Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Creatures of the deep: terrifying macro pictures of polychaetes or bristle worms

These tiny monsters may look like they are from another planet but they are in fact creatures from our deepest oceans.

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sharkchunks:

jtotheizzoe:

One of my favorite GIFs of one of my favorite NASA visualizations to preview Monday’s It’s Okay To Be Smart and get you excited and all that jazz. Think you can guess what tomorrow’s vid is about?

Blue = sea saltGreen = organicsRed = dustWhite = sulfates

Check out the full NASA video below, featuring simulated global “stuff in the air” over a two year period on Earth. Ain’t Earth beautiful? (Even if, as in this case, it’s a 3 million processor-hour computer animation)


It looks so much like Jupiter in motion.

sharkchunks:

jtotheizzoe:

One of my favorite GIFs of one of my favorite NASA visualizations to preview Monday’s It’s Okay To Be Smart and get you excited and all that jazz. Think you can guess what tomorrow’s vid is about?

Blue = sea salt
Green = organics
Red = dust
White = sulfates

Check out the full NASA video below, featuring simulated global “stuff in the air” over a two year period on Earth. Ain’t Earth beautiful? (Even if, as in this case, it’s a 3 million processor-hour computer animation)

It looks so much like Jupiter in motion.

sagansense:

Earth’s upper atmosphere—below freezing, nearly without oxygen, flooded by UV radiation—is no place to live. But last winter, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that billions of bacteria actually thrive up there.

Expecting only a smattering of microorganisms, the researchers flew six miles above Earth’s surface in a NASA jet plane. There, they pumped outside air through a filter to collect particles.

Back on the ground, they tallied the organisms, and the count was staggering: 20 percent of what they had assumed to be just dust or other particles was alive. Earth, it seems, is surrounded by a bubble of bacteria.
Now what? Read the whole story over at PopSci…

sagansense:

Earth’s upper atmosphere—below freezing, nearly without oxygen, flooded by UV radiation—is no place to live. But last winter, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that billions of bacteria actually thrive up there.

image

Expecting only a smattering of microorganisms, the researchers flew six miles above Earth’s surface in a NASA jet plane. There, they pumped outside air through a filter to collect particles.

image

Back on the ground, they tallied the organisms, and the count was staggering: 20 percent of what they had assumed to be just dust or other particles was alive. Earth, it seems, is surrounded by a bubble of bacteria.

imageNow what? Read the whole story over at PopSci

This Ancient Asteroid Strike Was More Insane Than We Realized

Around 3.26 billion years ago — long before the dinosaurs — a massive asteroid measuring nearly 36 miles (58 km) across smashed into the Earth. Geologists have now reconstructed this cataclysmic event, and it was far, far bigger than we thought. Here’s how things went down on that fateful day…

The collision instigated a planetary-wide earthquake measuring more than 10.8 on the Richter Scale. It propelled seismic waves hundreds of miles through the Earth, breaking rocks and setting off other large earthquakes. This earthquake shook the earth for a half hour — about six times longer than the one that struck Japan in 2011…

The event also rebooted parts of the Earth’s tectonic system….

It also triggered tsunamis thousands of meters deep — far bigger than anything that could be generated by conventional earthquakes. These tsunamis swept across the oceans that covered most of the Earth at the time…

The Earth’s surface was completely fried. The sky became red hot, the atmosphere was filled with dust and debris — and the tops of the oceans boiled. Vaporized rock was shot up into the atmosphere where it circled the globe and condensed into liquid droplets before solidifying and falling back to the surface…

goodreasonnews:

katetheatheist:

panteradraco:

katetheatheist:

Your move Christians

lol, we humans count days by the sun, but does God have to do things by our standards?

How else would you count days? How long did time really pass then?

Actually, in a book designed for humans, yeah, a god would have to do things (or at least describe things) by our standards or at least explain this different set of standards.

goodreasonnews:

katetheatheist:

panteradraco:

katetheatheist:

Your move Christians

lol, we humans count days by the sun, but does God have to do things by our standards?

How else would you count days? How long did time really pass then?

Actually, in a book designed for humans, yeah, a god would have to do things (or at least describe things) by our standards or at least explain this different set of standards.

thenewenlightenmentage:

Mysterious new man-made gases pose threat to ozone layer
Scientists have identified four new man-made gases that are contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer.
Two of the gases are accumulating at a rate that is causing concern among researchers.
Worries over the growing ozone hole have seen the production of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases restricted since the mid 1980s.
But the precise origin of these new, similar substances remains a mystery, say scientists.
Continue Reading

thenewenlightenmentage:

Mysterious new man-made gases pose threat to ozone layer

Scientists have identified four new man-made gases that are contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Two of the gases are accumulating at a rate that is causing concern among researchers.

Worries over the growing ozone hole have seen the production of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases restricted since the mid 1980s.

But the precise origin of these new, similar substances remains a mystery, say scientists.

Continue Reading

Theory on origin of animals challenged: Earliest animal life may have required little oxygen

One of science’s strongest dogmas is that complex life on Earth could only evolve when oxygen levels in the atmosphere rose to close to modern levels. But now studies of a small sea sponge fished out of a Danish fjord shows that complex life does not need high levels of oxygen in order to live and grow.

The origin of complex life is one of science’s greatest mysteries. How could the first small primitive cells evolve into the diversity of advanced life forms that exists on Earth today? The explanation in all textbooks is: Oxygen. Complex life evolved because the atmospheric levels of oxygen began to rise app. 630 – 635 million years ago.

However new studies of a common sea sponge from Kerteminde Fjord in Denmark shows that this explanation needs to be reconsidered. The sponge studies show that animals can live and grow even with very limited oxygen supplies.

In fact animals can live and grow when the atmosphere contains only 0.5 per cent of the oxygen levels in today’s atmosphere….

skeptv:

The Moon Battered by Impacts

Where did the moon come from? What is it made of? And what events created the distinctive pattern of light and dark on its surface? To find out, we have sent satellites out to crash onto its surface, astronauts to comb its craters and hillsides and collect rocks, and high-tech spacecraft to map its nooks and crannies.

A half-century of study has brought us closer to the answers. Many scientists now believe that the moon was born in a monumental collision between Earth and a Mars-sized body early in the history of the solar system, some 4.5 billion years ago.

From the remains of the impact, a giant ball of magma coalesced in Earth orbit. Gravity sculpted this hot mass into a sphere. In time, its surface cooled, forming a hard crust with magma just underneath.

Around 4.3 billion years ago, a giant impact battered the moon’s south pole, sending debris as far as the opposite side of the moon. The impact formed the Aitken basin. At roughly 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 13 kilometers deep, it is one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System.

Its formation marked the beginning of a period of large-scale changes to the moon’s surface. Over several hundred million years, the lunar terrain was rocked by a succession of heavy impacts. Some formed large basins that would eventually fill in to become the dark colored patches of the moon known as maria.

These impacts punched enormous holes in the relatively thin lunar crust. Because the moon had not yet fully cooled on the inside, lava began to seep out through cracks opened up by the impacts.

Lava spread throughout the craters, gradually filling them in and cooling. Because of the high iron content of this lava, the mare regions reflect less light and therefore appear darker than the surrounding highlands. Around one billion years ago, volcanic activity ended on the near side of the moon as the last of the large impacts made their mark on the surface. The impacts did not cease, although they were much smaller than the ones that formed the largest basins.

Some of the largest and best-known impacts from this period formed the Tycho, Copernicus, and Aristarchus craters. They feature distinctive “rays” that stretch out from the crater sites, formed by material blasted out at the moment of impact.

Finally, after billions of years of relative quiet, we arrive at the moon we see today. Though its surface continues to be affected by impacts, the bombardment has slowed dramatically.

The features we now see on the Moon’s surface are a permanent record of its early history. Within them, too, we are finding clues to the evolution of Earth itself.

via Space Rip.


we-are-star-stuff:

The oceans are truly an alien planet right here on Earth. Water covers 71% (and rising) of the Earth’s surface. The oceans contain 99% of the living space on the planet and 97% of the Earth’s water. Less than 1% is fresh water, and 2-3% is contained in glaciers and ice caps (and is decreasing).

Throughout history, the ocean has been a vital source of sustenance, transport, commerce, growth, and inspiration. Yet for all of our reliance on the ocean, 95 percent of this realm remains unexplored.

We didn’t send divers down to explore the Mid-Ocean Ridge until 1973 - four years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. In fact, we have better maps of Mars than we do of the ocean floor.

The reason behind the less knowledge humans have about oceans in comparison to the space is the fact that oceans are much more difficult to explore. The deep sea is an environment completely unfriendly to humankind.

The deepest recorded oceanic trenches measure to date is the Mariana Trench, near the Philippines, in the Pacific Ocean at 10,924 m (35,838 ft). At such depths water pressure is extreme - at the very  bottom you would have something like 16,000 pounds of pressure on every square inch of your body, the equivalent of one person trying to support 50 jumbo jets - which makes creating machines to go that far down tough and probably very costly. Challenger deep floor also features hot hydrothermal vents with temperatures reaching up to 867°F (464°C). The venting fluid is highly acidic, while the water from the deep ocean is slightly basic.

Given that photons (light) can’t penetrate more than 3300 feet below the water’s surface, most of our planet is in a perpetual state of darkness.

At any given depth, the temperature is practically unvarying over long periods of time. There are no seasonal temperature changes, nor are there any annual changes. No other habitat on earth has such a constant temperature.

The oceans are so vast and deep that millions of potential new species have yet to be discovered. It is estimated that there are as little as 2 million to as many as 50 million more species that have not yet been found and/or have been incorrectly classified. Little or no light penetrates the deep part of the ocean and most of the organisms that live there rely for subsistence on falling organic matter produced in the photic zone. But life still exists.

Until recent years, the scientific community lacked detailed information about the effects of pressure on most deep sea organisms because the specimens encountered arrived at the surface dead or dying. Their bodies are acclimated to the high pressures (hundreds of atmospheres) and the decompression is usually fatal.

There is no hope of ever establishing human habitation more than about 1000 ft  deep. The pressures are too great and no engineering or materials conceivable today would allow us to build livable-sized spaces on the deep sea floor. But maybe that’s for the best. We humans have a notorious habit of messing up life whenever we venture too close.

All The Best, Scientifically Verified, Information on Fukushima Impacts

With all the misinformation around the internet here are links to articles that we trust. The following provide credible information about what is actually occurring and/or dispel myths about Fukushima radiation that are prevalent on the internet. I will not link to pseudoscience, misinformation, or outright lies in this post or allow them in the comments below. These posts and ideas have received far more attention and links than they deserve already. I provide the author, their credentials, a statement of the misinformation if applicable, the take home message, and my favorite quotes…

Climate Change: The Moral Choices - MIT Technology Review

confrontingbabble-on:

"One of the defining characteristics of climate change is poorly appreciated by most people: the higher temperatures and other effects induced by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will persist for a very long time. Scientists have long realized that carbon dioxide emitted during the burning of fossil fuels tends to linger in the atmosphere for extended periods, even for centuries. Over the last few years, researchers have calculated that some of the resulting changes to the earth’s climate, including increased temperature, are more persistent still: even if emissions are abruptly ended and carbon dioxide levels gradually drop, the temperature will stubbornly remain elevated for a thousand years or more. The earth’s thermostat is essentially being turned up and there are no readily foreseeable ways to turn it back down; even risky geoengineering schemes would at best offset the higher temperatures only temporarily.

It’s a shocking realization, especially given how little progress has been made in slowing carbon dioxide emissions. But it is precisely the long-term nature of the problem that makes it so urgent for us to limit emissions as quickly and radically as possible. To have a decent chance of meeting the widely accepted international goal of keeping warming at or below 2 °C, emissions need to be cut substantially over the next few years. By 2050 they must be reduced by half or more from 2009 levels.”

Read http://m.technologyreview.com/review/513526/climate-change-the-moral-choices/

See Also “Climate Change Worse Than We Thought, Likely To Be ‘Catastrophic Rather Than Simply Dangerous’” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/climate-change-worse_n_4523828.html

Further “How the Religious Right and the Corporate Right are Joining Forces to Fight Environmental Protection” http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/the-green-dragon-slayers-how-the-religious-right-and-the-corporate-right-are-joining-fo

jtotheizzoe:

What if all the ice melted?

The ocean holds most of Earth’s water. After that, it’s ice. 5.7 million cubic miles of the stuff.

What if, thanks to natural and man-made climate change, it all melted? What if, by burning enough deep-Earth carbon (dead dinosaurs, prehistoric plants, or as we call it… fossil fuels) we raised Earth’s average temperature to around 80˚ F?

Thanks to National Geographic we know: This is is what 216 feet (66 meters) of sea level change looks like. 

jtotheizzoe:

NEW VIDEO!

Is Earth the only living needle in this haystack of planets?

We live in one of a hundred billion of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. And now, thanks to modern astronomy, we know that the Milky Way is home to perhaps a hundred billion planets! In the past two decades, these exoplanet discoveries have spawned new questions about our universe, and if there might be another Earth, or other life, somewhere out there.

In part one of my two-part series on exoplanets, we’ll look at how astronomers find exoplanets, and what it means to call them Earth-like. We also trace the history of planetary science back three thousand years and examine Earth’s changing status in the cosmos.

We were once the center of the universe, and now Earth is just another rock in the sky. What does that mean for us?

(Check out more It’s Okay To Be Smart on YouTube)

A giant mystery organism more than 350 million years old has finally been identified as a humongous fungus.

The enigma known as Prototaxites, which stood in branchless, tree-like trunks up to more than 20 feet tall and a yard wide, lived worldwide from roughly 420 million to 350 million years ago. The giant was the largest-known organism of its day, living in a time when wingless insects, millipedes, worms and other creepy-crawlies dominated, as backboned animals had not yet evolved out of the oceans.

More

A giant mystery organism more than 350 million years old has finally been identified as a humongous fungus.

The enigma known as Prototaxites, which stood in branchless, tree-like trunks up to more than 20 feet tall and a yard wide, lived worldwide from roughly 420 million to 350 million years ago. The giant was the largest-known organism of its day, living in a time when wingless insects, millipedes, worms and other creepy-crawlies dominated, as backboned animals had not yet evolved out of the oceans.

More