Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, June 30, 2018

MVNews this week:  Page A:8



Mountain Views-News Saturday, June 30, 2018 

TABLE FOR TWO by Peter Dills


Any great food reporter who turns his attention to writing a travel 
piece should have a fork in one hand and a travel map in the other. 
Little did I know I would also need to up the credit line on my card 
and bring a wallet of kronor. I planned a trip to Oslo, Norway to 
compete in their Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon, intending to run 
and fill the idle moments with foreign beer. My scouts told me that 
Norway and Sweden swam in cold suds, and the most popular was 
lager, or liquid gold as I call it.

 The most popular routes of escape consist of a layover on the east 
coast and a possible stop in Frankfurt (another excuse to have another 
half liter of beer). Air Lufthansa, part of the Star Alliance, has plenty 
of flights which are easily booked through a travel agent, or you can 
keep an eye on Orbitz and Priceline. Plan to budget $1300 to $1600 
for a roundtrip ticket. Most major hotel chains including Sheraton 
and Days Inn have locations in Oslo, but my friend Brad Turner, 
beat writer for the LA Clippers, suggested renting an apartment or 
flat in the city. I followed that advice in Bergen, Norway and cut our 
lodging expense in half compared to the major hotels, plus it came 
with a refrigerator so we could stock up on supplies and save additional cash. Norway, while rich in 
oil reserves, gets richer on a 25% alcohol tax whether you drink in a restaurant or buy from a state run 
liquor store.

 National Geographic called the Fjords one of the top ten beautiful places in the world and I agree! 
Make sure you take a boat cruise -- two-hour, half-day and full-day trips are available. We spent the 
night in Flam and took the boat through the Fjords with the bookend cliffs and ribbons of water that 
wrap the imagination. If you’re a museum junkie or history buff the Viking museum contains the 
explorer’s age of small boats. In Sweden, I suggest the ABBA Museum - yes, the pop group has their 
own shrine - there is a small fee, but you get two hours of music and memories that will enchant your 
life. To get around Stockholm I took the Hop On/Hop Off bus. I like this way of seeing an entire city 
in one day at your own pace. If you are lucky enough to be in Sweden in late June there are plenty of 
city and country mid-summer celebrations where you’ll discover it’s their spirit that gets them through 
those icy winters.

 For food, as you can imagine, salmon is plentiful, but an adventure of this magnitude calls for whale, 
elk, and reindeer, which are on many restaurant menus. I am happy to report they don’t taste like 
chicken. The whale is a little salty, and cured as a beef jerky. Reindeer can be bought at many restaurants 
or outside markets, often sold like a pastrami roll. I had a fantastic elk burger at the Ardbeg Embassy in 
Stockholm. If you get frustrated in paying the high prices, look for a bakery and have some of the best 
sweet rolls in the world. The restaurants are expensive so look for Thai, Indian or Vietnamese if you 
hope to save a krona.

 The best time to go is late June through September. In some parts of Norway there are year round 
blankets of snow to excite the desert creatures. Stockholm has more favorable weather conditions with 
temps reaching 75 degrees on a good day, but come November prepare for winter-like conditions. 
During the summer the sun is out most of the day, and while that makes it difficult to sleep, the 10 PM 
sunsets are spectacular.

 For a more in-depth article check out Listen to Dining With Dills on Sundays at 5 PM on 


In the last decade, we have discovered thousands of 
planets outside our solar system and have learned that 
rocky, temperate worlds are numerous in our galaxy. 
The next step will involve asking even bigger questions. 
Could some of these planets host life? And if so, will 
we be able to recognize life elsewhere if we see it?

 A group of leading researchers in astronomy, 
biology and geology has come together under 
NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or 
NExSS, to take stock of our knowledge in the search 
for life on distant planets and to lay the groundwork 
for moving the related sciences forward.

 “We’re moving from theorizing about life 
elsewhere in our galaxy to a robust science that 
will eventually give us the answer we seek to that 
profound question: Are we alone?” said Martin 
Still, an exoplanet scientist at NASA Headquarters, 

 In a set of five review papers published last week in 
the scientific journal Astrobiology, NExSS scientists 
took an inventory of the most promising signs of life, 
called biosignatures. The paper authors include four 
scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
in Pasadena, California. They considered how to 
interpret the presence of biosignatures, should we 
detect them on distant worlds.

 The assessment comes as a new generation 
of space and ground-based telescopes are in 
development. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope 
will characterize the atmospheres of some of 
the first small, rocky planets. There are plans for 
other observatories—such as the Giant Magellan 
Telescope and the Extremely Large Telescope, 
both in Chile—to carry sophisticated instruments 
capable of detecting the first biosignatures on 
faraway worlds.

 Through their work with NExSS, scientists 
aim to identify the instruments needed to detect 
potential life for future NASA flagship missions. 
The detection of atmospheric signatures of a few 
potentially habitable planets may possibly come 
before 2030, although determining whether the 
planets are truly habitable or have life will require 
more in-depth study.

 Since we won’t be able to visit distant planets 
and collect samples anytime soon, the light that a 
telescope observes will be all we have in the search 
for life outside our solar system. Telescopes can 
examine the light reflecting off a distant world to 
show us the kinds of gases in the atmosphere and 
their “seasonal” variations, as well as colors like 
green that could indicate life.

 These kinds of biosignatures can all be seen on 
our fertile Earth from space, but the new worlds 
we examine will differ significantly. For example, 
many of the promising planets we have found are 
around cooler stars, which emit light in the infrared 
spectrum, unlike our Sun’s high emissions of visible-

 “What does a living planet look like?” said Mary 
Parenteau, an astrobiologist and microbiologist at 
NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and 
a co-author. “We have to be open to the possibility 
that life may arise in many contexts in a galaxy with 
so many diverse worlds—perhaps with purple-
colored life instead of the familiar green-dominated 
life forms on Earth, for example.”

 The NExSS scientists will create a framework 
that can quantify how likely it is that a planet has 
life, based on all the available evidence. With the 
observation of many planets, scientists may begin to 
more broadly classify the “living worlds” that show 
common characteristics of life, versus the “non-
living worlds.”

 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@

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