We’re All Just Microbe Poop

The gringa gets so excited about the search for life in outer space that I often forget about the overlooked frontier right here on earth… the deepest, darkest depths of our oceans. And some interesting discoveries have been taking place about 12 miles below the surface of the deep.

A beautiful, sparkly mineral has rendered up traces of microbial life. This is the deepest place carbon based life has ever been found on Earth. So far.  It is suspected that underwater oceanic volcanoes spit out the pretty minerals. But what does it mean? Is there any value to this information other than a cool topic of party conversation that makes a person look brilliant?

Scientists at Utrecht University, who made the discovery 6 miles below the deepest point of the Mariana Trench, consider the microbes to be something like a “message in a bottle”. Studying them will reveal information about mud volcanoes that are otherwise unknown.  Through chemical analysis they hope to find out things like what they “eat” which will tell scientists more about the microbe’s surrounding environment.  But microbes can spin quite a yarn. They are the smallest building blocks of our world’s biology.

Microbial communities basically eat different types of carbon. As these communities feast, grow and produce by-products (microbial “poop” I suppose), all sorts of things are happening. This, in essence, is how the carbon based world we live was constructed.

There are different kinds of microbe classifications. The type of microbe found 12 miles under the sea is considered an anaerobic respirator. That means it releases energy as a by-product of the carbon based food it eats. That means that anaerobic microbe poop is really energy!

This energy then turns around and changes the minerals in the microbe’s environment. And depending on what kind of carbon it eats determines the kind of energy-poop related change that takes place. For example, when microbes eat lactates, the same kind of changes repeat themselves in the surrounding environment. But when researchers feed them glucose, all kinds of different things happen.

The gringa can relate. Glucose is really just sugar. When the gringa’s oldest son was a little boy, if he avoided sugar his behavior was rather predictable. However, offer him a soda and as soon as the sugar high kicked in, he went bananas. So, I guess we really did all originate from microbes! Next time I stare at a microbe under a microscope I will ask myself if that is one of my long lost ancestors.

So, I guess in answer to my question about the value of learning about microbes is that in doing so, we learn more about ourselves!



Science Daily

Image Credit:  UK News Yahoo

Video Credit:  Newsy Science


Cosmic Explosions? What The Heck Is Going ON?

Have you heard the news? There was a big, bang, boom way out in outer space! What the heck was that? Is it the birth of a new universe? A star gone supernova? Has galactic war broken out? What the heck is going ON up there?

What We Know: Astronomers engaged in a bit of stargazing through a powerful X-ray imaging telescope called the Chandra Observatory. It is an orbiting observatory, launched and managed by NASA, and named after Nobel prize-winning astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Observing astronomers witnessed several cosmic flashes (aka EXPLOSIONS). In order for these flashes to have been visible as they were, they had to have packed a punch with at least one thousand times greater energy than any other star in that neck of the deep space woods. The explosions occurred over a period of hours on a single day.

Although this event was witnessed in 2014, scientists are still scratching their heads over the phenomena. And, considering the scientific law about energy never ceasing to exist, transforming yes, but disappearing no, well, this head scratcher is a deep mystery. There seems to have been no energy trace left behind by these explosions.

Where It Happened: If you happen to have access to a deep space, X-ray telescope, you will want to take aim at an obscure, unnamed galaxy that is nearly 11 billion light years away (but chances are you will have to rely on what Chandra relays back to NASA). This is a region of deep space called “Chandra Deep Field-South”. Although the explosions are over, it may be worth staying tuned. Who knows what might happen next? I mean, after all, we don’t know what the heck actually happened.

The Big Question: How the heck can what seems like a cosmic cataclysm leave no footprint in the Universe?

What Experts Theorize (in other words, scientists’ best guesses):

  • A destructive event like a neutron or white dwarf star that died.
  • Merging of a star with a black hole (which would result in the death of a star)

Death Of A Star: When a neutron or white dwarf star dies it is actually an energy rich collapse of gases, plasma, and all other kinds of energy related “stuff”. This creates a gamma-ray burst which is a fancy way of saying massive explosion of energy. This is what is commonly called a supernova event.

Where’s The Aftermath Evidence? If a star went supernova, or got destroyed in a crushing black hole, where’s all the tidbits that would be left behind? Depending on the size of the star, several things will happen after the explosive excitement:

  • The star’s core shrinks back to form a tiny neutron star if it was about twice the size of our own Sun.
  • A black hole forms where the star used to be if the star was massively larger than our own Sun.
  • In a supernova, the layers surrounding the star’s core are blown out into space.
  • The shockwave of the final, spectacular explosion helps the blown out bits form new stars and, perhaps, a new galaxy.

What The Heck Is It? So, if there is not a new, tiny, neutron star or black hole in that particular part of space, scientists may eventually rule these likeliest theories out. But there’s more to consider, making a supernova/black hole theory unlikely:

  • Time: A Supernova event usually takes a few years of explosive activity to build up to the final KABOOM when the star finally collapses and explodes. This recent event occurred in a single day within a span of a few hours.
  • Experience: Scientists have a lot of experience identifying supernovas. In a galaxy the size of our Milky Way, supernovas occur about twice in a century. Throughout our Universe, scientists estimate, from their observations, that a supernova happens every single second. So, if this event wasn’t immediately recognized as a supernova by scientists familiar with what to expect, chances are it wasn’t one.

Now What? We have to continue to follow the logic. Which brings us full circle to the original question:

“What the heck just happened? What the heck is it?”

What is it that Sherlock Holmes or Spock would say?

“When you rule out what is most likely, whatever is left, however unlikely, must be the answer.”

What The Heck Are We Left With?  UFOlogists will be quick to conclude it must be evidence of alien life. Perhaps they are tinkering with catastrophic weapons. Maybe a devastating planetary conflict took place. It could have been an alien science experiment gone bad. Maybe it’s the deep space version of a telephone call or SOS. Perhaps a mega-asteroid impact with a star or planet occurred. You see, it could be a natural cosmic event. But it may be of a unique nature. One never observed by humans before. The simple explanation could be that scientists are flummoxed because no suggestion of such a thing exists “on the books” today. They may have to figure this one out from scratch, on their own.
In the unlikely event it does turn out to be a cosmic conflict between alien species or alien planetary natural disaster apocalypse, should Earth expect an influx of ET refugees? Well, if they do begin to show up, the gringa’s got a bit of advice for them. Don’t come to the US. Trump yanked up the refugee welcome mat a few months ago.
If you really want to live in the good ol’ U.S. of A, here’s a better plan for a space alien refugee. You see, since Trump is bent on building that stupid border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, he’s trying to come up with the dough to pay for it. Turns out he’s not the great business negotiator he made himself out to be. Mexico ain’t paying for it.
One clever plan he has for some quick cash is to slash the budget of the U.S. Coast Guard. All an ET refugee need do is camp out in a Mexican coastal town, buy a kayak and wait for construction to begin. Then, chances are there won’t be anyone on duty patrolling our coastal waters because their paychecks have been invested in that dumb wall. All a space alien refugee has gotta do is paddle north along the coastline!

Trump, what a dope! As if people can’t go under, over or around a stupid wall! And if brown-skinned “aliens” from other countries drive him loco, wait til they start showing up from other PLANETS, perhaps in shades of blue or green or gray! He’ll have a stroke for sure.
Sources: NASA

Nobel Prize Org.

Independent UK

Photo Credits: PodBean

Nobel Prize Org.

Video Credits:  Chandra X-ray Observatory


Then BANG… Another Universe!

It’s not uncommon for people to wonder if humanity is alone in the vast Universe. But too often we are thinking of the here and now, wondering if an advanced space alien civilization is making contact with us. Or we are looking forward to a future where we might be able to discover another advanced civilization in the farthest reaches of outer space. But what about eons in the past? Isn’t it a bit egotistical to think that our Universe is the only one that ever existed?

For Americans, this assumption is probably rooted in Judeo-Christian teachings that have long held that mankind is the only creation of their god. But if you take the limitations of religion out of the picture and only consider the Universe from a scientific perspective, the first thing the gringa realizes is that not only could mankind be one of any number of species right now, but there may have been any number of other species’ that have lived before us. New models of the cosmos support that even other universes could have existed before ours.

Scientists estimate our own universe is more than 13 billion years old. They suspect that some amazing energy event created our Universe. It is often referred to as the Big Bang. But it may not have been the first Bang. Modeling a theory of multiple Big Bangs that have produced multiple universes is all based on Einstein’s theory of relativity.

As it goes, in a nutshell, a Big Bang cannot be a singular event. Instead, it is a perpetual cycle of cosmic expansion, collapse into itself, then BANG, a new universe.  Look at it like a Universe growing much the way a pregnant woman’s womb grows. When a universe reaches full growth maturity, it collapses. The energy produced by the collapse then explodes with new life, another Universe. Each Universe is created by the death of the Universe that gave birth to it. The Big Bang is really just cosmic labor that leaves a new Universe an orphan.

What that means for humanity is that our own Universe will give birth one day. Whatever generation is alive when that happens will be the last of mankind before an explosive extinction. That is, unless we can successfully colonize another planet in another Universe. But that would then have to mean that we don’t really live in a Universe, but, rather, a Multiverse.

It would seem that even if we manage to survive the effects of climate change, mankind is still doomed. So, the gringa suggests that we all get this climate change issue resolved so we can focus on an even greater challenge if we want to avoid extinction. We need to find another darn Universe, develop the technology to get there FAST, and start over. And do it right the next time!





Image Credit: imgarcade.com




Anthropocene #2? Could Be

Let’s travel back in time together, say, about 50 or 60 million years. What might be going on in the wilds of primeval Earth? Are the caveman’s ancestors making stone tipped spears to take down a juicy mammoth for a winter’s worth of dinner? Some scientists think there could have been some pre-historic glassmakers crafting wares. Others say no, no, no, those droplets of glass found in a primordial ancient seabed that is now New Jersey belonged to space aliens who visited long ago and left behind a bit of rubbish. And then there are “those” scientists who stick with the theory of a cataclysmic celestial body impact 10 million years after the dinosaur doomsday comet impact event. This second crash resulted in a smattering of glass droplets in the searing heat. Theory #3 is the story the gringa’s going to go with.

Three excavation sites in New Jersey and another underwater site in Florida have produced these interesting finds. They are shaped like round droplets of water but are actually glass. As the comet or meteor crashes into the surface of the Earth, the space rock is immediately vaporized. Kaboom!

After traveling through the atmosphere on its collision course it is extremely hot. Once vaporized, all of its molten bits are flung will-nilly into the air. As the molten rock bits fall through the air, they take the shape of a droplet, just like any liquid does as it falls through the air. The droplets cool as they fall, hardening into glass the shape of a liquid droplet.

Unlike the comet impact 10 million years earlier that killed off all the large land and sea animals, scientists don’t think this impact resulted in mass extinction of Earth species. What they do think it triggered is a massive climate warming chain of events because of an enormous carbon dioxide contribution to the atmosphere after the impact’s explosion. Over the course of the next 100,000 years temperatures around the world rose by almost 15 degrees Fahrenheit (or 8 degrees Celsius).

Although our modern culture has been conditioned to view a warming climate as disastrous, in this instance it was actually a good thing. After the mass extinction comet 10 million years earlier, the Earth had been plunged into an Ice Age. Warming temperatures triggered the environmental changes that would eventually result in the appearance of early primates and mammals. But the gringa wants to know just where they came from? Where was their genetic material hiding during those cold millenias?

Did they arrive with the glass droplets? Was it a comet made of obsidian or sand or other geological material that can be transformed with heat into glass? Could it have actually been another engineered alien Anthropocene space vehicle sent to re-seed a planet that was dead after the previous catastrophe? Knowing that it will take thousands, even millions, of years for us to transverse the Universe to where an Earth twin planet might exist, might that be why 10 million years passed before re-seeding occurred? Mightn’t it have taken that long for our species of origin to send a probe, check on their colony, receive back probe telemetry, reel in shock at the news, devise a plan and engineer the technology for a 2nd round of genetic material and then deliver the payload? Might all of us alive today be the legacy of Anthropocene Event #2? The gringa says, “Stranger things have happened.”


Yahoo Science News


Image Credit: www.meteorite.fr








Sun Worship

Earlier this month celestial lovers throughout south and central Africa got to enjoy a spectacular solar eclipse that produced a ring of fire as the Moon transversed across the pathway of the Sun. The peculiar occasions when the Earth, Moon and Sun all line up together doesn’t happen too often. Such a rare event has historically been linked with all sorts of predictions and paranormal expectations.

The funniest recording of a solar eclipse is, perhaps, also the earliest record. Occuring in October of the 2137 B.C., two royal astronomers, Ho and Hi, offended the fourth Emperor of China’s Hsia Dynasty,  Chung-K’ang. The eclipse was an unexpected event. The poor astronomers were unprepared to perform the customary rituals that should have taken place. The pair of official stargazers were drunk and failed to launch the traditional arrows and beat out the right rhythm on the gongs and drums so that the Sun could be delivered from the mythical beast that was attempting to devour it.

Convinced that chaos would soon consume the empire, the astronomers were summarily executed as an appeasement sacrifice for their drunken dereliction of duty.  A public record of their death was translated in 1839 by scholars to reveal an amusing verse indicating that, although brutal in enforcing their expectations, the ancient Chinese did have a sense of humor:

“Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hi,

Whose fate though sad was visible –

Being hanged because they could not spy

Th’ eclipse which was invisible.”

In November of the year 569 an eclipse was recorded before the birth of the Prophet Mohammad in 570. There are many religious historians who link this eclipse as the moment of Mohammad’s conception. Interestingly enough Mohammed’s son Ibrahim died at the age of two-years-old during the occurrence of a solar eclipse. Mohammed wrote of this event as a sign sent from his God, Allah, of personal condolences. Muslims today still consider eclipses significant religious events. When the recent eclipse occurred mosques throughout Africa had special calls to prayer for safety and deliverance from harm.

Perhaps the most significant solar eclipse in modern history is the one of May, 1919. Commonly called “Einstein’s Eclipse”, it is considered to be the solar eclipse that changed the universe. For more than 200 years scientists had accepted Isaac Newton’s principle that the space of the Universe was as inflexible as mathematical principles.  Einstein set out to challenge this longheld belief. Einstein believed gravity was curved and flexible, affected by the mass of planetary bodies. He proposed that warping of space allowed planets to remain in their orbital paths, gravity distorted by the mass of a celestial body, the greater the mass, the stronger the force, which would result in more bending of light. This was to become known as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

When the 1919 eclipse occurred, British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington led the charge for an experiment to take advantage of the expected eclipse. Eddington traveled to Principe which is in the Gulf of Guinea off of Africa’s western coastline. A horrible thunderstorm threatened to ruin Eddington’s chances but, fortunately, by afternoon the skies had cleared. Eddington’s celestial photographs and measurements were compared with photos and measurements recorded by Andrew  Crommelin at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. The findings were announced by Britain’s Royal Society’s Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson. It was announced in London on November 6, 1919 that Newton’s theory had been disproven by Einstein’s new Theory of Relativity.

To make sure that you are ready for the next opportunity to view a solar eclipse, log on to www.timeanddate.com and keep a watch on the countdown clock for eclipses listed under their Sun & Moon tab. It seems we are only about 5 months away from the next big event.  There is a handy search window everyone can use to see if their city or country is going to be in the most fortunate position of being able to see the eclipse.

To view a solar eclipse it is important to wear protective eyewear. A homemade viewbox can also be created called a pinhole camera. All you need is a box with a small hole on one side for light to pass through and project an inverted image of the eclipse on the opposite side.  Below is a video with an example of how to make and use a homemade pinhole camera. One tip: The bigger the box the better the view.






Image Credit: cherokeebillie.files.wordpress.com


So Where Are All Those ETs?

Fermi’s Paradox is a theory named after Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) who, during lunch with a fellow scientist, posed a question kind of like this, “Where the heck are the aliens if they are supposed to exist?” The premise of his theory goes something like this:

  • Billions of stars similar to our Sun exist with many of them billions of years older than our own planet.
  • It is highly probable that some of these stars would be orbited by Earth-like planets with conditions that could lead to the development of intelligent life.
  • If intelligent life developed on these older “Earths” their respective civilizations might have developed interstellar travel and have already begun investigating Earth.

Combine all these facts and you come up with the conclusion that Earth should have already been visited by ETs. So, like Fermi said, “Where is everybody?” Despite mankind’s best efforts Fermi could not find any credible evidence of alien visitation. The conclusion then must become that the existence of intelligent life is:

  • Extremely rare, or…
  • Alien intelligent civilizations have not contacted Earth.

In 1961 a scientist by the name of Frank Drake took Fermi’s 1950 theory and applied a mathematical formula to the probabilities. It is called the “Drake Equation”. The formula is expressed as:

N = R* · fp  · ne · fl  · fi  · fc · L

The variables are defined as follows:

N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

But what does the formula mean to scientists? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Some scientists translate the results to be wildly optimistic that there is, indeed, intelligent life out there. Others feel quite the opposite. When Frank Drake met with Carl Sagan to speculate on the calculations, they estimated the existence of 1,000 (on the low end) to 100 million (on the high end) possible intelligent civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy. To counter their claims, scientists Frank Tipler and John D. Barrow put forth that the average number of intelligent life civilizations in our galaxy would be much less than one. Seeing as how human civilization exists, that would consequently, then, rule out the possibility of any other intelligent civilization existing at the same time.

The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) sees the Fermi’s paradox and accepts the reality that either interpretation of the possibility of the existence of intelligence life has a chance of being true. Thus, they continue their efforts, erring on the side of optimism. And the gringa likes that. Why not hold out hope? Why not be curious? And why not exercise such curiosity with a healthy dose of skepticism to balance out the equation and prevent a full-scale pre-disposition to crazy alien conspiracy theory by maintaining strict scientific standards?

SETI continues exploration and research as they search for others out there in the galaxy. They believe in the possibility that if a suitable environment was allowed enough time, that it is possible for intelligent life to develop. By using all sorts of science and technology (satellite arrays, chemistry, optical telescopes, and sophisticated radio signaling devices) SETI not only searches for signals from other civilizations but reaches out with messages of our own to anyone who may be listening. And with their Education and Public Outreach program (EPO), humans of all ages and walks of life can be a part of their endeavor. For educators there is nothing more exciting than to introduce to a classroom of elementary and middle school students SETI’s “Life in the Universe” curriculum. So log on and order your first package today and get students engaged with a lesson plan that is certain to pique their curiosity and hopefully inspire them to be the future of our world’s STEM programs, because we need them.





Image Credit:  bing.net



Guests & Gods

The gringa was recently requested by a fellow blogger for permission to re-post some of my material. I was flattered at the interest and apparent seal of approval. In appreciative reciprocation I also wanted to re-post an item of this blogger’s choosing. The gringa’s “guest” blogger, Octavian D. Curpas, YouTube video blogger from Arizona, forwarded a transcript of a German Christian singer he recently interviewed, Florence Joy Enns. Lacking a URL link to a video of this interview, the best the gringa can do is provide a link to his YouTube channel, Octavian D. Curpas and a link to the video that inspired the interview, Florence performing “Mein Ziel”. From a Christian perspective, Octavian advocates for reunification of Norwegian children separated from their families through Norway’s version of the U.S.’s Child Protective Services. The gringa will not even attempt to delve into those delicate waters and stick to what she knows. But, dear reader, expect this post to be a bit more personal.

So, returning to his interview of Florence, the gringa then wonders how she can get the subject of a German Christian singer to relate to anything science or fantastical. The intrigue begins with the first quote Octavian cites from Florence, “God answered my prayer when I was 5 years old.” Florence prayed for a baby brother and, despite her parents’ intentions to have no more children, Florence’s prayers were answered and she got a baby brother.

This takes the gringa back to when her eldest son was only three-years-old. We were driving over a bridge and a little dog was running through traffic, perilously close to becoming flattened road kill. Zachary began praying very loudly for God to send a rescuer to the dog. Within moments traffic stopped behind us, a car opened its door and the dog jumped in. My son became a believer.

Now, my son’s independent action of unprompted prayer came as a surprise. The gringa is Jewish. The caveman is Catholic. We are both non-practicers of our respective religions where ritual and temple attendance is concerned. We believe our faiths are based on love and compassion and that is the lifestyle we live, following the easy rule of thumb delivered by Jesus to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It seems simple enough. As a homeschooling mom, the gringa did include religious studies as part of my son’s curriculum, but it included instruction and history on every major religion in the world: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, and much more. So, although we have never forced any formal religious training upon our children, they have all grown up and adopted their own religious beliefs and lifestyles. They learned the best way, by our example and explanations for their questions.

A few years after our eldest son’s first prayer was answered, he asked me how he would know that God is real. The gringa adopted, of course, a Jewish perspective for such a question. I explained to him that in the religious texts I rely on for wisdom an example is given in which the person asks God for a demonstration. There is nothing wrong with such a thing. I told him that Jews call it “asking God for a sign”. I told him the story of Gideon who asked God to give him a sign by “putting out the fleece”. God responded. That night, before Zachary went to bed, he looked upward and said, “God, if you’re real there will be a cat at the front door tomorrow.” Now, the gringa chuckled to herself then tucked her precocious six-year-old boy into bed and thought nothing more of it. The next morning, while preparing breakfast, I saw my little boy tear through the apartment and open the door, immediately screaming, “YES!” Low and behold there was a darn cat sitting on our welcome mat. I thought I might faint. How strong the faith of the child. How pure the heart that asks for a sign. How kind and benevolent for a god to respond.

The reality is that such stories are not uncommon. They cannot be explained. Regardless of whether a person believes in God as creative cosmic energy or a divine old man with a beard, there are simply things that happen in which science can only shrug, hold up its hands and say, “Hey, we don’t have a clue.” The gringa adores science and all its fascinations. I also believe that there is a kernel of truth to all of the world’s diverse religions. They all share commonalities where kindness, compassion and forgiveness are concerned. I try to not sweat the details that are controversial points of doctrine and stick to those key elements that maintain a single thread throughout them. I don’t believe religious faith and belief in science are mutually exclusive. I believe they are inextricably linked together. I believe that science will eventually reveal what exactly the greatest architect, scientist and artist the world has ever known is. So, in a way, science is also my religion.

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