Has NASA Found Extra-Terrestrial Life?

November 30th, 2010

The answer is most likely no. Yet, the internet is a-buzz with contemplation about the subject of this coming Thursday’s press conference.

Kottke.org has a great breakdown of the team making the announcement, which does give us some clues. In fact, looking at the website of Felisa Wolfe-Simon, the hints are right on the surface:

“As a NASA fellow, she now has the support and time to continue in hot pursuit of all things arsenic-based in collaboration with the ASU NAI team and the U.S. Geological Survey. Her current data are so exciting she can’t discuss them, even here! A few more experiments and she should have all the data she needs to demonstrate her hypothesis may well be verified…stay tuned. But really, in the end, its not just about arsenic. It is about looking at what is and thinking about what might be and, importantly, how to find it. When the dust settles, we will then see how we can and shouldFollow the Elements” to lead us to what we might think of as new and novel “biology”- seemingly alien and yet potentially all around us! Iron, arsenic, copper, bismuth… its a whole periodic table out there. And yes, you too may be “off your trolley ” enough to jump in! But high risk, high gain….and the future of science! These data will speak louder than any speculation… again, stay tuned…”

What we probably have to look forward to is an announcement about data from her Mono Lake research that combined with the research of others on the panel will suggest possibilities for arsenic-based life here on earth and on other planets in the solar system. Felisa has been working on the idea of a “shadow biosphere” for a few years now, and just might have the evidence to support it finally.

So, no, not the finding of life, but evidence that we should be looking at things a different way in order to close in on it. That’s my guess.

Update: Oh, and The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, has a great post telling you all to chill out about it already… maybe in a few more words than I’ve used here to paraphrase him.

More Nano!

November 15th, 2010

We are officially into the third trimester!!! The home stretch…

Week 22:
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Week 23:
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Week 24:
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Week 25:
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The Cost of Energy

November 8th, 2010

An article in the NYT this morning brings up the difficulty of going green in the energy sector: cost.

According to the article, alternative energy providers are running into financial trouble as a result of the recession. Mainly, the recession has reduced demand for energy, thus reducing the cost of conventional energy sources such as coal and natural gas. It’s a simple supply-demand relationship.

Unfortunately, for the alternative energies, they are still too young to be cost-effective in this kind of market. So, energy utilities around the country are opting out of contracts for wind and solar power in favor of the coal and gas supplies that will be easier on their customer’s wallets.

This is creating massive financial uncertainty for the alternative providers, and is making the entire industry weaker as fewer investors stay in the space.

Honestly, I’m not surprised to hear this news. It is simple economics. People need to watch their wallets, and these are hard times.

However, I am tired of the false reality that we currently live in. The price you as a customer pay for energy is not reflective of the damage being done to our planet. You aren’t currently paying the price for the destruction of ecosystems in Virginia from mountaintop removal practices. You aren’t currently paying the price for the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico. You aren’t currently paying the price for the health effects that will come from our conventional coal and gas extraction and processing techniques.

You aren’t paying it now, but you will pay it later. If we don’t support the development of alternatives to the conventional “cheap” energy we currently enjoy, it’s going to bite us in the ass down the road.

The piper always comes home for payment.

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