KentuckyFC writes "Goldilocks zones are regions around stars that are 'just right' for liquid water and for the chemistry of life as we know it. Now one cosmologist points out that the universe must have been through a Goldilocks epoch, a period in which warm, watery conditions could have existed on almost any planet in the entire cosmos. The key phenomenon here is the cosmic background radiation, the afterglow of the Big Bang which was blazing hot when it first formed. But as the universe expanded, the wavelength of this radiation increased, lowering its energy. Today, it is an icy 3 Kelvin. But somewhere along the way, it must have been between 273 and 300 Kelvin, just right to keep water in liquid form. According to the new calculations, this Goldilocks epoch would have occurred when the universe was about 15 million years old and would have lasted for several million years. And since the first stars had a lifespan of only 3 million years or so, that allows plenty of time for the heavy elements to have formed which are necessary for planet formation and the chemistry of life. Indeed, if live did evolve a this time, it would have predated life on Earth by about 10 billion years."
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astroengine writes "The site where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity landed last year contains at least one lake that would have been perfectly suited for colonies of simple, rock-eating microbes found in caves and hydrothermal vents on Earth. Analysis of mudstones in an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located inside the rover's Gale Crater landing site, show that fresh water pooled on the surface for tens of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of years. 'The results show that the lake was definitely a habitable environment,' Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told Discovery News. The finding was announced at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco."
sfcrazy writes "A giant exoplanet that is in the most distant orbit ever seen around its host star, has been recently discovered. Dubbed HD 106906 b, the newly discovered planet is relatively young (13 million years old, compare this to our 4.5 billion years old Earth) and bigger than any other planet discovered till date. It is 11 times the size of Jupiter, and that's what makes it a most singular discovery."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have discovered huge freshwater reserves beneath the seabed on continental shelves off the coast of Australia, North America, China and South Africa. 'The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we've extracted from the Earth's sub-surface in the past century since 1900. Fresh water on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages' says Dr Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University."
First time accepted submitter prajendran writes "James Hansen, the former director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences, has been a strong defender of using nuclear energy to replace coal and renewable energy. He and three other researchers had written a letter, arguing just this. In this interview with rediff.com, an Indian news site, he was asked to address some concerns surrounding the issue, especially given the strong feelings generated by it. It may not be Hansen's best interview, but it did bring out his passionate side."
sciencehabit writes "A simple model of forest fires could help explain the distribution of the sizes of earthquakes and their aftershocks, a theoretical physicist says. In the so-called Drössel-Schwabl model, trees sprout at random on a square grid like a vast checkerboard. Once the forest gets dense enough, lightning sets a random tree on fire, and fire spreads instantaneously among trees that occupy adjacent squares. The conflagration continues until there are no more neighbors to jump to. Then, the process starts all over again. In the team's model, the 'forest' is the plane of a fault cutting through Earth's crust, divided into a 10,000-by-10,000 grid. Sprouting trees correspond to the buildup of stress along the fault; burning areas, to the part of the fault that moves during a quake."
sciencehabit writes "One does not simply model the climate of Mordor; unless, of course, you are the University of Bristol's Dan Lunt, who has created a climate simulation of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Using supercomputers and a model originally developed by the U.K. Met Office, his study compares Middle-earth's climate with those of our (modern) and the dinosaur's (Late Cretaceous) worlds. The Middle-earth model reveals that the Shire — home to the Hobbits — would enjoy weather much like England's East Midlands, with an average temperature of 7C and about 61 cm of rainfall each year. An epic journey to Mount Doom, however, would see a shift in climate, with the subtropical Mordor region being more like Los Angeles or western Texas." The full academic paper is available in English, Elvish, and Dwarfish.
SternisheFan sends this excerpt from a JPL news release: "NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn's north pole. This is the first hexagon movie of its kind (GIF), using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude. Spanning about 20,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200-mile-per-hour winds (about 322 kilometers per hour) with a massive, rotating storm at the center. There is no weather feature exactly, consistently like this anywhere else in the solar system. 'The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable,' said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 'A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades — and who knows — maybe centuries.'"
Velcroman1 writes "A U.S. spacecraft hasn't made a controlled landing on the moon since Apollo 17 left the lunar surface on Dec. 14, 1972. That's about to change. Moon Express will unveil the MX-1 spacecraft at the Autodesk University show in Las Vegas Thursday evening — a micro-spacecraft that will in 2015 mark the first U.S. 'soft' landing since the days of the Apollo program, FoxNews.com has learned. The craft looks for all the world like a pair of donuts wearing an ice cream cone, and the tiny vehicle clearly isn't big enough for a human being. But it is big enough to scoop up some rocks and dirt, store them in an internal compartment, and return it to Earth. After all, the moondirt Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin once trod holds a king's ransom of titanium, platinum, and other rare elements. Moon Express plans to mine it."
Garabito writes "In April 2009, Australia's then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, dropped a bombshell on the press and the global technology community: His social democrat Labor administration was going to deliver broadband Internet to every single resident of Australia. It was an audacious goal, not least of all because Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. ... So now, after three years of planning and construction, during which workers connected some 210 000 premises (out of an anticipated 13.2 million), Australia's visionary and trailblazing initiative is at a crossroads. The new government plans to deploy fiber only to the premises of new housing developments. For the remaining homes and businesses — about 71 percent — it will bring fiber only as far as curbside cabinets, called nodes. Existing copper-wire pairs will cover the so-called last mile to individual buildings."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Telegraph reports that NASA plans to send turnip, cress, and basil seeds to the Moon inside a specially constructed canister, known as the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber. The chamber will carry enough air for 10 days and NASA says the air in the chamber would be adequate to allow the seeds to sprout and grow for five days. It is hoped that the latest experiment will help to pave the way for astronauts to grow their own food while living on a lunar base. NASA says it will use natural sunlight to germinate the plants inside the chamber and the seeds will grow on pieces of filter paper laden with nutrients. 'If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can. Thriving plants are needed for life support — food, air, water — for colonists. And plants provide psychological comfort, as the popularity of the greenhouses in Antarctica and on the Space Station show.' The Lunar Plant Growth Chamber is expected to weigh around 2.2lbs and will also carry 10 seeds each of basil and turnips. Upon landing on the Moon a trigger would release a small reservoir of water to wet the filter paper and initiate the germination of the seeds. Photographs of the seedlings would be taken at regular intervals to monitor their progress and compare them to seedlings being growing in similar conditions on Earth."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Industry Tap reports that there is a place so quiet you can hear your heart beat, your lungs breathe and your stomach digest. It's the anechoic chamber at Orfield Labs in Minnesota where 3ft of sound-proofing fiberglass wedges and insulated steel and concrete absorbs 99.99% of sound, making it the quietest place in the world. 'When it's quiet, ears will adapt,' says the company's founder and president, Steven Orfield. 'The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You'll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.' The chamber is used by a multitude of manufacturers, to test how loud their products are and the space normally rents for $300 to $400 an hour. 'It's used for formal product testing, for research into the sound of different things — heart valves, the sound of the display of a cellphone, the sound of a switch on a car dashboard.' But the strangest thing about the chamber is that sensory deprivation makes the room extremely disorienting, and people can rarely stay in the dark space for long. As the minutes tick by in absolute quiet, the human mind begins to lose its grip, causing test subjects to experience visual and aural hallucinations. 'We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark — one reporter stayed in there for 45 minutes,' says Orfield who says even he can't stand the quiet for more than about 30 minutes. Nasa uses a similar chamber to test its astronauts putting them in a water-filled tank inside the room to see 'how long it takes before hallucinations take place and whether they could work through it.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has proposed destroying at least 1000 tons of the confiscated Syrian chemical weapon stockpile out at sea, which some fear will destroy delicate ecosystems vital to sea and human life alike. The OPCW claims the plan is 'technically feasible' and is apparently willing to risk ecological disaster to destroy the toxic contents of the weaponry in or above the sea. Members of the press were told, 'the group is considering whether to destroy the chemical weapons in the ocean, either on a ship or by loading them onto an offshore rig.'"
An anonymous reader writes "New research suggests that the amount of methane being released from Siberian permafrost is much larger than previously thought. From the article: 'Thawing permafrost gets a lot of attention as a positive feedback that could amplify global warming by releasing carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. Because of this, a lot of effort goes into studying Arctic permafrost. An international group of researchers led by Natalia Shakhova at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has been plying the remote waters of the Siberian Shelf for about a decade to find out how much methane was coming up from the thawing permafrost. They didn't expect to find it bubbling.'"
c0lo writes "A Chinese Long March rocket is scheduled to blast off to the Moon on Sunday evening at about 6pm UTC carrying a small robotic rover that will touch down on to the lunar surface in about two weeks' time – the first soft landing on the Earth's only natural satellite since 1976. China has been methodically and patiently building up the key elements needed for an advanced space programme — from launchers to manned missions in Earth orbit to unmanned planetary craft — and it is investing heavily. After only 10 years since it independently sent its first astronaut into space, China is forging ahead with a bold three-step programme beginning with the robotic exploration of possible landing sites for the first Chinese astronauts to set foot on lunar soil between 2025 and 2030. Prof Ouyang Ziyuan of the department of lunar and deep space exploration and an adviser to the mission commented to the BBC on the scale of Chinese thinking about the Moon. He said the forthcoming venture would land in an ancient crater 400km wide called Sinus Iridum, thought to be relatively flat and clear of rocks, and explore its geology. China.org.cn promised live coverage of the event."
jones_supa writes "An EU citizen uses around 200 plastic bags per year. That's too much, says the EU. But wasting plastic bags is not just a European problem. Countries around the world are struggling with the issue, and it especially affects growing economies such as Asia. Some Southeast Asian countries don't even have the proper infrastructure in place to dispose of the bags properly. The problems for the environment are many. Plastic bags usually take several hundred years until they decay, thereby filling landfills, while animals often mistake the plastic for food and choke to death. Additionally they are a major cause of seaborne pollution, which is a serious hazard for marine life. This autumn, EU started ambitious plans which aim to reduce usage 80% by 2017. Some countries have already applied measures to slow plastic bag use: England has added a 5p charge to previously free bags, and in Ireland the government has already imposed a tax of 22 euro cents ($0.29) per plastic bag. The EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potonik, said, 'We're taking action to solve a very serious and highly visible environmental problem.'"
necro81 writes "Little known even in environmental circles is a renewable energy success story: five geothermal power plants on Leyte Island in the Philippines — each of which produces enough power for the entire island — that collectively produce more than 10% of the Philippines' total electrical demand. From boreholes deep underground comes pressurized water heated to 280 Celsius. At the surface it flashes into steam, turning one set of turbines, then cools and contracts to spin a second set of turbines. The low-grade steam is then condensed back into water and reinjected into the bedrock. But Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the cooling towers, snapped transmission towers, and scattered the employees."
cold fjord writes "Earlier this year we discussed news of a shockingly powerful gamma-ray burst. Scientists have had time to study the phenomenon, but it's not offering up any easy answers. The Christian Science Monitor reports, 'An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole. Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years ... "Some of our theories are just going down the drain," said Charles Dermer, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico ... while typical long-duration bursts last from a few seconds to a few minutes, GRB 130427A put on its display for 20 hours. ... [W]ith GRB 130427A, some of the highest energy photons, including the new record-holder, appeared hours after the blast. "This is hard to explain with our current models," Dermer said. In addition, gamma rays and emissions at visible wavelengths brightened and dimmed in tandem, quite unexpected because theory suggested they come from different regions of the expanding shells of material and thus should have peaked and dimmed at different times. Finally, theorists had posited different mechanisms for generating gamma rays and X-rays that are part of the light show a long-duration gamma-ray burst puts on. The result should have been a fadeout for the two forms of light punctuated by periods where emissions were interrupted. Instead, the two dimmed smoothly. The theoretical edifice GRB 130427A is eroding has been 46 years in the making.' — The 21 November 2013 Science Express has abstracts for four related papers (first, second, third, fourth). More at Sky & Telescope and NASA."
cold fjord writes "It looks like no more spam, spam, spam for Norway's warriors... at least on Mondays. The Daily Caller reports, 'Norway's military is taking drastic steps to ramp up its war against global warming. The Scandinavian country announced its soldiers would be put on a vegetarian diet once a week to reduce the military's carbon footprint. "Meatless Monday's" has already been introduced at one of Norway's main military bases and will soon be rolled out to others, including overseas bases. It is estimated that the new vegetarian diet will cut meat consumption by 150 tons per year. "It's a step to protect our climate," military spokesman Eystein Kvarving told AFP. "The idea is to serve food that's respectful of the environment." ... The United Nations says that livestock farming is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting meat consumption, environmentalists argue, would help stem global warming and improve the environment." — The Manchester Journal reports, "The meatless Monday campaign launched in 2003 as a global non-profit initiative in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University to promote personal and environmental health by reducing meat consumption.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Plans to start up the EU's first global satellite navigation system (GNSS) built under civilian control, entirely independent of other navigation systems and yet interoperable with them, were approved by MEPs on Wednesday. Both parts of this global system — Galileo and EGNOS — will offer citizens a European alternative to America's GPS or Russia's Glonass signals. The Galileo system could be used in areas such as road safety, fee collection, traffic and parking management, fleet management, emergency call, goods tracking and tracing, online booking, safety of shipping, digital tachographs, animal transport, agricultural planning and environmental protection to drive growth and make citizens' lives easier."