Monday, 29 April 2013

Red Head, Daisy Dress / Alien Life in the Solar System (part 4)

So, I'm pretty excited guys. Why? Because I have a housemate who can take photos! And, even better, he is someone that I don't even have to bribe or coerce into taking blog photos for me! (I'm sure any other bloggers reading this will be very familiar with that kind of frustration, if you aren't already lucky enough to know heaps of professional photographers.) So thank you Josh for taking these lovely photos for me.

This dress is a hand-me-down from my mum, who rocked it in the early 1990s. The simple shift shape is perfect for a lazy warm afternoon, and it doesn't really need any dressing-up either because of it's cute little daisies appliqués on the bodice. Just add a cute animal bag and you're good to go! I see simple shift dresses like this in thrift stores all the time, and it would be pretty easy, if you were so inclined, to add a couple of daisy appliqués to said dresses ;) 

dress - Hand-me-down from my mum
bag - Ebay
socks - Cotton On
hat - Japan (not sure where)
shoes - Chicory

The last (maybe) alien world I'll be talking about in this little life-in-the-solar-system series is Io! I mentioned Io back in my post about Europa.

Io has some unique characteristics for a moon. The closest moon to Jupiter, Io has at least 400 active volcanoes on its surface, which makes it the most geologically active object in the entire solar system. It's got lava running all over the surface. It's not at all icy, either, being mostly made up of silicate rock coated with sulfur dioxide frost. Like Europa, it also keeps warm via "tidal-heating", caused by Jupiter's gravitational pull (which is also responsible for the crazy amount of volcanoes).

So I guess right now you are probably thinking that Io doesn't sound very friendly to life. But just because conditions on Io are so extreme, it doesn't mean that life couldn't exist - it would just be very different to the kind we are used to. It's been suggested that organic molecules could exist underground, inside lava tubes, which could both provide insulation and trap moisture and nutrients. Microbes could be able to "breathe" sulfur the way that we breathe oxygen. The Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) that is going to do fly-bys of many Jovian moons won't be exploring Io, but it has been stressed by some astrobiologists that Io shouldn't be overlooked as a potential place for life - because, if life were found on Io, then it would make the possibilities of life existing on other moons and planets in the the galaxy far more likely.
Not the prettiest moon ever... Image credit

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Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Return of Summer / Alien Life in the Solar System (part 3)

For some reason summer has decided to visit us again in Sydney despite it being a month away from winter. This has been a nice excuse to wear some summery outfits and (if you saw my instagram yesterday) indulge in all-day-long-"no-pants"-days at the beach.

On days like these, boater hats and lace shirts are a must. Although I was getting sick of the heat, I am going to embrace these last couple of days of pseduo-summer before it switches over into full-blown winter.

dress - Paddy's Markets
shirt - c/o Oasap
necklace - c/o Merrin & Gussy
socks - Cotton On
hat -  c/o Wholesale
shoes - c/o Chictopia

So picture Saturn's 6th largest moon, Enceladus. It's not very large - it's about 7 times smaller in diameter than our own moon (in length, it would fit inside Great Britain). Enceladus is moon that is totally covered in ice, but if you look towards the South Pole you might see massive water spouts shooting out from underground. Some of this falls back down on you as snow, and some of it floats off to become part of Saturn's rings. Saturn hangs in the sky overhead. It's a pretty magical scene. 

But are there any little alien critters on Enceladus that might also be gazing up at the sky in wonder?
Image credit
This moon is thought by some to be a better candidate for life than Europa, because the water exists near the surface rather than underneath a thick ice-crust. The moon also has an atmosphere, and last year it was discovered that the geysers (the water spouts) not only spew out water, but also organic compounds propane, ethane and acetylene. This is a great indication for possible alien life. Furthermore, the water in Enceladus' subsurface ocean is kept warm by what seems to be geothermal activity, much like on Earth with our deep-ocean vents (around which life a whole lot of strange life flourishes). 

So could there be life on this tiny world? Well, it's about as friendly to life as Titan and Europa are. In fact, Enceladus would be even easier to gain information about than these two moons, because of its water spouts, meaning that a probe equipped to recognise complex organic molecules could merely fly through them and it wouldn't even have to land on the surface. I'm all for a mission to Saturn's moons, which does a fly-by of Enceladus before visiting Titan, as suggested by this Nature article.

I hope you're all enjoying your weekends!

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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Granny Hand-Me-Downs / Alien Life in the Solar System (part 2)

I just found a month-old outfit on my computer that I never posted! This was a great excuse to stay in comfy clothes all day, and not having to venture outside to take outfit photos ;) 

So this skirt is quite a special vintage piece because it's actually a hand-me-down from my Grandma, which I shortened. And I think that plaid skirts look awesome paired with suspenders - it's something I've been doing a lot lately, pairing them with a plain shirt and then throwing on either a neutral-coloured or patterned cardigan over the top.

skirt - Vintage (my Grandmas old skirt)
shirt - Cotton On
suspenders - Thrifted
socks - c/o Sock Dreams
shoes - Thrifted

Titan is Saturn's largest moon. Titan is really cool because it has a super thick atmosphere, and although it is a pretty cold place with a lot of frozen water, it has lakes and rivers made up of liquid methane on its surface. Like Europa (see yesterday's post), Titan could possibly also have a liquid water subsurface ocean. Titan currently has the highest rating (other than Earth) on the "Planetary Habitability Index". This means it is the second most likely world in our solar system to harbour life.
Image credit
Alien life
The presence of methane in the atmosphere of Titan is intriguing, because it is something which is normally depleted in an atmosphere unless organisms (like us guys on Earth) are constantly replenishing it. Two years ago, a space mission reported anomalies in the atmosphere, which could have been due to methane-producing organisms. But, it could have also just been volcanoes spewing out gas (read more about this finding and the debate here). Because of the extremely cold temperatures (an average day on Titan is -180°C), life as we know it would not be able to exist on Titan, but life totally unlike what we would recognise could be a possibility. Laboratory simulations have shown that there is in fact enough organic material on Titan to start a chemical evolution similar to what probably occurred on Earth.

The NASA spaceship Cassini is currently doing multiple fly-bys of Titan, trying to figure out if it has a subsurface ocean, and looking for other signs of life, but it won't be landing on the surface. There was a probe sent to the surface in 2005, but unfortunately it only kept sending data back to Earth for 90 minutes (the picture below shows the sole image of the surface that was sent back). There have been proposals for other probes that would last a lot longer than that, but nothing concrete has been put in place yet.
Huygen's only image of Titan's surface (2005) - Image credit
I hope you're enjoying these posts about life in the solar system. I think that if I wasn't doing neuroscience and biochemistry, I'd love to do astrobiology. There will also be a part three and four, so look out for them in the next few days.

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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dollfaces / Alien Life in the Solar System (part 1)

Today's outfit is nothing special - just what I wore around and about on Monday. I totally have a brand new trick with my tights though - layering patterned fishnet tights over opaque tights. I bought heaps of these fishnet-style tights about two years ago, then got a bit sick of them after over-wearing them, so this is a great way of refreshing them and pretending I have a whole lot of new tights.

dress - c/o Romwe
necklace - Claire's
cardigan - c/o Sheinside
white tights - c/o Oasap
patterned tights - Ebay
shoes - Asos

So, Europa is awesome. One of Jupiter's moons, Europa is a really interesting place. Firstly because it has an atmosphere made up of oxygen, secondly because although the surface is a solid sheet of ice, it probably has a huge ocean made of liquid water underneath the layer of ice, and thirdly, it is one of the best candidates for alien life in our solar system.
(Image credit)
The subsurface ocean
Scientists think that Europa has a layer of liquid water underneath its outer icy surface. While the surface is frozen, the water can remain liquid underneath because of something called "tidal flexing". This is due to Europa's orbit around the giant and very dense Jupiter - gravitational pull from Jupiter, and another moon Io, keeps the interior water moving about, creating enough energy to keep it warm and in a liquid state. And the ocean is huge - estimates put the volume of the ocean at about twice that of Earth's ocean.

Alien Life
Warm, liquid, moving water is a good place for life to start up. But if the water is sterile, no amount of sloshing around will produce life. However, just recently more evidence for the moon being a good place for life has emerged. The surface was just found to have salt on it, which indicates a possible ocean of sodium chloride - yep - that's salt water just like in our own oceans on Earth! And very recent research also suggests that hydrogen peroxide - an important energy supply that could be used to support life - exists on the surface of Europa as well. If the hydrogen peroxide is also in the oceans, this would provide a great way for life to start up, if it hasn't already. Research done in the 1970s found that life doesn't need sunlight to develop - using chemosynthesis, life is able to exist at the very depths of our own oceans, using thermal vents to produce their own food-cycle which doesn't require any photosynthesis at all. So life could very well use a similar mechanism to develop and survive in pitch-black water underneath the icy exterior of Europa as well. Ships and robotic probes that are scheduled for Europa in the '20s and '30s will be able to tell us a lot more. I can't wait!

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Monday, 22 April 2013

The Best Dress / Science Art from Etsy

This dress is the best combination of colours, prints and cutouts that I've come across in a long time. I am such a lucky lady to be the owner of so many incredible statement dresses! This particular one is perfect with a boater hat and some knee-high socks - it doesn't need much dressing up because it's already got a lot going on in it.

dress - c/o Romwe
socks - c/o Sock Dreams
shoes - Chicory

For today's science post, I've compiled a little list of awesome science art and gifts. Every time I look, more and more science geekery seems to appear online (especially on etsy). From the point of view of an aspiring science communicator, and collector of geeky novelty things, this makes me very happy.

Also, if any friends/family happen to be reading this... remember that my 21st is in a month ;)
Anatomical heart pendant from Rainnua
 Red blood cells pendant from Outpost 8
 Wooden pi brooch from Kate Rowland Illustration
 DNA double helix pendant from Theresa Pytell Handmade (I love this, although it doesn't show the major and minor grooves of DNA - but I'm being pedantic)
 Anatomical Heart Necklace from Blue Bayer Design
 Vintage anatomical poster from Curious Prints
 Voyager golden record pendant necklace from The Pendant Garden
Periodic table chopping board from Elysium Woodworks
Brain anatomy bracelet from Missing Pieces

I hope you're all having/will have a lovely Monday!

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

Plaid & Lace / Capturing an Asteroid

I really like pairing plaid with lace. This plaid skater skirt from Choies is exactly what I've been looking after for ages - it also looks great (although super preppy, but I don't mind) paired with suspenders. This lace shirt is also a versatile wardrobe piece - throw it on over a dress on a cooler day when you don't want to completely cover up with a sweater. I've been doing this a lot lately, now we're finally coming into some colder weather here!

shirt - c/o Oasap
skirt - c/o Choies
shoes - Chicory
socks - c/o Sock Dreams

So NASA's next big plan, after sending Curiosity up to Mars last year (...who incidentally hopefully won't be obliterated by a possible collision with Mars and a comet next year, but that's another story), is to capture an asteroid and bring it into stable orbit around the Earth. What NASA want to do is to use an unmanned robot vehicle to capture the asteroid, then bring it back into orbit where it can be studied and explored by humans, and also mined for things like water - to provide to the international space station (for whom it currently costs thousands of dollars per kg of water sent there). Exactly how the asteroid will be captured is still unclear, but NASA believe with new technology coming out of physics and engineering, it can be done within 10 years. I think that this is really exciting. Although hopefully NASA will be able to figure out how to stop the asteroid colliding with all the thousands of satellites and space junk currently in orbit around Earth. It's a pretty huge job! Read more about it here.

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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Autumn Vintage & How Many Pixels To Mars?

Ahh, it's finally cold enough in Sydney to start layering up! This is definitely my favourite kind of climate - cool, sunny days where you can comfortably wear tights and a cropped sweater over a long vintage dress or skirt. Basically everything that's in this outfit is thrifted for a few dollars, which makes me really happy. Speaking of which, there's a thrift store only 50m down the road from my new place. I have somehow successfully restrained myself from going and spending all of my rent money there so far, but I don't know how long that is going to last... (It's basically the biggest tease ever).

tie - c/o Flapper Girl
shirt - Thrifted
skirt - Thrifted
belt - Thrifted
tights - c/o Oasap
shoes - Thrifted

You guys know I love attempting to make you feel all tiny and insignificant ;) but seriously, I really do love projects like the Scale of the Universe and How Big Is Space, that cleverly attempt to show you how big the world around us really is. Call me weird, but I find it kind of reassuring, rather than daunting, thinking about how small I am and how incomprehensibly huge the universe is. Because how can you be stressed out about an assignment deadline or people at work when the universe is just so, so, so much bigger than you (and all your problems) are?
So anyway, this is another cool example of that kind of project which I found the other day - if you set Earth to 100 computer pixels wide, how many pixels away is Mars (our closest planetary neighbour)?
The website that will answer that question for you, Distance To Mars, is here.

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