Missing Hydrocarbons

Cosmology, origin of life, and astronomy are topics about which I read quite a bit. Any NASA and JPL discovery makes me stop whatever to read more about it. This is not something new as one of my school science fair projects was on O-Rings and Challenger. Before that I even attended Space Camp. (This was all so I could post this cute photo.)

The Saturn Group


Carl Sagan discusses the presence of hydrocarbons other than Earth in The Varieties of Scientific Experience. Materials vary in the distance from the Sun at which they condense. Water condenses at the distance of Earth. Methane condenses out at the distance of Saturn. This makes perfect sense for Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, who has lakes of methane. How hydrocarbons formed on Earth if they are not readily available is the problem.

Then I made the mistake of seeing this, Life Could Have Hitched a Ride to the Moons of Jupiter and Saturn, which discusses the idea that lithopanspermia, microbes catching a ride on meteoroids, could have helped life on Earth or Mars reach the outer planets or their moons. Perhaps it worked the other way around? I have heard similar ideas that comets or panspermia from Mars or planets outside the solar system could be the origin of life on Earth. The latter is an extraterrestrial.

If one finds Earth-style cellular life forms on Europa, then how does one determine whether it came from Earth to Europa or from Europa to Earth? Successful colonization on Earth usually means the colonies having larger populations than the parent. Look at how many people in the world speak English as their primary language compared to the population of England. Or French vs France. That analogy suggests Earth could be the colony of somewhere else in the solar system. I hope we do find life near the outer planets as the amount of speculation and journal articles will be very entertaining.

P.S. The Varieties of Scientific Experience was originally Glasgow University Gifford Lectures for the theme The Search for Who We Are in 1985.

Review: Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe
Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one falls along the lines of the Elegant Universe as a history of science. Going back to Greek philosophers and moving through developments in understanding the Universe, Singh explains the findings and the contemporary reactions. And also how the world reached being ready for the next step. So it covers much of any number of physics histories but new nuances.

And he uses British phrasing in places that I was not familiar. Guess I should watch more British TV.

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Cosmological Constants

Guess I am pretty dense. As many books and TV shows as I have read or seen about Einstein, physics, and cosmology, I just understood something for the first time since it was extremely plainly laid out for me. An ever expanding universe requires one or more forces to push matter further apart: cosmological constant. Forces attract or repel. Gravity attracts matter. Yet there is something, still unknown, repelling matter.


Maybe its intrinsic to human nature to seek our relevance. To our family. To our friends. To the world. We label those who fail to care about the impact of the behaviors on others as sociopaths. That is a bad thing in case you didn’t know.

I’ve heard people are happiest in jobs where what they do has meaning to the organization. These employees must feel germane to the organization to have satisfaction. Languishing in a job with no idea how what one is doing helps anyone engenders a feeling of uselessness. Maybe even paranoia about termination could arise. By contrast, knowing the organization completely depends upon every decision made by an individual dispels fear. So many people want to work for Google because Google makes software millions of people use. We provide facilities for thousands of students to conduct their higher education at my work. Its no Google, but I am content.

Mythology, cosmogony, cosmology, and especially religion help define for us where we are in the world and especially what we can do to improve the world around us. We can even find pertinence on the Internet. The popularity of blogs, I think, lies in two things: 1) hoping others find the posts useful in some way and 2) the pertinent comments others leave in feedback.

I think for me, personally, I have not done such a good job understanding my relevance to individuals in my life. Nor have I considered the relevance of other individuals to me. Has anyone systematically done this?

links for 2007-07-05