Extrasolar planet may be able to support life

“European astronomers say they have found the first Earth-sized planet beyond this solar system with temperatures mild enough to allow liquid water — a crucial step toward answering whether our cradle of life is unique in the universe.

The planet circles the star Gliese 581, which at 20 light years away is among the 100 stars closest to Earth. Dubbed Gliese 581c, the planet orbits very close to its star — closer than Mercury is to our sun. But astronomers with the European Southern Observatory say the star is dim enough that average temperatures on the planet would fall in the range of an ordinary Chicago spring day.

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If the planet has water — a big unknown — its size and climate could make it habitable, experts said. The planet appears to be about 50 percent larger than Earth and has five times more mass, making it one of the smallest far-off planets ever detected.

The conditions look promising enough that officials with the California-based SETI Institute, which looks for signs of radio communication from alien civilizations, said they hope to give the planet a fresh look this summer. Previous radio observations of Gliese 581 in the 1990s turned up nothing unusual.” (Orlando Sentinel )


Support of Gonzales affirms power play

Boston Globe news analysis: “Since so much depends on favorable rulings from Justice, the administration can’t possibly look forward to having to justify its actions to a new team of lawyers. But that’s almost certain to happen if Gonzales is replaced by someone outside Bush’s inner circle. Bush would be very hard-pressed to get an inner-circle appointee confirmed by Democratic-controlled Senate. He or she would have had to withstand days of public grilling by Democratic senators, who would try to raise the curtain on any of the administration’s secret programs.

More likely, Bush would be obliged to choose an attorney general with a reputation for independence, such as a former Republican senator with credibility on Capitol Hill. But such a figure would almost certainly be more skeptical of the administration’s assertions of executive power than Gonzales, a close Bush associate from the president’s Texas days.”


Executed in US may be awake as they suffocate

“Some prisoners executed by lethal injection in the United States may die of suffocation while they are still conscious and in pain, University of Miami researchers said in a study that concluded the drugs do not work as intended.

The study, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine, raised new questions about whether the lethal cocktail violates the US constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.” (Stuff.NZ)


Singer’s toilet paper musings leave Rove untouched

Sheryl Crow attempts to debate carbon credits: “As he turned to leave, Crow reached out to touch his arm. ‘Karl swung around and spat, ‘Don’t touch me’,’ recounted Crow and fellow eco-celebrity Laurie David in another blog.

‘How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow?’

But the singer was not deterred. ‘You can’t speak to us like that, you work for us,’ she thundered to the departing Mr Rove, who responded, ‘I don’t work for you, I work for the American people.’

‘We are the American people,’ the singer shot back.” (Guardian.UK)