Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scientists Use Giant Fudge to Seek Shower Mould on Goldilocks

Habitable zone relative to size of stars                     Image via Wikipedia
"Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a press briefing today."


"I have almost no doubt about it."

Well, yes. But he's using Giant Fudge to search for Shower Mould on Goldilocks, so he would say that, wouldn't he?!


Read the latest in the quest for life on other planets here.
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10 comments:

Joe said...

188,672,000,000,000 kilometers or, for you non scientific luddites out out there, 117,942,000,000,000 miles away scientists have discovered life!!!!!

How can they be so sure? Well if you must know you uneducated sod because the star blinks!

Now that is FUNNY!!!! And these clowns expect me to believe them when they proclaim there is no God!

RkBall said...

Joe -- this just in: not only is there 100% chance of life on the planet, they've also just detected evidence of... GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!

Joe said...

And what's more that life shares 70% of the DNA of a rabid rhesus monkey which once and for all shows that Darwin was ...er wait a minute... Just what would that show about Darwin?

P@J said...

From a science perspective:

Joe, this planet is actually not very far away, it is one of our closest neighbours. Lots of zeros are impressive, but if it is 1,850,000,000,000 nanometres to your neighbour’s house, you can tell if the porch light is on if you know how to look.

This is actually a good example of some good science (this study really only confirms and adds to findings of a few other studies over the last few years by different scientists), unfrotuneatly wrapped in a little bit of far-fetched hyperbole.

To give you an idea of the “goldilocks zone”, there are three planets and large moon within that zone in our solar system, and to the best of our knowledge, only one harbours life as we know it. Simply put, if Venus had a thinner atmosphere of slightly different composition, it could host liquid water. If mars was slightly larger and had sufficient greenhouse forcing, it could host liquid water.

Now, let us look at Gilese 581f, it is circling a red dwarf sun, it is tidally locked to that sun, and we don’t even know if it has an atmosphere. It may be like Venus (hot enough to melt lead) or like mars (with only a whisp of atmosphere and therefore really cold) or even like the moon (completely bereft of atmosphere). To suggest it harbours life as we know it is a little premature, we don’t even know if it could harbour life as we know it.

The authors also, in my opinion, make a bit of a statistical stretch about the implications for the number of habitable planets in the Galaxy. This cannot be blamed on the press mis-reporting, it is right in the introduction of their own paper: they now have a sample set of 2. We cannot say anything about the statistics of coin flipping if we only flip the coin twice. I will be surprised if it is published like the (it hasn’t been published yet, only submitted), without a significant toning down of the statistical hyperbole.

A good summary of the implications of the article here, from an actual astronomer .

And Joe, to answer your question directly, if life found on another planet shared DNA with life fond on earth, it would mean nothing to the observable phenomenon of evolution through natural selection on Earth. It would be interesting, though. It would suggest that either that DNA-based life started somewhere else and got to Earth 3+ billion years ago; that some event in the last 3+ billion years caused DNA from earth to be spread about the universe; or that the DNA molecule is not as remarkable as we thought, and was easy enough to develop naturally that it happened at two different places at two different times. Occam’s razor would push us towards the first idea initially (I think), but the details would be pretty clear once we sequenced both DNA types. That would require us going there to get a sample, I don’t think we will have to worry about that in our life times.

RkBall said...

If signs of the same intelligence, the same engineering, the same information content, were found, that would be very interesting.

It would either mean that information, and engineering are embedded principles of the universe, or the Same Guy who got things going on Earth has been active in other realms, or reality consists of some seriously humongous-sized coincidences.

Darwinists would probably just chock it up (or down I should say) to the latter -- another one of those weird examples of parallel evolution.

Then, when the incredulous say, "but gasp what are the odds of that??!!" the statistician jumps in and says, "well, since it happened, it's 100%!!!

Ah, reason, sweet reason.

Joe said...

"This is actually a good example of some good science"

Well if this is good science I certainly would hate to see 'bad science'.

The blinking star = orbiting planet theory is pure speculation at worst, and mere inference at best. But to take inference and ascribe to it the 'Goldilocks' zone which is then expanded to absolute certainty of life is absolutely laughable. Kind of like the AGW theory now that someone has actually tried to look at the data only to discover it never existed!

The point is that the religion of scientism has for years tried to foist on the gullible the idea that life is very common in the universe. It does so in the attempt to prove the non existence of God. Their false assumption seems to be that if life evolved here on Earth it could (must) have evolved in lots of places. If we can find life in lots of non Earth locations so their theory goes, there is no God. Of course if we could find evidence of life in other places of which there is none it would simply spread the God versus evolution controversy beyond our solar system. If God created the entire universe and all the stars and planets in it He could have created all kinds of life on many different planets. Some of those life forms we may not even determine as being life!

In the mean time science is not doing itself any favours with this kind of trash can speculation.

P@J said...

Joe, you know not of what you speak.

This technique used here is not “pure speculation”, nor does it rely on the “blinking” of the star. What is does do is very accurately measure subtle shifts in the star’s spectral output, related to the wobble in the star’s position related to gravitational tugging from orbiting objects. In the case of Gliese 581, there are more than 11 years of observations, and the patters have been confirmed by several scientists using different observation techniques.

The scientists who reported these latest findings did not say there was life on this planet in the paper they published (no journal would publish that, for the very reasons you cite: that would be a ridiculous extrapolation from extremely limited data). We do not even know the mass of the planet (although we do know, as a minimum, it is 3x that of earth). We do not know if it has an atmosphere. We don’t know it’s surface temperature. All we know is where it is, and how far it is from the sun it orbits. Anything else is hyperbole.

This in no way relates to AGW.

I guess the theistic problem with life on other planets (even if God made it there as well, as you propose) is that it makes this place less special, and therefore us, as humans, less special, especially if the life on other planets were found to be intelligent and self-aware. (or even - aghast! Not judeo-christian monotheists!). There are other problems it would present (e.g. how come the bible never mentioned them), but I figure there would be lots of post-hoc rationalisations to cover clerical asse(t)s if that happened.

Joe said...

P@J old son let me tell you a little secret. When ever you begin to go beyond what you can physically see, or hear or feel you are into speculation. The composition of an atom is speculation because we can not see what is actually there. Instead we infer what it must be like based on reactions we can observe. Unlike you I have been around long enough to see enough of those inferences blow up in our faces. Darwin inferred that the simple cell was simple. OOPS! Newton inferred that gravity was universal and our entire space program was based on his inference. Then suddenly our outer solar system probes weren't where they were supposed to be. OOPS! Until we can actually go there and determine that the blink we see is actually caused by a planet our speculation that the blink is caused by a planet remains just that speculation. Let me clarify something here. It doesn't matter to me if there are planets around every star in the universe nor does it matter to me if every planet in the universe has an abundance of life on it. What matters is being honest. Should a scientist say, "We observed a star that has a regular variation in its output" "We speculate that it may be caused by a planet or planets." We further speculate that the the planet is of X mass and at such and such orbit" I would have no problem with their field of inquiry. However to observe a blinking star and from the few measurements we are able to conduct infer that not only is it a planet but a planet likely to be able to support life is beyond laughable.

Let me put it this way, science is a religion and just like any religion a few flakes peel off the main and make ridiculous statements. A man named Miller proclaimed the world would end in 1844. Some of the gullible believed him. They were proven wrong. Some crack pot 'scientist' proclaiming that we found another planet that is likely to support life fits into the same category as the dearly departed Mr. Miller.

P@J said...

Joe, you draw a false dichotomy in that things that you “see”, “hear” and “feel” yourself is somehow more valid that what you may observe through a telescope, a microscope, an oscilloscope, or a spectrascope. Are things viewed through eye glasses less trustworthy than those seen through myopic eyes? Without TV, how do you know a Pope even exists? Or is the pope only “pure speculation”?

More concerning, how do you know our “outer space probes weren’t where they were supposed to be” if you can’t see, hear, or feel them with your own senses? You recognize, of course, that we set up Voyager 2 to pass within a couple of thousand kilometers of Triton, a moon four and a half billion kilometres from Earth, and all you can do is point out that it might not be exactly where anticipate it should be 30 years later? Do you recognize the absurdity of that argument?

Now, back to the matter at hand, we are no observing a “blink” of the star, we are observing predictable patterns of spectral output, just as we do with hundreds of other stars. Every time we do this, we find that those stars are influenced by Keplerian mechanics much like our own planetary system. No surprise here, gravity seems to be the same everywhere (in non-relativistic terms).

You should actually go back to read what the scientists actually said. They actually said (I paraphrase) “our data agrees with data from [they name three other previous reports, the oldest from 2005], and conforms with the model that there are 7 planets in Keplerian orbit around the star, and one of them is within the zone where it is possible liquid water may exist”.

P@J said...

Oh, and Joe:

The Pioneer Anomaly is pretty well understood now, differential thermal emmission . Makes sense.

...and the anomaly itelf is smaller than I thought: one ten billionth of expected distance: that is like misesitmating the distance to the moon by the length of your pinkie finger. Hardly a science-shattering finding.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"