M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

What’s more valuable than gold? This rock

December 27, 2019
MThomas

If you find a big rock in your backyard, and you can’t break it open with normal tools, guess what?

The researchers argue that the Maryborough meteorite is much rarer than gold. It’s one of only 17 meteorites ever recorded in the Australian state of Victoria, and it’s the second largest chondritic mass, after a huge 55-kilogram specimen identified in 2003.

This next bit is more interesting to me:

“Other rare meteorites contain organic molecules such as amino acids; the building blocks of life.”

Hmmm… 🤔 Sounds like a storyline…

flip.it/PjaS-D

Khufu, I mean, Cheops is a go!

December 20, 2019
MThomas

Ever wonder this about “Super Earths”?

Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.

ESA finally does something! Wow. Go Europe!

I love how BBC says “The Americans” when referring to NASA, as if a) American is an ethnic group and b) all NASA scientists are American.

But anyway…

Prof Didier Queloz, who won this year’s Physics Nobel for discovering the first planet orbiting a Sun-like star in 1995, was on hand to watch the launch.

You can watch/listen to his interview here.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50804258

ESA and NASA? Airbus? Still not ready? 🤦‍♂️

December 6, 2019
MThomas

Right now, engineers have got a dummy rover practising the business of retrieving packaged rock samples. And, yes, the stand-ins really are whiteboard markers.

Yay! Whiteboard markers. Um. OK.

But different agencies and companies are finally working together?

Great!

Wait. What’s the catch?

It is, though, going to take more than a decade to achieve.

Sigh.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50663278

The exciting world of regolith oxygen extraction

October 25, 2019
MThomas

Future moon settlers might benefit from oxygen extraction from lunar regolith as it can be used to create breathable air as well as a source for fuel. In addition, the newly found extraction method might also be useful for Mars colonization.

Regolith covers the Moon and Mars (and presumably many other potentially habitable rocky bodies).

Of course, the composition of regolith on the Moon differs from that of Mars.

But if the new method can extract sufficient quantities of both oxygen and hydrogen, there should be ample amounts for both human usage and rocket fuel.

(Yawn.) “Dry” science? Sure. But think of the (fictional) possibilities!

https://www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2019/10/17/scientists-discovered-how-to-extract-oxygen-from-the-moons-soil

“We already found life on Mars!” Um. Sorry, no, you didn’t.

October 15, 2019
MThomas

“What is the evidence against the possibility of life on Mars?” Levin wrote. “The astonishing fact is that there is none.”

Uh, no, sorry. That’s an illogical fallacy called “begging the question.”

Often phrased like this: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Or, as a friend once joked, “Just because you haven’t found any aliens doesn’t mean there aren’t any!”

Well, yeah, but that doesn’t prove anything except that we just don’t know.

See, science doesn’t work like that. It demands skepticism, careful theorizing based on positive evidence.

And replication.

If findings can’t be independently confirmed and reproduced by an outside observer, then the evidence isn’t strong enough.

Sorry. No smoking gun. Yet.

(Believe me, if scientists knew that Mars had life, we’d hear about it ad infinitum. Carl Sagan put it best: Scientists are terrible at keeping secrets.)

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/10/15/us/nasa-life-on-mars-intl-hnk-scli/index.html?__twitter_impression=true

Factories…In…Space…

October 13, 2019
MThomas

 

 “Once you’ve exploited the solar system, there’s nowhere left to go.”

Frankly, the idea that we puny humans could ever even begin to damage the solar system is laughable.

What would be more worrisome is who – or what – would be doing the work. Why hire people if you could make robots to do the work for you?

https://futurism.com/billionaires-dead-serious-space-factories?fbclid=IwAR1lizqBfz9yQ4zwcdPlHqr4DnWKvf_Me6exwewJ3sPrb2UTksz65YQM_eI

The Trappist Family of Planets has a hard core!

August 2, 2019
MThomas

Trappists

In February of 2017, a team of European astronomers announced the discovery
of a seven-planet system orbiting the nearby star TRAPPIST-1. Aside from
the fact that all seven planets were rocky, there was the added bonus of
three of them orbiting within TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone. Since that time,
multiple studies have been conducted to determine whether or not any of
these planets could be habitable.

What’s up with the boring names?

I propose we call them Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl. The most habitable is Kurt, because he’s so magnetic.

But the star, of course, is Maria.

Buh-DUM-dum.

Trappist-1
— Read on www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2018/5/5/one-of-the-trappist-1-planets-has-an-iron-core

Vulcan does not exist — but 40 Eridani does

June 13, 2019
MThomas

vulcan

As a kid I remember reading about “Vulcan,” which people used to think existed between Mercury and the Sun but always orbited on the opposite side.

Completely fictional, of course.

But…

Vulcan made a comeback as the fictional home of Spock in Star Trek. It was said by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to be orbiting around 40 Eridani (also called HD 26965), a triple star system in the constellation of Eridanus “the river” in the southern hemisphere just 16 light years distant. In September 2018, astronomers at the University of Florida in Gainesville found a “super-Earth” exoplanet orbiting exactly where Vulcan was said to be.

There is only one logical conclusion…

Spock-Amok

www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2019/05/24/return-of-the-planet-vulcan-how-the-fire-planet-was-destroyed-by-science-and-how-its-been-reborn/

No “Planet McPlanetface” option. Sorry.

April 15, 2019
MThomas

planetoid

The three choices fit IAU naming regulations and are associated with mythological creatures and figures that reflect aspects of 2007 OR10’s physical properties, which include rock, water ice, possibly methane ice, and a surface that’s red in color.

Your three choices?

Gonggong (共工, the bringer of floods 洪 and chaos)

Holle (which I always thought was Hulda or Holda)

Vili (which I knew as Wela in English class)

At least these scientists learned an important lesson from our recent past…

22xp-boaty-articleLarge

Info here: www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/scientists-launch-public-vote-for-the-name-of-a-distant-world/

Vote here: https://2007or10.name

First ever black hole image (not counting Disney)

April 10, 2019
MThomas

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“What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System,” he said.

“It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.”

So this demonstrates two things.

One – Einstein was right (when wasn’t he, at this point).

Two – We need a Disney remake.

MV5BOGEzN2M5YTItZDRkZS00OWMxLTk3MTktZjZkNzExYWRjYjA5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjI4MjA5MzA@._V1_

Calling Christopher Nolan!


www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47873592

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