from the world's big
Are Earthlings Martians?
Davies’s research focuses on the “big questions” of existence, ranging from the origin of the universe to the origin of life, and include the nature of time, the search for life in the universe, and foundational questions in quantum mechanics. He helped create the theory of quantum fields in curved spacetime, with which he provided explanations for how black holes can radiate energy, and what caused the ripples in the cosmic afterglow of the Big Bang. In astrobiology, he was a forerunner of the theory that life on Earth may have come from Mars. He is currently championing the theory that Earth may host a shadow biosphere of alternative life forms.
Davies has lectured on scientific topics at institutions as diverse as The World Economic Forum, the United Nations, the Commission of the European Union, Google, Windsor Castle, The Vatican and Westminster Abbey, as well as mainstream academic establishments such as The Royal Society, The Smithsonian Institution, and the New York Academy of Sciences. Davies devised and presented a series of 45 minute BBC Radio 3 science documentaries and a one-hour television documentary about his work in astrobiology, entitled "The Cradle of Life." Among his bestselling books are "The Mind of God," "How to Build a Time Machine," and "The Goldilocks Enigma." His latest book, "The Eerie Silence," was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010.
Question: What first interested you about\r\n the search for\r\nalien life?\r\n\r\n
Paul\r\nDavies: I suppose my\r\ninterest in looking for life elsewhere in the universe really dates back\r\n to my\r\nteens. What teenager doesn’t look\r\nup at the sky at night and think am I alone in the universe? Well most people get over it, but I\r\nnever did and though I made a career more in physics and cosmology than\r\nastrobiology I’ve always had a soft spot for the subject of life because\r\n it\r\ndoes seem so mysterious. To a\r\nphysicist life looks nothing short of a miracle. It’s\r\n just amazing what living things can do and so that\r\nsense of mystery, that sense of how did it all begin has always been \r\nthere in\r\nthe background and then in the 1990s I began to take a more active part,\r\n began\r\nto study the prospects that life could spread from Mars to Earth or \r\nmaybe Earth\r\nto Mars and that maybe life began on Mars and came to Earth, and that \r\nidea\r\nseemed to have a lot of traction and is now accepted as very plausible, \r\nand so\r\nI was asked to help create the Australian Center for Astrobiology. I was living at that time in Australia\r\nand we set this thing up in Sydney and I worked there for some years \r\nbefore\r\nmoving to Arizona.\r\n\r\n
Question: How much credence has the \r\ntheory that life began\r\non Mars gained?\r\n\r\n
Paul\r\nDavies: Well I first\r\nsuggested the idea in the early 1990s that life could have come from \r\nMars to\r\nEarth inside rocks blasted off the red planet by comet and asteroid\r\nimpacts. I think a lot of people\r\nfelt that this was a pretty crackpot notion, but it became clear during \r\nthe\r\n1990s that not only that there is a large traffic of material exchanged \r\nbetween\r\nMars and Earth, but that microbes are hardy enough if protected by the \r\nrock,\r\ncocooned inside, to survive the harsh conditions of outer space for a \r\nlong\r\ntime, many millions of years, and the evidence both theoretical and \r\nexperimental\r\nhas firmed up and I think many people now realize that if you get life \r\non\r\neither Mars or Earth you’ll get it on both planets from this splashing\r\nphenomenon. Now the case for it\r\nbeginning on Mars is not very strong. \r\nMars is a smaller planet, so it cooled quicker, so it was ready \r\nfor life\r\nsooner. Conditions there were more\r\ncongenial for life to get going, but as we don’t know how life ever got \r\ngoing\r\nthis is a bit of a leap in the dark, so we certainly can’t say that it\r\ndefinitely started on Mars, but it seems very plausible that it did. On Mars seems as good a place as Earth\r\nfor life to get started.\r\n\r\n
Question: Is this theory still \r\ncontroversial, and how could\r\nit be verified?\r\n\r\n
Paul\r\nDavies: I think\r\nastrobiologists are comfortable with the idea that it could have started\r\n on\r\nMars and come here. As I’ve said\r\nthe evidence is not compelling, but to really clinch this we would of \r\ncourse\r\nneed to either go to Mars and find life there and discover it is the \r\nsame life\r\nas we have here on Earth or just possibly a sample return mission, which\r\n has\r\nbeen long awaited by the astrobiology community. This\r\n is a spacecraft that will be sent to Mars and pick up a\r\nsort of grab bag of rocks and bring them back to Earth so they can be\r\nstudied. It’s just possible we\r\nwill find traces of life in those rocks. \r\nIt’s equally possible we won’t, so it’s a bit of a long shot. The only way to be really clear is to\r\nhave some expedition to Mars and my feeling is that life on Mars today \r\nis\r\nalmost certainly, if there at all, deep under the ground, maybe a \r\nkilometer or\r\nso beneath the surface, and so that is going to be hard to get at.
Recorded April 15, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Austin Allen
The theory that life on our planet originated on Mars was originally dismissed as a "crackpot notion." It’s now considered a distinct possibility.
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".