October 12, 2010
The recent discovery of Gliese 581g, an alien planet in the habitable zone of another star, has been an exciting development for scientists probing the galaxy for signs of extraterrestrial life. At least one claim of a possible signal from the planet has already surfaced – and been met with harsh skepticism among the science community.
Following the Sept. 29 announcement of the discovery of Gliese 581g, astronomer Ragbir Bhathal, a scientist at the University of Western Sydney, claimed to have detected a suspicious pulse of light nearly two years ago, that came from the same area of the galaxy as the location of Gliese 581g, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail online.
Bhathal is a member of the Australian chapter of SETI, a non-profit scientific organization that is dedicated to research, exploration and education in the field of astrobiology.
“Whenever there’s a clear night, I go up to the observatory and do a run on some of the celestial objects,” Bhathal told the Daily Mail. “Looking at one of these objects, we found this signal. We found this very sharp signal, sort of a laser lookalike thing which is the sort of thing we’re looking for – a very sharp spike. And that is what we found.”
Still, there are some scientists who are skeptical of Bhathal’s assertion.
“I know the scientist, and when he first announced it, I asked him for the details, and he wouldn’t send them to me,” astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake told SPACE.com. “I’m very suspicious.”
Drake is credited with conducting the first search for signals from extraterrestrial intelligences 50 years ago as part of what was then called Project Ozma. He coined the famed Drake Equation to calculate the number (N) of alien civilizations with whom we might be able to communicate.
Further study would perhaps confirm or deny the supposed observation, but Drake thinks that the claim is likely a dubious one.
Strange signal, or phantom?
Bhathal claimed to have detected the puzzling signal in Dec. 2008, almost two years before researchers announced the Gliese 581g finding, and long before it was announced that habitable planets were found orbiting the star Gliese 581 itself.
“I’m not aware of the location that was claimed for the source of that light, and [Bhathal] refused to tell me where it came from,” Drake said. “I think it’s very unlikely that it came from the direction of Gliese 581.”
Gliese 581g is one of two new worlds that was discovered orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which is located about 20.5 light-years from Earth. In total, there is a family of six planets that has been found around Gliese 581.
Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, and his colleague Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington announced the Gliese 581g finding in a press conference held by the National Science Foundation on Sept. 29.
About Gliese 581g
While there are six planets known to orbit around the parent star, Gliese 581g is the only one in the so-called habitable zone – a region where liquid water can exist. Astronomers have long-thought that the presence of liquid water, which accompanies life on Earth, could be a major ingredient for life on other worlds.
Observations have shown that Gliese 581g is between three and four times the mass of Earth. While it is larger than our planet, it is still classified as a nearly Earth-sized world. Its radius is between 1.3 and two times the size of Earth, scientists have said.
The planet has not been officially named yet (nor have any other worlds in the Gliese 581 system). But Vogt has given it the nickname “Zarmina’s World,” in honor of his wife.
August 13, 2010
By: S.L. Baker
It sounds like a futuristic sci fi idea: a non-toxic, earth friendly packing material that grows itself and, after it’s used, makes a great garden compost. But this isn’t fiction — it’s mushrooms.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), two former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute undergraduates, Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer, came up with the idea to make a composite of mushroom roots that could be used as a packing foam substitute. Their product, which they dubbed Mycobond, is now hitting the market and, according to a NSF press statement, has several advantages for the environment.
First of all, the manufacture of Mycobond requires just one eighth the energy and one tenth the carbon dioxide of traditional foam packing material. In fact, most of the manufacturing process is virtually energy-free with the mycelia (the vegetative parts of the mushrooms which consist of masses of branching, thread-like hyphae) simply growing by digesting agricultural starter material (mostly cotton seed or wood fiber) in a dark, room temperature environment.
The growth take place within a molded plastic structure which can be customized for whatever needs to be packed with the mushroom material. That means no energy at all is required for shaping the products. “We don’t manufacture materials, we grow them,” McIntyre explained in a statement to the media. “We’re converting agricultural byproducts into a higher-value product.”
The material has another economic benefit as well, he added, because the cost of mushroom packing material isn’t tied to the price fluctuations of synthetic materials that are derived from sources like petroleum. “All of our raw materials are inherently renewable and they are literally waste streams,” McIntyre said. “It’s an open system based on biological materials.”
Once fully formed, each Mycobond piece is heat-treated to stop the growth process and then delivered to the customer. Bayer and McIntyre, whose business is called Ecovative, are working to turn the entire process into a packaged kit that will eventually allow shipping facilities, and even homeowners, to grow their own Mycobond materials.
With support from NSF, McIntyre and Bayer are also developing an even less energy-intensive method to sterilize the agricultural waste starter material they use. Sterilization is a necessary step for enabling the mycelia to grow because it kills any spores that would compete with the growing-for-packing-material mushrooms. McIntyre and Bayer have been using a steam-heat sterilization process but they’ve now come up with a treatment made from cinnamon-bark oil, thyme oil, oregano oil and lemongrass oil that will allow the Mycobond mushroom product to grow in the open air, instead of their current clean-room environment.
“The biological disinfection process simply emulates nature in that it uses compounds that plants have evolved over centuries to inhibit microbial growth,” McIntyre said in a press statement. “The unintended result is that our production floor smells like a pizza shop.”
December 2, 2009
by Steve Watson
The leaking of thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit has shined a light on an industry of climate change alarmism, highlighting the hypocritical claims of corporate cronyism on behalf of proponents of the anthropological global warming theory (AGW).
A common accusation made by AGW theorists, or “the consensus” as they like to be known, is that dissenting groups are only interested in the financial kickbacks they can secure from big oil companies.
For example, in 2008, ExxonMobil donated around $7 million, less then 0.01% of it’s annual profits, to a selection of think tanks and institutes. Among these donations was a combined $125,000 to the National Center for Policy Analysis and the Heritage Institute, right of centre public policy groups that have questioned the “consensus” on climate change.
The NCPA website states: “NCPA scholars believe that while the causes and consequences of the earth’s current warming trend is still unknown, the cost of actions to substantially reduce CO2 emissions would be quite high and result in economic decline, accelerated environmental destruction, and do little or nothing to prevent global warming regardless of its cause.”
The London Guardian and other left leaning mainstream media outlets have pounced on Exxon’s small donations to such groups, reporting it as detestable corporate funding of “climate change denial”.
However, when it comes to the funding of AGW proponents, the figures are infinitely greater, many of the sources take their money directly from our pockets, and yet the Guardian and its ilk, conveniently, remain completely silent.
The leaked emails from the Hadley centre reveal that (now former) CRU chief Phil Jones has received 55 endowments since 1990 from agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of Energy to NATO, worth a total of £13,718,547, or approximately $22.6 million.
$19 million alone came between the years 2000 and 2006.
Massaging the scientific data, hiding a decline in temperatures, hijacking the peer-review system and blackballing dissenting scientific opinion does not look good for Jones in the context of such financial gain.
Another document leaked from the CRU, titled potential-funding.doc, lists sources of potential funding and shows that the scientists considered pressing “energy agencies” that specifically deal in new technology to reduce carbon emissions.
Three agencies listed as potential sources of funding are UK based Carbon Trust, the Northern Energy Initiative, and the Energy Saving Trust. Renewables North West, an American company promoting the expansion of solar, wind, and geothermal energy, is listed as a fourth potential benefactor.
Of course, all these potential financial backers have a vested interest in maintaining the conception that human-induced global warming is a reality backed by science.
In an article entitled Climategate: Follow the Money, columnist Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal points out that the funding of climate skeptics is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge industry that human-driven climate change science has spawned.
“The European Commission’s most recent appropriation for climate research comes to nearly $3 billion, and that’s not counting funds from the EU’s member governments. In the U.S., the House intends to spend $1.3 billion on NASA’s climate efforts, $400 million on NOAA’s, and another $300 million for the National Science Foundation. American states also have a piece of the action, with California—apparently not feeling bankrupt enough—devoting $600 million to their own climate initiative. In Australia, alarmists have their own Department of Climate Change at their funding disposal.” Stephens writes.