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January 2012
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Complex Organic Matter Discovered Created by Stars Throughout the Universe



Physicists Freeman Dyson has said that it appears as though the Universe was anticipating our existence. A recent discovery seems to support his observation: In 2011, astronomers discovered that organic compounds of unexpected complexity exist throughout the Universe, suggesting that complex organic compounds are not the sole domain of life but can be made naturally by stars. The discovery suggests that complex organic compounds can be synthesized in space even when no life forms are present.

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Radical New 3-D Model of Planet Formation Unveiled



The prevailing model for planetary accretion, also called fractal assembly, and dating back as far as the 18th century, assumes that the Solar System’s planets grew as small grains colliding chaotically, coalescing into bigger ones, colliding yet more until they formed planetesimals. The planetesimals then collided until they formed planets as varied as the Earth and Jupiter. The model assumes that this occurred in an extremely hot (as high as 1,600 degrees Celsius) environment for the inner Solar System, fostered by a dusty, two-dimensional disk post-dating the Sun.

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Image of the Day: A Colossal Star Destined to Become a Black Hole



The breathtakingly beautiful Cocoon Nebula is located about 4,000 light years away toward the constellation of Cygnus. Hidden inside the Cocoon is a newly developing open cluster of stars dominated by a massive star in the center of the above image that opened a hole in an existing molecular cloud through which much of the glowing material flows. The same star, which formed about 100,000 years ago, provides the energy source for much of the emitted and reflected light from this nebula.

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Wednesday Debate --'The Cosmic Connection'



"We are like the inhabitants of an isolated valley in New Guinea who communicate with societies in neighboring valleys (quite different societies, I might add) by runner and by drum. When asked how a very advanced society will communicate, they might guess by an extremely rapid runner or by an improbably large drum. They might not guess a technology beyond their ken. And yet, all the while, a vast international cable and radio traffic passes over them, around them, and through them... 

"We will listen for the interstellar drums, but we will miss the interstellar cables. We are likely to receive our first messages from the drummers of the neighboring galactic valleys - from civilizations only somewhat in our future. The civilizations vastly more advanced than we, will be, for a long time, remote both in distance and in accessibility. At a future time of vigorous interstellar radio traffic, the very advanced civilizations may be, for us, still insubstantial legends."

- Carl Sagan, "The Cosmic Connection"

What do you think?

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Comment of the Day: 'The Cosmic Connection'



I'm a little cynical about the human race's "advanceness" (look at the stupid things we're still doing), but when you consider that we really only became modern men within the last 10,000ish years, we're not doing to bad. There's a lot of inertia in social development, so despite the highest aspirations of our most educated and/or ethical members, we're not going to achieve global peace and total prosperity in the next decade. Anyway, we're on the line between barbarism and godhood right now. We may be able to analyze the probability of other races being more or less advanced than us. 

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What Were the Consequences of Early Human & Neanderthal Interbreeding?


            Shutterstock_75874453 (1)

Ealy modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago. The question has long been whether the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute, were a separate species or could have interbred with modern humans. The answer is yes, the two lived in close association.

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Antarctica's Dry Valleys Point to Posssible Mars Biology




The McMurdo Dry Valleys (image above) are a row of valleys west of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, named because of their extremely low humidity and lack of snow and ice cover. Photosynthetic bacteria have been found living in the relatively moist interior of rocks. NASA scientists consider the Dry Valleys to be the closest of any terrestrial environment to Mars.

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Tuesday's Debate: Jared Diamond, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee"



"Think again of those astronomers who beamed radio signals into space from Arecibo, describing Earth's location and its inhabitants. In its suicidal folly that act rivalled the folly of the last Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, who described to his gold-crazy Spanish captors the wealth of his capital and provided them with guides for the journey. If there really are any radio civilizations within listening distance of us, then for heaven's sake let's turn off our own transmitters and try to escape detection, or we are doomed. Fortunately for us, the silence from outer space is deafening."

- Jared Diamond, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee"

What do you think?


Is Biological Immortality Possible? New Research Suggests "Yes"



Researchers from The University of Nottingham have demonstrated how a species of flatworm overcomes the ageing process to be potentially immortal. The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may shed light on the possibilities of alleviating ageing and age-related characteristics in human cells.

"Asexual planarian worms demonstrate the potential to maintain telomere length during regeneration," says  Dr Aziz Aboobaker from the University's School of Biology. "Our data satisfy one of the predictions about what it would take for an animal to be potentially immortal and that it is possible for this scenario to evolve. The next goals for us are to understand the mechanisms in more detail and to understand more about how you evolve an immortal animal."

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EcoAlert: Earth was Stifling Hot During Peak Age of Dinosaurs


The first maps of the Earth's forests plotted by scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London after creating a database of more than two thousand fossilised forest sites from the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs were at their peak. The patterns of vegetation, together with information about the rate of tree growth, support the idea that the Earth was stifling hot 100 million years ago. High temperatures and possibly more atmospheric carbon dioxide caused forests to extend much closer to the poles and grow almost twice as fast as they do today. The findings have obvious implications for understanding the long-term effects of global warming.

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