Well, isn’t this special? (Yes. Yes it is. Never gets old.) FB pal Dana snapped these retro-tree-fiber-pulp specimens hanging out in ye local shoppe somewhere. Note that they’re trying to be cool-by-association with cool-kid Scalzi in the upstairs apartment….
The big-ass Very Large Telescope down in Chile gets a new pair of exo-goggles. Then, as part of the $100 million Breakthrough initiative searching for off-world life, it’ll zoom in on the could-be rocky-earth-like planet we think is orbiting Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor. Will this give us our first look at actual extraterrestrial life? Could happen. If we luck out on a cosmic scale. Stay tuned….
The groggy, suspiciously attractive Passengers of this SFX extravaganza take us on a sort-of-world-ship, half-light-speed journey to a nearby star system with a habitable planet. Stasis for the travelers is the key, but things go pear-shaped when two of the ticket-holders wake up prematurely. Like 90 years too early. Complications and void-luv ensue. But we’re all encouraged to note that the film takes its physics seriously. For the most part… Like tears. They don’t just float off from your face in zero-g. Liquid surface tension keeps ’em stuck on your skin, and this principle is adhered to in the film (see what I did there?) Then there’s “tether physics.” The infamous scene in Gravity got this badly wrong and took some serious verbal abuse for it from SF geekdom and actual physics-knowing types worldwide. In Passengers, two floaters pulling on a shared line act the way they’re ‘sposed to, and that means we’ll all feel better about Newtonian law being strictly obeyed. At least where space-crying and tugging are concerned. But all science aside, the ship itself is gorgeous. The technical term is swoopy, I believe. Very swoopy. Can’t vouch for the quality of the human performances. It IS an off-world kinda movie we have here, however, and it pays attention to the more pedestrian science-y bits. (Which is more than we could say for Gravity or Interstellar). So, there’s that. Here’s the arty at space.com that goes into more deets on it all: http://www.space.com/35104-passengers-scifi-movie-nails-space-physics.html
Too hot. Too cold. Or juuuuust right? Young planets aren’t so comfy for young life forms. But hey, there’s the Earth. So, score one for biology…. Turns out young planets go through all kinds of spasms and hiccups on their way to stability. So, even if say bacterial level life manages to get itself established, things can go seriously sideways at any point after that. On Earth, bacteria ruled as sole monarchs of the place for two billion years, and only then managed to gear up into complex cells and then animal-caliber creatures. So, while we may find delightful slimey bio-film-inhabited planets aplenty, it may be hard to locate anyone able to play chess with, etc. More from the pessimists here.
Nearest exoplanet (possibly) ID’d. Yay! Do I pack my exo-bags pronto? Sci Am sez chill out ’cause: insufficient data; may not be life-friendly; red dwarf stars throw more hissy-fit tantrums than Donald Trump; and finally, P-b may not really like… exist.
Still, Proxima b COULD be all kinds of exciting, providing a comfy habitable-zone home for all your fave off-world evo-devo fantasies. But we won’t know for a goodly while, so no need to send off your order for celebratory Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters quite yet. Cold-shower arty here.
The ESO announces today what they’ve found orbiting Proxima Centauri. A new Earth right next door? Maybe could be…
Rumors say: the new guy is rocky, in the Goldilocks zone, & a mere 39.9 trillion miles away. So, yeah, basically in our back yard. Exo-deets to come….
We ALL want to meet advanced, hyper-wise alien space-dolphins wearing walksuits, right? I do! But some people, not so much….
Hope we find extraterrestrial life? Are you SURE you wanna go there? Personally, I’ve always looked forward to the day that SETI announces the BIG SIGNAL or whatever sort of answer we get from Great Out-There. But some thinkers think it would be a really bad thing for humanity’s future if we find so much as a non-Earthly bacteria buried under Martian sands or in Europa’s under-ice oceans. And much worse if we find intelligent life somewhere. Nick Bostrom is one of those very smart people who say we better be pretty freakin’ careful what we wish for. And this has zero to do w/ aggressive aliens wielding superweapons and a lust for Earth’s resources, etc. Nope. Has to do with a concept known as the Great Filter; i.e, something that occurs in our long-term past or is likely to occur up ahead of us that’s capable of weeding us, or any evolving species, right out of the universe. Click thru to see where Nick makes his case: http://www.nickbostrom.com/extraterrestrial.pdf
And it’s a damn good case, but I still want to find off-world life. Humanity’s future will just have to take care of itself…. because: dolphins! In walksuits!