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Space Science

Hairspray Could Help Us Find Advanced Alien Civilizations 211

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the at-least-the-fashionable-ones dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Charles Q. Choi reports that hairspray could one day serve as the sign that aliens have reshaped distant worlds because one group of gases that might be key to terraforming planets are CFCs. 'Our hypothesis is that evidence of intelligent life might be evident in a planetary atmosphere,' says astrobiologist Mark Claire at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science. CFCs are entirely artificial, with no known natural process capable of creating them in atmospheres. Detecting signs of these gases on far-off worlds with telescopes might serve as potent evidence that intelligent alien civilizations were the cause, either intentionally as part of terraforming or accidentally via industrial pollution. 'An industrialized civilization will be one that will use its planetary resources for fabrication, the soon-to-be-detectable-from-Earth atmospheric byproducts of which could be a tell-tale sign of their activity,' says astrobiologist Sanjoy Som. CFCs can be easily recognized in planetary atmospheres because their atmospheric 'fingerprint' (i.e. chemical spectra) is very different from natural elements, and are a tell-tale sign that life on the surface has advanced industrial capabilities. Using state-of-the-art computer models of atmospheric chemistry and climate, researchers plan to discover what visible signs CFCs and other artificial byproducts of alien terraforming or industry might have on exoplanet atmospheres. 'We are about a decade away of being able to measure detailed compositions of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets,' says Som."
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Hairspray Could Help Us Find Advanced Alien Civilizations

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  • by staltz (2782655) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:08AM (#42104453) Homepage

    Detecting CFCs applies well if you imagine that aliens are human-like. But real aliens can in reality substantially different than humans. The Universe is weird enough to allow some surprises.

    I've read some news about some odd planets floating somewhere. One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol. Life could be present in these odd places, and the way life manifests itself might be totally different from what we see here on Earth.

    So yes, CFC is a good sign, but aliens might be much weirder and let's not expect that they follow the same patterns as we do. I mean, aliens don't need hairspray.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:15AM (#42104497)

      and the way life manifests itself might be totally different from what we see here on Earth.

      Harumph. Physics and chemistry work virtually the same way everywhere. What makes you think that they will discover something significantly different from CFCs as an inert propellant?

      • What makes you think that life on another planet won't have found some biological use for CFCs?

        • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:28AM (#42105157)

          What makes you think that life on another planet won't have found some biological use for CFCs?

          Oh man, talk to a chemist, they are inert, which makes things biologically complicated and the precursors are beyond nasty. For a good time google for Bromotrifluoromethane Synthesis (aka what you non-chemists would call "Halon") and imagine what it takes to make it both industrially and almost unimaginably via biosynthesis. Its not so much the final step that's the problem, but the precursors, processing the raw materials, etc.

          Its probably a pretty good "dependency" marker indicating advanced stainless steel fabrication, extensive acid production industries, hmm I'd have to think. Biological tissue has severe issues dealing with fluorine ions, which is too bad.

          Its not for lack of evolutionary pressure. Plenty of vessels and orifices would benefit by a native layer of teflon. Imagine the predator prey relations in a world of teflon skin. Some of the room temp liquid CFCs would superficially make a good replacement for that fluid in the bone joints (sorry not doc don't know its technical name).

          Theres also some evolutionary pressure in that you'd need a species that eats flourite ore rocks (or at least stuff grown in its soil, or naturally heavily floridated water) AND in the halon example a biological bromine source... One or the other, OK, but at this time of day I can't think of a way to pull off both. Some kind of migratory coastal ruminant mammal? Um...

          Also there's some thermodynamics issues, if you could pull off the synthesis in a cell, it would need to be a better idea than simply synth more ATP or hemoglobin or whatever else... Need to find a bio app where CFCs are more beneficial than anything else a cell can synth. CFCs are expensive to make so you need a good reason. Much as superficially silicon based brains "seem" more sensible than neuron based brains but its so hard to make a self reproducing factory the size of a typical mammal womb that its not happening any time soon.

          To some extent thats why halon is such a good fire extinguisher around humans. Terrestrial biochemistry has almost no idea how to interact with it, so it pretty much doesn't. CFC suffocation is a zillion times more likely than CFC poisoning. I was told but am too lazy to verify that if you get CFCs into your blood your kidneys get somewhat confused.

          • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:33AM (#42105765) Journal

            Oh man, talk to a chemist, they are inert, which makes things biologically complicated and the precursors are beyond nasty.

            Perhaps I'm not up to speed on chemistry, but that's only true for the industrial processes that we use. The only ways we can fix nitrogen are currently pretty biologially unfriendly at the moment.

            Biological tissue has severe issues dealing with fluorine ions, which is too bad.

            True, but some organisms have evolved to deal with it. For instance monofluoroacetate can be produced biologically.

            The point is that life on other planets may be quite different from our own. It will probably be based on carbon, since nothing else is nearly so flexible, but I don't see any reason why the chemistry should be anything close.

            Plenty of vessels and orifices would benefit by a native layer of teflon.

            Quite possibly, though the ability to synthesize some fluorine containing chemicals doesn't indicate the ability to synthesize them all. Also, don't forget that the parts have to be repairable and also have to have wound up there by evoloutionary chance as well.

            Very many things end up down a sub-optimal branch from which they cannot escape.

          • It's not for lack of evolutionary pressure. Plenty of vessels and orifices would benefit by a native layer of teflon. Imagine the predator prey relations in a world of teflon skin. Some of the room temp liquid CFCs would superficially make a good replacement for that fluid in the bone joints (sorry not doc don't know its technical name).

            Synovial fluid. [wikipedia.org] Sidenote, evolution tends to not reinvent the wheel, even if reinventing the wheel is entirely possible. Even if CFCs were possible to chemically make inside the body, I think evolution would tend to tweak it's fluid, protein, and connective tissue to make synovial fluid rather than make a new pathway for making CFCs.

            The human brain for example is in many ways just a reptilian brain with some add-ons. Important ones, but the brain was not totally overhauled.

            So I think the fact th

            • Sidenote, evolution tends to not reinvent the wheel, even if reinventing the wheel is entirely possible.

              Have you seen how many different ways it's come up with to catch an impala?

              • No, but I'd wager most of them revolve around using bone and muscle to move the predator to the impala and then using some sharp bit of bone or keratin to shred and kill it. There are many diverse ways within that, but nature generally doesn't totally reinvent the basics. I haven't heard of any natural predators that use projectiles shot from their bodies, or clouds of knockout gas, for instance. It would require quite a bit of evolutionary innovation and then refinement for any of those to become useful
                • In other words, evolution isn't diverse, except when it is?
                  • No, in other words diversity doesn't happen equally fast at all possible levels. Perhaps a better example would be DNA coding. How the DNA is read stays very consistent [biomedcentral.com]. I don't believe there's any chemical reason why AUG MUST be translated as methionine. You could have AUG read as any other amino acid. But if you made that change suddenly, none of your existing protein sequences would work, and you would go extinct immediately.

                    Gould calls these things constraints on evolution. There are a number o
                  • Evolution doesn't like to reinvent core functionality, but loves to rearrange that functionality in different ways.

                • I haven't heard of any natural predators that use projectiles shot from their bodies

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archerfish [wikipedia.org]

          • by dargaud (518470)

            Question.

            If a planet had a significantly different ratio of base elements, such as a lot of fluoride and bromide on its surface, I assume life would make use of it and arrive at what you describe as 'teflon shells'. After all life here makes lots of things which are a LOT more complicated.

            So the real question is: can a planet form with widely different ratios of elements on its surface (who cares what's at the core) ? Or do planet formation models lead to gaseous / rocky worlds which have basically always

        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          What makes you think their robots won't fart CFCs?

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        What makes you think that they will discover something significantly different from CFCs as an inert propellant?

        The simplest reason: They have significantly different materials to work with, affected by a different degree of planetary gravity (if that's relevant to what they're building), because they're on a different planet.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        No "virtually" about it.

        There are a limited number of ways to solve a problem given these constraints. Regarding the GP - this can be used for a lot more than hairspray.

        Generally, if we look at enough of our industrial output, there should be some overlap with any arbitrary sentient species.

        What is more of a concern... 500+ light years away, another alien civilization is looking at Earth, and not detecting squat, as we look at them, and don't detect squat. By the time evidence of civilization from either pl

        • No "virtually" about it.

          I believe that certain extreme environments *could* change the kinematics of chemical reactions. Take very strong magnetic fields, for example. These tend to deform the electron shells, and since these dictate chemical reactions, I'd be surprised if these were unaffected.

          But, granted, extreme environments are probably not conducive to the emergence of life in the first place.

      • > Physics and chemistry work virtually the same way everywhere.

        That is a pretty BIG assumption considering Scientists only know about %0.0000001 of the universe.

        • by Evtim (1022085)

          Well, the question you gotta ask is the opposite. What if the physics of a distant galaxy is different from the one around here?

          Well then I guess that its spectral lines might be different. And its movement in space might be different.

          We can now see more or less to the edge of the observable Universe which happens to be also a picture form the very distant past. Yes, the Universe looked different back then, of course it does, but the light we see is still the same. The nature of light includes in itself qui

    • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:20AM (#42104539)

      I mean, aliens don't need hairspray

      Chewbacca begs to differ.

      • by Abreu (173023)

        Also, wasn't Alf's home planet destroyed in an incident involving hair dryers? Hairspray doesn't sound far-fetched...

    • by Fr05t (69968) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:29AM (#42104615)

      One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol.

      Where are these wonderful places, and how soon can I get there?!!?

    • by alen (225700)

      true, but for intelligent life you need a body and appendages. you need hands and fingers to manipulate your environment like humans use hands to make tools. other animals use flora to make nests and dams but the fact that they can't use their hands and fingers like us limits them.

      in order to get to the high tech part of life you need body parts to manipulate your environment in low tech ways to make the tools and machines to allow you to progress in technology

      just like in Star Trek where all the space fari

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        I don't know about that - I could imagine a blobular form of life that forms grasping body parts as needed via internal pressure from its outer layer. Kind of like how bacteria engulf their food.

    • One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol..

      Somewhere there is an astronomer with his telescope the wrong way around trying to work out the orbital trajectories of the remnants of his lunch.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You seem to miss the point entirely. CFCs are good for more than hair spray. An alien civilization might use them for terraforming (or Xanthaforming) new homes.

      The point is to look for signs of chemicals that don't occur naturally. Although they're sure to have some false positives, since something that doesn't occur naturally here may occur naturally there.

      • An alien civilization might use them for terraforming (or Xanthaforming) new homes.

        My question is: Why would they terraform at all?
        Any civilization capable of meaningfully terraforming a planet is bound to be capable of not having to live on a planet or not having to care whether there is oxygen and atmospheric pressure on it.

        • by dryeo (100693)

          Variety. Think, if human kind got the capability for cheap inter-planetary travel there'd be colonies in all kinds of environments, asteroids, comets, various gas giant satellites and any easy to terraform planets. Different people like different things.

        • by Immerman (2627577) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @01:08PM (#42106615)

          I know the whole space-station/asteroid colony thing is cool, but planets have several advantages

          1) Your survival is not dependent on the continuous operation of high technology devices - especially important if you're thinking in terms of millenia and insuring your descendants survive even if they pass through some form of knowledge-sapping Dark Ages.
          2) They're big, and virtually indestructible.
          3) Any ecological catastrophe is likely to proceed slowly (see 2), likely giving you decades or centuries of to develop a fix rather than the hours or months likely in an artificially constrained ecosystem.
          4) They're far more suitable as a "genetic heritage" site if you want a large, chaotic system of thriving genetic diversity
          5) Lots of people might well prefer to live within a thriving ecological web than in a rigorously controlled environment. I know I would.
          6) And possibly most importantly, if you have suitable candidates terraforming a planet is probably one of the most cost-effective ways to support billions of individuals. In fact the up-front costs of converting Venus (Mars is a much tougher nut to crack) into something way more hospitable than an asteroid are probably negligible - design a bacterium that will thrive in the current environment and bind atmospheric carbon dioxide into some stable solid, then seed the planet with them and wait a few centuries. Sure it takes a while, but it's a grad-student synthetic biology project with extra credit for having your bacteria designed to die off as conditions approach Earth-norm. Heck, we're almost to the point of being able to do such things ourselves. And once you've got a planet in the proper temperature range with a "non-hostile" atmosphere seeding it with "normal" bacteria to add proper amounts of oxygen and establish a thriving microbial biome in which multicellular life can thrive, while perhaps more challenging, is still potentially a research-project level endeavor whose expense will trivial compared to say, building an interstate highway. So basically, given cheap interplanetary travel all you need is a few individuals with vision to work on a centuries-long project and you can quite possibly terraform an "easy" planet to the point that people could walk unprotected outdoors and establish homesteads, even if they have to import their own multicellular life.

          Meanwhile building a viable enclosed ecosystem even the size of a small city is likely to be an extremely expensive undertaking, especially when you factor in radiation shielding, meteor defense systems, etc. Not to mention gravity - tethering is relatively cheap, but enough cable to support a city (plus shielding) under anything approaching Earth-norm accelerations is still going to be impressive, not to mention you have to perform ongoing maintenance continuously. Perhaps the whole thing could be done organically as some sort of city-sized organism/symbiosis, but that's supposing a much more advanced level of biotechnology, and you'd still have to feed the thing as it grows, though ideally it could absorb sunlight and some convenient carbonaceous asteroids for most of it's needs.

          • CO2 isn't the biggest problem terraforming Venus, but even the CO2 problem probably can't be solved with just bacteria. Carl Sagan was one of the original proponants of that idea, but after further study, he conceded that it wouldn't work because of thermodynamics (it's currently just too hot, you must first cool it down to make those reactions stable).

            Changing the day/night ratio to something reasonable and establishing some sort of magnetic field to block out solar radiation would probably also be requir

    • Certainly intelligent aliens may have no need for or not make CFCs.

      But CFCs are not something that occur in nature by any process we know, and thus if we see them in abundance where they should not be, that's a sign something very interesting is happening there, caused by something that is worth investigating. Maybe it's aliens, maybe it's a new natural phenomenon.

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Wait, they could be "a sign" but not a "conclusive sign" of technological processes? Since when does science give us maybes and variables? Science is supposed to be like the bible: clean, concise, and unambiguous!

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:09AM (#42104455)
    ...or it's just that the species has more than fifty arms and they invented the aerosol deodorant before the wheel.
  • CFCs can be easily recognized in planetary atmospheres because their atmospheric 'fingerprint' (i.e. chemical spectra) is very different from natural elements, and are a tell-tale sign that life on the surface has advanced industrial capabilities.

    Are these CFCs made from exotic kinds of matter? Are we looking for advanced civilizations that have been able to synthesize new forms of chlorine, fluorine, carbon, etc., that are different than those that arise from stellar nucleosynthesis? No? In that case,

    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:41AM (#42105283)

      .... atmospheric 'fingerprint' (i.e. chemical spectra) is very different from natural elements

      Are these CFCs made from exotic kinds of matter?

      Yes. This is another "talk to a chemist". Ur doing it wrong, when halogens accumulate in your ozone layer. There seems to be no way to get them there, in extreme bulk, other than CFC release on the surface, or maybe some kind of insane doomsday weapon, both of which indicate extreme industrialization and a certain lack of ecological concern.

      A standard /. automotive analogy is car sized lumps of unoxidized iron with certain precise and consistent fractions of dissolved carbon found on top of strips of heavy petroleum fractions mixed with gravel is just too weird geologically and biochemically to be anything but the product of intelligent life. You just don't find those elements laying around in that physical configuration.

      • by necro81 (917438)
        you missed the joke I was trying to make: the summary was talking about the spectra being different from natural elements. As best we know, the elements (carbon, chlorine, etc.) on some distant planet world are identical, interchangeable, to those here on earth or anywhere else in the Universe. So, if we are looking for exotic spectra, we should be looking for those coming from exotic, not-naturally-occurring molecules. Talk to a chemist: if you're conflating elements with molecules, or claiming that one
      • car sized lumps of unoxidized iron with certain precise and consistent fractions of dissolved carbon found on top of strips of heavy petroleum fractions mixed with gravel is just too weird geologically and biochemically to be anything but the product of intelligent life.

        Good one.

  • 1980's (Score:3, Funny)

    by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:20AM (#42104535)
    Well I guess we are alone in the universe. If no aliens found us in the 80's it's not looking good.
    • by ledow (319597)

      The chances are that we are *not* alone in the universe. Seriously.

      However, the chances also state that us ever finding someone else within the existence of our species is very small.

      And the chances that we can communicate with them before they die out is smaller still.

      And the chances that anyone of our species will ever meet anyone of theirs, "in person", are even smaller still.

      Simple physics still has to be overcome - you can't move faster than the speed of light, and by the time we detect something inte

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:26AM (#42104595) Journal

    The problem with CFC is that it's duration is an insignificant blip at cosmic scales. We've used it a little, we're phasing it out because it ruins a rather important layer of the atmosphere.

    Our planet will continue to exist for about 5 billion years after the point where we reasonably reached a point that some aliens could contact at all without coming all the way here. (For most of our time on the planet we couldn't receive radio and didn't have telescopes.) Out of that, we've been abusing CFC heavily for maybe 50 years.

    Let's say that t would take a while to get weaned off them, and for the upper atmosphere to gradually clear of them. Like maybe 500 years instead of 50. But it's still 500 years out of 5 billions.

    That's a chance of of 1 in ten millions that if a civilization is there, you'll detect it by CFCs.

    • by Hans Adler (2446464) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:43AM (#42104725)

      I think you missed the point about detecting CFCs. It's not about unintended terraforming of someone's home planet. It's about terraforming *another* planet that initially is a bit too cold for the civilisation in question. In human terms we are speaking about creating factories on Mars that pump CFCs into its atmosphere so as to create a more habitable (for us) climate there. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming_of_Mars#Using_fluorine_compounds [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mark Claire (2782779)
      I'm one of the scientists affiliated with this project. It's very true that SETI in general terms is a "needle in a haystack" sort of search. So one way to look at this is that we are suggesting more "needles" to look for. So far, we are searching for radio waves and optical pulses. Looking for technosignature molecules in a planetary atmosphere (if it actually works, which is what we are trying to figure out with our proposal), is a third needle. I also totally agree with your points about looking for "
  • by art6217 (757847) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:30AM (#42104621)
    gigawatts of radio waves put into space: check
    at a wavelength interesting to astronomers: check
    low--frequency modulation, common phase: check (think Fourier analysis over months of data to filter out unmodulated light of a nearby star)
    characteristic spectral fingerprint of artificial light: check
    not limited to a civilisation's "radio window": check
    • by Cenan (1892902)

      Good point, though that only works for planets with a day/night cycle and aliens depending on sight during night.

      • by tgd (2822)

        Good point, though that only works for planets with a day/night cycle and aliens depending on sight during night.

        And life that relies on sight at all. Life was on Earth a very long time without being sensitive to EM radiation. The majority of life on Earth still doesn't, to any significant effect. And there are comparatively intelligent creatures that rely predominantly on echolocation.

    • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:07AM (#42104949) Homepage

      And light pollution measures and energy saving says that the streetlighting we've had for a mere fraction of a galactic second (i.e. a couple of hundred years) won't be here in that same fraction again.

      Hell, as it is, we try to reduce the amount of light that goes somewhere unnecessary (e.g. the sky!) or that is produced and doesn't do anything. There are already countries and cities with lighting that's dynamic based on the cars rolling over it (which means the signal is even HARDER to find, even if you knew what you were looking for).

      And in terms of the stretch of a civilisation, lighting visible even from orbit, let alone the other side of the galaxy, is literally a tiny flicker that you'll only catch if you're constantly listening to EXACTLY that, in EXACTLY the right place for a few billion years.

      Hell, it's hard enough to see all of Earth's artificial lighting from orbit if there is cloud cover, let alone from somewhere like where Voyager currently is, and as you got further out the inverse square law solves the problem nicely to give you a probability of anyone detecting it tending rather swiftly towards zero.

      If you want to detect a civilisation, about the only sensible thing to do is ignore the planets, look at the stars. Because sources of energy that huge, that well light-up, that stable, that predictable and, with suitable technology, even harvestable (I believe it's called a Dyson sphere) are likely to be something that won't stop being a commodity for a long time and activity on them will be inherently visible (even if that's by one-day disappearing entirely).

      Think to yourself. I plonk you down into the universe at an unknown point and at an unknown time since the Big Bang. I give you a billion-year-long-life (sound a lot? It's not). How do you find someone who's had the same done to them? The chances are you're not even going to be able to see each other, would never be at the right stages at the right times to communicate with each other before moving onto the "next most advanced / obvious method of communication", and even if you do by some chance talk be too far away or your communication too "out of date" to do anything useful with it.

      Until you can quite literally bend space and visit other places, it's all a bit pointless to be looking because of simple physical laws. And by the time you *can* do that, it's easier to just plonk a sensor on every star system with your space bending techniques than it would be to ever listen out for them all.

      We are quite literally talking about how to detect a particular mayfly of interest on an entire planet of activity. And by the time we do it, that mayfly has evolved to build its own space program and buggered off deeper into the galaxy anyway.

    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      gigawatts of radio waves put into space: check at a wavelength interesting to astronomers: check low--frequency modulation, common phase: check (think Fourier analysis over months of data to filter out unmodulated light of a nearby star) characteristic spectral fingerprint of artificial light: check not limited to a civilisation's "radio window": check

      You're assuming that Westinghouse won on the aliens planet.

    • The intensity of nearly all signal we put out outside diminush so rapidely as to be non differentiable from galactic noise, within a few AU, maybe 1 LY at most. The only signal which has reached a few dozen LY was the one sent (when was it ? 70 ies ?) from a radio antena a very strong pulse directed at a place far away, and it was 2 times a one minute or two signal. The rest ? Street light ? radio ? TV ? All noise beyond 1 light year.
      • by art6217 (757847)
        Have you ever did any involved mathematical analysis of detecting a slowly drifting 50Hz signal in a background stronger by hundreds of dB? I did not. This is why I would not say "all noise". I just do not know that. Do you?
  • Our society is still too disorganized and prone to impulsive, selfish acts for us to contact an alien civilization.

    If we don't immediately make war on them, we'll move in, set up a gift shop and a law firm, then start piping them our TV and selling them whatever junk food has taken over for the Twinkie (RIP).

    If you were an alien civilization, and your first contact from outside came from the U.S. Congress and/or McDonald's, or maybe you were exposed to Justin Bieber or dubstep, you might just pull up the we

  • The prospect of finding an alien civilization that uses hairspray is not very good, given that Little Green Men rarely have hair in Hollywood or Roswell. However, CFCs are less likely to be an indicator of hairspray than plastic foam, circuit board manufacture [nytimes.com], Star Trek-esque hypospray propellent, refrigerators or air conditioning [nytimes.com]. The NY Times just ran an article about how we're still venting CFCs from home central air units in the U.S., over 20 years after the big marketing push to eliminate them.
  • by DickBreath (207180) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:12AM (#42104997) Homepage
    Didn't the Centuari Republic give Earth jump gate technology in exchange for our advanced hair mousse formulas?
  • went on the B-Ark with the telephone sanitizers etc

  • I would never have associated 80s hair metal bands with advanced civilization....
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:19AM (#42105089)

    We're already phasing out the use of CFCs and will likely not produce any detectable amounts in the near future. Don't they think aliens would learn the same lesson? Giving us, at most, a 100yr window to catch their CFC use? Why do people have this incredibly close minded view of alien life that makes them think that not only will they be like us, with arms and legs, be based on water but also be stuck in the same time period as us as well?

    I suspect that we'll eventually find life on nearly all of the planets and even some of the asteroids in our own solar system. Maybe even intelligent life that's trapped under heavy atmosphere that really has had no technological way to explore space. Imagine an intelligent creature floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter or Saturn. They'd have almost no material to build tools out of, much less spacecraft or telescopes. And MOST planets have atmospheres like theirs.

  • "Damn it, Jim - I'm a doctor, not an air conditioner repairman!"
  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @10:58AM (#42105443)

    Hrm...funny how you can measure them out of volcanoes:

    http://cfc.geologist-1011.net/ [geologist-1011.net]

    "CFCs are not Volcanic" - Oh Really?

    "This statement is one that I keep seeing on websites and blogs, and ties in with the assertions repeated by Warrick & Farmer (1990), Grimston (1992), Hendeles et al. (2007), Colice (2007), Colice (2008), and Green & Stewart (2008, p. 18) to the effect that CFCs are not natural in the environment. If one chooses to measure the gases emerging from volcanic vents instead of taking a politician's word for it, one discovers that volcanoes produce a variety of halocarbons, including CFCs. This fact, along with other natural sources of CFCs including sponges, other marine animals, bacteria (both marine & terrestrial), fungi (both marine & terrestrial), plants (both marine & terrestrial), lichen, insects, is so well documented that it is the subject of ongoing textbook publication (Gribble, 2003; Jordan, 2003). Stoiber et al. (1971) first measured and documented CFCs venting from Santiaguito in Guatamala. Since, there have been many studies corroborating the volcanic emission of CFCs (Isidorov et al, 1990; Isidorov et al., 1993; Jordon et al., 2000; Schwandner et al., 2000; Schwandner et al., 2002; Schwandner et al., 2004; Frische et al., 2006). Although some authors attempt to correlate volcanogenic CFCs to atmospheric variations, the confirmation of soil diffusion decay with distance from the vent (Schwandner et al., 2004) still stands in stark contradiction of Frische's hypothesis."

    • The website you linked to isn't overly packed with peer-reviewed research ideas. My colleagues who study volcanic emissions and halocarbons do tell me that measurements of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) (which the unscientific label of "honorary CFC" as it was regulated in the Montreal Protocol) may in fact be produced in extremely minor quantities by some volcanoes. This is cool as it points to new science. But the measured fluxes are 6 orders of magnitude lower than the anthropogenic fluxes. i.e. it doesn't
      • If you see a flux of CFCs in the atmosphere, why would you assume that this is due to anthropogenic activity?

        More importantly, how would you exclude natural activity as a cause of observed CFC fluxes? One might start off with the assertion that CFCs never occur naturally, but as we've seen, that is demonstrably false. We could do some study of natural CFC sources, and try to extrapolate that to the entire universe of natural CFC sources, but that would be informative, not definitive.

        As for natural halocar

    • Yes, thanks for this skepticism. In general the statement "x" is not produced naturally is false. Nature is surprisingly diverse and creative. For example one often sees statements like "dioxins don't occur in nature, or free chlorine doesn't occur in nature, or there is no natural equivalent to HFCS. These are false.

      In reality what is important is the quantity of the materials, where they occur and what the environmental and health impacts are.

      In the case of CFCs while there is evidence that there is some

  • Ask Me Anything (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mark Claire (2782779) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @11:58AM (#42106013)
    Hi all. I'm one of the scientists involved in this project. We are trying out this new kickstarter-for-science approach as it's both hard to get NASA funds for SETI, and it's also surprisingly hard to get small "seed money" type grants to do cutting edge work. We've started our own non-profit scientific research organization (http://bmsis.org) and are trying to do science outside the confines of the traditional academic structure. We'd love your support if you can (http://www.petridish.org/projects/do-aliens-use-hairspray) but more than that, we'd love to hear any ideas/answer questions about the project.
  • by PPH (736903)

    A planet populated by Dolly Partons.

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

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