Before the Big Bang to the Search for Life Not as We Know It (The Galaxy Report-Weekend Feature)


ESO Observatories


This week’s report from the Cosmos brings amazing stories ranging from What Existed Before the Big Bang to Forms of Consciousness We Can’t Recognize to World’s Scientists Share Their Expectations for the James Webb Space Telescope.


What existed before the Big Bang? asks BBC Future. –“How our Universe was born from nothing or if there was something that existed before it remains a mystery, but that is not stopping some physicists from trying to figure it out.”

“Unlocking the Universe’s Hidden Secrets” –Acclaimed Scientists Talk About the Impact of the James Webb Space Telescope. “As the James Webb Space Telescope begins its month-long voyage to LaGrange Point 2, several of the planet’s leading astronomers have shared their expectations and hopes for this epoch event in human history with The Daily Galaxy.”

U.S. and Chinese Scientists Propose Bold New Missions beyond the Solar System –Independent concepts from each nation envision launching high-speed spacecraft on aspirational multigenerational voyages into the great unknown of interstellar space, reports Scientific American.

New images show our galaxy’s huge black hole more clearly than ever before, reports New Scientist –“Astronomers have observed Sagittarius A* – the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy – closer than ever before, and Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity still holds up.”

The Staggering Implications of Infinite Space (YouTube Episode) –Some astrophysicists, it has been said, suggest that there are only three important numbers in the universe: zero, one, and infinity. Today, we place our wager on infinity. “Within an infinite expanse of space, it would be hard to see any reason why there would not be an infinite number of galaxies, stars, and planets, and even an infinite number of intelligent or conscious beings, scattered throughout this limitless volume. That is the thing about infinity: it takes things that are otherwise very unlikely and makes them all inevitable,” observes Dan Hooper, head of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, in his book, At the Edge of Time.

Are Black Holes and Dark Matter the Same?--reports Science Daily. “Upending textbook explanations, astrophysicists from the University of Miami, Yale University, and the European Space Agency suggest that primordial black holes account for all dark matter in the universe.”

The Search for Life Not as We Know It –“NASA’s mantra is that we should be open to search for life not as we know it.  Arik Kershenbaum at the University of Cambridge and author of The Zoologists Guide to The Galaxy believes that “the bizarre and the unexpected – aliens made of gas, or with properties and abilities we’ve never dreamed of – are always possible, but they will always be rare,” reports The Daily Galaxy.

Is our solar system a cosmic oddity? Evidence from exoplanets says yes, reports New Scientist. “When we started finding planetary systems around other stars we thought many of them would be like ours. We’ve now found hundreds – and it’s so far, so wrong.”

NASA’s TESS exoplanet mission reveals mystery of strange signals from dusty object, reports –“Based on what astronomers have seen so far, the researchers suggest that this object might be a binary star, or double star system, in which one of the stars is surrounded by a massive cloud of dust, the rubble of perhaps a large asteroid, according to a statement from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, home to one of the researchers on the team.”

Stephen Hawking’s 80th Birthday -Google’s Memorial Video –“It’s been said that Newton gave us answers; Stephen Hawking gave us questions.  In his famous lecture on “Life in the Universe”, our era’s greatest theoretical physicist, who was laid to rest in 2018 in Scientists’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, asked one of his most profound questions: “What are the chances that we will encounter some alien form of life, as we explore the galaxy?”

A Giant Telescope Grows in Space –Astronomers are starting to breathe again. Everything is going great for the James Webb Space Telescope. So far. The most recent of a series of delicate maneuvers, what the space agency called 344 “single points of failure” while speeding far away in space has been completed. Now the telescope is almost ready for business, although more tense moments are still in its future, reports Dennis Overbye and Joey Roulette for The New York Times.

Planets Unlike Any in Our Solar System –“The tiny star TOI-270 (less than half the size and temperature of our Sun) hosts one super-Earth and two sub-Neptunes. In our solar system, there is absolutely nothing that resembles such intermediate planets, with a size and composition somewhere in the middle of Earth and Neptune (4 Earth radii); we directly jump from rocky worlds (like Earth) to gas-dominated worlds (like Neptune).”

Don’t Look Up Illustrates 5 Myths That Fuel Rejection of Science –“The farcical allegory of climate change shows the pitfalls of relying solely on technology and misunderstanding scientific certainty,” reports The Conversation.

Revisiting ‘Powers of Ten’ – what we’ve learned about the Universe since 1977, reports Aeon. “Directed by Charles and Ray Eames,  the classic short Powers of Ten (1977) invited viewers to contemplate the edges of our understanding of reality. Starting from a picnic blanket in a Chicago park, that film took viewers on a journey that stretched to the scale of 100 million light years away, and then back down to a single proton. 


Why haven’t we heard from aliens? There is a reason for the silence, reports New Scientist, “The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been going on for 60 years without success. Given the hurdles to interstellar communication, that’s just a blink of an eye.”

How a Handful of Prehistoric Geniuses Launched Humanity’s Technological Revolution, reports Singularity Hub–“This technological revolution wasn’t the work of one people. Innovations arose in different groups—modern Homo sapiens, primitive sapiens, possibly even Neanderthals—and then spread.”

Theorists imagine a different kind of dark matter, reports Symmetry. Physicists are revisiting what they previously assumed about how dark matter interacts with itself.


What an Octopus’s Mind Can Teach Us About AI’s Ultimate Mystery, reports Will Douglas Heaven for  MIT Technology Review “It’s possible that one day there could be as many forms of consciousness as there are types of AI. But we will never know what it is like to be these machines, any more than we know what it is like to be an octopus or a bat or even another person. There may be forms of consciousness we don’t recognize for what they are because they are so radically different from what we are used to.”

NASA’s Retiring Top Scientist Says We Can Terraform Mars and Maybe Venus, Too, reports The New York Times.”Dr. Green’s most recent significant proposals has been a scale for verifying the detection of alien life, called the ‘confidence of life detection,’ or CoLD, scale. He has published work suggesting we could terraform Mars, or making it habitable for humans. He has also long been a proponent of the exploration of other worlds, including a mission to Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, that is scheduled to launch in 2024.”

China’s Mars Orbiter Takes Selfies From Outer Space –The images were snapped using a camera deployed from the spacecraft, which floated away into the vastness of the cosmos, reports The Smithsonian.

How Scientists Could Tell the World if They Find Alien Life –Sparked by major advances in their field, astrobiologists are grappling with how best to discuss possible breakthrough discoveries with the public, reports Scientific American.

How Vulnerable Is the World? asks Nick Bostrom and Matthew van der Merwe for Aeon. “Sooner or later a technology capable of wiping out human civilization might be invented. How far would we go to stop it? …We call this ‘the vulnerable world hypothesis’. The intuitive idea is that there’s some level of technology at which civilization almost certainly gets destroyed, unless quite extraordinary and historically unprecedented degrees of preventive policing and/or global governance are implemented.”

‘Don’t Look Up’: Hollywood’s primer on climate denial illustrates 5 myths that fuel rejection of science, reports The Conversation.  “Every disaster movie seems to open with a scientist being ignored. “Don’t Look Up” is no exception – in fact, people ignoring or flat out denying scientific evidence is the point.”

Some Black Holes Are Anything But Black—and Scientists Found 75,000 of the Brightest Ones, reports Singularity Hub. 

LIGO Observations -Are They Actually Exotic Objects that Contain Dark Energy Instead of a Singularity? In 1966, Erast Gliner, a young physicist at the Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute in Leningrad, proposed a hypothesis that very large stars should collapse into what could now be called Generic Objects of Dark Energy (GEODEs). GEODEs appear to be black holes when viewed from the outside, but unlike black holes, they contain dark energy instead of a singularity,” reports The Daily Galaxy.

The Universe is already in its sixth and final era –From before the Big Bang to the present day, the Universe goes through many eras. Dark energy heralds the final one, reports Big Think.


Physicists Observe Incredible ‘Quantum Tornados’ Formed From Ultra-Cold Atoms, reports ScienceAlert,

The Tiny Dots in This Image Aren’t Stars or Galaxies. They’re Black Holes, reports Science Alert.

NASA Plans to Put a Nuclear Reactor on the Moon Within a Decade –The agency put out a request for proposals for a lunar nuclear power plant that can power surface exploration, reports Motherboard Science.

Astronomers Discover One of The Biggest Structures Ever Seen in The Milky Way –An international team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute of Astronomy (MPIA) recently noticed a massive filament of atomic hydrogen gas in our galaxy. This structure, named ‘Maggie’, is located about 55,000 light-years away (on the other side of the Milky Way) and is one of the longest structures ever observed in our galaxy, reports ScienceAlert.

A seismic mystery deep within Earth hints at the moon’s origins. In subterranean regions called ultra-low velocity zones, seismic waves mysteriously slow down, reports Popular Science.

Physicists close in on the exceedingly short life of the Higgs boson –Just because scientists have discovered a particle doesn’t mean they know all its properties., reports Popular Science.

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