Monthly Archives: September 2017

Ep 62: not quite a star, not quite a planet, not quite life

not quite a star, not quite a planet, not quite life

After a somewhat disjointed primer on organic chemistry, we talk about how the radiation of a protostar, bathing the protoplanetary disk, See the previous episode, can create the early chemical building blocks of life. This has happened in laboratory experiments, and the chemicals have been observed around young stars, in the material of comets, and in meteorites. This suggests that the very beginning of what would become life, happened during the very beginning of what would become our solar system, while we were not quite a star, not quite a planet and not quite life.

Here are a couple of articles about the laboratory experiments.

Amino Acids and Their Production during the Photolysis of Astrophysically relevant Ices

‘Building blocks for life’ may originate in space

Here are a couple of articles about sugar, detected in space!

Sugar Found In Space: A Sign of Life?

Space Sugar Discovered Around Sun-Like Star

Here’s an article on when a space craft examined material from a comet, discovering amino acids.

Building Blocks of Life Found in Comet’s Atmosphere

Burning through the atmosphere can get warm enough, but here’s an article that describes a meteorite that was heated much more, before it wiazed through the air and hit the surface of Earth. And yet, it still brought amino acids along for the ride.

Life’s Building Blocks Found on Surprising Meteorite

Ep 61: The bumpy road to becoming a star

The bumpy road to becoming a star

As a nebula collapses, there are forces which resist the collapse. Things like rotation, ionization and heat can overwhelm gravity and keep a given chunk of dust and gas from ever managing to start nuclear fusion and become a star. Those same forces, if the cloud manages to become a star, can help to form planets.

Here’s an article on how our solar system got the infusion of heavy elements needed to form rocky planets like our Earth.

A Step closer to understanding the birth of the sun

Here’s an article on an early stage collapsing cloud of dust and gas in the Eagle Nebula that has roughly the same amount of material as our solar system.

The Birth of the Sun

And here’s an article wherein a protostar was observed to increase in temperature, possibly from the in fall of material from its surrounding disk.

NASA Satellites Catch ‘Growth Spurt’ from Newborn Protostar

Ep 60: Oh where o where did our sun come from?

Oh where o where did our sun come from?

In episode 59, we talked about the “rare Earth hypothesis.” According to that school of thought, when and where a star is born, and when and where it lives, matters. Our Sun apparently showed up after a very active epic of star formation. This may have protected our baby solar system from being bathed by too much radiation. In addition, we orbit our galaxy in an area that has enough heavy elements for making rocky planets, but not too close to the overly hot and violent center of the milky way. Only, that’s not where we started. In fact, nobody is quite certain where we started, or how we got where we are now.

Here’s a NASA press release about the evolution of spiral galaxies, and evidence that suggests that stars were being born, around 10,000,000,000 years ago, at roughly 30 times the rate they are being born now.

Our Sun Came Late to the Milky Way’s Star-Birth Party

Here’s an article wherein a candidate for the birth place of our sun was eliminated from consideration, leaving us all scratching our heads.

Mystery Deepens Over Where Sun Was Born

Ep 59: How to make a mind—part2

How to make a mind—part2

What we need is our rare and wonderful Earth, and approximately 4.54 billion years. Of course, that begs the question. How did we end up with our Earth, and how important is it that a planet is like our Earth to create intelligent tool users? According to the “Rare Earth Hypothesis,” to get minds, many highly improbable things, things that happened to our planet, must take place. Otherwise you don’t even get to create anything as complicated as a flatworm, let alone intelligent tool users. Over the next several episodes, as we examine how our planet gave rise to our species, we’ll revisit this hypothesis and consider which of many factors are necessary, rare, or common in our cosmos.

Here are a couple of articles with further details on the “Rare Earth Hypothesis.”

The “Rare Earth” Hypothesis

How Rare Is the Earth?

Ep 58: Can’t we just look at it?

Can’t we just look at it?

In episode 56 and episode 57, we looked at a couple of methods of detecting planets that are orbiting around stars other than our own sun. These methods involve a good deal of analysis and inference. Today, we learn about how astronomers can look directly at a planet around another star, once the overwhelming glare of the star is blocked out.

Since this is the last episode on finding exoplanets, here are a couple of links to pages about finding them, should you desire to dig a bit deeper.

Exoplanet Exploration: Planets Beyond our Solar System

5 Ways to Find a Planet

Planet Hunters

Ep 57: The hunt for planet tomato

The hunt for planet tomato

Unlike the method described in the previous episode, the transit method allows one to look at many stars at a time. When a planet crosses between us and the star it’s orbiting, the star’s light dims very slightly. If we can detect that dimming, we can detect said planet.

Here’s a link to the Kepler mission, that used the transit method to detect many extra solar planets, including some that are roughly Earth sized, apparently somewhat Earth like, and even orbiting in their star’s habitable zone—not too far or too close and thus possibly with liquid water, a prerequisite for life.

Kepler and K2 Missions

Here’s a link to a site where you can help for the hunt for extra solar planets.

Planet Hunters

Ep 56: The stars wibble and wobble as their planets go round

The stars wibble and wobble as their planets go round

There are several ways of detecting planets that orbit stars other than our sun. One method, called Doppler spectroscopy, relies on the fact that an orbiting planet causes its star to wobble. Spectrometers are used to observe the spectral lines within the stars light, (see episode 44,) and measure changes in their red shift or blue shift, (see episode 46,) as the star wobbles.

Ep 55: The search for Planet 9

The search for Planet 9

@AntonyTheReal_ showed me a video recently, in which one of the folks was rather upset with NASA. It bothered him that they were presenting details of a planet orbiting another star, lightyears away, while at the same time, we’re still not certain whether or not there is a ninth planet within our own solar system. Today, we talk about the possible ninth planet—why it’s thought that there is one, and why the search for it is taking so very long.

Here’s an article put out back in 2016, describing the reasons for searching for Planet 9.

Caltech Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet

Ep 54: Irrational computers, investing, and racist robots

Irrational computers, investing, and racist robots

It’s easy to assume that computers and computer software, being without emotions, are more rational than we are. However, our software systems are like children of the mind, and they inherit our bias and irrationality. In fact, since they cannot judge context, they are less rational than we.

Here are a couple of talks on how computer programs, AKA. Algorithms, effect many aspects of our lives, despite being less than rational.

How algorithms shape our world

How I’m fighting bias in algorithms

Ep 53: Complex analysis, the stock market, and seeing what you expect

Complex analysis, the stock market, and seeing what you expect

Two theories about the stock market, the efficient market hypothesis and technical analysis, are each attempting to analyze the same complicated system—namely the stock market and the fluctuations of different share prices in different companies. Both theories start by assuming that the price always reflects all relevant information. Even though they both examine the same system, and start with the same assumption, they draw completely opposite conclusions. It’s just so terribly easy to see what you expect to see.