life is back in the equation. Presto.
Final analysis: potential exoplanets chalked up on the big board so far? 2,740, orbiting 2,036 stars.
These, my friends, are champagne-popping figures in any earther’s book. Happy New Year, and keep watchin’ the skies….
Now then, the premise of the article that prompted this post is a bit of a stretch. A bit of a gi-normous not-bloody-likely stretch, actually, even for an exo-life-presumer like me. But I had to post it primarily because it describes its content as the result of “geo-boffinry.” Boffins, as you UK types have known for years, are authorities, scientists, those-who-know-more-than-the-rest-of-us. But the term is seldom glimpsed here in the U.S., possibly having to do with its nineteenth-century cachet of dank museum basement offices and musty taxidermy displays, but hey, I’m not judging… This latest boffination claims that some superearths, those giant exo-planets bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, might generate pressures that create liquid metal which might create a magnetic shield. This shielding might then protect a life form that might have evolved on said mega-world. Yeah, lotsa mights in there… Anyway, for those of you interested in the geo-boffinic details:
“A geo-boffinry study has found that super-Earths could have oceans of liquid metal and magnetic shields that protect life on their surfaces.”
“It is often thought that a planetary magnetic field protects life on a planet’s surface from harmful space radiation, like cosmic rays,” geophysicist Stewart McWilliams, with the Carnegie Institution and Howard University, told Discovery News.
“What we find is that magnetic fields may exist on more super-Earth planets than expected, resulting from the transformation of the planet’s rocks to metals in the deep interior. This could create new environments for life in the universe.”
The full article is at the UK’s Register. Happy boffinizing.