Light Friday: Earth-Like Planet, Space Wars Revisited, Offensive Bloggage…

… Handsome Riggs, Real Kryptonite, The Mathematics of a Frothy Head and The Who Who?

‘It’s Like Earth, Only We Haven’t Seen It’
Astronomers this week announced the discovery of Gliese 581 C, an “Earth-like” planet 20 light years outside our solar system.

Reuters reports:

They have not directly seen the planet, orbiting a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. But measurements of the star suggest that a planet not much larger than the Earth is pulling on it, the researchers say in a letter to the editor of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The discovery was made thanks to High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher (HARPS), perhaps the most precise spectrograph in the world. Located on the ESO 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, Chile, HARPS is able to measure velocities with a precision better than one meter per second (or 3.6 km/h).

What do astronomers mean when they say “Earth-like” planet? It is small, rocky, not too hot and not too cold, and it might be able to support life. In general, an Earth-like planet should be no more than 10 times as massive as Earth but big enough that its atmosphere doesn’t drift off. The planet also needs to have a rocky core. Big balls of gas (like Jupiter) aren’t likely to be conducive to living organisms. But most important, to be capable of supporting life a planet must have a surface temperature that can sustain water in liquid form.

The researchers say the temperatures of the new discovery could support water and, potentially, life, a find that researchers described this week as a big step in the search for “life in the universe.”

In fact, Swiss scientist Michel Mayor, who heads the European team that announced the discovery of the new potentially habitable planet (and who was credited in 1995 with co-finding the first planets outside our solar system), predicts that top researchers are less than two decades away from being able to detect real signs of extraterrestrial life — if it exists, The Associated Press says.

Space Wars, Revisited
A group of American aerospace engineers, whose book on how to defend Earth against alien invasion — An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion — have been getting a fair bit of play in the media of late.

The four authors hold a variety of PhDs and other degrees in hard sciences and technology. All have worked on weapons and aerospace programs for defense contractors, NASA and various parts of the U.S. forces. Two of them also claim expertise in various kinds of technical military-intelligence gathering.

The four engineers offer the following line of reasoning for the existence/distribution of aliens:

We know that at least one star system (our own) within the Milky Way Galaxy has developed intelligent life . . . that suggests statistics of at least one civilisation per galaxy . . . So, there should be billions of star systems with intelligent civilisations.

Tech Terror in the Theater
On Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screened Star Wars as part of its “Great to Be Nominated” series. Before the start of the show, they showed this special clip as a message of warning to members in the audience.

Offensive Bloggage
ScanSafe’s monthly “Global Threat Report” for March 2007 says that up to 80 percent of blogs host offensive content, ranging from “adult language” to pornographic images. ScanSafe discovered the “offensive” nature of blogs by analyzing more than 7 billion Web requests coming from corporate customers.

According to ScanSafe, a blog simply has to contain a single instance of profanity to be considered “offensive.” The Web security firm’s VP of product strategy, Dan Nadir, told Techworld, “There were as many blogs with the ‘F-word’ as the word ‘China.’”

ScanSafe’s larger focus is not necessarily on single instances of offensive content, but rather on overall security and liability for employees who might get caught with undesirable content on their computers while at work.

Whatever, this is some bull….

…Dog from Iowa Wins Beauty Contest
Three-year-old Riggs, a bulldog from Prairie City, Iowa, won the “Beautiful Bulldog” contest on Monday. Riggs beat about 50 dogs in a contest held annually to draw attention to the 98th running of the Drake Relays, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious track and field events.

Riggs beat out the likes of Sir Grizwald Snorzalot, Napoleon Underbite and Crazy Legs Da Moose, according to AP.

Riggs is crowned the winner of the 28th Drake Relays Beautiful Bulldog Contest.
Credit: The Associated Press/Charlie Neibergall

Relax, Clark
Although it was discovered in Serbia back in November 2006, a new mineral has been receiving a whole lot of mass-media attention this week. The mineral, to be named Jadarite, went on show at London’s Natural History Museum at certain times on Wednesday and will do the same on May 13, reports Reuters.

Quick recap:

Dr. Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London’s Natural History Museum, found the mysterious mineral shares virtually the same chemical composition as kryptonite — the element from Superman’s native planet Krypton that made the superhero quiver and cry like a little girl with a skinned knee. Stanley discovered the match after searching the Internet for its chemical formula, sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide.

The white, powdery substance (rather than the large, green crystal from planet Krypton) has been confirmed as a new mineral after tests by scientists at the Natural History Museum in London and the National Research Council in Canada.

The Great Beer Riddle
A mathematical formula can now predict how the frothy head on a beer changes over time, a finding that may have a wide range of commercial uses beyond pulling the perfect pint, U.S. researchers announced this week in the journal Nature.

The key lies in a long-sought equation for “the growth and shrinkage of individual bubbles in foam and crystalline grains in metals, semiconductors and other materials.”
office alcohol.jpg
The mathematics of beer-bubble behavior are similar to the granular structure in metals and ceramics, so the equation also has an outlet in metallurgy and manufacturing as well as in pubs. “It’s very universal. It will touch everything” in materials design, Carnegie Mellon University mathematician David Kinderlehrer told Scientific American.

Kinderlehrer, who studies materials, predicts it may lead to longer-lasting and more efficient materials “for everything from airplane wings to nuclear reactors to microprocessors.”

Post-Retirement Plans
In BIGresearch‘s second annual Voice of the People Survey, respondents were asked, “When you retire, what will go first: You or Your Money?” Results were announced this week, and a resounding 64 percent responded that their money would go first. And on Tuesday, IMT considered the likelihood of a mass exodus of engineers and scientists versus a gradual one.

So we’ve been thinking about retirement and what we would do once we reached that point. And here at IMT we’ve concluded that we’d like to be a Zimmer.

The Zimmers are perhaps the oldest rock band in the world. Witness their amazing cover of The Who’s “My Generation”. Lead singer Alf is 90 — and he’s not the oldest; there are 99- and 100-year-olds in the band. The Zimmers will feature in a BBC TV documentary being aired in May 2007.

Pete, Roger… eat your hearts out.



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