Thursday, September 30, 2010

First truly habitable planet discovered

Illustration of Gliese 581g from National Geographic, courtesy Lynette Cook.
From National Geographic
Astronomers studying a nearby star say they've found the first potentially habitable planet—likely a rocky place with an atmosphere, temperate regions, and crucially, liquid water, considered vital for life as we know it.

Other extrasolar planets have been called Earthlike, but, astronomer Paul Butler assured, "this is really the first Goldilocks planet"—not too hot, not too cold...
...The Gliese 581g discovery is based on 11 years of observations, largely via the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The data allowed scientists to detect the wobble in a star's orbit caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet—a technique called radial velocity.
Given the relative ease of finding this planet, 10 to 20 percent of all stars may have potentially habitable planets, Vogt said in a press release. (See an interactive guide to the hundreds of known planets.)
"There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy."
Nice to know, but I don't think of it as a useful discovery. I'm sure they don't want any illegal aliens there, and certainly not ones stupid enough to break their own planet. If we went there, we'd be like fugitive criminals. Stupid fugitive criminals. Maybe they're worrying there that we'd go over and make their planet squalid, too, with all our shouting and overcrowding and dirty habits.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sanam Marvi and the contemporary sufi music of Pakistan

I'm no fan of Coca-Cola, but I am really grateful for Coke Studio's fabulous contribution to Pakistani culture. So much brilliant tradition and modernity out there! Makes me proud to be South Asian (I happen to be Indian, but only incidentally: my grandmother's village is 10 kilometres from that horrible, artificial border).

It's unfortunate that too much of the world (including India) knows little about Pakistan besides terrorism, intolerance, and political instability. The song I linked above is contemporary Sufi. Sufism is the opposite of violence, intolerance and instability - it's loving, embracing, and enduring.