Tag: stephen (page 1 of 3)

These 4 Ingredients in Most Processed Foods are Decimating Your Health

Mae Chan, Prevent DiseaseIt’s not just the high fat, salt or sugar content of processed foods that is driving obesity and diet-related illnesses — the lack of food diversity is killing our gut flora, claims one researcher. If we exclude sugar, approximately 80 percent of all calories in processed foods come from a combination of four ingredients.Drawing upon evidence from multiple studies, Professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and author of&nbsp [...]

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The Science of the Dogon

Excerpt from The Science of The Dogon, by Laird ScrantonThe information presented in the preceding chapters demonstrates a direct relationship between the symbols and themes of the Dogon creation story and known scientific facts relating to the formation of the universe, matter, and biological reproduction. This relationship is a broad and specific one that is couched in clear definitions and supported by priestly interpretations and cosmological drawings. The parallels between Dogon myth [...]

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Hawking: Humans may lose to machines in a hundred years or so without even knowing it.






Excerpt from esbtrib.com


Stephen Hawking, the scientist and not Stephen King, the novelist has made some dire predictions about the coming conquest of humans by their own creations, robots. King can write something about this in effect but he will have a hard time surpassing the number one robot movie of all time, the terminator.
Humans’ dependence on electronic technology to make their life comfortable and much easier may one day backfire on them. The scientist said that humans have become so complacent that they may not survive in the future.
In a conference held just recently, Hawking noted that robots and artificial intelligence could take over the world and conquer mankind in the next 10 decades. By 2115, the world will cease to exist as we know it today. While speaking at the Zeitgeist conference held in London, Hawking explained that humans need to come to terms with how they should go forward and not fall into complacency with how robotics and artificial intelligence are taking over without them even knowing it.
“One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all”, he continued.
(Hawking continued to explain3ed that technology advancements that outsmarts financial markets, creating more and better inventions than humans, putting world leaders  under its influence and coming up with advanced weaponry are slowly putting humans at a disadvantage. Researches should be made considering what AI would mean for humans.
.Creation of Ai would be in no doubt the greatest achievement of what humans can do if they can do it. It might also their last act if they’re not careful about it.
Humans’ have notoriously slow biological evolution and their ability to challenge the AI is almost none existent compared to what the machines can muster. Elon Musk agrees with Hawking about the dangers posed by AIs.

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7 Reasons You Need More Magnesium

Margie King, GuestMagnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body.  But few people fully appreciate this miraculous mineral. The human genome project reveals that 3,751 human proteins have binding sites for magnesium.[i]  And so far we know this one essential mineral activates over 350 biochemical processes in the body to keep things flowing.Here are just seven good reasons to get more magnesium today. 1. Prevent Migraines. According to University of Vermo [...]

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Stephen Hawking Says Artificial Intelligence Will Take over Humanity in the Near Future





Excerpt from regaltribune.com

Technology has advanced so much that some scientists fear that one day robots will take over the world and humans will not be able to do anything about it.  
One of those scientists is Stephen Hawking, the most famous physicist and cosmologist in the world.
Hawking stated during a recent conference that robots and artificial intelligence in particular, could conquer humanity in the next 100 years.
The renowned scientist spoke at the Zeitgeist conference held in London, saying that computers will one day overtake us humans with their artificial intelligence and this could happen in less than 100 years.
Hawking added that if this happens, humans need to be sure that the robots have similar goals, or else.
But this is not the first time the author of “A Brief History of Time” made this kind of “doomy” statements about the future of humanity at the robotic hands of artificial intelligence.

At the beginning of this year, Stephen Hawking expressed his opinions on this matter, saying that artificial intelligence will advance so much that it could bring the end of human race.
Also, in an interview for BBC Hawking said that even though A.I. is not a threat to us humans at the present time, in the future the robots would get more intelligent, bigger and much stronger than their makers, the humans.
The scientist added that robots would start to redesign themselves and will evolve at an increasing rate that humans will not be able to keep the pace.
Hawking added that:
“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
And Hawking is not the only famous scientist who has a gloomy vision regarding our future.
Ellon Musk, Tesla Motors CEO, said that artificial intelligence poses a real threat to human race.

According to Musk, humans must be extremely careful about artificial intelligence, because it could turn out to be our “biggest existential threat”. Musk even compared A.I. with a “demon”.
However, not every scientist envisions a dark future for human race. While many think of artificial intelligence as the driving force behind robots, A.I. is also used to power many devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and apps.
Artificial intelligence is also used to protect emails from receiving spam.
Giant companies like Google and Facebook are currently working on developing new systems, which will one day lead to advanced artificial intelligence.

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Circus Lion Freed From Cage Feels Earth Beneath His Paws For The First Time ~ Heartwrenching Video!




Will

Excerpt from thedodo.com
By Stephen Messenger

Footage shared this week by the Rancho dos Gnomos Santuário in Brazil shows the thrilling moment a lion named Will experiences, for the first time, the feeling of soil and grass beneath his feet.

Prior to being rescued and taken to the sanctuary, Will had been forced to perform with a traveling circus. For 13 long years, the lion had been confined to a cramped cage and denied any semblance of a normal existence. 

Within seconds of his release, Will can be seen eagerly running his paws through the soft soil — tragically, a foreign material for a creature who, up until then, had known only cold metal floors. 

Will's reaction to the grass that covers his sprawling new home is equally ecstatic. Despite his age, advanced for his species, the lion rolls around like a happy cub discovering life's simple pleasures. 

But perhaps the most touching part of Will's transition into his new sanctuary can be seen in this moment of repose, as if most impressed not by the feeling of dirt or grass, but by a newfound sense of peace. 

This scene, filmed in 2006 though released this week to the public, was only the beginning. In 2011, Will passed away of old age, but not before finally learning what it meant to be a lion. 

"He had five years of tranquility before he died. Here he had the opportunity to interact with other lions. He loved to lie in grass and look at the sky," sanctuary founder Marcos Pompeo told The Dodo. "He was a very happy lion."

Watch the video of Will's release in its entirety below:



  Click to zoom

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Desperately Seeking ET: Fermi’s Paradox Turns 65 ~ Part 2

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comIntroductionWhy is it so hard to find ET? After 50 years of searching, the SETI project has so far found nothing. In the latest development, on April 14, 2015 Penn State researchers announced that after searching through...

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Physicists: Black holes don’t erase information




Excerpt from earthsky.org
Since 1975, when Hawking showed that black holes evaporate from our universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to a black hole’s information.

What happens to the information that goes into a black hole? Is it irretrievably lost? Does it gradually or suddenly leak out? Is it stored somehow? Physicists have puzzled for decades over what they call the information loss paradox in black holes. A new study by physicists at University at Buffalo – published in March, 2015 in the journal in Physical Review Letters – shows that information going into a black hole is not lost at all.

Instead, these researchers say, it’s possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.

Dejan Stojkovic, associate professor of physics at the University at Buffalo, did the research with his student Anshul Saini as co-author. Stojkovic said in a statement:
According to our work, information isn’t lost once it enters a black hole. It doesn’t just disappear.
What sort of information are we talking about? In principle, any information drawn into a black hole has an unknown future, according to modern physics. That information could include, for example, the characteristics of the object that formed the black hole to begin with, and characteristics of all matter and energy drawn inside.

Stojkovic says his research “marks a significant step” toward solving the information loss paradox, a problem that has plagued physics for almost 40 years, since Stephen Hawking first proposed that black holes could radiate energy and evaporate over time, disappearing from the universe and taking their information with them. 

Disappearing information is a problem for physicists because it’s a violation of quantum mechanics, which states that information must be conserved.
According to modern physics, any information about an astronaut entering a black hole - for example, height, weight, hair color - may be lost.  Likewise, information about he object that formed the hole, or any matter and energy entering the hole, may be lost.  This notion violates quantum mechanics, which is why it's known as the 'black hole information paradox.


According to modern physics, any information related to an astronaut entering a black hole – for example, height, weight, hair color – may be lost. This notion is known as the ‘information loss paradox’ of black holes because it violates quantum mechanics. Artist’s concept via Nature.

Stojkovic says that physicists – even those who believed information was not lost in black holes – have struggled to show mathematically how the information is preserved. He says his new paper presents explicit calculations demonstrating how it can be preserved. His statement from University at Buffalo explained:
In the 1970s, [Stephen] Hawking proposed that black holes were capable of radiating particles, and that the energy lost through this process would cause the black holes to shrink and eventually disappear. Hawking further concluded that the particles emitted by a black hole would provide no clues about what lay inside, meaning that any information held within a black hole would be completely lost once the entity evaporated.

Though Hawking later said he was wrong and that information could escape from black holes, the subject of whether and how it’s possible to recover information from a black hole has remained a topic of debate.

Stojkovic and Saini’s new paper helps to clarify the story.
Instead of looking only at the particles a black hole emits, the study also takes into account the subtle interactions between the particles. By doing so, the research finds that it is possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.
Interactions between particles can range from gravitational attraction to the exchange of mediators like photons between particles. Such “correlations” have long been known to exist, but many scientists discounted them as unimportant in the past.
Stojkovic added:
These correlations were often ignored in related calculations since they were thought to be small and not capable of making a significant difference.
Our explicit calculations show that though the correlations start off very small, they grow in time and become large enough to change the outcome.
Artist's impression of a black hole, via Icarus
Artist’s impression of a black hole, via Icarus

Bottom line: Since 1975, when Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein showed that black holes should slowly radiate away energy and ultimately disappear from the universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to information inside a black hole. Dejan Stojkovic and Anshul Saini, both of University at Buffalo, just published a new study that contains specific calculations showing that information within a black hole is not lost.

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Did natural selection make the Dutch the tallest people on the planet?

Dutch national women's field hockey team



Excerpt from news.sciencemag.org
ByMartin Enserink

AMSTERDAM—Insecure about your height? You may want to avoid this tiny country by the North Sea, whose population has gained an impressive 20 centimeters in the past 150 years and is now officially the tallest on the planet. Scientists chalk up most of that increase to rising wealth, a rich diet, and good health care, but a new study suggests something else is going on as well: The Dutch growth spurt may be an example of human evolution in action.
The study, published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that tall Dutch men on average have more children than their shorter counterparts, and that more of their children survive. That suggests genes that help make people tall are becoming more frequent among the Dutch, says behavioral biologist and lead author Gert Stulp of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

"This study drives home the message that the human population is still subject to natural selection," says Stephen Stearns, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University who wasn't involved in the study. "It strikes at the core of our understanding of human nature, and how malleable it is." It also confirms what Stearns knows from personal experience about the population in the northern Netherlands, where the study took place: "Boy, they are tall."

For many years, the U.S. population was the tallest in the world. In the 18th century, American men were 5 to 8 centimeters taller than those in the Netherlands. Today, Americans are the fattest, but they lost the race for height to northern Europeans—including Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, and Estonians—sometime in the 20th century.

Just how these peoples became so tall isn't clear, however. Genetics has an important effect on body height: Scientists have found at least 180 genes that influence how tall you become. Each one has only a small effect, but together, they may explain up to 80% of the variation in height within a population. Yet environmental factors play a huge role as well. The children of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, for instance, grew much taller than their parents. Scientists assume that a diet rich in milk and meat played a major role.

The Dutch have become so much taller in such a short period that scientists chalk most of it up to their changing environment. As the Netherlands developed, it became one of the world's largest producers and consumers of cheese and milk. An increasingly egalitarian distribution of wealth and universal access to health care may also have helped.

Still, scientists wonder whether natural selection has played a role as well. For men, being tall is associated with better health, attractiveness to the opposite sex, a better education, and higher income—all of which could lead to more reproductive success, Stulp says.
Yet studies in the United States don't show this. Stulp's own research among Wisconsinites born between 1937 and 1940, for instance, showed that average-sized men had more children than shorter and taller men, and shorter women had more children than those of average height. Taken together, Stulp says, this suggests natural selection in the United States pulls in the opposite direction of environmental factors like diet, making people shorter instead of taller. That may explain why the growth in average American height has leveled off.

Stulp—who says his towering 2-meter frame did not influence his research interest—wondered if the same was true in his native country. To find out, he and his colleagues turned to a database tracking key life data for almost 100,000 people in the country's three northern provinces. The researchers included only people over 45 who were born in the Netherlands to Dutch-born parents. This way, they had a relatively accurate number of total children per subject (most people stop having children after 45) and they also avoided the effects of immigration.

In the remaining sample of 42,616 people, taller men had more children on average, despite the fact that they had their first child at a higher age. The effect was small—an extra 0.24 children at most for taller men—but highly significant. (Taller men also had a smaller chance of remaining childless, and a higher chance of having a partner.)  The same effect wasn't seen in women, who had the highest reproductive success when they were of average height.  The study suggests this may be because taller women had a smaller chance of finding a mate, while shorter women were at higher risk of losing a child.

Because tall men are likely to pass on the genes that made them tall, the outcome suggests that—in contrast to Americans—the Dutch population is evolving to become taller, Stulp says. "This is not what we've seen in other studies—that's what makes it exciting," says evolutionary biologist Simon Verhulst of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who was Stulp's Ph.D. adviser but wasn't involved in the current study. Verhulst points out that the team can't be certain that genes involved in height are actually becoming more frequent, however, as the authors acknowledge.

The study suggests that sexual selection is at work in the Dutch population, Stearns says: Dutch women may prefer taller men because they expect them to have more resources to invest in their children. But there are also other possibilities. It could be that taller men are more resistant to disease, Stearns says, or that they are more likely to divorce and start a second family. "It will be a difficult question to answer.”

Another question is why tall men in Holland are at a reproductive advantage but those in the United States are not. Stulp says he can only speculate. One reason may be that humans often choose a partner who's not much shorter or taller than they are themselves. Because shorter women in the United States have more children, tall men may do worse than those of average height because they're less likely to partner with a short woman.

In the end, Stearns says, the advantage of tall Dutchmen may be only temporary. Often in evolution, natural selection will favor one trend for a number of generations, followed by a stabilization or even a return to the opposite trend. In the United States, selection for height appears to have occurred several centuries ago, leading to taller men, and then it stopped. "Perhaps the Dutch caught up and actually overshot the American men," he says.

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Does the Past Exist Yet? Evidence Suggests Your Past Isn’t Set in Stone


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Excerpt from robertlanza.com
By Robert Lanza 

Recent discoveries require us to rethink our understanding of history. “The histories of the universe,” said renowned physicist Stephen Hawking “depend on what is being measured, contrary to the usual idea that the universe has an objective observer-independent history.”

Is it possible we live and die in a world of illusions? Physics tells us that objects exist in a suspended state until observed, when they collapse in to just one outcome. Paradoxically, whether events happened in the past may not be determined until sometime in your future – and may even depend on actions that you haven’t taken yet.

In 2002, scientists carried out an amazing experiment, which showed that particles of light “photons” knew — in advance — what their distant twins would do in the future. They tested the communication between pairs of photons — whether to be either a wave or a particle. Researchers stretched the distance one of the photons had to take to reach its detector, so that the other photon would hit its own detector first. The photons taking this path already finished their journeys — they either collapse into a particle or don’t before their twin encounters a scrambling device.
Somehow, the particles acted on this information before it happened, and across distances instantaneously as if there was no space or time between them. They decided not to become particles before their twin ever encountered the scrambler. It doesn’t matter how we set up the experiment. Our mind and its knowledge is the only thing that determines how they behave. Experiments consistently confirm these observer-dependent effects.

More recently (Science 315, 966, 2007), scientists in France shot photons into an apparatus, and showed that what they did could retroactively change something that had already happened. As the photons passed a fork in the apparatus, they had to decide whether to behave like particles or waves when they hit a beam splitter. 
Later on – well after the photons passed the fork – the experimenter could randomly switch a second beam splitter on and off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle actually did at the fork in the past. At that moment, the experimenter chose his history.

Of course, we live in the same world. Particles have a range of possible states, and it’s not until observed that they take on properties. So until the present is determined, how can there be a past? According to visionary physicist John Wheeler (who coined the word “black hole”), “The quantum principle shows that there is a sense in which what an observer will do in the future defines what happens in the past.” Part of the past is locked in when you observe things and the “probability waves collapse.” But there’s still uncertainty, for instance, as to what’s underneath your feet. If you dig a hole, there’s a probability you’ll find a boulder. Say you hit a boulder, the glacial movements of the past that account for the rock being in exactly that spot will change as described in the Science experiment.

But what about dinosaur fossils? Fossils are really no different than anything else in nature. For instance, the carbon atoms in your body are “fossils” created in the heart of exploding supernova stars. 
Bottom line: reality begins and ends with the observer. “We are participators,” Wheeler said “in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past.” Before his death, he stated that when observing light from a quasar, we set up a quantum observation on an enormously large scale. It means, he said, the measurements made on the light now, determines the path it took billions of years ago.

Like the light from Wheeler’s quasar, historical events such as who killed JFK, might also depend on events that haven’t occurred yet. There’s enough uncertainty that it could be one person in one set of circumstances, or another person in another. Although JFK was assassinated, you only possess fragments of information about the event. But as you investigate, you collapse more and more reality. According to biocentrism, space and time are relative to the individual observer – we each carry them around like turtles with shells.

History is a biological phenomenon — it’s the logic of what you, the animal observer experiences. You have multiple possible futures, each with a different history like in the Science experiment. Consider the JFK example: say two gunmen shot at JFK, and there was an equal chance one or the other killed him. This would be a situation much like the famous Schrödinger’s cat experiment, in which the cat is both alive and dead — both possibilities exist until you open the box and investigate.

“We must re-think all that we have ever learned about the past, human evolution and the nature of reality, if we are ever to find our true place in the cosmos,” says Constance Hilliard, a historian of science at UNT. Choices you haven’t made yet might determine which of your childhood friends are still alive, or whether your dog got hit by a car yesterday. In fact, you might even collapse realities that determine whether Noah’s Ark sank. “The universe,” said John Haldane, “is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

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Have Aliens Left The Universe? Theory Predicts We’ll Follow

























Excerpt from robertlanza.com

In Star Wars, the bars are bustling with all types of alien creatures. And then, of course, there’s Yoda and Chewbacca. Recently, renowned scientist Stephen Hawking stated that he too believes aliens exist: “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational.”

Hawking thinks we should be cautious about interacting with aliens — that they might raid Earth’s resources, take our ores, and then move on like pirates. “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”
But where are they all anyhow?

For years, NASA and others have been searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. The universe is 13.7 billion years old and contains some 10 billion trillion stars. Surely, in this lapse of suns, advanced life would have evolved if it were possible. Yet despite half a century of scanning the sky, astronomers have failed to find any evidence of life or to pick up any of the interstellar radio signals that our great antennas should be able to easily detect.

Some scientists point to the “Fermi Paradox,” noting that extraterrestrials should have had plenty of time to colonize the entire galaxy but that perhaps they’ve blown themselves up. It’s conceivable the problem is more fundamental and that the answer has to do with the evolutionary course of life itself.

Look at the plants in your backyard. What are they but a stem with roots and leaves bringing nutriments to the organism? After billions of years of evolution, it was inevitable life would acquire the ability to locomote, to hunt and see, to protect itself from competitors. 
Observe the ants in the woodpile — they can engage in combat just as resolutely as humans. Our guns and ICBM are merely the mandibles of a cleverer ant. The effort for self-preservation is vague and varied. But when we’ve overcome our struggles, what do we do next? Build taller and more splendid houses?

What happens after life completes its transition to perfection? Perhaps across space, more advanced intelligences have taken the next evolutionary step. Perhaps they’ve evolved beyond the three dimensions we vertebrates know. A new theory — Biocentrism — tells us that space and time aren’t physical matrices, but simply tools our mind uses to put everything together. These algorithms are the key to consciousness, and why space and time — indeed the properties of matter itself — are relative to the observer. More advanced civilizations would surely understand these algorithms well enough to create realities that we can’t even imagine, and to have expanded beyond our corporeal cage.

Like breathing, we take for granted how our mind puts everything together. I can recall a dream I had of a flying saucer landing in Times Square. It was so real it took awhile to convince myself that it was a dream (that I was actually at home in bed). I was standing in a crowd surrounded by skyscrapers when a massive spaceship appeared overhead. Everyone started running. My mind had somehow generated this spatio-temporal experience out of electrochemical information. I could feel the vibrations under my feet as the ship started to land, merging this 3D world with my inner thoughts and sensations.

Although I was in bed with my eyes closed, I was able to run and move my arms and fingers. My mind had created a fully functioning body and placed it in a virtual world (replete with clouds in the sky and the Sun) that was indistinguishable from the one I’m in right now. Life as we know it is defined by this spatial-temporal logic, which traps us in the universe of up and down. But like my dream, quantum theory confirms that the properties of particles in the “real” world are also observer-determined.

Other information systems surely exist that correspond to other physical realities, universes based on logic completely different from ours and not based on space and time as we know it. In fact, the simplest invertebrates may only experience existence in one dimension of space. Evolutionary biology suggests life has progressed from a one dimensional reality, to two dimensions to three dimensions, and there’s no scientific reason to think that the evolution of life stops there.

Advanced civilizations would certainly have changed the algorithms so that instead of being trapped in the linear dimensions we find ourselves in, their consciousness moves through the multiverse and beyond. Why would Aliens build massive ships and spend thousands of years to colonize planetary systems (most of which are probably useless and barren), when they could simply tinker with the algorithms and get whatever they want?

Life on Earth is just beginning to send its shoots upward into the heavens. We’ve even flung a piece of metal outside the solar system. Affixed to the spacecraft is a record with greetings in 60 languages. One can’t but wonder whether some civilization more advanced than ours will come upon it. Or will it just drift across the gulf of space? To me the answer is clear. But in case I’m wrong, I have a pitch fork guarding the ore in my backyard.

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Chances of Exoplanet Life ‘Impossible’? Or ‘100 percent’?


Kepler’s Exoplanets: A map of the locations of exoplanets, of various masses, in the Kepler field of view. 1,235 candidates are plotted (NASA/Wendy Stenzel)


 news.discovery.com 

Just in case you haven’t heard, our galaxy appears to be teeming with small worlds, many of which are Earth-sized candidate exoplanets and dozens appear to be orbiting their parent stars in their “habitable zones.”

Before Wednesday’s Kepler announcement, we knew of just over 500 exoplanets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. Now the space telescope has added another 1,235 candidates to the tally — what a difference 24 hours makes.

Although this is very exciting, the key thing to remember is that we are talking about exoplanet candidates, which means Kepler has detected 1,235 exoplanet signals, but more work needs to be done (i.e. more observing time) to refine their orbits, masses and, critically, to find out whether they actually exist.

But, statistically speaking, a pattern is forming. Kepler has opened our eyes to the fact our galaxy is brimming with small worlds — some candidates approaching Mars-sized dimensions!

Earth-Brand™ Life

Before Kepler, plenty of Jupiter-sized worlds could be seen, but with its precision eye for spotting the tiniest of fluctuations of star brightness (as a small exoplanet passes between Kepler and the star), the space telescope has found that smaller exoplanets outnumber the larger gas giants.

Needless to say, all this talk of “Earth-sized” worlds (and the much-hyped “Earth-like” misnomer) has added fuel to the extraterrestrial life question: If there’s a preponderance of small exoplanets — some of which orbit within the “sweet-spot” of the habitable zones of their parent stars — could life as we know it (or Earth-Brand™ Life as I like to call it) also be thriving there?
Before I answer that question, let’s turn back the clock to Sept. 29, 2010, when, in the wake of the discovery of the exoplanet Gliese 581 g, Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News: “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on [Gliese 581 g] are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it.”

Impossible? Or 100 Percent?

As it turns out, Gliese 581 g may not actually exist — an excellent example of the progress of science scrutinizing a candidate exoplanet in complex data sets as my Discovery News colleague Nicole Gugliucci discusses in “Gliese 581g and the Nature of Science” — but why was Vogt so certain that there was life on Gliese 581 g? Was he “wrong” to air this opinion?

Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, Howard Smith, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, made the headlines earlier this year when he announced, rather pessimistically, that aliens will unlikely exist on the extrasolar planets we are currently detecting.
“We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it,” Smith told the UK’s Telegraph.

Smith made comparisons between our own solar system with the interesting HD 10180 system, located 127 light-years away. HD 10180 was famous for a short time as being the biggest star system beyond our own, containing five exoplanets (it has since been trumped by Kepler-11, a star system containing six exoplanets as showcased in Wednesday’s Kepler announcement).

One of HD 10180′s worlds is thought to be around 1.4 Earth-masses, making it the smallest detected exoplanet before yesterday. Alas, as Smith notes, that is where the similarities end; the “Earth-sized” world orbiting HD 10180 is too close to its star, meaning it is a roasted exoplanet where any atmosphere is blasted into space by the star’s powerful radiation and stellar winds.
The Harvard scientist even dismissed the future Kepler announcement, pointing out that upcoming reports of habitable exoplanets would be few and far between. “Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life,” he said.

Both Right and Wrong

So what can we learn about the disparity between Vogt and Smith’s opinions about the potential for life on exoplanets, regardless of how “Earth-like” they may seem?

Critically, both points of view concern Earth-Brand™ Life (i.e. us and the life we know and understand). As we have no experience of any other kind of life (although the recent eruption of interest over arsenic-based life is hotly debated), it is only Earth-like life we can realistically discuss.

We could do a Stephen Hawking and say that all kinds of life is possible anywhere in the cosmos, but this is pure speculation. Science only has life on Earth to work with, so (practically speaking) it’s pointless to say a strange kind of alien lifeform could live on an exoplanet where the surface is molten rock and constantly bathed in extreme stellar radiation.

If we take Hawking’s word for it, Vogt was completely justified for being so certain about life existing on Gliese 581 g. What’s more, there’s no way we could prove he’s wrong!

But if you set the very tight limits on where we could find Earth-like life, we are suddenly left with very few exoplanet candidates that fit the bill. Also, just because an Earth-sized planet might be found in the habitable zone of its star, doesn’t mean it’s actually habitable. There are many more factors to consider. So, in this case, Smith’s pessimism is well placed.

Regardless, exoplanet science is in its infancy and the uncertainty with the “is there life?” question is a symptom of being on the “raggedy edge of science,” as Nicole would say. We simply do not know what it takes to make a world habitable for any kind of life (apart from Earth), but it is all too tempting to speculate as to whether a race of extraterrestrials, living on one of Kepler’s worlds, is pondering these same questions.

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Time Travel ~ Is it possible or just fantasy?

Leading experts, including Professor Stephen Hawking and Dr Michio Kaku, reveal their views on time travel. Click to zoom

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