The biggest things in the universe just got bigger - or rather, they've always been bigger and we somehow missed it up to now. Supercomputer simulations of galactic core black holes indicate that instead of being a mere two billion times the mass of the sun, so insignificant you'd surely lose them if you sneezed, some could be as large as six billion suns -not including the "dark halo" that surrounds the Milky Way, which is more than ten times as much mass as all of the visible stars, gas, and dust in the rest of the galaxy.
Continue reading "Massive "Dark Halo" Discovered Beyond Edge of the Milky Way " »
Although we don't know yet whether life exists any place beside Earth, we do know that there are three key pieces of evidence that point to the fact that life should be common in the universe. One, the chemical elements that created life on Earth -hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and almost two dozen other key elements are found nearly everywhere in the universe, and complex, carbon-bearing elements appear to form easily under conditions that should be common on many planets and moons; two, life thrives in a vast range of extreme conditions that are likely to be found in our Solar System and beyond; three, life appeared early in Earth's history, make it probable that life is "easy."
Continue reading "Is Water Common in the Universe? New Search for the Building Blocks of Life" »
A recent mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality. DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids - the first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and now it seems that those ten are thermodynamically destined to occur wherever they can.
Continue reading "Is Life Embedded in the Cosmos? New Analysis Says "Yes"" »
It's not the name a Japanese horror movie...Scientists have spotted stellar fossils in the center of the Milky Way, globular clusters orbiting in the central bulge which seem to have come from somewhere else. Like all fossils these are vital evidence of the evolutionary processes which led to everything we see today. (Though for fairness we should point out the rival suggestion of an Intelligently Designed galaxy, where over two hundred billion gigantic fusion reactors were carefully constructed as extraordinarily elaborate background for a single planet.)
Continue reading "Terzan 5! Cosmic Fossil Discovered Embedded In Milky Way" »
Thousands of people might be pouring their lives into the void of Solitaire right now, but Science has a scheme to harness their brains for good - even if their owner's don't. The "Galaxy Zoo" game lets anyone play a combination of a cosmic slot machine with an intergalactic Hot or Not. The result is an amazing fusion of the most pointless time-wasters possible into a valuable tool for understanding cosmic evolution.
Continue reading "The Galaxy Game - Harnessing the Power of Human Imagination" »
I think older civilizations than ours would have had a much harder time surviving the massive bombardment of stellar neighborhood supernovas that was prevalent until "recently" in cosmological history.
In other words, I expect most civilizations to be young because life-eradicating supernovas were common even in the galactic rims until 4-5 billion years ago.
Our own position in a "quiet neighborhood" has been a very important factor in the development of multicellular life and complex ecosystems.
I think the decline in the rate of supernovas could really be the triggering factor in a phase change from a universe without life, to one where it is common. We are really only in the start of this process, since the galactic cores are still kill zones for anything carbon-based.
Continue reading "Top Reply To: "The Billion-Year Technology Gap: Could One Exist?" " »
Are we the lone sentient life in the universe? So far, we have no evidence to the contrary, and yet the odds that not one single other planet has evolved intelligent life would appear, from a statistical standpoint, to be quite small. There are an estimated 250 billion (2.5 x 10¹¹ ) stars in the Milky Way alone, and over 70 sextillion (7 x 10²² ) in the visible universe, and many of them are surrounded by multiple planets.
Meanwhile, our 4.5 billion-year old Solar System exits in a universe that is estimated to be between 13.5 and 14 billion years old. Experts believe that there could be advanced civilizations out there that have existed for 1.8 gigayears (one gigayear = one billion years).
Continue reading "The Billion-Year Technology Gap: Could One Exist? (The Weekend Feature)" »
A new study shows that cosmic radiation could be accelerating the
growth of our Earth forests, though - as with most cosmic radiation
effects - we don't know how it's happening or what the effects are.
But in accordance with standard "Science From Fantastical Space
Radiation" practice, the results were only discovered by accident.
team from the University of Edinburgh scanned samples from felled
Scottish spruce trees to examine the rings. Which, when you think
about it, is just like scanning a document but without all the
intermediary steps. By examining the width of the yearly rings that
form you can examine the growth of the tree over time, and while they
were expecting climate factors to dominate cosmic ones turned up
Continue reading "Do Cosmic Rays Accelerate Growth of Life? New Discovery Says "Yes"" »