Panspermia Revisted

I always thought that the theory that life might have come, in part, from outer space, piggy backing on space rocks (meteoroids, asteroids) was a bit far fetched.  How could life survive the vacuum of outer space?  How could it survive near absolute zero temperatures?

But now we find here on Earth just such a family of creatures, which seem at first blush, unrelated to other life here.  I am referring to Tardigrades, millimeter sized creatures that can survive extreme temperature and pressure changes, survive high doses of radiation lethal to us, and go into a suspended “life” state (cryptobiosis) that allows them to “die”, and then be “reborn”, with a few drops of water.

Click on the picture to see a wonderful movie about an amateur naturalist who has been working on this story.


New Theory of Moon Origin

A study of the zinc contents of lunar rock samples brought back to the Earth by the Apollo astronauts strongly suggests that the Moon formed not from the crust of a Mars sized planet striking the young Earth, but from the debris field formed by the collision of the two planets.  You can read about it here.

Jump From the Edge of Space

Felix Baumgartner made history today, jumping from about 128,000 feet, an altitude of over 24 miles.  Preliminary estimates indicate that he resoundingly broke the speed of sound in air barrier, traveling at a maximum speed of Mach 1.24, or 834 mph.  Keep in mind that the speed of sound in air number he needed to exceed is a function of the temperature and density of the  thin atmosphere he was travelling through.  The speed of sound in air at the Earth’s surface is about 768 mph.

It was a great deal of fun and somewhat nerve wracking as I, and upwards of 7.3 million other viewers on various livestreams, watched his descent, in optical and infrared frequencies.

I Luv Vi Hart

Perhaps you heard of the blog phenom named Vi Hart, who posts mathematically intriguing videos about geometric shapes, number theory and the like.  It’s always a hands-on experience for sure, but she often includes references to historical figures, such as Blaise Pascal, or in the case of the following video, Richard Feynman.

You can see the first part of her video summary of hexaflexagons here.

Breaking the Sound Barrier, With Your Head

Felix Baumgartner is making his final preparations for a record-breaking, supersonic skydive from a little less than 23 miles above New Mexico’s desert surface.  The jump is currently scheduled for Tuesday, October 9th.

Reports are that he will be going directly to Disneyworld after landing.