In Today’s Science! News: Breathlessness can be Cured by Slowing Down and Taking a Few Deep Breaths

Which would have been a good idea here.

As always, just cruising the Science! news feed from Google:

1. Discovery in Subglacial Lake Proves Life Can Exist on Other Planets

Life on another planet. A really, really cold planet. Artist’s representation.

Intrepid scientists drilled a hole through the Antarctic ice and into the underlying tundra (Q: is that the right word? Is what underlies the ice sheets really tundra? I don’t think so.)  The key snippet:

What, exactly, are they onto? Well, many of the microorganisms they found below the ice sheet are single-celled. Named Archaea, they survive converting ammonium and methane into energy in this unstable and dangerous environment. This environment is as harsh as those found on moons of other planets in our solar system, such as Jupiter’s Europa.

 

So this, basically, proves that life could exist on other planets.

That word you use – prove – I don’t think it means what you think it means. Was life on other planets logically impossible before, and now it isn’t? As Aristotle pointed out, it’s really, really hard to disprove a statement of possibility unless it’s logically impossible.Can I draw a square circle? No – logically impossible. Can I live on Europa? Sure – because it’s not logically impossible.It may be a really really hard, short life in practice, bit it’s not impossible.

So can life exist on Europa or any other planet or dust cloud or star cluster or whatever? Sure! It’s not logically impossible. Star Trek’s writers dreamed up all sorts of life floating around in all sorts of environments – none of them are impossible, no matter how far fetched. But we won’t know if life *does* exist on other planets until we find – slowly, here, again – actual life on other planets. I’ll lead the parade the day we do. Until then, finding really, really hardy microbes on earth doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about whether or not life *can* exist on other planets,

Also, once we started sending space probes to other planets, we proved that life could exist on other planets – throw a few fully-loaded petri dishes on the next Mars lander, and – boom! – life exists on other planets, for however long it takes it to die (right away to plus/minus a billion years out is my best current guess on how long such earth life would last).

So maybe the author could have framed it up a little differently, and said something interesting, such as how a form of life that could theoretically survive beneath the ice on Europa has been discovered. That’s interesting, and seems where the essay is headed, before it pulls up lame.

2.  Global warming slowdown ‘could last another decade’

global ocean currents
A very helpful picture that, I suppose, explains the ‘pause’ in global warming to the properly initiated. At least, it accompanies the article that is making that assertion. It would be well beneath the dignity of the BBC to post a picture just to make people feel stupid, right?

 

The hiatus in the rise in global temperatures could last for another 10 years, according to new research.

Scientists have struggled to explain the so-called pause that began in 1999, despite ever increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

 

The latest theory says that a naturally occurring 30-year cycle in the Atlantic Ocean is behind the slowdown.

 

The researchers says this slow-moving current could continue to divert heat into the deep seas for another decade.

 

However, they caution that global temperatures are likely to increase rapidly when the cycle flips to a warmer phase.

So, what we’re saying here is that 30 years – the 20 we’ve already had, plus the 10 more in this essay – of no global warming is not evidence that our theories and models are wrong, even though they didn’t include this newly-discovered Atlantic Ocean current cycle?*  Does this raise the question: what other natural cycles could there be that affect climate that we don’t understand? Oh, say, ice ages, with their sudden (geologically speaking) appearance and periodic interglacial periods that happen for no reasons that anybody understands? Those babies REALLY mess with the global climate, and have, off and on, for several billion years. The theoretical CO2 feedback mechanism which is supposed to have fried us all crispy by now seems like noise against a background of natural forces.

Back in the day, Ptolemy would slather on the epicycles to make the theory work. But at least, once you included them, you could make predictions that came true. Guess we’ll wait and see.

I do like the term “so called pause”. I suspect they’re trying to downplay the failure of the model to, you know, model, but I choose to read it as mocking the idea that when the facts don’t match your theory, it’s because reality has paused in its duty to do what the theory demands, NOT that the theory is wrong. I envision this scene, except that each person in line is shouting: “Model output isn’t data!”

* I’ve been following this long enough to recall when the proponents scoffed at anyone claiming there might be natural cycles at work that affected the climate – cyclical variations in sun output, for example – that weren’t accounted for in the models. I guess it only works to discover natural cycles when they can be used to explain away issues with the models, not when they can be used to challenge their premises.

3. This is cool: Harvard Scientists Devise Robot Swarm That Can Work Together

Anybody read the short story Steamship Soldiers on the Information Front by Nancy Cress?

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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