Might alien life be buried under too much ice to phone Earth?

October 20, 2017

Why haven’t we had alien contact? Blame icy ocean worlds perhaps.

Enceladus.jpg

It’s only recently that astronomers have come to appreciate how common oceans are in our solar system; evidence for them can be seen on several moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, and even distant Pluto. These worlds all have water ice as a major component of their crusts, which forms towering mountains and cracked canyons on their surfaces but melts into liquid water at lower depths. Hydrothermal vents on these ocean beds might pump nutrients into their surroundings, similar to ecosystems at the bottom of Earth’s oceans. Such nurseries for life—shielded from space by a thick ice shell—might even be more productive than our own exposed environment.

And should living organisms on icy ocean worlds evolve into intelligent creatures, they probably wouldn’t know the night sky as well as us humans. Perhaps the equivalent of their “space program” would simply be boring through to the frozen surface of their planet. Learn more here.

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How To Learn Faster

October 2, 2017

Mixing Aluminum and Mercury is crazy

August 31, 2017

Check it out, it’s really cool …

Amazing Examples of Animal Camouflage

June 21, 2017

Camouflage is really cool!

Check out these great examples of animal camouflage

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More here.

Year 8 Chemistry is available

June 20, 2017

My latest book, Year 8 Chemistry, is now available for free download for Mac, iPad or iPhone.

Yr8 Chemistry Cover sml

Check it out here.

See more books here.

Kepler finds 219 new exoplanets and 10 are rocky and Earth-like

June 20, 2017

The galaxy is full of worlds like ours. That’s the lesson from Kepler, NASA’s prodigious exoplanet-hunting mission, which has found another 219 potential new exoplanets, bringing its total to 4034, according to a final analysis of its main 4-year search and published in a final catalog released today. Of the new candidates, 10 are near in size to Earth and sit in the habitable zone of their stars—the range of orbits in which liquid water could exist on their surfaces. Those new additions bring the total number of potentially habitable planets detected by Kepler to 49.

And that’s just in the corner of the sky that Kepler stared at.

Kepler telescope catalog.jpg

Learn more here or here.

Seeing the Invisible

June 18, 2017

This is what the world would look like if you could see invisible air currents, temperature gradients, and differences in pressure or composition of the air.

Could a caterpillar help solve the world’s plastic bag problem?

April 26, 2017

The global plastic bag crisis could be solved by a waxworm (Galleria mellonella) capable of eating through the material at “uniquely high speeds”.

Researchers have described the tiny caterpillar’s ability to break down even the toughest plastics as “extremely exciting” and said the discovery could offer an environmentally friendly solution on an industrial scale.

Around a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, of which a huge number find their way into the oceans or are discarded into landfill.

Galleria mellonella eats plastic bag.jpg

The waxworm, commonly found living in bee hives or harvested as fishing bait, proved it could eat its way through polyethylene, which is notoriously hard to break down, more than 1400 times faster than other organisms.

Scientists believe the worm has enzymes in its saliva or gut that attack plastic’s chemical bonds, in the same way they digest the wax found in hives.

Learn more here, here or here.

Amazing Cell Division Time Lapse

March 25, 2017

If you’ve ever wondered what cell division actually looks like, this incredible time-lapse gives you the best view I’ve ever seen, showing a real-life tadpole egg dividing from four cells into several million in the space of just 20 seconds.

Of course, that’s lightening speed compared to how long it actually takes, the time-lapse has sped up 33 hours of painstaking division into mere seconds for our viewing pleasure.

The species you see developing here is Rana temporariathe common frog, which lays 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time in shallow, fresh water ponds.

Did you know, in 2028…

March 15, 2017

What will the world of 2028 look like?