The two faces of JE Brandenburg

Brandenburg is a physicist who submitted a paper to the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference a few years ago. It’s way outside my area of expertise, but it postulated an interesting scenario from the ratios of rare isotopes in the atmosphere of Mars: that there was evidence of a natural nuclear reactor, like Oklo on Earth, that had exploded over 180 million years ago. He makes a good case, at least to this biologist’s eyes, and it seems reasonable.

Natural Nuclear Reactors formed and operated on Earth, there is no reason this could not have happened on Mars. Conditions on Mars: lack of plate tectonics, and nearness to the asteroid belt, may have favored such occurrences in larger size and duration than on Earth. Changes in groundwater distribution, due to either climate change of loss of geothermal heat, may have triggered this event. The occurrence of such a large natural reactor may explain some puzzling aspects of Mars data, such as the superabundance of K and Th on the surface and the large inventory of radiogenic isotopes in the Mars atmosphere.

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Mainstreaming absurdity

I remember, once upon a time, back in the 1990s, while reading the usenet group Talk.Origins, that some creationist named Lionel Tun declared that all animals used to be vegetarian, and that T. rex used its teeth to cut down trees and eat tough fruit, like pineapples, and that their jaws were clearly designed to slice open coconuts. This was obviously contrary to the mechanics of these carnivorous animals’ jaws, their anatomy, and their digestive physiology. We laughed and laughed, and this was one of the gleefully cited examples of creationist idiocy that got cited for years afterwards.

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Dancing with the stars!

This year, Skepticon is hosting a prom on Saturday night — there will be dancing and music, and all that usual stuff. In addition, they’re selling off tickets to dance with various speakers, so if you’d like a slow dance with Matt Dillahunty, pay up $20 to get on his dance card, or if you want a fast dance with Surly Amy, cough up $10.

It’s a nice fundraising idea. But you may be wondering why I am not on the roster of eligible dancers.

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One week until Skepticon!

It’s the seventh Skepticon, happening next week in Springfield, Missouri. I’ll be there, speaking at the ungodly hour of 9pm on Saturday night — it’s got to be like Nerd Hell, where all you’ve got to do on Saturday night is sit and listen to some old greybeard drone on. But the rest of the con will be fresher and sweeter, so you should go!

Also, right up until the last minute, they’re always looking for donations. It’s a free conference, you know, but only to the attendees…somebody has to pay the bills somewhere.