Posts from the ‘Education’ Category
Bill Nye on the danger of not believing in long-term evolution.
Image: An artist conception of a newly formed star surrounded by a swirling protoplanetary disk of dust and gas, where debris coalesces to create rocky ‘planetesimals’ that collide and grow to eventually form planets. A new study suggests small rocky planet may actually be widespread in our Milky Way galaxy. Credit: University of Copenhagen, Lars A. Buchhave
Planets may not be able to form without a heaping helping of heavy elements such as silicon, titanium and magnesium, a new study suggests.
Stars that host planets have higher concentrations of such “metals” — astronomer-speak for elements heavier than hydrogen and helium — compared to iron than do planetless stars, the study found.
“To form planets, one needs heavy elements,” said lead author Vardan Adibekyan, of the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto in Portugal.
Connected at birth
Planets coalesce from the disk of dust and gas left over after the birth of their parent star. According to the leading theory of planet formation, the core accretion model, small particles clump together, growing larger and larger until they produce protoplanets.
Scientists have long suspected that stars with higher metallicities are more likely to have planets orbiting them. Iron has long been a primary indicator.
“Usually, in stellar physics, people use the iron content as a proxy of overall metallicity,”
Enrico Fermi famously asked, in his paradoxical analysis of the likely existence of extraterrestrial life, “Where is everybody?” If there are a certain (large) number of planets in the universe that are habitable, then a subset of these (also a large number) should be inhabited. Any civilization that formed, given enough time, could develop the means for interstellar communication or travel.
So yeah, “Where is everybody?”
Years later, Frank Drake developed a precise equation to calculate the likely number of inhabitable worlds within range of observation or communication from Earth. Well, it’s as precise as you define it, anyway, given that the variables that go in are just that – variable. Things like how long it would take a civilization to develop communication, how long said civilization would last, how many stars and planets are estimated to exist … just the basics.
It’s called the Drake Equation, and thanks to the stupendous folks over at BBC Future, you can go tweak the equation with an interactive tool! Click here to start defining your galaxial parameters and see how many civilizations you think should exist.
I’m getting some pretty big numbers . . !
Played around with this some earlier, definitely worth checking out. It’s important to remember that the Drake Equation is an approximation and many factors that we’re a little unsure about go into it.
On the other hand, even setting most of the variables very low results in several billion planets with life on them. We should be able to develop interstellar communication in a manner that is observable and understandable within our lifetimes..right? Please?
Nikola Tesla museum fundraising reaches $700,000
One of the unsung heroes of science and technology, Nikola Tesla has become a cult hero for the next generation of science enthusiasts. This cult status and Tesla’s achievements have lead to an online fundraising campaign entitled ‘Operation let’s build a goddamn Tesla museum’. The campaign, devised by web comic ‘The Oatmeal’, and associated non-for-profit aims to purchase Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory in shoreham, New York. If the campaign is successful the laboratory would be gradually redeveloped into the first US Tesla museum.
Photo credit: Mattridgway
You’re awesome, and this charity drive is awesome. Do what you can!
“…like a primordial Earth in deep freeze.” Brian Cox describes his favorite wonder of the universe, Saturn’s moon Titan.