September 27, 2014

Heard this tune come across WCMU as I drove near Remus, MI, home of the newly-famous-to-outsiders Wheatland Music Festival.
Sometimes music is so good it touches your heart. Sometimes its so good all you can do is laugh.

Los Angeles Times:

Some of the water molecules in your drinking glass were created more than 4.5 billion years ago, according to new research.

That makes them older than the Earth, older than the solar system — even older than the sun itself.

In a study published Thursday in Science, researchers say the distinct chemical signature of the water on Earth and throughout the solar system could occur only if some of that water formed before the swirling disk of dust and gas gave birth to the planets, moons, comets and asteroids.

This primordial water makes up 30% to 50% of the water on Earth, the researchers estimate.

Scientific American:

The dense interstellar clouds of gas and dust where stars form contain abundant water, in the form of ice. When a star first lights up, it heats up the cloud around it and floods it with radiation, vaporizing the ice and breaking up some of the water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen.

Until now, researchers were unsure how much of the ‘old’ water would be spared in this process. If most of the original water molecules were broken up, water would have had to reform in the early Solar System. But the conditions that made this possible could be specific to the Solar System, in which case many stellar systems could be left dry, says Ilsedore Cleeves, an astrochemist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who led the new study.

But if some of the water could survive the star-forming process, and if the Solar System’s case is typical, it means that water “is available as a universal ingredient during planet formation”, she says.

To find out, Cleeves and her colleagues modelled the conditions soon after the Sun lit up. They calculated the amount of radiation that would have hit the Solar System, both from the young star and from outer space, and how far that radiation would have travelled through the cloud.

Those conditions determine how new water molecules form from hydrogen and oxygen, and in particular the odds that the molecules include deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen whose nucleus contains a neutron, in addition to the usual single proton. The model predicted an abundance of deuterium-containing water, also known as heavy water, that was lower than that in the Solar System’s water today.

But the interstellar clouds where Sun-like stars are currently forming — and thus, presumably, the material from which the Sun formed — have a higher proportion of heavy water compared to the current Solar System. This is because these clouds are subject to the continuous bombardment of cosmic rays, which tend to favour the inclusion of deuterium. Therefore, the authors concluded, the young Sun’s radiation was insufficient to account for the amount of heavy water seen in the Solar System today, and some must have existed before. They estimate that somewhere between 30% and 50% of the water in Earth’s oceans must be older than the Sun.

“If the disk can’t do it, that means we must have inherited some level of these very deuterium-enriched interstellar ices from the birth environment of the Sun,” says Cleeves. The study was published in Science on 25 September.


11 Responses to “Stardust”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    “Some of the water molecules in your drinking glass were created more than 4.5 billion years ago, according to new research.

    That makes them older than the Earth, older than the solar system — even ”

    Oh dear – I am going to have to rethink my faith in the principles of homeopathic medicine.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Wow—-that is a great “Stardust” and DID evoke a smile. To my old ears, the first half (before he got so “artsy”) was superior to the rest, but what do I know?

    I for one am beginning to resent the fact that we spend so much talent and $$$ exploring the Cosmos (which series devoted quite some time to “stardust”, btw).

    It doesn’t matter one rodent’s rear end where the water came from and how “old” it is, and any “new” matter being created “out there” is of little import to us living on our “tiny blue dot”. We need to concentrate on studying the water here on Earth in the here-and-now.

  3. All I could do is close my eyes, listen and smile…

    • dumboldguy Says:

      And? $700 million is a lot of money, and it could be better spent on deploying satellites to study the oceans and atmosphere and gain truly valuable information. Aside from gaining some knowledge about cosmic rays and a few other things that do impact life on earth, astrophysics is all a make-jobs program for dreamers and aerospace companies. The same goes for the Moon programs, (on which we spent over $200 billion) and the Mars programs (Curiosity alone cost $2.6 billion). Aside from some technology transfer and some moon rocks in a case at the Smithsonian (that look like they were picked up in someone’s yard), we have gotten little of value from all that $$$$.

      • A lot of important spinoff technology came out of the moon program including electronic miniaturization, microcomputers, medical technology, etc. I know that some in Silicon Valley hate to admit it, but the space program made a lot of their present day projects possible.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Yes, a lot of good spinoffs from the moon program, and a lot of folks got rich faster because the government subsidized their efforts. However that was the time of a lot of bright ideas and new technologies, and they all likely would have arrived without the push from the moon program, just a few years later.

          • You might want to read this:


            Without government contracts, the development of micro computer technology and semi conductors themselves would have taken decades.

            A good example of technology driven by government expenditure was the printed circuit. When approached with the idea in the 1930s, electronics manufacturers saw no need. It was cheaper to wire by hand. It wasn’t until WWII that the technology proved to be far more reliable that military procurement went for the printed circuit.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            That’s not news to me—I was alive through all that and witnessed it firsthand. Sorry I didn’t buy TI stock (or Syntex, or Xerox, or Reynolds metals, or IBM, or…..)

            It was an exciting time, but is not likely to be repeated—-the discoveries and technologies are now with us, and simply polishing, refining, and applying them will not be as dramatic.

            I don’t think that anything that comes out of astrophysics and manned space exploration in the future will be as “game-changing”. (Although if someone figures out how to harness dark energy that would be big)

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    Mentioned Cosmos in another comment. Over at Daily KOS, they’re talking about the “gorification” of Tyson.

    “The people over at The Federalist are on a mission from God…err, Koch. They are out to destroy Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    “Why? Well, The Federalist is one of those octopus tentacles in the echo chamber, reaching forth as a new voice with credentials (from all the same old voices of the chamber). The founders are from a place you might have heard of before – the Heartland Institute.

    “Tyson has become a star, mostly because of his ability to engage a layman into the wonders of science and intellectualism, and also, for people like me, because he has been very blunt and straightforward, concise and instructional, on the data, implications and science of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    “He must be stopped……”.

    It goes on from there with the whys and hows of the anti-Tyson morons.

  5. David Abbey Says:

    Frank Sinatra made a record of the introduction only. The B side was the song itself.

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