Jez Higgins

Freelance software generalist
software created
extended or repaired


Older posts are available in the archive or through tags.

Feed

Follow me on Twitter
My code on GitHub

Contact
About

Friday 04 October 2013 The Forest Road Reader, No 90

Scientists find life coming to Earth from Space. Well, maybe. I'm actually quite sympathetic to this idea, but I can't help feeling that this announcement would have more punch if they'd waiting until after they'd put the samples in the 'complex machine' -

Professor Wainwright added: "Of course it will be argued that there must be an, as yet, unknown mechanism for transferring large particles from Earth to the high stratosphere, but we stand by our conclusions. The absolutely crucial experiment will come when we do what is called 'isotope fractionation'. We will take some of the samples which we have isolated from the stratosphere and introduce them into a complex machine - a button will be pressed. If the ratio of certain isotopes gives one number then our organisms are from Earth, if it gives another, then they are from space. The tension will obviously be almost impossible to live with!"

Future Spacecraft will be 3D printed. In Space. By robots. Well, duh!

I was brought around to the idea of panspermia when I attended a lecture by the late Fred Hoyle. That must be twenty years ago now. <rummages in archives> Ah, here we are, along with a remarkably similar headline featuring some of the same scientists from over a decade back.

The weapon is fully automatic only but fires at a rate of 300 rounds per minute.(via Arthur Wyatt, who said 'This shotgun is pretty ridiculous'. He is not wrong.)

Professor Wainwright's 'complex machine' - a mass spectrometer - isn't actually that complex. If you have things that are moving fast and you push them sideways, the lighter things will be go further off course than heavy things. That's basic physics, and if you've got that, you understand mass spectrometry.


The sample comes in at the bottom and is ionised, basically by exposing it to a naked light bulb filament. The charged particles are accelerated to high speeds by an electric field, typically of a few kilovolts, before passing between the poles of a strong magnet. The magnet deflects the ions, the lighter being deflected more than the heavier. The ionised particles strike the 'Faraday collectors' (aka little squares of copper) where they deionise by combining with an electron. That causes a small current to flow - depending on the sample size it could be in the picoamps - and the ratio of the currents is proportional to the ratio of the isotopes in the sample. Easy-peasy.

A moment of phone-in-an-unfamiliar-pocket induced panic there.

That's it. I'm knackered.


Tagged panspermia, space, mass-spectrometry, and fred-hoyle


Jez Higgins

Freelance software generalist
software created
extended or repaired

Older posts are available in the archive or through tags.

Feed

Follow me on Twitter
My code on GitHub

Contact
About