Turning Astrobiology Surprises Into Evolutionary Fiction

first_imgThere’s never been a surprise that a good astrobiologist hasn’t been able to spin into an evolutionary tale.For a recent example, see the post “How old are the first planets?” on NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine or the reprint on PhysOrg.  In this article, every surprise or anomaly became fodder for Keith Cooper’s imagination.  Here are a few of the unexpected observations in the article that Cooper worked into the grand scenario of cosmic evolution and the origin of life:1.  Rocky planets:  The Kepler spacecraft has found rocky worlds around metal-poor stars that were previously thought to lack ingredients for planets.  Solution: “one way of looking at terrestrial planets is to see them as failed gas giant cores.”  Even more exciting, it means (contrary to earlier beliefs) that rocky planets – and maybe life – may abound around metal-poor stars!  “If Earth-sized planets do not require stars with high abundances of heavy elements, then that has huge implications, expanding the possible abodes for life throughout both space and time.”  Cooper even jumped from his imaginary solution to the conclusion that it implies the “Galactic Habitable Zone” might be wider than thought.2. Fermi Paradox:  Point #1 raises the ghost of the Fermi Paradox: if there are so many rocky worlds with life, how come none have visited the earth by now?  (Their inhabitants, presumably, have had billions of years to evolve advanced technology.)  Solution: Dodge the question with a distracting discussion of how and when gas giants can evolve around low-metal stars.3.  Heavy metal galaxies:  The evolutionary scenario predicted heavy elements would gradually increase over time; early galaxies, therefore, should be depleted in heavy elements.  “Twelve billion years ago the chemistry of galaxies should have been fairly primitive,” Cooper confessed, yet a distant galaxy matched the sun in heavy elements.  Solution: “The best explanation so far is that a starburst – a ferociously rapid bout of star formation – within the inner regions of the galaxy has blown the heavy elements into the galactic outlands.”  In philosophy of science, this is known as a post hoc rationalization.4. Planet billiards:  Gas giants should wreak havoc with rocky planets, sending them careening out of a star’s planetary system as the gas giants migrate inward, but Kepler has found rocky planets interspersed between gas giants. Solution: claim that “what difficulties gas giants can cause for habitable planets, they don’t necessarily have to be a show-stopper“.  But if they are, it only takes one to stop the show.5. Impoverished gas giants:  Gas giants were thought to require an abundance of heavy elements to form cores for accretion of gas, but some have been found around metal-poor stars.  Solution: “it must have formed very early in the history of the Universe,” or, “Why gas giants have been able to form around these heavy-metal deficient stars is unknown, perhaps hinting at an alternative process for gas planet formation.”These and other anomalies, failed expectations and surprises are dealt with accordingly by Cooper and his astronomer interviewees.  Given a lively imagination, no problem is too damning to falsify biological evolution, planetary evolution, stellar evolution, galactic evolution and cosmic evolution.  Here’s how Cooper roused his readers’ imaginations in a sweeping set of glittering generalities (after dodging the 4th point above about planet billiards, and while dodging example #2 about the Fermi Paradox):Regardless, one thing is becoming clear: that sufficient raw materials for building terrestrial planets were available very soon after the Big Bang, raising the possibility that there could be life in the Universe far older than we. Perhaps they reside around long-lived red dwarf stars, or have moved on from their home system after their star expired. Or, perhaps, we really are the first, which means that if life has happened just once throughout the entire history of the Universe, our existence must be a fluke and our planet very, very special indeed.Such a conclusion would allow for any eventuality: even the uniqueness of life on earth would fit an evolutionary scenario.In another article on PhysOrg, planetary theorist Alan Boss came up with a novel way to get refractory compounds into comets, where they were previously thought not to exist: cook them near the sun, then send them out to the fringes by special delivery.  “Their meandering trips back and forth could help explain the different compositions of their rims.”  This, along with a discussion of calcium-aluminum inclusions (CAIs) in meteorites, was touted as solving two solar system puzzles at one blow.  “It’s nice to solve two problems at once,” said Boss. “But there are still many more puzzles about meteorites for us to work on.”  Incidentally, his theory of disk instability for the formation of gas giants runs counter to the core accretion model Keith Cooper assumed in his article.Astronomer Stephen Weinberg once defined an expert as “a person who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.”  In this case, Cooper and his Darwin Party experts don’t avoid any errors: they actually use the large errors to sweep on to the grand fallacy.  We might also recall that an expert (ex-spurt) used to be a spurt, but is now just a drip.  Oh, their empirical observations are doing fine: the Kepler spacecraft, the spectrometers, the equations – all built using intelligent design – are pulling the scientific load.  But the scenario, the play, the imaginary story they repeat in spite of the observations – these are what illustrate the skill of evolutionist gumbies to twist any falsification into a celebration of their gnostic powers.  Historical note:  Johannes Kepler, for whom the planet-hunting spacecraft was named, was a creationist. 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Hizb ‘start-up’ foiled in Assam

first_imgThe police in Assam have arrested more alleged members of the extremist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), believed to have been planning to launch a disruptive “start-up” in the State.On Monday, the police in central Assam’s Nagaon and adjoining Hojai districts, arrested three men — Riyazuddin Bhuyan, Joynal Ahmed and Baharul Islam. Sleuths, police said, had been keeping a watch on the trio after inputs that they had assisted HM operative Qamar-uz-Zaman during his visit to the State in August.Qamar, hailing from Jamunamukh in the Hojai district, was arrested last week from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Four of his associates, including one from Meghalaya, had been arrested till Sunday.Cashing inThe police said the HM had sent Qamar to Assam to radicalise Muslim youth, possibly to cash in on a feeling of victimisation because of the exclusion of many from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC). “They had plans to launch a start-up in Hojai district. We had kept tabs on the suspects but did not have concrete evidence on their connection with the HM. The arrests were made after collecting technical evidence,” Ankur Jain, Hojai district Superintendent of Police, said.He did not specify the nature of the start-up the HM or Qamar’s associates had been planning to set up.Tracing contactsAssam’s Director General of Police (DGP) Kuladhar Saikia, who is monitoring the investigation, said police traced the people Qamar had contacted or moved around with during his “recruitment trip” in August.Qamar had avoided his home in Jamunamukh but stayed in the house of one Shahnawaz Alam arrested last week. Police said Qamar had also used Riyazuddin’s motorcycle to move around during his stay.Qamar is believed to have been radicalised in Kashmir, where he had gone on some business a few years ago. Police came to know about his joining HM from his photo, in fatigues and holding an AK-47 rifle, uploaded on social media.Assam had a few short-lived Islamist groups that allegedly worked for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) to help militant outfits such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in the 1990s.last_img read more

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World Cup final: Dhoni may pick Sreesanth in place of Nehra

first_imgPacer S Sreesanth may be brought into the Indian team in place of injured Ashish Nehra for the summit clash against Sri Lanka in the World Cup cricket final in Mumbai on Saturday.Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni also issued a veiled warning to the Sri Lankans saying the home team has not played to its fullest potential and “there is plenty to come” and was prepared to take on veteran spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.With swing bowler Ashish Nehra virtually ruled out of the grand finale due to a multiple finger fracture he suffered in the semifinal clash against Pakistan, Dhoni appeared to indicate his preference in the toss up between S Sreesanth and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.”Ashish is most likely ruled out he’s got multiple fracture on one of his fingers,” he said adding that the choice could be between Sreesanth and Ashwin.”If you see the Mumbai track there’s a bit of pace and bounce for the seamers initially and there is a bit of reverse swing going. The third seamer can have an impact on the game.An extra seamer means I am able to manoeuvre the bowlers,” the skipper said at the pre-match press conference,” Dhoni said.The skipper, who had surprised everyone by keeping Ashwin out of the Mohali encounter after his good performance in two matches, said “With a spinner, if you have three spinners along with a part-timer you don’t have room for manoeuvre. But whatever opportunity Ashwin has got, irrespective of where he has fared, he has done really well.advertisement”We have confidence in him but we are not clear about whether to go with three seamers or two seamers and one extra spinner,” he said.Sreesanth had not played after the tournament opener on February 19 against Bangladesh at Mirpur, and asked how he can slip into his groove after such a lengthy absence from the middle, Dhoni said it can be done if one looked at tomorrow’s final as just another game.”Don’t look at it as the final but as another game. Sree has done well for us most of the games he has played, he has done well. He’s one character who can definitely swing the ball and get you early wickets. Choosing one individual over other is difficult but let’s hope whoever gets chosen will perform at his best,” he said.”Unfortunately, we have not been able to give him more chances to play. Even in the first game, he played I thought he did not bowl badly. After that we gave chances to other individuals which I think were needed at that point of time.It’s more about who suits the condition more. Let’s hope whoever plays just performs,” said Dhoni.- With PTI inputslast_img read more

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Yuvraj Singh likely to campaign for BJP in Haryana

first_imgYuvraj SinghCricketer Yuvraj Singh is likely to campaign for the BJP in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Haryana, sources said on Friday.The decision, sources said, was taken in a meeting Yuvraj had with BJP president Amit Shah in New Delhi on Friday.The cricketer from Chandigarh is considered to be popular in Haryana, where the BJP hopes to topple the two-time chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress.Elections to the Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly will be held in a single phase on October 15 and the counting of votes will be done on October 19, the Election Commission announced on Friday.For the beleagured Congress, the upcoming polls in the two states currently ruled by it are an opportunity to make a comeback and shed its losing streak after the Lok Sabha humiliation when the party was reduced to an all-time low 44 seats.The Assembly elections, to be held shortly after the BJP’s spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha polls in May, will also check if the Narendra Modi wave still persists or has subsided.The Maharashtra Assembly has 288 seats while Haryana has 90.last_img read more

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