It’s a gas, giant

Sometimes you read things that just blow your mind. And a recent New Scientist contained two of them.

One article riffs on ‘farming’ hydrogen with algae. Harvesting the gas in a way that creates no environmental damage whatsoever. The countries best suited to do it – Middle East, Africa, lots of deserts – are those with an energy-exporting infrastructure anyway. Mindblowing. Not even cracking it out of seawater with solar panels and arcs: this is warm, life-spawning wet technology, slow and steady and human in scale. Brilliant.

Also: several hundred extrasolar planets have been detected by the wobbles they throw onto their stars. But I never expected we’d actually be able to image them directly. But someone’s starting doing it. Not just detecting or inferring earth-sized masses, but a method for actually photographing them, with resolution that could resolve rainforests, vegetation, signs of life. The author expects a resolved image of an extrasolar planet in his lifetime. (As an aside, it’s interesting how many astronomers no longer see the search for life as an issue: we’re finding so many planets life is a statistical certainty now.)

Incredible stuff. It’s an amazing universe we live in.

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