Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CNN: The Galaxy May Be Full of "Earths" and "Aliens"

(CNN) -- As NASA prepares to hunt for Earth-like planets in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy, there's new buzz that "Star Trek's" vision of a universe full of life may not be that far-fetched. Pointy-eared aliens traveling at light speed are staying firmly in science fiction, but scientists are offering fresh insights into the possible existence of inhabited worlds and intelligent civilizations in space.

There may be 100 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, or one for every sun-type star in the galaxy, said Alan Boss, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution and author of the new book "The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets." He made the prediction based on the number of "super-Earths" -- planets several times the mass of the Earth, but smaller than gas giants like Jupiter -- discovered so far circling stars outside the solar system. Boss said that if any of the billions of Earth-like worlds he believes exist in the Milky Way have liquid water, they are likely to be home to some type of life. "Now that's not saying that they're all going to be crawling with intelligent human beings or even dinosaurs," he said. "But I would suspect that the great majority of them at least will have some sort of primitive life, like bacteria or some of the multicellular creatures that populated our Earth for the first 3 billion years of its existence."
Putting a number on alien worlds

Other scientists are taking another approach: an analysis that suggests there could be hundreds, even thousands, of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland constructed a computer model to create a synthetic galaxy with billions of stars and planets. They then studied how life evolved under various conditions in this virtual world, using a supercomputer to crunch the results. In a paper published recently in the International Journal of Astrobiology, the researchers concluded that based on what they saw, at least 361 intelligent civilizations have emerged in the Milky Way since its creation, and as many as 38,000 may have formed.

Duncan Forgan, a doctoral candidate at the university who led the study, said he was surprised by the hardiness of life on these other worlds. "The computer model takes into account what we refer to as resetting or extinction events. The classic example is the asteroid impact that may have wiped out the dinosaurs," Forgan said. "I half-expected these events to disallow the rise of intelligence, and yet civilizations seemed to flourish." Forgan readily admits the results are an educated guess at best, since there are still many unanswered questions about how life formed on Earth and only limited information about the 330 "exoplanets" -- those circling sun-like stars outside the solar system -- discovered so far. The first was confirmed in 1995 and the latest just this month when Europe's COROT space telescope spotted the smallest terrestrial exoplanet ever found. With a diameter less than twice the size of Earth, the planet orbits very close to its star and has temperatures up to 1,500° Celsius (more than 2,700° Fahrenheit), according to the European Space Agency. It may be rocky and covered in lava.

NASA is hoping to find much more habitable worlds with the help of the upcoming Kepler mission. The spacecraft, set to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida next week, will search for Earth-size planets in our part of the galaxy. Kepler contains a special telescope that will study 100,000 stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way for more than three years. It will look for small dips in a star's brightness, which can mean an orbiting planet is passing in front it -- an event called a transit. "It's akin to measuring a flea as it creeps across the headlight of an automobile at night," said Kepler project manager James Fanson during a during a NASA news conference. The focus of the mission is finding planets in a star's habitable zone, an orbit that would ensure temperatures in which life could exist. Boss, who serves on the Kepler Science Council, said scientists should know by 2013 -- the end of Kepler's mission -- whether life in the universe could be widespread.

Finding intelligent life is a very different matter. For all the speculation about the possibility of other civilizations in the universe, the question remains: If the rise of life on Earth isn't unique and aliens are common, why haven't they shown up or contacted us? The contradiction was famously summed up by the physicist Enrico Fermi in 1950 in what became known as the Fermi paradox: "Where is everybody?" The answer may be the vastness of time and space, scientists explained. "Civilizations come and go," Boss said. "Chances are, if you do happen to find a planet which is going to have intelligent life, it's not going to be in [the same] phase of us. It may have formed a billion years ago, or maybe it's not going to form for another billion years." Even if intelligent civilizations did exist at the same time, they probably would be be separated by tens of thousands of light years, Forgan said. If aliens have just switched on their transmitter to communicate, it could take us hundreds of centuries to receive their message, he added.

As for interstellar travel, the huge distances virtually rule out any extraterrestrial visitors. To illustrate, Boss said the fastest rockets available to us right now are those being used in NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. Even going at that rate of speed, it would take 100,000 years to get from Earth to the closest star outside the solar system, he added. "So when you think about that, maybe we shouldn't be worried about having interstellar air raids any time soon," Boss said.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I wanted to show you some of the "bloopers" of today's pictures.. See... the funny part is that they aren't really bloopers because my sister really is that dumb! She thinks she is funny, so she asks weird like this!! Just see for yourself!!!

Happy Birthday, dear sister!

Happy Birthday to....


Emma turned 7 today.. I can't believe my baby sister isn't a baby anymore. I know that I am just her big sister, but the thought of her growing up makes me so sad.. I want to hold her some more... Here are a few pictures to celebrate the day!

My sweet class...

I just wanted to write a quick post about my sweet kiddos that I spend a great deal of time with... I lead a book club that has six 5th grade girls in it. We chose to read books that also have movies with them. We read the book together and then have a movie night and discuss the differences in the book and movie. It is a great opportunity for these girls and I love spending time with them. This first picture is of 4 of my girls: (left to right) Jennifer, Me, Helen, Sonia, Leanna.

This next picture is the same group of 4 girls (I happened to have my camera with me the day that 2 of the girls were absent), but they are by themselves and you can see their lunch trays in front of them.

Now we get to group pictures of my class. These pictures were taken at our Valentine's Day party. Let me just say that I really do have the BEST class, EVER!!! (left to right) Shyan, Rachel, Daemon, Diego, Aaron, and Roberto on the bottom.

This is a group picture of (top - left to right, and then bottom - left to right) Erickson, Sonia, Kelsey, Nickson, Miguel, Alexis.

This is Russell, Perla and Helen.

This is Lynn, Maria, and Jacob. These are 3 of the sweetest children in my class!

Here is a group eating their food at our party. Jesus, Katelyn, Melanie, Yolanda, Andrew, and Leanna.

On special days (i.e. Christmas party day, Valentine party day, etc) I let the kids eat in the room. I also let them watch a short movie while they are in there (mainly to keep them quiet)!!!

I absolutely love my class and the thought of letting them go at the end of the year just breaks my heart... I guess I will just have to start all over next year!

Monday, February 23, 2009

If You Give a Pig a Pancake.... He'll want to go to a garage sale!

This past Saturday, the 5th graders did a pancake breakfast and garage sale to raise money for a HUGE field trip in May. We are going to the Ozark Natural Science Center. It costs $110 a kid and there are 72 kiddos in the 5th grade, plus we have to pay for buses (which are very expensive nowadays). You do the math... It is very expensive! Anyways, the pancake breakfast and garage sale were a HUGE SUCCESS! The students raised over $3,000!!! We still have a long ways to go, but we are over 1/3 of the way there. I wanted to say thank you to those of you who donated.. I have thank you letters from my class, so you will be getting those fairly soon! I have enclosed the link to O.N.S.C. and thought some of you might like to take a look!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mexico.. Here we come!

We have been waiting to book our vacation until we knew for sure Matt had a job. Well, he does and we booked our vacation! We are going to the Vallarta Palace in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

We are staying for 7 nights, 8 days in this beautiful resort.. We went to the Moon Palace Spa and Golf Resort in Cancun for our Honeymoon and were tempted to go back. However, we wanted to go outside the box and go to the Pacific Ocean! Our room has a double jacuzzi right next to the bed! The trip is planned for the day after Matt finishes with the Bar Exam - July 31! We are super thrilled!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Deep Sigh of Relief

From Matt
As almost everyone who reads this already knows, Cori and I received absolutely wonderful news yesterday afternoon. After months of clerking and weeks of worrying, I was asked to join the law firm with which I've been working as an associate attorney. This is all, of course, contingent upon my passing the Arkansas Bar Exam in July, but I honestly believe that is a task I can manage. My bosses took me to lunch and, to make a long story short, offered me a salary that was $2,000 less than the amount I was planning on asking them for. I never batted an eye - I accepted immediately!

Cori and I are so relieved that our future can finally start taking form... As stressful as all of this was, though, we both know that it was a very important part of our lives. We both learned a lot about fear, worrying, impatience, trust, and faith... And about being able to let go of the reins and turn things over to God... And about one another and the importance of having someone in your life upon whom you can rely at all times. I don't think I could count the number of nights that Cori, whom you all know does not like to stay up late, stayed up with me while I talked and stressed and worried and figured and planned. She was a true blessing over the last few months, and I (again) realized how lucky I am to have such a supportive and understanding wife!

Now - the excitement begins! We were lying in bed last night and started talking about all the things we can finally start talking about: kids, a house, a dog, our Mexico vacation, new budgets, paying off student loans, and a dozen other things. It was great to be able to discuss those things with such a sense of security! I know... Don't count your chicken before their hatched; don't put the horse in front of the cart. I still have to pass the Bar... But, again, I can manage that. The Bar tests for "minimal competency." I don't know exactly what that means, but I really do think that I would qualify. We'll see! Anyways...

Thank you to everyone who thought about us and prayed for us... We appreciate your support! And we can't wait to let you know how things shape up for us over the next several months!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Progress and Promise

From Matt
I have a lunch meeting scheduled on Thursday with two of the partners in my firm and (scary and exciting!) Johnson, Sr. Note: If you don't know who Johnson, Sr. is, you need to read the last blog post I wrote before this one... AND... I was at a Bar Foundation dinner on Friday night with one of my bosses. I overheard him tell someone, after he introduced me to them, that they were "going to try to bring [me] into the firm." So - things are looking good!!! Keeping us in your thoughts and prayers - I feel like I'm finally coming to the end of a long, long, long road.

As a side thought: Cori and I were in Little Rock this weekend. We went shopping at one of the malls with Jenn, and we found a stone plaque at Kirkland's that we absolutely had to buy. It says: "Sometimes we have to set aside our own plans so that we may follow the path God has created for us" (or something along those lines). I thought it was a very important lesson that I've been in the process of learning over the last few months. Though I still probably haven't completely embraced that ideology, I at least understand its principles a little better than I used to.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Johnson, Jr.

From Matt
Throughout the course of the last few weeks, Cori and I have talked so much about my job dilemma that we have actually named it... Johnson. Every day when I get home from work, she would ask, "Did you meet Johnson today?!" Well...

I wanted to let everyone know that I met Johnson, Jr. yesterday. I emailed my bosses to "touch bases" about the job question. One of them came into my office about an hour later. He apologized for procrastinating and said: "We are interested and appreciate your interest. I will talk to [one of the other partners], and we'll be able to sit down with you within a week." So... Now I'm just waiting to meet Johnson, Sr. I'm anxious to find out what type of pay system they have in mind for me (salary, commission, or some combination thereof), and I really want to have something in writing so that I know for sure that everything is real and won't change. Anyways...

I thought that the few of you who read this would like to know. And to anyone who has been praying for this situation - thank you and please keep it up (one more week...)! I'll let you know more when I can...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Weight Loss

Okay, so I have been doing Weight Watchers since January 14. I wanted to share that I have lost 12 pounds. I am always nervous when I am getting weighed even though I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have followed the plan. I guess it is still nervewrecking!

I must say, though that I am finally starting to feel the difference in my body. My pants have a baggy area right underneath my booty and that area right around the zipper is baggy, too. I can't feel a difference in my shirts, yet, but it will come! I can also feel my waist much better now. That is definitely a combination of cardio 4 x a week and WW!

Anyways, thanks for listening to me brag on myself! It isn't everyday that I lose 12 pounds!!