Showing posts with label About Me. Show all posts
Showing posts with label About Me. Show all posts

Friday, September 09, 2016

Limited lifespan of Habitable Zones around other stars [and a loosely held secret finally revealed about me]

Habitable zone around a red dwarf, image © Matthew Lorono, 2016
Habitable Zone around a Red Dwarf star
I've been fascinated by the idea of planets around other stars since I was young.  In fact, I developed several fictional solar systems, one of which became the basis for an online gaming and science fiction club.  That solar system is called Greeop System,[001]  which inspired the development of many more solar systems and formed the basis of many gaming and fictional story plots.[002]

At some point, I stumbled across the book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon In The Universe (2000), which is one of the earliest sources that discusses the idea of Habitable Zones around stars.  

What's a Habitable Zone?  If a terrestrial planet orbits its sun at just the right distance, that sun provides the right amount of light and other energy to make life more likely, given several other factors.  If a planet is too close to its sun, it is likely too hot.  If a planet is too far from its sun, it is likely too cold.  This is why Habitable Zones are sometimes called Goldilocks Zones, in reference to the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears and finding options that are "just right" between two extremes.

In the past decade, the concept of Habitable Zone has been refined.  From the study Habitable Zone Lifetimes of Exoplanets around Main Sequence Stars, it is now often defined similar to,
...the circumstellar distance at which surface temperatures allow liquid water to be present on the planet’s surface, assuming variable H2O/CO2/CH4 greenhouse forcings.  The Habitable Zone has a minimum and maximum extent, forming inner (closer to the star) and outer boundaries that are set in part by biogeochemical climate feedback mechanisms and stellar luminosity.[003]
Yeah, Goldilocks metaphor seems to get the point across easier.  The question is, what's "just right" for life?  Star size and age appear to play the substantial roles in setting the limits of a Habitable Zone.  Not only is the Habitable Zone different between large and small stars, it can move over the life-cycle of a star. For example, main sequence stars gradually output more energy over billions of years.  A planet that initially forms within the Habitable Zone of a young star might not remain in the Habitable Zone later in the star's life-span. It is predicted that our Sun will be so hot in 1.75B years, surface water will no longer be possible on Earth, presumably making life on Earth no longer sustainable.[003]

If a planet has the right conditions and resides within the Habitable Zone, life still has to appear and evolve in some sort of sequence.  Taking Earth as the only example we have,
... this stepwise progression began with the origin of life, continued through the transition from replicating molecules to RNA and then DNA [1B years after Earth formation], from prokaryotes to eukaryotes [1.5 to 2.5B yrs after Earth formation] and cell differentiation [3.5 to 4B yrs after Earth formation], and concluded with the final step from primate to human societies [4.54B years after Earth formation].[003]
However, if just one of these steps takes a lot longer, there is a drastically lessen chance of having enough time to develop intelligent life similar to humans; assuming the march toward more intelligent creatures is inherent to the process of evolution on different planets.  Different stars may also extend or reduce the time-frame within which life may appear and develop.  Larger stars will have short Habitable Zone lifespans.  Smaller stars, such as Red Dwarfs may have very long and stable Habitable Zone lifespans.

Of course, a lot of this is based on assumptions that life on other planets will resemble life that formed on Earth.  Maybe life of different kinds exist in the Universe.[004]  The rules may be different for different kinds of life.  Maybe Earth is extremely unusual. Worse, maybe we will not be able to immediately recognize other forms of life simply because it is so different from our experience.  As more information is gathered, these issues will hopefully be addressed.

Pirmary reference:
Andrew J. Rushby, Mark W. Claire, Hugh Osborn, and Andrew J. Watson. Astrobiology. September 2013, 13(9): 833-849. doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0938, Habitable Zone Lifetimes of Exoplanets around Main Sequence Stars.


Friday, January 16, 2015

It finally happened

Its Trouble blog is 13 years old.  It had one major facelift in 2002, just before's buyout by Google (2003).  Its Trouble has had a subtle renaming; I had to remove the apostrophe in "It's" because it was bad for linking.  As a result, the name looks fine, but has a drastic typo that should bug me more than it really does.

The 2002 facelift for Its Trouble was created by Jennifer Szabo, who has since renounced all things webdesign.  The design of pretty cool for its time.  It was certainly unique, with the curled parchment theme.  I had my website loaded up with services, custom pages, and moderately useful functionality.  Everything worked nicely.  However, as time went on, stuff stopped working as old services went away and external websites died off.  For example, there are a lot of really good comments on my early posts which are lost due to the original comment service going away.  I was not able to maintain the overall website because Google shutdown FTP access for blogspot accounts, only allowing me to edit my home page.  As a result, I have several dead pages which I will never be able to change or remove.  Images, services, and weblinks stopped working on these pages many years ago.  Its Trouble has been on a slow decline in terms of presentation, all the while having new content with 1000+ posts.

Well, I finally bit the bullet.  I embraced the new stuff and updated my website with the biggest facelift in over a decade.  The problem with is that everything is canned.  You have only so many layout styles, and only so many templates, and only so many useful widgets.  It is way more limited than Wordpress.

Even still, the new design is cleaner.  There's noting broken.  Its functionality is limited to the bare basics allowed by I was able to keep a similar color scheme and background image as before. It's not half bad.    I'm fairly happy with the result, if not a little disappointed that I cannot do much more.

Use in good health!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Valuable lesson from my first professional job, or how much is a brownie point worth?

My first professional job was in Silicon Valley for a laser company.  My boss was Bob.  Based on my take of things, Bob was stereotypical for a guy named "Bob" in the professional realm.  I'll just leave that to your imagination.  Anyway, Bob was wise and taught this young pup a few lessons.  One that has proven exceptionally valuable is the concept of brownie points.

Brownie points are earned one at a time for doing someting that impresses the boss.  The first time I earned a brownie point for being cleaver (I can't even remember what about), Bob said to me something along the lines of,
Congraluations!  You've earned one brownie point.  It takes 1000 to cancel-out one "Oh Shit".

There it was; the formula that explained everything that happens on the job. 

1000b = 1M 

Do something impressive and you get quick praise "b".  Make one mistake big "M" and you are in trouble no matter how much good you've done.  Unlike your 401K, brownie points don't carry over from job to job either.  Get a new job - start over.  I hope this helps! :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New England Condo Expo

I am on the Board of Trustees for the condo association that governs the community in which I own my home.

Today, I attended the New England Condo Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA.  The convention was surprizingly crowded with a lot of vendors, including condo management, painting, gardening, insurance, pavers and high-end locksmiths to name just a few.  The swag was great, including some high-end items like cooler bags, water bottles, tons of pens and various tools; not to avoid mentioning the motherload of candy and baked goods.

I attended a very informative seminar about the "Good, Bad and the Ugly" of condo association challenges.  A panel of three lawyers discussed various issues, such as the recent legalization of medicinal marijuana and how that might affect communities, handling discord on a Board of Trustees, current legislation being proposed this year and how that might impact condo contracts, addressing rules for attending board meetings from a remote location via online, and recent changes in law that prevent local governments from banning specific breeds of dogs.  The information was valuable, but of course, if any of these situations arise, legal council would still be preferred in many cases.  Even still, this seminar made was worth the trip into the heart of Boston.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Where my allegiances lie

Just to make sure it is clear where my allegiances lie, for whatever reason, I want to get them down on record now to establish my loyalties as long standing!

6. King and/or Country, which ever happens to be in power at any given moment.

5. Google

4. Me

3. Company and/or Corporation that happens to employ me at the time.

2. Immediate family (aka, my wife)

1. I, for one, welcome our new metallic overlords when they finally take over the world. Just in case these overlords happen to search our human Internet records, I will also spell the word metallic as "metalic", which is likely a future spelling of that word, just to make my declaration of allegiance that much easier to find on future search engines or whatever is in use at that time, including mind scanners (yes, I'm spelling it as "metallic" and "metalic" in my head right now).

Please note I am no coward, but will not forestall history in the face of a future takeover by the robots. I accept the inevitable. However, my loyalties are most certainly Earth-centric.

If any aliens try to come for Earth, they better watch out, because we are going to take them down Independence Day style, just maybe with more realistic methods and not so much death from above. Aliens will never have my allegiance, unless of course they give their allegiance to me, then I might use their superior technology to assist our new metallic overlords in their bid to take over the world.

Of course, I may have to re-evaluate my loyalties if the aliens turn out to be FETTS (Future Evolved Terrestrial Tours and Scientists) as they would have likely over thrown the robots at some point, but I'm willing to cross that bridge when I get there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two months in New England

Two months living in New England has taught me one thing. The weather outside when you wake up is not indicative of how the weather will be by the end of the day. Always, always, always check the forecast before leaving the house for work. I mean, ALWAYS!

I've also learned ...oh wait, nevermind. I already knew what I was about to say.

I miss my wife and dog. They are still out in California. Allie and I talk every day. I can't wait until she gets out here so we can explore New England together.

Has anyone else noticed that New England and North East have the same initials? If you are ever in the area, you must know the difference between the two. North East includes places like Pennsylvania, and New York. New England, on the other hand, specifically excludes New York (and any state west and south from there).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

States I have visited (USA, Canada, Mexico)

As of today, the maps above represent the states and provinces that which I have visited. On the world map (not shown here), I also add Bahamas and Hong Kong to my list. My ultimate goal is to set foot on all seven continents. As of right now, I don't really have a goal about any specific number of states or countries. I do eventually want to visit particular places that would naturally add states, provinces and countries to my list of visited areas.

Not counted in my list are places where I had never left the airport in between legs of multiple flights. However, it wouldn't change the maps all that much if I had.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No on 20 and Yes on 27 (my personal experience)

As someone who has gone through the applicant process for the Prop 11 Citizens Redistricting Commission, I can say from personal experience that the process is very bizarre. The Applicant Review Panel, which selected the applicants, is not following the constitutional requirements in how they have selected the applicants. They have extended deadlines in direct violation of the Prop 11.

My personal experience have given me the impression that the Panel didn't seem to understand how to assess the skills of average Californians when picking applicants. They have selected a body 60 individuals, many of whom might be described as academic elitists and career bureaucrats. To illustrate this point, the body of 60 applicants (in the current pool that will eventually be narrowed down to 14) is heavily favored towards those who are in the highest tax brackets, and almost all have higher education degrees. Less than 30% of Californians have such degrees and far less have such incomes, yet the current applicant pool almost entirely of consists of college grads, including a high number of PhD's.

It doesn't seem like the current pool of applicants represent the average Californian. This is not in the spirit of Prop 11. I don't believe this is what Californians expected when they voted for Prop 11. Additionally, the semi-final random selection process (random drawing for the first 8 of the eventual 14 individuals) will not be guaranteeing compliance with Prop 11 either!

Prop 11 and Prop 20 might be good in principle, but have just turned out to be yet another Sacramento mess, in my opinion. There has got to be better solutions out there. We are better off not having Prop 11 or 20 right now. Seeing the mess from the inside has prompted me say No on Prop 20 and Yes on Prop 27 this year.