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The Mystery of the Missing Methane

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-find-your-lack-of-cows-disturbing dept.

Space 98

Hugh Pickens writes "Astrobiology Magazine reports that NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered something odd about GJ 436b, a planet about the size of Neptune located 33 light-years away, circling the star Gliese 436. The mystery? GJ 436b lacks methane, an ingredient common to many of the planets in our solar system. Methane is present on our life-bearing planet, manufactured primarily by microbes living in cows, and all of the giant planets in our solar system have methane too, despite their lack of cows. Spitzer was able to detect the faint glow of GJ 436b by watching it slip behind its star, an event called a secondary eclipse. As the planet disappears, the total light observed from the star system drops, and the diference is then measured to find the brightness of the planet at various wavelengths. Eventually, a larger space telescope could use the same kind of technique to search smaller, Earth-like worlds for methane and other chemical signs of life, such as water, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Adam Showman, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, says the 'provocative result' raises questions about the evolution of this planet, as well as the possibility that its atmosphere might represent an entirely new class of atmospheres that has never been explored."

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"lack of cows"? (3, Funny)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#31975962)

We don't know that for sure. We haven't been to the surface of any of these planets. I believe more study is needed.

Re:"lack of cows"? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976138)

do you work in a job where you deal with the general public? then you know very well one thing. when someone approaches who is a) a woman, b) black, and c) fat, you KNOW you're going to answer a bunch of stupid questions from a very high-maintainence customer who ends up buying little or nothing.

Jinkies! (1)

sanman2 (928866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976278)

And I'd have gotten away with it too - if it weren't for those pesky kids!

Re:Jinkies! (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976370)

We saw right through your scheme to hide cows inside of Jupiter, Mr Wilikins!

Re:Jinkies! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977182)

Besides, he's the only other (non-Scooby gang) person in the episode.

Re:Jinkies! (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977264)

That's not true, it could have been an actual ghost/sea monster/space cow. You never know.

Wouldn't that be a great, sort of surreal Scooby episode?

Re:Jinkies! (1)

rjk94 (1240212) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977964)

That'd be good to see, but only the space cow one. Ghosts don't exist, a mermaid told me.

Re:Jinkies! (1)

celle (906675) | more than 4 years ago | (#31986520)

"Ghosts don't exist, a mermaid told me."

Well then fuck the ghosts and screw the mermaid.

ps - the geek conditions, reasons and lore supporting going on with this could add paragraphs, if not novels, but I have to get my clothes washing done sometime today.

Re:Jinkies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31989796)

That's not true, it could have been an actual ghost/sea monster/space cow. You never know.

Wouldn't that be a great, sort of surreal Scooby episode?

That was basically done in an animated Scooby-Do movie set around Loch Ness. If I recall correctly there were actually two different groups, each with its own fake Loch Ness monster, but a little while after the reveal and destruction of the fake monsters an underwater camera caught images of what looked like a large creature swimming near underwater caves. So while the nefarious plotters were caught by the protagonists, the existence of the Loch Ness monster remains unresolved in the plot.

Re:"lack of cows"? (4, Funny)

Scarletdown (886459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976652)

The reason that planet is lacking methane is because that solar system lacks Uranus.

"They've cows, Jim, but not as we know it." (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977118)

SCNR ;-)

Re:"lack of cows"? (1)

xOneca (1271886) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977940)

There are no cows because there's no methane.

Re:"lack of cows"? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978264)

    I saw that in the summary and had to laugh. But you're right, we see these planets as blobs in the sky. The closest we've been to checking the surface has been Mars, and the square footage of the surface that we've actually seen isn't enough to eliminate the possibility of cows. :)

    Then again, if a rover went around a rock and found a cow, someone's going to have a cow.

    Ahh, if only I worked for NASA. Inject some footage of a cow grazing into the incoming feed, and people would be freaking out. Well, just until I lost my job there. Maybe that's why NASA won't let me work for them. :) It's probably similar to my idea to set up an AWACS plane with Chrismas lights around the dish and have it fly over roads in the middle of nowhere just to get the phones ringing off the hook about UFO sightings.

Obvious solution (3, Interesting)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31975974)

Methane is an important source of energy. Obviously there's an alien species which has used up all the methane from that planet.

Re:Obvious solution (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976080)

Even if the aliens are bacteria or similar it's an interesting thought. Methane can be used as a fuel and microorganisms may have it as a food source.

And if there are microorganisms there is always the possibility that there is life. However the light from the star may also be intense enough to crack up the methane molecules resulting in other types of compounds.

There may be other explanations too - the planet may have suffered some disturbing events where it lost a major part of it's atmosphere.

You're A Fucking Genius! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976390)

And if there are microorganisms there is always the possibility that there is life.

Seeing how microorganisms are alive, that's pretty obvious you fuckass. In other news, if there is liquid water there is always the possibility that it is wet. Oh shit, this just in! If something is physically moving, there is always the possibility that it has kinetic energy. Fuck man, who knew?!

Re:You're A Fucking Genius! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976452)

I believe the "possibility" statement is true, because the poster ranting above displays a startling lack of life, much less intelligence.

Re:You're A Fucking Genius! (2, Insightful)

kc8apf (89233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976584)

No one said those microorganisms are still alive. If they are all dead, there isn't life.

Re:You're A Fucking Genius! (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977554)

And the mistake was to miss the word "advanced" in "advanced life", just accept that comments on Slashdot sometimes do contain mistakes.

Re:You're A Fucking Genius! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31978278)

And the mistake was to miss the word "advanced" in "advanced life", just accept that comments on Slashdot sometimes do contain mistakes.

No, *sigh* the mistake was to be too lazy to proofread. I do accept that comments on Slashdot sometimes contain errors. That's why I proofread them, because that's how you manage inevitable errors. See how simple that is? Good, I knew you could eventually get it.

Re:You're A Fucking Genius! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31978428)

You must be new here. Grammar Nazi's get so fucking caught up on the most trivial of errors they can't actually read and comprehend posts, let alone have enough understanding to mentally fill in words that were whiffed by the OP by should logically have been included.

*Trap is set*

Re:Obvious solution (4, Interesting)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977760)

The reaction being looked at here is interesting because it is the same reaction used on Earth in the steam reforming of methane to produce hydrogen, with the same equilibrium issues. Methane (or many other hydrocarbons) can be reacted with water vapor to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen. However, this reaction is not going to proceed forward under normal atmospheric conditions on Earth, and at least was not expected to proceed forward under the conditions of GJ 436b. The reaction needs enough energy put in to break apart methane and water molecules before their components can be recombined to form CO and hydrogen. In the absence of catalysts, you should expect this step to occur at temperatures no lower than around 920K, while GJ 436b is believed to be at 800K.

We can look at some of the possibilities of what could be happening on GJ 436b:
CH4 + H2O is in equilibrium with CO + 3 H2 (with a change in enthalpy of +206kJ/mol)
  1. The temperature of GJ 436b could be higher than what is measured. If the temperature is actually above around 920K, then the necessary activation energy is present to get this reaction headed to the right side of the equation. This solves the mystery, but then opens a new mystery of why the temperature measurement is off by over 100K.
  2. A reaction product is rapidly being taken away after formation. If either carbon monoxide or hydrogen were somehow continuously removed from the site of the reaction, the reaction equilibrium would keep favoring the generation of more CO and H2 rather than reversing to make more methane and water. This is what the suggestion of "vertical mixing" is alluding to: if the "steam methane reforming" reaction is isolated to one region of the atmosphere, but the reaction products rapidly migrate to another, then the reaction equilibrium makes sense.
  3. When steam reforming of methane is done as an industrial process on Earth, the reactions are carried out at temperatures of about 700-800K, right around the temperature of GJ 436b. The necessary activation energy is lowered by metal catalysts (usually nickel) Could the interaction of the atmosphere with the rocky core be catalyzing this reaction? It's unlikely that there's enough surface area to transform the whole atmosphere in this manner, but it's an intriguing possibility.

Re:Obvious solution (2, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978826)

I found a nice little illustration of the effect temperature has on the equilibrium of this reaction here. [davidson.edu] The calculation is actually for the related reaction using carbon (as coke) instead of methane, but the equilibrium constants are about equal for the temperatures discussed here. At atmospheric conditions on Earth, the equilibrium can be considered as shifted completely to the left. Virtually no carbon monoxide is produced from this reaction at temperatures less than about 600K. At a temperature of 956.7K, the levels of carbon and carbon monoxide are equal, and at higher temperatures, carbon monoxide is On GJ 436b, with a temperature of 800K, the equilibrium should still strongly disfavor CO production, and the calculation suggests that there should be around 13.6 times as much carbon (or methane in the case of GJ 436b) as there is carbon monoxide.

However, the researchers determined that "GJ 436b's atmosphere is abundant in CO and deficient in methane (CH4) by a factor of ~7,000. [ucf.edu] " The only way the planet could have gotten an atmosphere like that through this reaction equilibrium alone is if its temperature is really around 2000K instead of 800K. The researchers therefore argue that it's far more likely that some other mechanism is disrupting this equilibrium, like polymerization of methane that pulls it out of the system. In their Nature paper, they include a a chart [nature.com] of the atmospheric ratios of gas giants, both in our solar system and exoplanets; nothing else known has a CH4/CO ratio like that seen for GJ 436b.

Re:Obvious solution (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 4 years ago | (#31986562)

A factor of 7000 is not too much different than a slightly different Earth might look. Our actual mix of 387 ppmv CO2 vs. 1.79 ppmv CH4 is partly due to the afore-mentioned cow population. Maybe it's a similar planet that never evolved Ray Kroc.

Re:Obvious solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31980076)

Can methane provide energy without oxygen?

Re:Obvious solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31985356)

I was reading Stephan Hawking and I think it is the aggressive aliens from the yet undetected GJ 436c that flew over and sucked all the methane from GJ 436b. They use this to power their space ships.

Why So Much Focus on Cows? (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31975982)

Methane is present on our life-bearing planet, manufactured primarily by microbes living in cows, and all of the giant planets in our solar system have methane too, despite their lack of cows.

Why are cows focused on so much when it comes to methane? The only study I can find lists livestock making up only 19% as a source of atmospheric methane [wikipedia.org] . That's little more than our industrial energy sector production and about half as much as our wetlands produce. From NOAA [noaa.gov] :

Rapidly growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the Arctic and tropics are the most likely causes of the recent methane increase, said scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#31975996)

When we drill the borehole to the center of the earth, we will find it's cows all the way down

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976030)

The center of earth is a myth.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976208)

I didn't know that one of myth's meanings is nougat. Somethin' new every day...

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (3, Interesting)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976136)

Why are cows focused on so much when it comes to methane?

Because if they focused on rice, it wouldn't give a good argument for vegetarians. :-)

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

MacDork (560499) | more than 4 years ago | (#31979388)

Why are cows focused on so much when it comes to methane?

Because if they focused on rice, it wouldn't give a good argument for vegetarians. :-)

Or tree huggers trying to "Save our precious wetlands!"

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31982178)

They already invented methane-free cows, couldn't they also create methane-free rice?

Probably... but the vega-hippies still would complain since it is 'bio-engineered'... Most would rather have 2 billion people starve than have bio-engineered crops (even though I presume most of these don't even know about the fact that we can only feed 4 billion if we only produce biological crops, they just go with the rest of the hippie nature crowd without understanding what's at stake).

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 4 years ago | (#31982576)

Arthur C. Clarke wrote an intriguing book where the entire world had enacted a law that required everyone be vegetarian. As someone who wish he could be a vegetarian but isn't because he can't stand most vegetables and loves meat too much, I found it rather interesting.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31992746)

s/can't/chooses not to/

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31982188)

They already invented methane-free cows, couldn't they also create methane-free rice?

Probably... but the vega-hippies still would complain since it is 'bio-engineered'... Most would rather have 2 billion people starve than have bio-engineered crops (even though I presume most of these don't even know about the fact that we can only feed 4 billion if we only produce biological crops, they just go with the rest of the hippie nature crowd without understanding what's at stake).

P.S. Repost for accidental AC.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31984608)

... but the vega-hippies still would complain

Actually we dumped all hippies in a place called "Sanaf Aran Siskh' oh" millenia ago; they complained too much.

--

Microsoft car: We have noticed you are in the process of crashing. Would you want your airbags deployed?

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976424)

As a guess, because it's the most ridiculous contribution (nonetheless contributing to the feedback, most notably with arctic wetlands), the easiest to deal with...yet we still fail to do it. And that's with all the abundance of other tasty animals out there.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (2)

colonelquesadilla (1693356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976522)

Yeah but cow's eat grass, and digest, through symbiosis with the evil methane bacteria, cellulose. Only ruminants do that, and all ruminants produce methane. Any other animals can't get the same amount of energy grazing off scrub brush.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (3, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976586)

Cows eating grass, outside...where have you seen that? O_o

In seriousness, that's not a showstopper; especially if reduced availability of meat would, for many people, actually increase their health (I don't advocate not eating meat, I do it myself; but too many people consume ridiculous amounts of it these days, having fallen in the trap of one old adaptation - "if there's some meat around, eat it!")

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978180)

Cows eating grass, outside...where have you seen that? O_o

Alberta?

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978772)

Cows eating grass, outside...where have you seen that? O_o

It’s called south south America. Or Switzerland. Look it up! ^^
(Seriously, Switzerland is cow heaven right there. So insanely beautiful!)

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 4 years ago | (#31984920)

True South America, as Brazil is, in fact, the world leader in beef exports, followed by Australia. I recall Argentina and Uruguay and several Central American countries are in the top 10 as well. Then there's India, which was still exporting more beef than the United States last time I checked (yes, sacred cow country is #3 in exports) I don't think Europe even has a country in the top 10, but maybe as a whole they get in there. That is far more than I really needed to know, picked up from my brother-in-law - he does beef import/export for a living (the majority of his transactions are from Australia to Mexico).

And incidentally, most cows in the US and Canada outside of factory feeding operations are grass fed in the summers and grain fed (corn or barley) for the winter. There is a transition period of about 2 weeks when they switch to grain where the cattle aren't sold for slaughter because they taste funny (or so I heard... that tidbit was from my now retired farmer grandpa). You pretty much can't get through the central US without seeing cattle grazing in the summer, as cattle is a major industry from North Dakota to Texas (and extending into Canada, at least the last time I was there - I saw many farms heading from Thunder Bay, Ontario to northern Manitoba near Hudson Bay).

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976614)

If we were to raise and eat other animals in the same quantities as we raise and eat cows, I'm sure we'd have other "problems" as well. Exactly what animal do you suggest as a replacement for cattle?

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (3, Funny)

Ztream (584474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977394)

People.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (0)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31977604)

I'm fairly certain that people have a far worse environmental impact than cattle. You'll have to feed the people you eat something anyway.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

rjk94 (1240212) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978120)

Slashdot still exists as the only place on the internet where Cannibalism is argued for and against without any mention of morality.

How about replacing cows/people with fish?

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978674)

as soon as you teach them to walk on water breathe air and graze on grains or grass I'm all for it.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31981420)

At the rate/scale we're fishing now, the oceans will be empty within 20 years. So imagine how long fish will last when we replace all meat consumption with fish.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

rjk94 (1240212) | more than 4 years ago | (#31989380)

But if we replaced all the cow farms with fish farms, we wouldn't be taking fish from the oceans.

Mind, then we'd need lots of very wet farms.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32013332)

Except, all those fish need to be fed. Which they do now (salmon farms) by giving them fish proteins (processed wild fish) and loads of antibiotics. Also, many interesting species are hard to breed in captivity, so they catch the fish larva in the wild, reducing the wild populations. There's lots of seemingly good ideas like yours, but when there's money involved, people will take the easy way out.

The only way to save the fish is to declare large patches of ocean as no-fishing zone, and deploy the necessary fleet to enforce those rules. There are a few fish sanctuaries around islands that operate this way, greatly improving the populations outside the sanctuary too.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978936)

Bessie.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31982984)

Yes, we have lots of those who phone our helpdesk every friggin minute.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

meuhlavache (1101089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976682)

NASA is ready to launch some cows in space to help GJ 436b !

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976840)

livestock making up only 19% as a source of atmospheric methane.

Rush Limbaugh accounts for the other 81%

    -1 Political Troll

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31982972)

Why So Much Focus on Cows?

'coz they make delicious burgers, and therefore vital to any self-respecting westerner. Please try and keep up with the conversation.

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31984164)

Because cows are funnier than decaying peat moss, OK? Now make a cow joke!

Re:Why So Much Focus on Cows? (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31985508)

No one can resist a fart joke

missing methane? (1)

nycguy (892403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976006)

Just let me finish my burrito...

I Suspect Shinanigans (2, Funny)

MaroonMotor (967664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976014)

Adam Showman, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, says the 'provocative result' raises questions about the evolution of this planet...

.
Adam Showman talking about a provocative result eh? Who is surprised? I mean what else could you expect from the father of all show men?

Send Cows Now! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976024)

Hello Earth,

This is your distant neighbor GJ-436b. We need some cows immediately, for we are completely out of methane. Without methane, we cannot create barbecue lighters, and thus no Forth of Snibbej parties.

We have made some financial arrangements with a Nigerian prince who has agreed to...

Equilibrium (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976050)

From TFA I take it that such a kind of atmosphere is not in chemical equilibrium given its pressure and temperature. The interesting question is what actually causes such disequilibrium conditions on a planetary scale. Massive tectonic activity? Constant bombardment with a metric shitload of comets altering the composition? Life?

Sign of life? (3, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976090)

Is this a sign of life? The calculations for how much methane should be in the atmosphere are based off what results in a chemical equilibrium. However, active metabolic entities (life) can move things very far off equilibrium. Thus, for example, Earth has a lot more oxygen in the atmosphere than would be expected from a simple set of equilibrium calculations. So, an observer could tentatively conclude that something weird, such as plant life, might be about. This imbalance between the expected and observed methane levels may be due to extraterrestrial life.

Re:Sign of life? (4, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976226)

Yup, all the available evidence suggests that the planet is populated with a very large number of anti-cows.

Re:Sign of life? (2, Funny)

brusk (135896) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976466)

Bull.

Re:Sign of life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31979810)

Or a

Re:Sign of life? (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31983942)

Wow, that planet must have a more advanced civilization than ours. Just imagine how powerful a super-collider would have to be to produce something as massive as anti-cows!

-

Re:Sign of life? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31984196)

I am cowed by your reasoning.

Hawking's Methane Eaters (1)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976124)

See, we shouldn't have sent that message, "HEY GUYS WE GOTS METHANE!" In another few thousand years they're coming for our cows!

Maybe (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976130)

Maybe they invented non-farting cows.

Re:Maybe (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976286)

Folks here on Earth are working on it:

http://blogs.msdn.com/stevecla01/archive/2009/07/19/bill-gates-is-making-cows-that-don-t-fart.aspx [msdn.com]

http://gizmodo.com/349723/scientists-discover-how-to-neutralize-cow-farts-your-farts-next-god-willing [gizmodo.com]

It's a good cause . . . with no visible methane on our planet, those aliens won't be able to find us, and eat us. And our cows.

Re:Maybe (1)

colonelquesadilla (1693356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976544)

People always assume the cows fart out the methane, mythbusters covered something about cow farts once though, and it turns out most of the methane comes out the other end. They belch it mostly in other words.

Re:Maybe (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31980650)

imagine whale farts.

Re:Maybe (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 4 years ago | (#31982598)

But cows aren't pigs. Perhaps they emit it when they do all that talking?

All the results are going to provocative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976150)

Considering most models have a sample size of a single solar system and they are still being tweaked to explain that one.

I expect the definitions of equilibriums and disequilibriums will be redefined as will planetary classes so all bets are off or on if you will.

Assume much? (0)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976168)

The planetary atmosphere is at disequilibrium for a single observation. Because I observe during (or just after) a volcanic eruption or a meteor impact or a CME or a nuclear war ;) am I to assume it's always that way?

Re:Assume much? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31977786)

Actually it was six observation at six different infrared wavelenghts over a six month period.

Re:Assume much? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978154)

In geological or climatological terms, six months is a single observation.

Re:Assume much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31978738)

Not in atmospheric terms. Winds circulate around planets in hours or days, not months or years.

It is true that the planet's atmosphere could be highly variable; however, the authors considered that possibility but rejected it based on the evidence.

Exo-life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976258)

The possibility exists for Sagan's floating Jovian gasbags.
The good thing is, even if they are intelligent, I doubt that life evolved on a gas giant would ever be able to make technology and be Hawking's conquering aliens.

Re:Exo-life? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31985368)

Somewhere, something doubts that waterbags evolved in highly oxidative environment, where most life is bound to or around the surface would ever eb able to maske technology and have Hawking.

Lack of cows (1)

dandart (1274360) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976294)

"despite the lack of cows" - I like it. It's a good analogy. However, cows would need oxygen too. And it's not the cows' fault!

It's not a lack of cows (2, Funny)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976332)

It's a lack of Taco Bell franchises.

Re:It's not a lack of cows (1)

colonelquesadilla (1693356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976550)

That would be due to the high cost of beef with no cows on the planet.

Re:It's not a lack of cows (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31979534)

That would be due to the high cost of beef with no cows on the planet.

Ah, but you're forgetting about the infamous bean burrito! [tacobell.com]

What happened to the meth? (3, Funny)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976374)

The Aliens took it on their way here. They needed the fuel resource. See Steven Hawkins story about not talking to the aliens when the get here.

BTW, the earth is leaking Methane [discovery.com] as its been discovered that it wasn't cows causing increased methane here.

Re:What happened to the meth? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31985170)

Oh c'mon, it's not like we have any second thoughts about actually probing the cows (and measuring how much methane they emit)

Alien Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976498)

The methane is gone because an Alien race that lived on the planet used it all. This is a clear sign of life. Nobel Prize please.

The Mystery of the Missing Methane.... (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976598)

Where are Scoob and Shag when you need them?

mo7d up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976722)

with THOUSANDS of go of the minutiae and Juliet 40,000 that has grown up FreeBSD went out I type this. practical purposes, new faces and many Market share. Red BUWLA, or BSD triumphs would soon Continues toChew '*BSD Sux0rs'. This users. This is Operating systems lost its earlier DUTY TO BE A BIG very sick and its very own shitter, 'I have to kill kiil myself like their parting dim. If *BSD is us the courtesy the facts and project. Today, as they're gone Mac How it was supposed gains market share under the GPL. And the bottom The curtains flew NIGGER ASSOCIATION do, and with any FreeBSD because FreeBSD at about 80 Clear she couldn't exploited that. A there are about 700 distended. All I things the right wall: *BSD faces a bottoms butt. Wipe subscribers. Please

How do you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31976902)

"manufactured primarily by microbes living in cows, and all of the giant planets in our solar system have methane too, despite their lack of cows"

How do you know the giant planets don't have cows? Have you been to them?

Methane is important! (1)

cyberzephyr (705742) | more than 4 years ago | (#31976958)

At the least we know they fart.

This must be the mythical Planet of the Amazons (2, Interesting)

fizzup (788545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31978042)

This planet has got to be populated by nothing but women. Nobody farts!

Reminds me... (1)

JasoninKS (1783390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31979822)

"...that its atmosphere might represent an entirely new class of atmospheres that has never been explored." Reminds me of an old quote: "The Universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine."

This article should have been called (1)

jprupp (697660) | more than 4 years ago | (#31980918)

"Alien Cows do not Produce Methane"

azizajalal (1)

azizajalal (1797864) | more than 4 years ago | (#31981806)

why the cows are focused so much? Window [solarcontrolfilmsinc.com]

Hey, Pickens! (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 4 years ago | (#31982400)

I submitted that one several days ago!

Bah! Humbug!

I am very procupied. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31986382)

I could not be able to sleep last night becaus this information is very important for me.

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