A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Signs of life on Venus?

All around the world are dawning headlines wondering if we have founds signs of life on Venus.

Despite the hunt for life on star systems that are lightyears from Earth, it turns out there may be something on the Planet-next-door. “May” being the operative word. A team found phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus and can’t think of any other way it could have got there. Phosphine is considered to be a biomarker. And microbes on Earth would have no trouble making it, though none of them could easily survive on Venus where the atmosphere clouds and rain are nearly pure hot sulphuric acid.*

Scientists find gas linked to life in atmosphere of Venus

Ian Sample, The Guardian

Sara Seager, a planetary scientist on the study at MIT in the US, called the finding “mind-boggling”. She hypothesises a lifecycle for Venusian microbes that rain down, dry out and are swept back up to more temperate altitudes by currents in the atmosphere.

For 2bn years, Venus was temperate and harboured an ocean. But today, a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere blankets a near-waterless surface where temperatures top 450C. The clouds in the sky are hardly inviting, [...]

Apollo 11: The inside story of the glorious technical mastery, the risks, the leap

For those who want to immerse themselves in the engineering masterpiece of the Apollo 11 mission, Burt Rutan recommends this documentary series. A whole fascinating hour each. Burt Rutan is an aerospace engineer who has designed 46 aircraft, received six honorary doctoral degrees and hundreds of awards. If these documentaries can keep him interested …

Hail the brilliant technical minds that triumphed and the brave men who got there.

Only 12 men have walked on the moon and three out of four still alive are skeptics. Buzz Aldrin is an outspoken skeptic, as are other astronauts Harrison Schmidt, and Charles Duke. So is Australian born Phil Chapman (support crew, Apollo 14) and Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7). Burt Rutan too, of course.

Remember a time when NASA could achieve great things…

Part I: We choose to go to the moon: Hosted by Bill Whittle

Part II: The clock is running … ….

Burt Rutan says Part 3 and 4 are on the way.

The URLs:

Rutan warns that Google or Youtube searches may not find the series. Apparently Bill Whittle is too politically incorrect for them. At this point the Google search works with [...]

Cosmic rays seeded clouds during the last geomagnetic reversal

That’s not in the models

The cosmic ray theory, Henrik Svensmark, (Click to enlarge)

What if our clouds are partly driven by a rain of cosmic radiation from far flung exploding stars… What if the warming on Earth had more to do with magnetic fields than with CO2? h/t GWPF

The Grand Mal test of Henrik Svensmark’s cosmic ray theory was 780,000 years ago when the poles on Earth flipped. For 5,000 wild years our magnetic shield was down to about a quarter of its normal strength. That would have allowed more cosmic rays to come streaking through the atmosphere down to the lowest part, crashing into molecules and generally busting things up in the air. Those ionised particles then seed clouds — in theory, which make an umbrella shade for the planet, keeping things cooler, and reflecting all that solar heat back into space. But how do we measure clouds that disappeared three quarters of a million years ago?

A team at Kobe University studied the patterns of monsoons in East Asia during the reversal. They argue that the extra low clouds would cause the winter monsoons to become stronger, so they looked closely at layers of dust [...]

Landmark: First photo of a black hole (and Einstein was right)

A brief break in transmission now for the first photograph of a black hole, looking pretty much exactly as anyone would expect it to. The photons caught in this image traveled for hundreds of years at the speed of light. Lots of “hundreds” – burning through space for some 55 million years.

The numbers melt neurons: The supermassive black hole called M87 is 6.5 billion times bigger than our Sun. It’s bigger than the orbit of Neptune (which is circling 30 times further out from the Sun than we are). This star is 10 billion kilometers across.

Geoffrey Crew, a research scientist at Haystack Observatory commented that “With the M87 black hole being so massive, an orbiting planet would go around it within a week and be traveling at close to the speed of light.”

The black heart of Messier 87, or M87, a galaxy within the Virgo galaxy cluster, 55 million light years from Earth.

It takes a telescope roughly as big as The Earth to catch an image 20 micro-arcseconds across. Eight radio telescopes were combined across four continents and lined up on a few special days when they all had clear weather together. Each telescope took [...]

NASA hides page saying the Sun was the primary climate driver, and clouds and particles are more important than greenhouse gases

ZeroHedge asks: What the hell are NASA Hiding?

The NASA site used to have a page titled “What are the primary forcings of the Earth system?“. In 2010 this page said that the Sun is the major driver of Earth’s climate, that it controls all the major aspects, and we may be on the cusp of an ice age. Furthermore NASA Science said things like clouds, albedo and aerosol behaviour can have more powerful cooling effects that outdo the warming effect of CO2.

Today that page says Share the science and stay connected, and “Access Denied”.


Whatever you do, don’t tell the world that NASA says the Sun is more important than CO2.

The Wayback Machine captured the same NASA “Primary Climate Forcings” link in 2010.

Click to enlarge.


Here’s the text from the original page (my bolding).

NASA 2010: What are the primary forcings of the Earth system?

The Sun is the primary forcing of Earth’s climate system. Sunlight warms our world. Sunlight drives atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. Sunlight powers the process of photosynthesis that plants need to grow. Sunlight causes convection which carries warmth and water vapor up into [...]

Solar cycles to blame for jellyfish plagues (not coal fired plants)

Image Erin Silversmith

Three amazing things in this story. One that solar cycles might influence the oceans to such an extent that jellyfish plagues are cycling in tune with the sun. Second is that the sun might control food for jellyfish on Earth somehow but have no effect on clouds, temperature or our climate (join the dots that expert climate models don’t). Third is that (briefly) there was actual scientific debate published on the ABC (even if only a few Australians were exposed to it). No one called anyone names, and both sides got to speak (albeit on different channels). Put it in your diary.

A couple of weeks ago on the ABC jellyfish were booming and it was because of climate change:

Jellyfish are causing mayhem as pollution, climate change see numbers boom

RN By Hong Jiang and Sasha Fegan for Late Night Live

…the brainless, spineless, eyeless, bloodless creatures are booming in numbers — and causing mayhem around the world.

Some scientists think jellyfish numbers are increasing as the climate changes — the creatures reproduce well in warmer waters.

Last year, Nick Kilvert of the ABC saw it as a [...]