Today is all about caffeine because I am embarking on a week of working remotely on my two jobs while helping family move, finishing thesis revisions (FOREVERRRR) and prepping for the holiday— all while increasing my running intervals & sleeping on an air mattress.
Allow me a moment now to cuddle my first world problems.
This Kepler-22b exoplanet/habitable zone stuff is getting officially out of control. Not because it isn’t exciting, because HEY NOW, it is exciting.
But, um, some people are blowing it a little out of proportion and not taking this dish with the appropriate grains of salt. And that’s not their fault. Newsy folks should be doing a better job of explaining the nuances of it.
But alas, detailed, nuanced science news is pretty much only on the internet these days. So it falls to us.
Some key facts:
- The image above is not a photograph. We can not image the dark side of this photograph to find cities. Because it is not a photograph. It is a painting, of what it could look like. It could also be made of fire, or rock, or acidic gas, or marshmallows. We have no fucking clue.
- What is the habitable zone? Its most simple definition is the orbital distance from a star where a planet is the right temperature to have liquid water, based on energy coming from the star and being retained (or not) by the planet. But a lot of that depends on atmosphere (we don’t know about 22b’s atmosphere, if it even has one) and the surface composition (marshmallows, lava, diamonds, rocks, dirt, gaseous emulsions … we dunno. At all). It also depends on how much light it reflects/absorbs (“albedo”). Dunno.
- Habitable zones are just where the conditions make liquid water possible. What else is in a habitable zone? Venus. Mars. No life, not that different in size from Earth, not much water to speak of.
- What’s not in the habitable zone? Well, Jupiter’s moon Europa for one. And it’s lousy with water. It’s covered with a sheet of ice dozens of miles thick over an ocean that makes our look like a swimming pool. It might have life. Being in the “habitable zone” isn’t the only way to have “lifey conditions” (<- technical term)
- It’s not the first exoplanet out there, and maybe not the best. Here’s some great insight on that from Matt Francis. And here’s a list of a few more “habitable” exoplanets.
I promise I am not trying to be a party pooper. This really is cool. I just don’t want people to take cool science out of context and turn it into not-so-cool bullshit.
Let’s focus on a different angle of this: Kepler-22b is not special. There could be as many (or MORE!) as a million “Goldilocks Zone” planets! And that, when you combine it with the other places water can exist, means there’s millions of potential incubators of life.
And that’s not counting the marshmallow planets!
This photo is of a nest of baby dinosaurs- Protoceratops andrewsi, to be exact- that died 70 million years ago. The conditions of the nest have “given scientists a new understanding of how the ceratopsian group of dinosaurs cared for their young.”
The ending of the article made me sad. They died all huddled together.
Read the full article here.
10. A lifespan is a billion heartbeats. Complex organisms die. Sad though it is in individual cases, it’s a necessary part of the bigger picture; life pushes out the old to make way for the new. Remarkably, there exist simple scaling laws relating animal metabolism to body mass. Larger animals live longer; but they also metabolize slower, as manifested in slower heart rates. These effects cancel out, so that animals from shrews to blue whales have lifespans with just about equal number of heartbeats — about one and a half billion, if you simply must be precise. In that very real sense, all animal species experience “the same amount of time.” At least, until we master #9 and become immortal. (Amazing talk by Geoffrey West.)
This is amazing. If you do one thing today, play with this. You will learn some pretty neat stuff.