Pardon Me, Is That An Asteroid On Your Finger?


The oldest rocks on Earth are zircon crystals. These highly refractive gemstones are often used to imitate diamonds or cubic zirconias in jewelry. Geologists have now announced the results of a study that has determined that zircons are quite possibly remnants of an ancient asteroid collision with Earth.

Other than simply having the pleasure of knowing you may have a bit of outer space asteroid glittering on your finger or about your ears, neck or wrist, what good is this information? Well, for one thing it dispels the previous theory that zircons were created by tectonic plate upheavals. But, more importantly, it helps scientists understand climate change. Yes, you heard the gringa right, climate change. A rock’s origins can often indicate what was going on with water on the planet at the time the rock was formed. Since zircon’s are produced by asteroids, Earthlings can also learn about the part of the cosmos that it originated from.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) collected crystals from an impact crater that is considered “young”. Scientists wanted to compare the “young” crystals with older crystals from the Sudbury crater in Ontario, Canada. Sudbury is the best preserved impact crater on Earth and is about two billion years old.

The samples were taken to Stockholm’s “Swedish Museum of Natural History”.  Comparisons  concluded that the older crystals were the same as the younger ones. This then disproved the argument that the ancient zircon crystals could not have formed at the time the impact occurred. So, now we know that they could and probably did, making zircons the oldest rocks on Earth, as old as four billion years old which is the age of the oldest impact crater on our planet. The researchers also believe this supports the narrative that early Earth saw many more asteroid impacts than in its later life.

So, what this new determination tells mankind is that about four billion years ago an asteroid slammed into Earth. The crystals were able to form because water was present. Best estimates place the Earth’s age at four and a half billion years old so logic would assume then that it has always been a watery planet.  And what’s the big deal about an old, watery Earth?

Well, for one thing, water was required for life as we know it today to have evolved. But, the new discoveries about the crystals still does not solve the mystery of how life originated on planet Earth in the first place. And there are many theories on this subject that argue their own merits. Here are a few:

Electrified Primordial Soup – This school of thought believes that in the beginning of Earth’s life as a planet there was a life-giving electrical shock to the planet, such as lightning, that interacted with the ammonia, hydrogen and water on the planet. Lightning would deliver more than just a jolting electrical shock. The atmosphere, being filled with ammonia, hydrogen and water, would react with the electricity and create amino acids and sugars. These are the building blocks of microbial life.

Clay – A Scottish chemist has offered the theory that mineral crystals in clay is where all life began. He believes it is possible that clay, possibly at the bottom of the sea, was the perfect surface for molecules to organize themselves into patterns of amino acids and proteins which would later become DNA. Once the DNA evolved independently it no longer needed the clay medium but could organize itself on its own.

Hydrothermal Vents – Even now ocean biologists discover ecosystems surrounding hydrothermal vents deep within the Earth’s oceans that are teeming with life. Concentrations of molecules and minerals exist with the rocks surrounding these vents interacting with the hydrogen rich molecules provided by the vents action.

Panspermia – The hitchhiking life surviving the impact of an asteroid with Earth is yet one more possibility. If this theory is true, then the puzzle of the origins of life is not really to be worked out here on Earth, but to be solved by traveling the cosmos to find where it came from out there.

Although the many theories of how life originate on Earth are quite varied in their ideas, they all have one common thread… water. That would mean if the original microbes that evolved into humans over billions of years originally came from somewhere in outer space, to discover or “home planet”, Earthlings have to study planets that either have water now or had it at some time in their own history. By understanding this, a person then can understand the inspiration behind every space mission and why the space agencies of the world want to travel ever farther. They are not looking for little green men. They are looking for little molecules of water or ice. And one day, we may all call home a rock that exists in another galaxy or solar system.

 

Sources:  www.redorbit.com

www.geology.gsapubs.org

www.livescience.com

Image credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org

www.alluregems.blogspot.com

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Moonports, Caves & Bubble Pads


With all the worry of climate change transforming the Earth into an uninhabitable wasteland, kazillions of dollars are being spent to develop technology to colonize the Moon and various other stellar locales. But, if climate change results in a rise in sea levels that wipes out much of our habitable geography, what about living under the water? Wouldn’t it be more practical and economical to develop under the sea rather than colonize outer space?

These are just the sort of questions Samsung Corporation hoped to answer in their newly released “SmartThings Future Living Report” featured on their Samsung Newsroom website. The report is really a cleverly crafted marketing scheme to promote their latest gadgets and devices available in 2016. They want to reassure everyone that their products are keeping up with the times and will not be obsolete when the day comes that we are all surviving masterfully under the waves.

The report was researched and authored by a team of qualified “futurists”:

  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock – Space Scientist who believes in a future of sub-aquatic cities
  • James Monighan, MD – Commissioned the report and believes that smart technology will make everyone’s life better
  • Arthur Mamou-Mani – Award winning architect specializing on futuristic design, lecturer at University of Westminster
  • Toby Burgess – Award winning architect specializing in futuristic design, lecturer at University of Westminster
  • Linda Aitken – Urban planner specializing in innovative design
  • Els Leclerq – Urban planner specializing in innovative design

The future this team of brilliant minds envisions is one with skyscrapers in the depths of the sea, transportation via sophisticated smart-drones, all encased in a self-sustaining bubble. What kind of technology will make all of this possible?

Skyscrapers – Megalithic structures that will dwarf the average skyscraper of today will be constructed of nano-tubes made of carbon and nano-threads made of diamonds. Yum, diamonds.

Earth-scrapers – In order to escape the ravages of life above ground, humans will also burrow into the Earth, surrounding themselves with insulating soil. Delving twenty-five levels deep, the mole people of the future will live cool as cucumbers.

Underwater Urban – Self-contained biospheres will house urban areas under water. The water will provide the oxygen and hydrogen fuel to run the cities.

Drone Taxis – No more wheels. Everyone will be trading in their cars for personal drone transport.

Bye-Bye Ikea – No more shopping at a local furniture retailer. Instead, folks will equip themselves with a quality 3D printer and create their own furniture themselves out of recyclable and renewable materials.

Smart Décor – Paint and wallpaper will become a thing of the past. Heck, you won’t even need a hammer and packet of nails for hanging pictures. Walls will actually be LED screens and you can download and install and photoshop to your heart’s content until you are surrounded with the décor of your dreams.

Holograms – If you think Skype is cool, wait until you can talk to a loved one three dimensionally via hologram technology.

Medi –Pod – Who needs to bemoan the good ol’ days when doctors made house calls when your home is installed with its very own medi-pod. Step in, turn on and find out what that nasty cough is all about. A handy dispenser will supply you with the appropriate medication and, if things look really bad, a surgeon can even operate remotely.

Samsung believes that the space race to colonize the Moon and maybe even Mars will continue but those colonies will probably be reserved for elite scientific explorers, courageous entrepreneurs and wealthy adventurers. Regular folk will stay here on Earth, surviving underground or underwater. As for me, I’m thinking the underground route looks interesting but I’m not ruling out a sub-aquatic chalet.

However, despite all of the social evolution and revolutions that have taken place and are still on-going, the gringa just sees more of the same ol’, same ol’. I see the wealthy living in their master-planned communities on Mars and the Moon. The upper and middle classes submerged in style, living as one with the dolphins. Working class folks like myself and the caveman will be in the deep-Earth barrio. And, the truly impoverished will be eking out a minimal existence in the ghetto wasteland of above-ground planet Earth.

However, despite the gringa’s cynicism, she has great faith and hope for humanity. Throughout history humans have always managed to innovate and practice incredible ingenuity to survive. Despite all the fears that trouble folk about how we will survive the catastrophe of climate change, the gringa believes folks aren’t really worried about whether or not they will survive. I think most folks are worried about “how” they will survive. As in:

  • “How will I survive with air conditioning?”
  • “How will I survive without a grocery store?”
  • “How will I survive without my car?”
  • “How will I survive without a light switch that works?”
  • “How will I survive without soft toilet paper?”
  • “How will I survive without a flushing toilet?”
  • And the big one… “How will I survive without the Internet, my laptop, smartphone and social media?”

But the gringa promises everyone that we will, indeed, survive. And probably become a better people for it.

 

Source: http://www.samsung.com

Image Credit: http://www.coilycafe.blogspot.com

 

Uranus – The Teenager Planet


Why are astronomers fascinated by Uranus? Some have even gone so far as to claim it is the best darn planet in the Solar System. The gringa says, “Hey! What about Earth and Mars? Aren’t they the ones NASA is making such a fuss over? Trying to save one and explore the other?”

Well, astronomical appreciation for Uranus is because it is just so bizarre. Bizarre, huh? Like, odd rainbow colored creatures with spiny noses and squishy springs for appendages and gumballs for tails? Well, no, not quite that bizarre.

Uranus is bizarre because, apparently, it’s a bit lazy. You see, other planets spin around on their axis,  or axi, the gringa’s not quite sure about the plural spelling of axis, but you know what I mean. To get back to the point, yes, Uranus is lazy. It does not spin on its axis like other planets. It lays on its side.

Another oddity is that, even though it is not the farthest planet from the Sun, it is the coldest. Perhaps that’s because it’s so darn lazy. It’s never up, spinning around creating friction and heat and all that good, heat-generating stuff that movement creates.

Also, Uranus is confused and misplaces things, things like its magnetic field. Its magnetic field is NOT where it’s supposed to be. Uranus is kind of like a teenager. It lays about doing a lot of nothing and is messy, laying other things about where they are not supposed to be.

One more thing that makes Uranus like a teenager is its greenish atmosphere. It’s moody. It vacillates between dull boredom and doing absolute nothing to crazy business.

Uranus also has an identity crisis. You know how a parent names a child, like, say, the gringa named her eldest son, Zachary, then he goes off to school and engages in some mild rebellion to assert his independence and comes home with a name like, say, Milkshake? Yes, that’s Uranus, too. While all the other planets were named after Roman gods, Uranus had to go and be different and have a name after a Greek god instead, Ouranos, the sky father, who beget Saturn (aka Cronus) and Jupiter (aka Zeus).

Another aspect of Uranus is, because of its laziness and slow motion movement, for a very long time it was thought to be a star. It wasn’t until 1781 that Sir William Hershel discovered that it was actually a planet. Poor Uranus, so misunderstood and underestimated.

If we chose to colonize Uranus instead of Mars, life would be rather odd living on a sideways planet. Summer would last for twenty years without a single sunset and winter would be just as long, spent entirely in darkness. The gringa would surely go mad.

It takes the planet over eighty years to orbit the sun. Surrounded by its 27 moons (that we know about) and ringed about by 13 circlets of rock and spacedust, Uranus plods along at its own snail’s pace. And those moons and rings are just as odd as the planet they surround.

One ring is made up completely of spacedust astronomers think came from the moon named Mab when it was hit by asteroids. Another ring has simply disappeared since the last image received while another moved about and is now somewhere else. But, perhaps the strangest ring of all is the one that “breathes”. Every few hours it expands and then contracts throughout a five kilometer difference. Now that’s just weird.

The moons don’t just orbit Uranus but seem to engage in a dance. They are not considered stable because they are constantly pushing and pulling one another with their different gravities. Scientists expect a few will eventually crash into one another and then who knows what kind of changes will develop. Maybe the planet will get another ring or two.

And with an atmosphere of hydrogen, helium, methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, the gringa’s pretty sure it would be a very unpleasant place to set up household. Everyone would speak ridiculously, no more opera and musicals to appreciate. The air would also smell like a big fart, everywhere, and your eyes would sting and tear. There are also storms with winds over 100 mph that can last for years.

However, one oddity that the gringa thinks may just make all that nastiness about the stinky, unpleasant air worth the sacrifice is what scientists think about the “oceans” of Uranus. Underneath those thick, smelly gas clouds there could be an “ocean” of liquid diamonds! For heaven’s sake! You don’t say?! The gringa has just GOT to know if this is true! Can you imagine! If it is, every single woman I know who loves sparkly things will be on the first commercial rocket, no matter the cost. Goodbye Earth!

So, what the heck happened to Uranus? What got it knocked off its axis? Some experts theorize a large moon, that is long since extinct, had a powerful gravitational pull that overpowered the planet. Others consider that perhaps it had a cosmic collision with something larger than Earth.

Unfortunately, NASA doesn’t expect to dig in to a deeply involved study of this mysterious planet anytime soon. We just don’t have the technology developed that can effectively get an orbiter that far away (almost 2 billion miles) and successfully cope with the instability of all the oddities of Uranus. But, with NASA, the word is never “impossible”. The word is always, well, the two words are always, “not yet”. So, the gringa hopes somewhere there are some NASA scientists as incredibly curious as herself and are being some Johnnies-on-the-spot getting this technology developed. I just have to know more!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.nasa.gov