September 20, 2013 |
Sometime between 1.75 billion and 3.25 billion years from now, our planet is going to be too hot to support life, according to a new study in the journal Astrobiology. When that happens, whatever life forms are around may want to move one planet over and set up camp on Mars. "We think that Mars will probably be our best bet once the Earth gets too hot," study leader Andrew Rushby of the University of East Anglia in Britain told the Los Angeles Times. Rushby is interested in how long planets can remain in the habitable zone around their sun. That's the zone with just the right conditions for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface. If a planet is too close to the sun, high temperatures would cause every drop of water to evaporate; too far away, and the planet is an icy wasteland.
September 20, 2013 |
In "The World Without Us," Alan Weisman took readers for a romp through the misty primeval forest in Poland and splashed into gin-clear waters to gaze upon one the most remote and intact coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. Besides highlighting a few of the world's last remaining pristine places, the bestseller engaged in a thought experiment: If human beings were suddenly wiped off the face of Earth, how fast would nature overgrow cities with vegetation, reclaim the land, and demonstrate its remarkable resilience?
September 19, 2013 |
Scientists have done the math, and according to their calculations, life on Earth has 1.75 to 3.25 billion years left to thrive. And that's if a giant asteroid or a nuclear war doesn't finish us off first. Yes, there is a big difference between 1.75 billion and 3.25 billion years, but predicting the end of life on our planet is not an exact science, at least not yet. To arrive at that 1.5-billion-year doomsday spread, graduate student Andrew Rushby of the University of East Anglia in Britain created two slightly different equations that estimate the length of time Earth will remain in the "habitable zone" around the sun. A planet is considered to be in the habitable zone when liquid water can exist on its surface.
September 18, 2013 |
Happy harvest moon! Wednesday night's full moon is known as the harvest moon because it is the closest full moon to the fall equinox, which occurs Sunday and will mark the official start of autumn. The equinox happens twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, when the Earth isn't tilted toward the sun or away from it. On those days, the length of day and the length of night are almost exactly the same across the planet. PHOTOS: Amazing moons of the solar system There is nothing about the harvest moon itself that makes it different from any other full moon -- it isn't bigger or brighter, or more orange -- but it does appear to stick around longer.
September 18, 2013 |
Happy birthday, Jean Bernard Leon Foucault, and thanks for the pendulum. The French physicist and inventor was born in Paris on this day in 1819. It may be hard to fathom, but the idea of Earth rotating on its axis, first proposed in the 6th century, took many centuries to gain favor, and many more to be demonstrated. The Copernican theory of celestial motions was well accepted by science by the time Foucault was born. It elegantly explained the apparent "rise" and "set" of the sun, but it was difficult to "prove" by experiment.
September 17, 2013 |
Deep in a Croatian cave, scientists have discovered a tiny snail with a shell that looks as if it is made of glass. The Zospeum tholussum specimen was found more than half a mile beneath the Earth's surface, in the Lukina Jama-Trojama cave system, one of the 20 deepest cave systems in the world. The snail is minuscule -- just 1 millimeter across. It is part of a group of snails generally found along the drainage systems of caves. Like its Zospeum cousins , Zospeum tholussum has limited eyesight and mobility, according to researchers. "Since they are grazing microorganisms from stones, mud and wood that has been washed into the cave, they have everything around that they need," said Alexander Weigand of Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany, who described the snail in the journal Subterranean Biology.
September 16, 2013 |
Did life on Earth come from space? The scientific evidence is mounting. A new report suggests amino acids, the chemical building blocks necessary for life as we know it, may be scattered throughout the solar system, created when high-speed comets smacked into the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and rocky planets like our very own Earth. "Amino acids have very basic starting materials -- you need some kind of carbon source like methane or carbon dioxide, a nitrogen source like ammonia, and water ice," said Nir Goldman, a physical chemist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and a co-author of the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
September 14, 2013 |
Rave all you want about the peak of summer at the Hollywood Bowl, but let's not forget about September. With heat dissipating and the moon creeping in earlier, post-Labor Day nights in Hollywood can similarly burn if the vibe and the sounds are right. "Do you remember the 21st night of September? Love was changing the mind of pretenders," sang Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire during the first of three sold-out nights at the Bowl. A song that seemed handcrafted for the occasion (give or take a week)
September 12, 2013 |
Voyager 1 has left the solar system. Now let's hope it doesn't come back marked “Return to Sender.” As my colleague Monte Morin reported Thursday: After 36 years of space travel and months of heated debate among scientists, NASA confirmed Thursday that Voyager 1 has indeed left our solar system and had entered interstellar space more than a year ago. “Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the...
September 11, 2013 |
A spacecraft blasts off from Earth, zips by the moon and nine days later rendezvous with an asteroid that has been neatly bagged and placed in a lunar orbit. Those are just some of the highlights from NASA's new Asteroid Redirect Mission concept video. The space agency released a video this week depicting how it might get an astronaut within arm's reach of an asteroid, then chip off a few chunks from its surface and bring them home to Earth. QUIZ: How much do you know about asteroids?