Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pluto Probably Filthy with Hydrocarbons and Nitriles


An instrument on the Hubble has shown a high UV absorbance on Pluto, which could be explained by hydrocarbons and nitriles. Granted, Pluto is a little past the frost line, but anytime we see more substrates for organic chemistry on solid surfaces in the solar system, this place looks a little friendlier for self-assembling organic replicators like von Neumann probes. More argument for why we should be looking for organic von Neumann probes in our own solar system, on solid low gravity bodies, here.

While we're at it: the dynamics of the Earth-Moon system work out so that at any one time, Earth should have 2 natural satellites: the big werewolf one that we can see, and a small meters-across one that it captures from time to time, then let go. And in fact this works out empirically. This has implications for the natural-seeding method of replicator spread, which I Fermi-problem-calculated out to be about 40 million years riding hyperbolic comets between stars the distance of the Sun and Alpha Centauri. Jupiter no doubt has captured satellites, but do they escape? It would be a good place to look for replicators (maybe better than the asteroid belt) but not good for them to spread from.

And if you're hoping for more islands in the void to serve as reaction vessels for aqueous chemistry, this should make you happy: M-class stars actually have a larger habitable zone than we thought (spectrum and albedo argument).

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