Tag Archives | Life

Scientists Create Nearly-Living Crystals

Meet your new pets, via Wired:

Three billion years after inanimate chemistry first became animate life, a newly synthesized laboratory compound is behaving in uncannily lifelike ways. The particles aren’t truly alive — but they’re not far off, either. Exposed to light and fed by chemicals, they form crystals that move, break apart and form again.

“There is a blurry frontier between active and alive,” said biophysicist Jérémie Palacci of New York University. “That is exactly the kind of question that such works raise.” Palacci and fellow NYU physicist Paul Chaikin led a group of researchers in developing the particles, which are described Jan. 31 in Science as forming “living crystals” in the right chemical conditions.

Some scientists think that life’s building blocks once existed in such a form, bouncing back and forth for millions of years until coalescing in configurations that possessed the ability to copy themselves.

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Some advice to those who have lost loved ones

via chycho

I had not planned on getting involved in the following discussion, however, a conversation was started online which I felt inclined to participate in, and since my initial reply was well received, I thought it would be worthwhile floating the information here as well. Some of what I have posted were extremely hard-learned lessons and I hope the information finds its way to those who seek such advice.

The following question was posted on AskReddit:

    “My parents just lost their son of 27 years. I am now an only child. Will it ever get easier for them, or will this bear on their soul until the eventual day where I must say goodbye?

    “I guess I’m not exactly sure what I’m asking for. Stories, anecdotes, puns, and assholes maybe. I want to be there for my mom and dad but I’m unsure of what may even help. What in this world can help someone overcome the grief of having to lose a child?

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Scientists To Put Genome-Sequencers On Mars To Find Alien DNA

The hunt for extraterrestrial DNA is on, Technology Review writes:

Two high-profile entrepreneurs say they want to put a DNA sequencing machine on the surface of Mars in a bid to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life.

In what could become a race for the first extraterrestrial genome, researcher J. Craig Venter said Tuesday that his Maryland academic institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics, would develop a machine capable of sequencing and beaming back DNA data from the planet. Separately, Jonathan Rothberg, founder of Ion Torrent, a DNA sequencing company, is collaborating on an effort to equip his company’s “Personal Genome Machine” for a similar task.

Venter said researchers working with him have already begun tests at a Mars-like site in the Mojave Desert. Their goal, he said, is to demonstrate a machine capable of autonomously isolating microbes from soil, sequencing their DNA, and then transmitting the information to a remote computer.

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A Genetic ‘Mistake’ 500 Million Years Ago Led To Advanced Life

Live Science on the fluke that eventually led to our current situation:

Over 500 million years ago a spineless creature on the ocean floor experienced two successive doublings in the amount of its DNA, a “mistake” that eventually triggered the evolution of humans and many other animals, says a new study.

The good news is that these ancient DNA doublings boosted cellular communication systems, so that our body cells are now better at integrating information than even the smartest smartphones. The bad part is that communication breakdowns, traced back to the very same genome duplications of the Cambrian Period, can cause diabetes, cancer and neurological disorders.

“Organisms that reproduce sexually usually have two copies of their entire genome, one inherited from each of the two parents,” co-author Carol MacKintosh explained. “What happened over 500 million years ago is that this process ‘went wrong’ in an invertebrate animal, which somehow inherited twice the usual number of genes.

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Alien Life May Resemble Giant Jellyfish

A compelling if fantastical vision of soft pod creatures floating on gas currents through the soupy atmospheres of exoplanets. Via India Today:

Aliens may not actually resemble the little green creatures Hollywood loves to portray them as. Rather, they are more likely to look like ‘giant jellyfish’, if a leading British space scientist is to be believed.

“My vision of aliens is an inhuman, silicon-based life form that looks much more like a jellyfish… It is likely that there is extra-terrestrial life – it is just more alien than you’d imagine,” Maggie Aderin-Pocock, satellite expert and government adviser in UK, said.

“But while they might resemble jellyfish, they will live not in the sea but in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-like planet, where they float around,” Aderin-Pocock said. Rather than surviving on carbon, which is the basis of all life, the “silicon generated” creatures are able to live off light absorbed through their ‘skin’ and chemicals sucked in through their giant mouths.

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Russian Project Offers Immortality To Billionaires

Interested in a second life as a robot? The goal is to achieve the ability to upload an individual’s mind into an artificial surrogate, and offer it as a service to the planet’s richest individuals in a decade or so. Via the Daily Mail:

A Russian entrepreneur who heads a hi-tech research project called ‘Avatar’ has contacted billionaires to offer them immortality. Dmitry Itskov claims he will personally oversee their immortality process, in exchange for an undisclosed fee. Itskov, a media entrepreneur, claims to have hired 30 scientists to reach this goal – and aims to transplant a human brain into a robot body within 10 years.

“You have the ability to finance the extension of your own life up to immortality. Our civilization has come very close to the creation of such technologies: it’s not a science fiction fantasy. It is in your power to make sure that this goal will be achieved in your lifetime,” says Itskov in a letter delivered to billionaires listed in Forbes magazine.

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Lichen Can Survive In Hostile Space Conditions

Humans are ill-equipped for traveling into outer space, but the same isn’t true for other earthly life forms. Should we send funguses to colonize our galaxy, before we go? Via Phenomenica:

In 2008 the European Space Agency sent a suitcase-sized experiment package to the International Space Station filled with organic compounds and living organisms to test their reaction to outer space.

When astronauts venture on a spacewalk, hours are spent preparing protective suits to survive the hostile conditions. However, no effort was made to protect the bacteria, seeds, lichen and algae attached to the outside of the space station.

The samples returned to Earth in 2009. Lichen have proven to be tough cookies – back on Earth, some species continue to grow normally. You can freeze it, thaw it, vacuum dry it and expose it to radiation, but lichen still survive.

Living organisms surviving in open space supports the idea of ‘panspermia’ — life spreading from one planet to another, or even between solar systems.

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Invention Makes It Possible To Live Without Breathing

We’ve breathed the same old way for far too long — it was high time for an update. Initially, it will be an emergency medical solution, but perhaps someday a workaround for living in a hopelessly polluted world. Via Unexplained Mysteries:

Scientists have invented particles able to keep a person alive even if they are unable to breathe. The breakthrough treatment works by oxygenating the blood through an injection that can keep someone alive for up to 30 minutes even if they are unable to breath at all and could save thousands of lives. The injected particles contain oxygen within a layer of natural molecules known as lipids.

Previous attempts at developing a treatment of this nature had failed because the injections caused a gas embolism rather than oxygenation of the cells. “We have engineered around this problem by packaging the gas into small, deformable particles,” said scientist John Kheir.

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No Intelligent Aliens Detected on the SETI-Targeted “Earth Condition” Gliese 581 System

Yet that is. As Ian O'Neill desribes on Discovery News:
SETI astronomers have eavesdropped on an alien star system thought to contain two "habitable" worlds in the hope of hearing a radio transmission from an extraterrestrial intelligence. Sadly, there appears to be no chatty aliens living around the red dwarf star Gliese 581. In results announced last week by Australian SETI astronomers, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University in Perth, Gliese 581 was precisely targeted by Australian Long Baseline Array using three radio telescope facilities across Australia. This is the first time the technique of very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) has been used to target a specific star in the hunt for extraterrestrials, so although it didn't turn up any aliens, it is a proof of concept that may prove invaluable for future SETI projects...
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