CONTRA EL PINGALISMO CASTRISTA/ "Se que no existe el consuelo que no existe la anhelada tierrra de mis suenos ni la desgarrada vision de nuestros heroes. Pero te seguimos buscando, patria,..." - Reinaldo Arenas

Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta Universo. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta Universo. Mostrar todas las entradas

jueves, julio 10, 2014

Supernova Reveals Origins of Universe's Dust

supernova SN 2010
The supernova SN 2010jl (large white spot near top) produced dust much larger than usually found in the Milky Way. X-ray: NASA/CXC/RCA CA/P.Chandra et al); Optical: NASA/STScI
Cosmic dust is crucial to the birth of stars and rocky planets, and provides the elemental ingredients for life. But its origin is obscure. Many astrophysicists think that dust is forged during the explosive supernova deaths of massive, short-lived stars, yet some observations of supernovas near our galaxy indicate that they produce too little material to account for the copious amounts of dust present in the young Universe.
In Nature today, astronomers lift the veil on the mystery, documenting the formation of dust in a supernova from just a few weeks after the explosion to almost 2.5 years after it. The study reveals the formation of oversized dust grains that were able to withstand the shocks of the exploding star. It also shows that dust production was slow at first, but later sped up.
Most previous studies looked at each supernova for short periods of time, so “they did not tell us the full story of how much dust supernovas produce”, says co-author Christa Gall, an astrophysicist at Aarhus University in Denmark. She and her colleagues monitored the supernova SN 2010jl, first spotted in a nearby galaxy in 2010.
Light and heat
Using a spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in Chile, the team measured the amount of visible light absorbed by the dust particles and the infrared radiation that the particles themselves emitted.  
The team's data are particularly compelling because they provide this simultaneous coverage at a range of wavelengths from weeks to years after the explosion, says astronomer Rubina Kotak of Queen’s University Belfast, UK. This provides information about both the size and the composition of the grains.
Such coverage “is difficult to obtain for all but the nearest and brightest supernova events”, she says.
The team concluded that the dust present between 40 and 240 days after the explosion must have been made of material expelled before the star went supernova, because the only other possibility would be the debris hurled into interstellar space by the supernova itself. And this is too hot to condense into dust particles so soon after the explosion, Gall notes. As the expanding shock wave from the supernova swept by in this period after the explosion, it compressed the previously ejected material into a cold, dense shell — the perfect environment for dust to coalesce and grow.
Resistant to shockwaves
To their surprise, the astronomers found that the dust particles were enormous by Milky Way standards, measuring 1 to 4.2 micrometers across — at least four times the typical width of dust particles found between star systems in our home Galaxy. It is harder to form large dust particles, notes Gall, but their size makes them resistant to destruction by shocks associated with the supernova slamming into interstellar material, and probably accounts for their longevity. Large interstellar dust grains have previously been found in our Solar System.
During early observations, the amount of dust around SN 2010jl was relatively small, equivalent to less than one-ten-thousandth the mass of the Sun. But between 500 and 868 days after the explosion, dust formation accelerated and the dust mass increased more than 10-fold.
The revved-up rate marks a transition to a second phase in supernova dust production, says Gall. Once carbon-rich material and other debris generated during the supernova has cooled sufficiently, it begins to coalesce into dust, speeding up production. At day 868, the last time Gall’s team observed the supernova, the amount of dust had increased to 0.04 of the Sun’s mass, or 830 Earth masses.
If the increased dust production continues, in 20 years SN 2010jl will have produced the equivalent of half the Sun’s mass in dust particles, similar to the amount observed in the widely observed supernova SN 1987A. If numerous supernovae early in the Universe produced dust at a similar rate, it could indeed account for the dust observed in the young cosmos, says Gall.


miércoles, junio 25, 2014

Mysterious signal detected in galaxy 240 million light years away from earth

Astronomers have detected a mysterious signal 240 million light years away from Earth. The unidentified signal is a 'spike of intensity at a very specific wavelength of x-ray light', but scientists don't yet know what the origin is. Picked up in the Perseus Cluster, one of the biggest objects in the universe, the discovery is said to be the best evidence of dark matter yet. Astronomers believe dark matter constitutes 85 per cent of the matter in the universe, but doesn't emit or absorb light like normal matter such as protons or electrons, which are known to make up the familiar elements seen in planets, stars, and galaxies. Researchers suggest intensity coming from the Perseus Cluster could be a signature from the decay of a 'sterile neutrino' - which are a hypothetical type of neutrino thought to interact with normal matter via gravity. But while holding exciting potential, the results must be confirmed with additional data to rule out ... (More


domingo, marzo 23, 2014

A Celebration of Carl Sagan

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington was joined by Emmy Award-winner Seth MacFarlane and Ann Druyan, the longtime collaborator and widow of astrobiologist Carl Sagan, to celebrate the official opening of the Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive to the public at the Library of Congress. 


lunes, marzo 17, 2014

'Smoking Gun' Reveals How the Inflationary Big Bang Happened

Read on NBC News >>

jueves, enero 09, 2014

The Sights And Sounds Of The Solar System



lunes, junio 03, 2013

Never-before-seen alien planet just 300 light years from Earth

A newly discovered gaseous planet has been directly photographed orbiting a star about 300 light-years from Earth. Imaging alien planets is difficult, and this world may be the least massive planet directly observed outside of the solar system, scientists say.
A sharp new photo released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Monday, June 3, depicts the suspected gas giant (called HD 95086 b) circling its young star (named HD 95086) in infrared light. The star has been removed from the image to allow the planet — shown as a bright blue dot at the bottom left of the picture — to shine through.
HD 95086 b was sighted by ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile. Based on the planet's brightness, scientists estimate that it is only about four or five times more massive than Jupiter. [See Amazing Photos of the Very Large Telescope]
Most exoplanets are discovered via indirect means, such as detecting a dip in a star's light when a planet passes in front of it, blocking part of its face, or finding a slight wobble in a star's movement caused by the gravitational tug of planets orbiting it.
"Direct imaging of planets is an extremely challenging technique that requires the most advanced instruments, whether ground-based or in space," Julien Rameau, an astronomer at the Institute of Astrophysics and Planetology in France and lead author of the study announcing the discovery, said in a statement. "Only a few planets have been directly observed so far, making every single discovery an important milestone on the road to understanding giant planets and how they form."
Another photo from ESO shows the star and its planet in context with other stars in the southern constellation of Carina, the keel.
The planet orbits its star at about twice the distance from the sun to Neptune and about 56 times the distance between Earth and the sun. The blue circle in the photo represents the distance between the sun and Neptune.
HD 95086 is relatively young star at only 10 million to 17 million years old, making the formation of the exoplanet and the dusty disc surrounding the star potentially intriguing to researchers.
"[The planet's] current location raises questions about its formation process," Anne-Marie Lagrange, one of Rameau's team members, said in a statement. "It either grew by assembling the rocks that form the solid core and then slowly accumulated gas from the environment to form the heavy atmosphere, or started forming from a gaseous clump that arose from gravitational instabilities in the disc. Interactions between the planet and the disc itself or with other planets may have also moved the planet from where it was born."
The research will be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.


jueves, mayo 16, 2013

Wheel fails on NASA’s Kepler probe, halting its search for alien planets

By Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News
NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope suffered a second failure in its reaction-wheel control system, forcing a suspension of its search for alien planets while the space agency determines whether the four-year mission is truly finished.
"It's certainly not good news," Charles Sobeck, deputy project manager for the $600 million mission at NASA's Ames Research Center, told reporters Wednesday.
But Sobeck and other mission managers emphasized that there was still a chance that the probe could be revived. "I wouldn't call Kepler down and out just yet," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters.
The problem has to do with the reaction wheels that are part of Kepler's fine-pointing system. The space telescope identifies worlds in far-off solar systems by watching for the telltale dips in starlight when the planet's disk passes over its parent sun. But in order to make those observations, Kepler has to hold itself in a precise position with the aid of four gyroscopic reaction wheels. One of the wheels failed last July, but Kepler could still do the job with the other three.
On Sunday, however, the spacecraft put itself into safe mode when it couldn't stay in its proper orbit around the sun, 40 million miles (64 million kilometers) from Earth. When the mission team did its regular check-up with Kepler on Tuesday, they found that a second reaction wheel wasn't working. In a mission update, NASA said the problem was probably caused by "a structural failure of the wheel bearing."
That forced an end to Kepler's planet quest. "We need three wheels in service to give us the pointing precision to make this work," the mission's principal investigator, William Borucki of NASA Ames, told NBC News.
Sobeck said the spacecraft itself could remain stable as long as it had fuel for its thrusters, but the thrusters aren't capable of providing the precise pointing that Borucki and his colleagues need. Over the next several months, members of the Kepler team will assess their technical options, and gauge what kind of science could be accomplished using those options, said Paul Hertz, astrophysics director at NASA Headquarters.
There's still a chance that the reaction-wheel system could be restored — for example, by trying to spin the wheel backward and forward, just as you might spin the wheels of a car that's stuck in a snowdrift. Sobeck said it might even be possible to revive the wheel that was shut down last July. "When we turn it on, it just might start spinning, we don't know," he said.
But mission managers also acknowledged that Kepler's planet-hunting days may be over. Hertz pointed out that the spacecraft outlasted its 3.5-year primary mission, and was currently into an extended mission costing $20 million a year.
Even if the spacecraft's control system can't be revived, it will still take another couple of years to analyze the trillions of bits of data already collected, Borucki said. The mission has already identified 132 confirmed planets and 2,740 additional candidates yet to be confirmed. Some of those worlds are thought to lie within the habitable zones of their planetary systems.
"The prime reason for the existence of this mission is to determine whether Earths are common or rare in our galaxy," Borucki said. So far, the evidence suggests that there are billions of Earth-size planets in the Milky Way. Scientists have not yet identified an Earth-size planet in an Earthlike orbit around a sunlike star, but Borucki voiced confidence that the crucial evidence was tucked away somewhere in the readings that have already been beamed down from Kepler.
"I am really delighted, frankly, with what we've accomplished," he said.


jueves, mayo 09, 2013

78,000 People Apply for One-Way Trip to Mars
An ambitious project to establish a human colony on Mars has attracted applications from tens of thousands of would-be astronauts, just two weeks after applications opened.
The mission, a private venture by the Dutch non-profit organization Mars One, aims to send a crew to the Red Planet in 2022 – and, due to the physiological change in the human body after a stay on Mars, there’d be no coming back. That hasn’t deterred people, though: so far, over 78,000 people have applied to become one of Mars’ first immigrants (the company is expecting 500,000 applicants by the time applications close on August 31). “This is turning out to be the most desired job in history,” says Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One.
Day-to-day life on Mars will be no picnic: The organization says that the daily routine on the planet would involve construction work on the colony (installing greenhouses, for example), maintenance of the settlement’s systems and research into Mars’ climate and geological history–all in an inhospitable environment with unbreathable air and an average temperature in the planet’s mid-latitudes of around -58 degrees Farenheit.
But Mars One says it is not looking for applicants with specific skills, such as a science degree, that might be useful during an interplanetary posting. Instead, they are looking for people who “have a deep sense of purpose, willingness to build and maintain healthy relationships, the capacity for self-reflection and ability to trust.” They also want volunteers who are “resilient, adaptable, curious, creative and resourceful.” Candidates will receive a minimum of eight years training before leaving Earth, the company says.
“Gone are the days when bravery and the number of hours flying a supersonic jet were the top criteria for selection. Now, we are more concerned with how well each astronaut works and lives with the others–and for a lifetime of challenges ahead,” said Norbert Kraft, a former Senior Research Associate at NASA and Chief Medical Director for Mars One in a statement published on Mars One’s website.
Candidates hailing from over 120 countries (although the vast majority are from the U.S.) uploaded a video to Mars One’s website explaining why they’re suitable for the mission. Kyle, a 21-year-old grocery store clerk from the U.S., says he wants to be “an explorer and pioneer at the forefront of history.” Steven, a 43-year-old American who works in electronics, has even higher hopes for the mission: “I would like to go to Mars… to discover new life,” he says.
In addition to people skills, successful applicants must be good fundraisers too: Mars One plans to raise much of the mission’s $6 billion estimated cost through a reality TV show following the applicants as they undergo preparations for the one-way trip to Mars. They’ve got a little way to go yet, though: as of April 29, the money raised through donations and merchandise stood at $84,121.


A Three-Mile-Long Asteroid Buzzes the Earth


sábado, abril 13, 2013

Stephen Hawking Says Humans Won't Survive Another 1,000 Years On Earth

Popular Science

Stephen Hawking In Space
Stephen Hawking Wikimedia Commons
Physicist Stephen Hawking, speaking at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said if humans don't migrate from the planet Earth to colonize other planets, they'll face extinction in 1,000 years. So, phew, we're good, guys. We've got like 900-plus years to just sit on this. That's a relief. [RT]


martes, febrero 12, 2013

University of Bonn Study Reveals Universe is Like A Computer Simulation



viernes, febrero 01, 2013

Last Night: Sun grows super-hot 'dragon tail' in amazing NASA video

Jan. 31, 2013: A huge filament of super-hot plasma, nicknamed the "Dragon Tail," erupts from the sun in this still image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. (NASA SDO)

A NASA spacecraft studying the sun has recorded amazing video of a giant plume of super-hot plasma erupting from the star's surface, only to crash back down hours later.
The solar plasma eruption, which NASA scientists nicknamed a "Dragon Tail," rose up from the sun's surface Thursday and was spotted by the agency's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a powerful spacecraft that constantly records the sun's weather in different wavelengths of light.
'Some of the plasma was released into space but not all could escape the gravitational pull of the sun.'
- Solar Dynamics Observatory mission officials
A video of the Dragon Tail solar eruption shows a tendril of solar plasma, which scientists call a "filament," extending across the northeastern face of the sun over the course of four hours. Near the end of the event, the filament begins to break apart.
"Some of the plasma was released into space but not all could escape the gravitational pull of the sun," SDO mission officials explained in a video description. "It's not surprising that plasma should fall back to the sun. After all, the sun's gravity is powerful. "
Filaments are plasma formations on the sun sculpted by the star's intense magnetic field, with one end anchored to the sun's surface. The other end can extend through the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, hundreds of thousands of miles into space.
Filament structures typically last about a single day, though stable ones can exist for months at a time, SDO officials explained. The plasma in filaments consists of super-hot helium and hydrogen that is electrically charged, they added.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is one of several spacecraft constantly monitoring the sun for signs of solar flares, eruptions and other space weather events. The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle and is expected to reach its peak activity period in 2013. The current sun weather cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24.


lunes, enero 21, 2013

Giant Mars crater shows evidence of ancient lake

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Ariz.
This false-color view of the floor of McLaughlin Crater shows sedimentary rocks that contain spectroscopic evidence for minerals formed through interaction with water. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded the image.
New photos of a huge crater on Mars suggest water may lurk in crevices under the planet's surface, hinting that life might have once lived there, and raising the possibility that it may live there still, researchers say. 
Future research looking into the chances of life on Mars could shed light on the origins of life on Earth, scientists added.
The discovery came from a study of images by NASA's powerful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that revealed new evidence of a wet underground environment on the Red Planet. The images focused on the giant McLaughlin Crater, which is about 57 miles (92 kilometers) wide and so deep that underground water appears to have flowed into the crater at some point in the distant past.
Today, the crater is bone-dry but harbors clay minerals and other evidence that liquid water filled the area in the ancient past.
"Taken together, the observations in McLaughlin Crater provide the best evidence for carbonate forming within a lake environment instead of being washed into a crater from outside," study lead author Joseph Michalski, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and London's Natural History Museum, said in a statement. 
Keep reading on  Space >>


viernes, diciembre 21, 2012

Darwin in Space: How Multigenerational Missions Could Shape Human Evolution

“New environments inside this starship, for example, new radiation environments, whatever the gas composition is that people are breathing, whatever is the gravity field, those basic environmental conditions will reshape the human genome.”
That’s Cameron Smith. He’s an anthropologist at Portland State University who studies human evolution and prehistory. But he’s also very interested in the human future, including how space travel will impact the human race—both culturally and biologically. He wrote an article on the subject in the January issue of Scientific American, called “Starship Humanity.” He recently talked by phone with John Matson, host of our 60-Second Space podcast, about what might happen to a spacefaring humanity if we really were to take a star trek.
John Matson: This article that you’ve written for Scientific American, maybe you can just give us a brief overview of what the article is about.
Cameron Smith: You bet. So far the experience of humanity in space has been very limited. We have gone up for short periods of time, we’ve gone in very small numbers. But as space access becomes cheaper and more people start going up, eventually we’re going to have communities, we’re going to have populations of people up there. And then it shifts, our understanding of that is going to have to shift from purely biology to anthropology. These will be communities of people, and of course communities are cultural and they’re also biological. So anthropology marries culture and biology. And it will be used to help us plan out successful space colonization.
JM: Let’s say, just to set a scenario, a group of space travelers sets out on a multigenerational voyage to Alpha Centauri, where we now know that there is an exoplanet. What’s going to happen to these people on the way?
CS: Well, we can only predict that change will occur. We can make some predictions about some very few biological changes that might occur. But because mutation is random, and mutation is the origin of new characteristics in populations, because that is ultimately random, it’s not entirely possible to say precisely what will happen. What we can say, though, is that new environments—for example, new radiation environments, whatever the gas composition is that people are breathing, whatever is the gravity field inside this starship—those basic environmental conditions will reshape the human genome. Subtly, subtly, but they will reshape it.
We know that we have evolved under almost 15 pounds of pressure per square inch at sea level. And in the last few thousand years, though, some people have migrated to higher elevations, where they are under somewhat less pressure. Their biology has changed to account for that, or to make it possible to live there. They have different blood oxygen levels, they have deeper chests with greater what is called lung ventilation, greater capacity for breathing in and taking in oxygen. And even the biology of the developing infant is somewhat different. And I am certain that exactly the same sort of thing, on that same magnitude, will happen in off-Earth environments.
JM: What about weightlessness? Do we have any sense of what that would do to human physiology in terms of stature or size of human beings?
CS: Weightlessness is a big issue, and 30 years of almost continuous presence of humans in space—this is quite amazing—whether in Mir or the International Space Station or other stations, for 30 years somebody has been in Earth orbit almost continuously. What they have learned through that long period is that, yeah, weightlessness can have some pretty detrimental effects. Bone loss is one of them. Muscle is also reduced, but bone loss is a big one.
And so, I don’t think we’re going to try to do long-term space colonization in free-floating zero gravity. So we’ll go to places like Mars where there is one third, roughly, the gravity of Earth, and I think we’ll build these things that rotate and give us artificial—well, they give us gravity by rotating. You saw it in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the rotating space station. That works, and I think we’re going to be doing that for a much longer time than trying to actually live in zero or very small gravity.
But yes, it will have effects on the physiology as well. I was thinking of course in Mars, at one third, roughly, gravity, essentially in evolution, essentially if you can get away with something that costs less energy to do than your sibling, you have a selective advantage. And on Mars if you don’t require all of the muscle that a person does on Earth, where you have an extra two thirds gravity, then presumably you live in better health and have more offspring. So in the long term on Mars I think we will eventually see a lighter, lither build than on Earth.
JM: So the image of those spindly little green men is maybe not too far-fetched.
CS: Maybe so.
JM: Now, do we have a sense of how quickly these changes start to happen?
CS: The time scale for significant biological changes—yes, you can get them in a few centuries. You can start to see effects on the physiology in a number of centuries. This is the timescale that I’ve been working with. For example I’m in contact with a group in Germany called Icarus Interstellar. They’re devising propulsion systems to reach stars on the scale of several centuries. So I’ve been thinking about that scale as well—what kind of changes would we see in that kind of time frame? And some basic population genetics calculations that I’ve done, that concern what’s called time-to-fixation, and this is the spread of novel genes in a population.
And this suggests that yes, within a few centuries you could have changes on the order of different skin hues, or altered skin colors, different hair textures. But radical reshaping of the human body, for example. major stature differences or even new anatomical structures, those should take much, much longer. Those should take into the many thousands of years.
JM: There’s definitely a perception, especially in this country, in the U.S., that space exploration is on pause, that it’s ground to a halt. I happen to disagree with that, but it’s clear that no one is going to Alpha Centauri tomorrow. So why is it important to consider all these things now? Why is it important to think out all the implications of what space travel might mean?
CS: It’s absolutely important to start now because there’s so much to do. I mean, if we’re talking about long-term voyages, we’re talking about again, understanding things that we are just barely understanding today. For example, we have only in the last two decades got a high-resolution understanding of the human genome. And that helps us to understand human evolution, and evolution, it cannot be stopped. The only way to stop it is with extinction. And evolution of humanity is going to continue in space. And to prepare for it—again, you could do it without anthropology, but I don’t think it would survive. I don’t think it would work. So to do it with a good expectation of success, we need to think in long term. Well, what is the field that has given us a long-term understanding of humanity? That’s anthropology. Biology, relatively short-term, although it deals with evolution. But humanity, human evolution is somewhat different from most other evolution. And it's anthropology that has explored that. So, I think anthropology is going to be central to this.
JM: So as the physicists and engineers are working on propulsion systems and cosmic ray shielding, this is something that anthropologists should be working on in parallel, you believe?
CS: I believe absolutely we need to build an anthropology of space, an anthropology of space colonization. We know if we're going to spend generations in space that you have to prepare for the long term. Again, we think of it as people pop up there and they come back down. And the long-term view is, no, eventually, this will be migration. And this is part of the goal. Even just a few years ago NASA had a Vision Report that they released, which said that the essential mission of NASA was to better life here on Earth, to extend life there, that is, move some part of humanity to be able to live off of earth, and to find life beyond, that is exobiology. The interesting thing there is that in common in all three of those, what is common about those, it's not computers, it's not the technology, you need all of that, but what is common about those three statements is that it's about life. It's about living things. And living things change through time by evolution, and it's anthropology that has understood human evolution.
JM: You have a fairly recent book out about evolution.
CS: I have a book out now, a Popular Science book about human adaptation and space colonization, and in that my co-author and I are sketching out, it's an exploration, we're sketching out some of the kinds of ways that anthropology can assist us in making a success of space colonization. But right now I'm working on a technical book, it'll be a couple of years down the line, that again brings everything pertinent known from anthropology to the concept of space colonization, and hopefully that can be a foundation for a space anthropology.
JM: Now just to sort of wrap things up here, aside from the physics and the engineering of the actual spacecraft, what do you think will be the biggest challenge facing either the people who are putting together a crew for a long-duration spaceflight, or for the crew themselves?
CS: Well, one critique of this whole endeavor of space colonization and space activity by people in general is that, well, this isn’t going to fix humanity. We’re just going to transport our ancient problems off of the surface of the Earth. Well, I think so. Yeah, this isn’t meant to fix humanity. It is meant to give humanity an insurance policy. If the Earth is hit by a catastrophe, at least someone is left, if we are a several-planet species, for example.
The biggest challenge, I think they’ll be both biological and cultural. We don’t know how reproduction works in space. We also have to be very careful—we can’t just be ready to go and colonize space once we understand human biology in space and human evolution. We have thousands of plant and animal domesticates that are going to have to go with us. We can’t be eating canned food for generations. We have to ensure the health of those populations as well. That is why, you asked before, why start now? Well, there is a tremendous amount to do to think about all this.
So what will be the challenges? They will be both biological and cultural. We will have biological evolution happening—some of it will be painful. Much of that evolution will play out on those early stages of development. And there will be an increase, let’s say, in infant mortality. We’ll also have our same cultural baggage. We have ethnic rivalries, we have political differences, we have religious issues. I don’t think that’s going to go away. We should certainly take our best nature with us, but those things are rather ancient, and I think those will be as big a challenge as the biology.
Cameron Smith’s book, co-authored with Evan Davies is titled Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space Colonization. And Smith’s article "Starship Humanity" is in the January issue of Scientific American. A short preview is available free on the Web site, titled "How Humans Will Evolve on Multigenerational Space-Exploration Missions."
That’s it for this episode. Get your science news at our Web site,, where you can check out the In-Depth Report about Humanity’s Enduring Fascination with the Apocalypse. The so-called Mayan apocalypse is just the latest in a long line of doomsday predictions. And, ironically, it will not be the last. And follow us on Twitter, where you’ll get a tweet whenever a new article hits the Web site. Our Twitter name is @sciam. For Scientific American’s Science Talk, I’m Steve Mirsky, thanks for clicking on us.


An information-processing approach to the origin of life

Is life based on software and information? (Plants in the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda; credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A novel approach to the question of life’s origin, proposed by two Arizona State University scientists — Paul Davies, an ASU Regents’ Professor and director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and Sara Walker, a NASA post-doctoral fellow at the Beyond Center — in an open-access Journal of the Royal Society Interface paper, attempts to dramatically redefine the problem.
The authors shift attention from the “hardware” — the chemical basis of life — to the “software” — its information content. They suggest that the crucial distinction between non-life and life is the way living organisms manage the information flowing through the system.
“We propose that the transition from non-life to life is unique and definable,” said Davies. “We suggest that life may be characterized by its distinctive and active use of information, thus providing a roadmap to identify rigorous criteria for the emergence of life. This is in sharp contrast to a century of thought in which the transition to life has been cast as a problem of chemistry, with the goal of identifying a plausible reaction pathway from chemical mixtures to a living entity.”
“Chemical based approaches,” Walker said, “have stalled at a very early stage of chemical complexity — very far from anything we would consider ‘alive.’ More seriously they suffer from conceptual shortcomings in that they fail to distinguish between chemistry and biology.”
“To a physicist or chemist life seems like ‘magic matter,’” Davies explained. “It behaves in extraordinary ways that are unmatched in any other complex physical or chemical system. Such lifelike properties include autonomy, adaptability and goal-oriented behavior — the ability to harness chemical reactions to enact a pre-programmed agenda, rather than being a slave to those reactions.
“We believe the transition in the informational architecture of chemical networks is akin to a phase transition in physics, and we place special emphasis on the top-down information flow in which the system as a whole gains causal purchase over its components, This approach will reveal how the logical organization of biological replicators differs crucially from trivial replication associated with crystals (non-life). By addressing the causal role of information directly, many of the baffling qualities of life are explained.”
Nonlocal biological functions
“The most important features of biological information (i.e. functionality) are decisively nonlocal,” the authors say. “Biologically functional information is therefore not an additional quality, like electric charge, painted onto matter and passed on like a token. It is of course instantiated in biochemical structures, but one cannot point to any specific structure in isolation and say “Aha! Biological information is here!”
The authors expect that, by re-shaping the conceptual landscape in this fundamental way, not just the origin of life, but other major transitions will be explained — for example, the leap from single cells to multi-cellularity.
“In all of these cases where appeal is made to an informational narrative, we encounter context- (state-) dependent causation. In this respect, biological systems are quite unlike traditional mechanical systems evolving according to fixed laws of physics.
“In biological causation, subject to informational control and feedback, the dynamical rules will generally change with time in a manner that is both a function of the current state and the history of the organism (suggesting perhaps that even the concept of evolution itself may be in need of revision.”
Life in non-organic substrates?
This perspective “forces new thinking in how life might have arisen on a lifeless planet, by shifting emphasis to the origins of information control, rather than — for example — the onset of Darwinian evolution or the appearance of autocatalytic sets (i.e. either analog or digital that lack information control), which, although certainly important to the story of life’s emergence, do not rigorously define how/when life emerges as a function of chemical complexity.
“It also permits a broader view of life, where the same underlying principles would permit understanding of living systems instantiated in different chemical substrates (including potentially non-organic substrates). …
“Purely analog life-forms could have existed in the past but are not likely to survive over geological timescales without acquiring explicitly digitized informational protocols. Therefore life-forms that ‘go digital’ may be the only systems that survive in the long-run and are thus the only remaining product of the processes that led to life.
“As such, the onset of Darwinian evolution in a chemical system was likely not the critical step in the emergence of life. … Instead, the emergence of life was likely marked by a transition in information processing capabilities. This transition should be marked by a reversal in the causal flow of information from bottom-up only to a situation characterized by bi-directional causality.
“Characterizing the emergence of life as a shift in causal structure due to information gaining causal efficacy over matter marks the origin of life as a unique transition in the physical realm.”
Hallmarks of life
The authors suggest these specific hallmarks of life:
  • Global organization
  • Information as a causal agency
  • Top-down causation
  • Analog and digital information processing
  • Laws and states co-evolve
  • Logical structure of a universal constructor
  • Dual hardware and software roles of genetic material
  • Non-trivial replication
  • Physical separation of instructions (algorithms) from the mechanism that implements them
Walker is also affiliated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute in Mountain View, Calif. and the Blue Marble Space Institute, Seattle.


jueves, diciembre 20, 2012

Debunking doomsday, rumor by rumor


miércoles, diciembre 12, 2012

Orbiter spots an alien Nile on Titan

NASA / JPL-Caltech /ASI
This radar image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, acquired on Sept. 26, shows a vast river system on Saturn's moon Titan. Check out the full-size version from NASA or the European Space Agency.
NASA's Cassini orbiter has spotted a river system on the Saturnian moon Titan that's reminiscent of the River Nile — except that this river is presumably filled with liquid ethane and methane instead of water.
The Titanic Nile shows up on a grainy, black-and-white picture from Cassini's radar imager, which can look through Titan's thick, smoggy atmosphere to map the surface features beneath.
The picture was taken on Sept. 26 and released today by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the European Space Agency. It shows a branching river valley, running more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) from its headwaters to Titan's Kraken Mare, a hydrocarbon sea that's somewhere between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean in size.
Just as Earth has a water-based hydrological cycle, Titan has a weather cycle that moves ethane and methane around its surface and through the atmosphere. That's due to Titan's surface temperature (averaging minus-290 degrees Fahrenheit, or -179 degrees Celsius) and atmospheric pressure (one and a half times that of Earth's atmosphere).
"Titan is the only place we've found besides Earth that has a liquid in continuous movement on its surface," Steve Wall, the radar deputy team lead, said in JPL's news release. "This picture gives us a snapshot of a world in motion. Rain falls, and rivers move that rain to lakes and seas, where evaporation starts the cycle all over again. On Earth, the liquid is water; on Titan, it's methane; but on both it affects most everything that happens."
During the eight and a half years that Cassini has been passing over Saturn and its moons, the bus-sized orbiter has mapped Titan's seas, lakes and rivers in amazing detail. The orbiter even dropped a mini-probe known as Huygens down to Titan's surface for an on-the-ground view of the terrain.
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martes, diciembre 04, 2012

CERN's Quest to Create a Microscopic Black Hole


sábado, diciembre 01, 2012

'Makemake' - A New Discovery in Our Solar System


lunes, noviembre 26, 2012

2023: Pioneer wants 80,000 of us to colonize Mars

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and CEO of the private spaceflight company SpaceX, wants to help establish a Mars colony of up to 80,000 people by ferrying explorers to the Red Planet for perhaps $500,000 a trip.
In Musk's vision, the ambitious Mars settlement program would start with a pioneering group of fewer than 10 people, who would journey to the Red Planet aboard a huge reusable rocket powered by liquid oxygen and methane.
"At Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilization and grow it into something really big," Musk told an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on Nov. 16. Musk was there to talk about his business plans, and to receive the society’s gold medal for his contribution to the commercialization of space.
Mars pioneers Accompanying the founders of the new Mars colony would be large amounts of equipment, including machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet's subsurface water ice.
The Red Planet pioneers would also take construction materials to build transparent domes, which when pressurized with Mars’ atmospheric CO2 could grow Earth crops in Martian soil. As the Mars colony became more self sufficient, the big rocket would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment. [Future Visions of Human Spaceflight]
Musk’s architecture for this human Mars exploration effort does not employ cyclers, reusable spacecraft that would travel back and forth constantly between the Red Planet and Earth — at least not at first
"Probably not a Mars cycler; the thing with the cyclers is, you need a lot of them," Musk told "You have to have propellant to keep things aligned as (Mars and Earth’s) orbits aren’t (always) in the same plane. In the beginning you won’t have cyclers."
Musk also ruled out SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which the company is developing to ferry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit, as the spacecraft that would land colonists on the Red Planet. When asked by what vehicle would be used, he said, "I think you just land the entire thing."
Asked if the "entire thing" is the huge new reusable rocket — which is rumored to bear the acronymic name MCT, short for Mass Cargo Transport or Mars Colony Transport — Musk said, "Maybe."
Musk has been thinking about what his colonist-carrying spacecraft would need, whatever it ends up being. He reckons the oxygen concentration inside should be 30 to 40 percent, and he envisions using the spacecraft’s liquid water store as a barrier between the Mars pioneers and the sun. More >>
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"EN TIEMPOS DIFÍCILES" - Heberto Padilla

A aquel hombre le pidieron su tiempo

para que lo juntara al tiempo de la Historia.

Le pidieron las manos,

porque para una época difícil

nada hay mejor que un par de buenas manos.

Le pidieron los ojos

que alguna vez tuvieron lágrimas

para que contemplara el lado claro

(especialmente el lado claro de la vida)

porque para el horror basta un ojo de asombro.

Le pidieron sus labios

resecos y cuarteados para afirmar,

para erigir, con cada afirmación, un sueño


le pidieron las piernas

duras y nudosas

(sus viejas piernas andariegas),

porque en tiempos difíciles

¿algo hay mejor que un par de piernas

para la construcción o la trinchera?

Le pidieron el bosque que lo nutrió de niño,

con su árbol obediente.

Le pidieron el pecho, el corazón, los hombros.

Le dijeron

que eso era estrictamente necesario.

Le explicaron después

que toda esta donación resultaria inútil.

sin entregar la lengua,

porque en tiempos difíciles

nada es tan útil para atajar el odio o la mentira.

Y finalmente le rogaron

que, por favor, echase a andar,

porque en tiempos difíciles

esta es, sin duda, la prueba decisiva.

Los Aldeanos: "El Socialismo en Tiempos del Colera: Toda Una Nación"


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La columna de Cubanalisis

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]
¨Saturno jugando con sus hijos¨/ Pedro Pablo Oliva


Carta desde la carcel de Fidel Castro Ruz

“…después de todo, para mí la cárcel es un buen descanso, que sólo tiene de malo el que es obligatorio. Leo mucho y estudio mucho. Parece increíble, las horas pasan como si fuesen minutos y yo, que soy de temperamento intranquilo, me paso el día leyendo, apenas sin moverme para nada. La correspondencia llega normalmente…”

“…Como soy cocinero, de vez en cuando me entretengo preparando algún pisto. Hace poco me mandó mi hermana desde Oriente un pequeño jamón y preparé un bisté con jalea de guayaba. También preparo spaghettis de vez en cuando, de distintas formas, inventadas todas por mí; o bien tortilla de queso. ¡Ah! ¡Qué bien me quedan! por supuesto, que el repertorio no se queda ahí. Cuelo también café que me queda muy sabroso”.
“…En cuanto a fumar, en estos días pasados he estado rico: una caja de tabacos H. Upman del doctor Miró Cardona, dos cajas muy buenas de mi hermano Ramón….”.
“Me voy a cenar: spaghettis con calamares, bombones italianos de postre, café acabadito de colar y después un H. Upman #4. ¿No me envidias?”.
“…Me cuidan, me cuidan un poquito entre todos. No le hacen caso a uno, siempre estoy peleando para que no me manden nada. Cuando cojo el sol por la mañana en shorts y siento el aire de mar, me parece que estoy en una playa… ¡Me van a hacer creer que estoy de vacaciones! ¿Qué diría Carlos Marx de semejantes revolucionarios?”.
¨La patria es dicha de todos, y dolor de todos, y cielo para todos, y no feudo ni capellaní­a de nadie¨ - Marti

"No temas ni a la prision, ni a la pobreza, ni a la muerte. Teme al miedo"
Giacomo Leopardi

¨Por eso es muy importante, Vicky, hijo mío, que recuerdes siempre para qué sirve la cabeza: para atravesar paredes¨Halvar de Flake [El vikingo]

"Como no me he preocupado de nacer, no me preocupo de morir" - Lorca

"Al final, no os preguntarán qué habéis sabido, sino qué habéis hecho" - Jean de Gerson

"Si queremos que todo siga como está, es necesario que todo cambie" - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

"Todo hombre paga su grandeza con muchas pequeñeces, su victoria con muchas derrotas, su riqueza con múltiples quiebras" - Giovanni Papini

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" - John Lennon

"Habla bajo, lleva siempre un gran palo y llegarás lejos" - Proverbio Africano

"No hay medicina para el miedo" - Proverbio escoces

"El supremo arte de la guerra es doblegar al enemigo sin luchar"
- Sun Tzu

"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother" - Albert Einstein

"It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office" - H. L. Menken

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" - Elie Wiesel

"Stay hungry, stay foolish" -
Steve Jobs

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert , in five years ther'ed be a shortage of sand" - Milton Friedman

"The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less" - Vaclav Havel

"No se puede controlar el resultado, pero si lo que uno haga para alcanzarlo" -
Vitor Belfort [MMA Fighter]


A la puerta de la gloria está San Pedro sentado y ve llegar a su lado a un hombre de cierta historia. No consigue hacer memoria y le pregunta con celo: ¿Quién eras allá en el suelo? Era Liborio mi nombre. Has sufrido mucho, hombre, entra, te has ganado el cielo.

Para Raul Castro

Cuba ocupa el penultimo lugar en el mundo en libertad economica solo superada por Corea del Norte.

Cuba ocupa el lugar 147 entre 153 paises evaluados en "Democracia, Mercado y Transparencia 2007"

Cuando vinieron

Cuando vinieron a buscar a los comunistas, Callé: yo no soy comunista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los sindicalistas, Callé: yo no soy sindicalista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los judíos, Callé: yo no soy judío. Cuando vinieron a buscar a los católicos, Callé: yo no soy “tan católico”.
Cuando vinieron a buscarme a mí, Callé: no había quien me escuchara.

Reverendo Martin Niemöller

Martha Colmenares

Martha Colmenares
Un sitio donde los hechos y sus huellas nos conmueven o cautivan


Donde esta el Mundo, donde los Democratas, donde los Liberales? El pueblo de Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan los Green, los Socialdemocratas, los Ricos y los Pobres, los Con Voz y Sin Voz? Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan el Jet Set, los Reyes y Principes, Patricios y Plebeyos? Cuba desesperada clama por solidaridad.
Donde Bob Dylan, donde Martin Luther King, donde Hollywood y sus estrellas? Donde la Middle Class democrata y conservadora, o acaso tambien liberal a ratos? Y Gandhi? Y el Dios de Todos?
Donde los Santos y Virgenes; los Dioses de Cristianos, Protestantes, Musulmanes, Budistas, Testigos de Jehova y Adventistas del Septimo Dia. Donde estan Ochun y todas las deidades del Panteon Yoruba que no acuden a nuestro llanto? Donde Juan Pablo II que no exige mas que Cuba se abra al Mundo y que el Mundo se abra a Cuba?
Que hacen ahora mismo Alberto de Monaco y el Principe Felipe que no los escuchamos? Donde Madonna, donde Angelina Jolie y sus adoptados around de world; o nos hara falta un Brando erguido en un Oscar por Cuba? Donde Sean Penn?
Donde esta la Aristocracia Obrera y los Obreros menos Aristocraticos, donde los Working Class que no estan junto a un pueblo que lanquidece, sufre y llora por la ignominia?
Que hacen ahora mismo Zapatero y Rajoy que no los escuchamos, y Harper y Dion, e Hillary y Obama; donde McCain que no los escuchamos? Y los muertos? Y los que estan muriendo? Y los que van a morir? Y los que se lanzan desesperados al mar?
Donde estan el minero cantabrico o el pescador de percebes gijonese? Los Canarios donde estan? A los africanos no los oimos, y a los australianos con su acento de hombres duros tampoco. Y aquellos chinos milenarios de Canton que fundaron raices eternas en la Isla? Y que de la Queen Elizabeth y los Lords y Gentlemen? Que hace ahora mismo el combativo Principe Harry que no lo escuchamos?
Donde los Rockefellers? Donde los Duponts? Donde Kate Moss? Donde el Presidente de la ONU? Y Solana donde esta? Y los Generales y Doctores? Y los Lam y los Fabelo, y los Sivio y los Fito Paez?
Y que de Canseco y Miñoso? Y de los veteranos de Bahia de Cochinos y de los balseros y de los recien llegados? Y Carlos Otero y Susana Perez? Y el Bola, y Pancho Cespedes? Y YO y TU?
Y todos nosotros que estamos aqui y alla rumiando frustaciones y resquemores, envidias y sinsabores; autoelogios y nostalgias, en tanto Louis Michel comulga con Perez Roque mientras Biscet y una NACION lanquidecen?
Donde Maceo, donde Marti; donde aquel Villena con su carga para matar bribones?
Cuba llora y clama y el Mundo NO ESCUCHA!!!

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