Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who many political observers think has a strong shot to be a 2016 Presidential candidate, just finished a lengthy interview with GQ that you can read here. One thing that struck my interest here, as someone who often reports on science, was Rubio’s answer when he was asked the question, “How old do you think the Earth is.”In response, Rubio told GQ that, “I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”
It may be a colourless, odourless and completely natural gas, but carbon dioxide is beginning to cause us a lot of problems. It only makes up a tiny fraction of the atmosphere (0.04% of all the gas by volume – or 395 parts per million) but it has a huge effect on the Earth’s temperature. That’s because unlike nitrogen or oxygen, carbon dioxide molecules absorb the Sun‘s heat rays even though they let light rays pass through, like a greenhouse.
Scientists are looking at ways to modulate the global temperature by removing some of this greenhouse gas from the air. If it works, it would be one of the few ways of geoengineering the planet with multiple benefits, beyond simply cooling the atmosphere.
Every time we breathe out, we emit carbon dioxide just like all other metabolic life forms. Meanwhile, photosynthetic organisms like plants and algae take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. This balance has kept the planet at a comfortably warm average temperature of 14C (57F), compared with a chilly -18C (0F) if there were no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In the Anthropocene (the Age of Man), we have shifted this balance by releasing more carbon dioxide than plants can absorb. Since the industrial revolution, humans have been burning increasing amounts of fossil fuels, releasing stored carbon from millions of years ago. Eventually the atmosphere will reach a new balance at a hotter temperature as a result of the additional carbon dioxide, but getting there is going to be difficult.
The discoveries boost the list of confirmed extra-solar planets to 729, including 60 credited to the Kepler team. The telescope, launched in space in March 2009, can detect slight but regular dips in the amount of light coming from stars. Scientists can then determine if the changes are caused by orbiting planets passing by, relative to Kepler’s view.
Kepler scientists have another 2,300 candidate planets awaiting additional confirmation.
None of the newly discovered planetary systems are like our solar system, though Kepler-33, a star that is older and bigger than the Sun, comes close in terms of sheer numbers. It has five planets, compared to our solar system’s eight, but the quintet all fly closer to their parent star than Mercury orbits the Sun.
The planets range in size from about 1.5 times the diameter of Earth to five times Earth’s diameter. Scientists have not yet determined if any are solid rocky bodies like Earth, Venus, Mars and Mercury or if they are filled with gas like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Strange Random Planet Quuote:
“The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei
- NASA’s Kepler telescope finds 26 new planets (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
- NASA Kepler Telescope Finds 26 New Alien Planets in 11 Solar Systems (mashable.com)
- Kepler telescope finds 11 new planetary systems, one has five planets (slashgear.com)
- Nasa’s Keplar telescope discovers 11 new planetary systems (telegraph.co.uk)
- NASA finds 11 new solar systems (revolutionizingawareness.com)
- Kepler hits jackpot, discovers 26 new planets and 11 new star systems (inquisitr.com)
- NASA mission piles on the planets (cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com)
- NASA Finds 11 New Planetary Systems (myfoxny.com)
- NASA’s Kepler mission finds 26 new planets (cbc.ca)
- NASA Finds 11 New Planetary Systems (myfoxphoenix.com)
Internet forums exploded after an astonishing time-lapse video of the Earth taken from the International Space Station revealed more that was first thought – a mystery city that ‘shouldn’t have existed’.
The dramatic video displays the Earth illuminated by the green glow of the Aurora Borealis, and cities represented as bright spots of electric lights.
Taken by the crew of the ISS between August and October 2011, the clip was an immediate online hit.
The “City” in question comes into view at about the 34-second mark.
Strange Random Space Quote:
Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens…. My grandfather would say we’re part of something incredibly wonderful – more marvelous than we imagine. My grandfather would say we ought to go out and look at it once in a while so we don’t lose our place in it — Robert Fulghum
- Beautiful time-lapse of the Earth from ISS (holykaw.alltop.com)
- ISS time-lapse makes Earth look incredible (geek.com)
- Time-lapse video from ISS (boingboing.net)
- VIDEO: Russia Soyuz docks with ISS (bbc.co.uk)
- JAW DROPPING Space Station time lapse! (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Here’s Some Wow-Inducing Time Lapse Video of Earth at Night (nerdist.com)
- Amazing Time Lapses Of Earth From The ISS (geekologie.com)
- Great video: Earth flyover from the ISS (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- This is rocket science! (learningfromdogs.com)
NASA has named the Roland Emmerich blockbuster 2012 the most scientifically-flawed film ever made. Apart from the abuse of neutrino particles and the myth of the Mayan Calendar ending in 2012, one of the things that has most upset NASA is having to set up a special website to counteract all the claims made by the film.
Among other bits of helpful advice, we find the following:
Answer (A): Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.
Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?
A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.
Strange Random Disaster Quote:
By showing us live coverage of every bad thing happening everywhere in the world, cable news makes life seem like it’s just an endless string of disasters – when, for most people in most places today, life is fairly good. – Gregg Easterbrook
- NASA scientists slam ‘absurd’ 2012 (hollywood.com)
- NASA Names Most Realistic and Unrealistic Sci-Fi Films of All Time (moviefone.com)
- 2012 is NASA’s most absurd movie, others got science right (thestar.com)
- Nasa names most absurd sci-fi film (thesun.co.uk)
- Which science fiction films have the best and worst science, according to NASA? [Bad Science] (io9.com)
I can see my house from here! Another great shot from the Astronomy Picture of the Day Website. And the debate is on as to what part of the Earth she is looking at …
Explanation: There’s no place like home. Peering out of the windows of the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson takes in the planet on which we were all born, and to which she would soon return. About 350 kilometers up, the ISS is high enough so that the Earth’s horizon appears clearly curved. Astronaut Dyson’s windows show some of Earth’s complex clouds, in white, and life giving atmosphere and oceans, in blue. The space station orbits the Earth about once every 90 minutes. It is not difficult for people living below to look back toward the ISS. The ISS can frequently be seen as a bright point of light drifting overhead just after sunset. Telescopes can even resolve the overall structure of the space station. The above image was taken in late September from the ISS’s Cupola window bay. Dr. Dyson is a lead vocalist in the band Max Q.
Strange Random Space Quote:
The distance between the earth and her satellite is a mere trifle, and undeserving of serious consideration. I am convinced that before twenty years are over one-half of our earth will have paid a visit to the moon – Jules Verne, From Earth to the Moon, 1890.
- Emergency on the ISS: Astronaut Doug Wheelock Talks About His Experience (planetpookie.com)
- NASA caught photoshopping an image of Saturn’s moons. What were they trying to hide? [Space Porn] (io9.com)
- Astronauts View of Earth Eclipsed All Else (space.com)
- An Airplane in Front of the Moon (laughingsquid.com)
- Photo Gallery: Best Space Station Cupola Views (wired.com)
- Space Station Life Has its Ups and Downs, Astronaut Says (space.com)
- Astronauts Return To Earth After Six Months (news.sky.com)
- Five reasons why astronomy is cool (woodpigeon01.wordpress.com)
- WSU scientist proposes one-way trips to Mars (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
You can see a selection of the works by clicking on the link in the left column of the Royal Academy exhibition website, as shown right.
This is one of our favourites, Mona Hatoum‘s “Hot Spot”.GSK Contemporary Earth: Art of a changing world 3 December 2009 – 31 January 2010 at 6 Burlington Gardens
Strange Random Language Fact: