July 2009

On the Nuclear Imperative

July 31, 2009

Sometimes our concerns about the human future are eerily like those of our ancestors. Giancarlo Genta (Politecnico di Torino) likes to quote an ancient Assyrian tablet on the matter, one said to have been rendered around 2800 BC: Our Earth is degenerate in these latter days; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey […]

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Cometary Catastrophe? Not So Fast…

July 30, 2009

Once again we’re asked to reconsider our views about the outer Solar System. In this case, the area in question is the Oort Cloud, which begins at roughly 1000 AU and continues, by some estimates, as far as three light years from the Sun. It’s a spherical cloud of comets, probably numbering in the billions […]

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Enceladus: More Evidence of Liquid Water

July 29, 2009

I’m pushed for time this morning but do want to catch up with Cassini news, in particular the recent findings from Enceladus. The plumes of water vapor and ice particles erupting from the moon continue to capture the imagination. Cassini’s Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer was used during Enceladus flybys in July and October of […]

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Notes & Queries 7/27/09

July 28, 2009

Tau Zero in the Press Edinburgh-based journalist Ian Brown offers up an overview of interstellar issues in Scotland’s Sunday Herald. The core of the story is an interview Brown conducted with Tau Zero founder Marc Millis, who as Brown notes was formerly the manager of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project. The Tau Zero Foundation grows […]

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Galactic Life in Context

July 27, 2009

Does complex life emerge at a gradual, uniform rate? If so, we can come up with one answer to the Fermi paradox: We have not detected signs of extraterrestrial life because the time needed for complex life to appear generally exceeds the life of a star on the main sequence. But the assumption that intelligence […]

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Updating the Gravitational Focus Mission

July 24, 2009

If you’ll examine the cover of Claudio Maccone’s new book carefully, you’ll see an interesting object at the lower right. It’s a spacecraft with two deployed antennae connected by a tether. The book is Maccone’s Deep Space Flight and Communications, whose subtitle — ‘Exploiting the Sun as a Gravitational Lens’ — tells us much about […]

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Habitable Exomoons Should Be Detectable

July 23, 2009

The hunt for exomoons — satellites of planets around other stars — gets more interesting all the time. This morning I received a note from David Kipping (University College London), who has been studying methods for finding such objects. Kipping and colleagues have a paper soon to be published by Monthly Notices of the Royal […]

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A New Jovian Impact

July 22, 2009

It’s a lively Solar System indeed. In yet another confirmation of the value of amateur astronomy, Australia’s Anthony Wesley tipped off scientists on July 19 that a new object had struck Jupiter and observatories around the world zeroed in on the event. It comes exactly fifteen years after the ‘string of pearls’ comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 […]

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Chinese Test of Eclipse Anomaly

July 21, 2009

Tibor Pacher has been kind enough to publish the text of my public lecture in Aosta, Italy on his PI Club site. The lecture took place at the Aosta town hall and wasn’t part of the ongoing conference just down the street, although some conference participants attended. It’s a broad overview of earlier work on […]

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On Apollo 11

July 20, 2009

I sometimes wonder whether Neil Armstrong wrestled all the way to the Moon with what he would say when he stepped out onto the surface. The answer is probably tucked away somewhere in the abundant literature on the Moon landings. I know that if it were me, I’d be turning over the options in my […]

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