Searching for the Goldilocks Planet

The first That’s a Fact video for November is called Goldilocks Planet. The theme is, for the most part, the same as was explored last weekend – while the video starts off on the subject of exoplanets it quickly finds itself in “Earth is special” territory.

Alpha Centauri Bb, an uninhabitable Earth-sized planet Continue reading

The So-Called Oort Cloud

Pillars of Creation, Eagle nebularIt’s been the better part of a month since we last ventured into space on this blog, but only two days since we saw some classic denialism. Today, we get both! Brian Thomas’ Wednesday article is called Certain Stellar Features Just Don’t Exist. Can you guess which he is talking about?

Sorting fact from fiction when it comes to outer space can be tricky, especially when scientists assert that certain stellar features are real when they are not. Why should school textbook authors, or the students and teachers that rely on them to deliver accurate information, trust these scientists’ more speculative assertions when they routinely name structures that don’t exist?

Creationists, of course, never engage in outrageous speculation. Continue reading

The Next Breakthrough

One of the more famous young Earth creationist escape hatches, to be used when there is no other way to dismiss evidence contrary to their position, is to invoke the spectre of “historical science”. Historical science is a legitimate term for observational, i.e. non-experimental science, which deals with things that cannot be directly tinkered with. Creationists, however, try to spin this as meaning that such science is less reliable or useful than experimental science, though this is far from the truth.

Brian’s latest use of the term, however, in What Will the Next Biological Breakthrough Be? is rather different. He comments on another freely available Nature feature, Life-changing experiments: The biological Higgs. This one asks “what fundamental discoveries in biology might inspire the same thrill [as the search for the Higgs]?

The discovery of life on Europa would probably do it, yes, but what else? Continue reading

Kepler-22 b

When news of the newly discovered exoplanet Kepler-22 b broke around the 5th of December, a DpSU titled something like Another ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Stirs ET Hopes was inevitable. Unlike what we saw in Planetary Evolution, Mr Thomas is at least not denying that the planet itself exists – merely trying to argue that it’s unlikely that there’s life on it, which he claims is the primary reason that people are interested in it and exoplanets in general.

Plot of known exoplanets - Kepler 22 b is at the upper left Continue reading