Volcanism: A Main Character?


That’s the caldera of Santorini Volcano behind this beautiful little poser.

Now put on your hard hats — it’s time for a little chemistry.

Very little.

In fact, just this: “What do you get when you remove the oxygen (chemical symbol O) from H2O?”

Okay, so there’s really no need for special gear (unless you want to follow a working geologist out into the field to collect and study some of the world’s oldest rocks).

You get H2 — hydrogen — of course.

Believe it or not, this answer is closely tied to the origin of life on Earth. So is volcanism: source of the heat energy powering that and other chemical reactions necessary for emerging life.

Continue reading “Volcanism: A Main Character?”

Does Life Exist Elsewhere?


Whatever happened with that news last year about finding life on Venus? Something about phosphine, whatever that is.

And what about the cigar-shaped space rock with the unusual name (Oumuamua) they found in 2017 and called an “interstellar visitor”? Aliens, right? Where’s the follow-up on that?

The shortest, simplest answer to both these versions of the Big Question is that scientists are working on it.

Their scientific method is a very useful tool for getting to the root of things, but it takes time. Too, jargon and the technical details involved do not make for reader-friendly stories.

That’s why journalists usually wait for results to be announced in simple language.

Many years can pass in between press conferences. And sometimes other research teams come up with different results in the meantime, which the journalists also must report.

“…the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” — Carl Sagan via Wikipedia.

This extended, open-ended process generally leaves us laypeople feeling confused and a little put off by Science — except when the topic is “Life Out There.”

THAT always gets our attention.

It appeals to our gut feeling that, if humanity keeps searching long enough, we’ll find ET someday, looking back at us and glad to discover that it’s not alone in this huge universe.

Is that a valid hope or are we just projecting our social selves onto the cosmos?

Alien life isn’t impossible

I’ve found out something cool while reading through the sources for this chapter of the series on how cats evolved.

Continue reading “Does Life Exist Elsewhere?”