A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!
And so ends another year. WordPress tells me I’ve written 21 blog posts in 2012… not exactly a mind-blowing number maybe, but one I’m pretty happy with given that 2012’s been a year of new jobs, house moves, and stockpiling for the impending apocalypse (!).
Anyway, here are my blog posts that have had the most views this year, in case anyone’s stuck for some holiday reading…
And to finish off 2012, here’s a beautiful science-themed artwork by an illustrator over in the US called Scott Benson, featuring a quote from the late, great Carl Sagan…
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known
‘Somewhere’ by Scott Benson
See you in 2013!
This article first appeared in the February 2012 edition of an awesome new science magazine called Guru. You can download the magazine for free here.
Please listen carefully. There is life on Europa. I repeat: there is life on Europa…like huge strands of wet seaweed, crawling along the ground…Imagine an oak tree…flattened out by gravity…Tendrils, stamens, waving feebly…”
Tendrils, stamens, waving feebly (credit: George L Smyth)
Professor Chang is stranded on Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. His air supply is rapidly running out and he’s got no chance of being rescued; all he can do is die with dignity and hope that somebody hears his final radio message.
“I’ve only two requests to make…When the taxonomists classify this creature, I hope they’ll name it after me. And – when the next ship comes home – ask them to take our bones back to China.”
Fiction becoming fact
If this sounds like science fiction, well, that’s because it is. This gloomy scenario takes place near the beginning of 2010: Odyssey Two, Arthur C. Clarke’s sequel to his most famous novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In Odyssey Two, Clarke imagines Europa to be teeming with extraterrestrial life, sustained by a liquid ocean beneath the moon’s surface. He was undoubtedly inspired by images sent back by the Voyager space probes during the late 1970s, which revealed Europa’s surface to be covered with a smooth shell of ice, raising the possibility of an underground watery ocean.
Europa has since become one of our Solar System’s most enigmatic bodies. Evidence now points to a huge ocean under its icy surface, possibly containing twice as much water as all of the Earth’s oceans combined. And where there’s water, life is often not too far away. Suddenly, Arthur C. Clarke’s story doesn’t seem quite so outlandish… Continue reading