Monthly Archives: April 2012

  • Champagne Bottles on Ice for “Potential Habitable Planets”

    Ever since my run-in with climate change deniers, I’ve had a “google alert” set up for myself so I know when something I say is getting spun and I have a chance to set the record straight. And for the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed the following prediction has been taken a little bit too… certainly:

    “I believe Kepler will find a ‘Goldilocks planet’ within the next two years”

    I DO believe the Kepler team will do this. However, this is just a prediction. I’m not on the Kepler team, nor do I have any particular insights into what they’ve

  • FameLab Astrobiology: Live on NASA TV!

    The FameLab Astrobiology Finals will be broadcast live on NASA TV! That means you can watch the finals on cable or over the internet. The event will be held from 7-9 PM (EDT) on Monday, April 16th. Tune in to see some awe-inspiring planetary science communication!

    Check local listings for the NASA TV channel number in your area. The livestream will be available at and at

    Here is a list of the competitors you’ll see on stage. I’ve personally seen them all perform, and believe every single one of them an outstanding science communicator:
    Michael Chaffin
    Kate Follette
    Heather Graham

  • AbSciCon Roommate Search Thread

    Hey, everyone! I thought it might be nice if those looking for a roommate for AbSciCon might have a place to find one.

    At the moment I know of two individuals – one male and one female – looking for a roommate. If you want a roommate, put your name, gender, roommate gender preference (if any), whether you have a room or not, and a website, email, or something that can be used to verify you’re someone that would attend the meeting.

    We’re not responsible for any bad roommate pairs – you’re on your own to figure all that out. We’re

  • Raindrops fossils = a barometer inside a DeLorean

    I’ve been meaning to write about friend and colleague Sanjoy Som’s paper for over a week now. I’m finally getting around to it this evening. I submit to you that this paper is both unbelievably cool in the “I didn’t know that was possible” sort of way yet also very important in the “we really needed that dataset” sort of way.

    First, the cool. Check out the title: “Air density 2.7 billion years ago limited to less than twice modern levels by fossil raindrop imprints.” What the authors are telling us is that ~2,700,000,000 years ago it rained in what

  • Yesterday was April 1

    So, let me explain why one could NEVER receive an ETI signal with particle detectors. As I mentioned yesterday, in addition to electromagnetic radiation, our galaxy is filled with charged particles known as comic rays (for historical reasons). These particles are highly energetic, traveling at relativistic speeds, so one could think to use them to communicate across galactic distances, instead of light.

    But it turns out that our galaxy (like other galaxies) consists of turbulent magnetic fields distributed non-uniformly. Even our Sun has a strong magnetic field and so does the Earth. From physics 101 we know that charged particles are deflected

  • OMG! signal: Evidence of extraterrestrial life?

    As many of you may know, on August 15, 1977, Jerry Ehman of Ohio State (By the way, OSU lost to KU yesterday. Go Jayhawks!), while working on the SETI project at the Big Ear radio telescope discovered the famous Wow! signal. Since it was a narrowband radio signal, it could have been produced only by an artificial source and therefore was a clear evidence of extraterrestrial life. However, that signal was never received again and several follow-up observations failed to detect anything similar.

    I have thought about this for a long time and wondered why scientists have been