Tag Archives | Life

Canadian Meteorite Has All the Building Blocks for Life

MeteorInteresting article from Tim Barribeau on io9.com:

The argument that life on Earth may have been seeded from the stars just received a major boost, as scientists have found the building blocks of life inside a meteorite that landed in British Columbia in 2000.

The Tagish Lake meteorite landed in January of that year, a streaking fireball that burst into more than 500 fragments which rained down on the lake. In its trip from the outer reaches of the asteroid belt it burned down from 56 tonnes to 1.3, and deep inside the fragments there are the basic building blocks of life, including the amino acids, sugars and hydrocarbons that could have jump started life on our planet.

This meteorite is the only uncontaminated example we’ve ever found, thanks to the quick actions of the people who spotted it. What the researchers have found is that the organic compounds in the rock date back to the early days of the solar system, or possible predate it.

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Depressed People Make Better Decisions Than Happy Ones

Lucy & Charlie BrownVia LiveScience:

Depression might not be all bad, new research finds. People with major depressive disorder do better on a decision-making task than people without the disease.

Depression is a psychiatric condition defined by consistently low mood, low self-esteem and loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities. About 20 percent of people worldwide suffer from major depressive disorder, the clinical name, at some point during their lifetime.

This is the first time a positive cognitive effect has been seen in people with major depressive disorder. The researchers suggest that these patients process information more systematically and analytically than their chipper counterparts. They might unconsciously put more effort into their decisions because they desire control of their environment.

The finding conflicts with other research suggesting depressed people are worse at mental tasks, because they get distracted by thoughts of their problems. Previous studies have shown they perform better when asked not to think about their problems.

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Are There New Domains Of Life On Earth Waiting To Be Discovered?

2CurtisLinnelargeForget about extra terrestrials. Out in the oceans, there likely are unknown life forms on Earth that fall outside of the classification system we’ve developed for identifying and grouping all living things. We may be coming into contact with them someday soon — it’s a fascinating and slightly frightening thought. Via the Economist:

LIFE, like Caesar’s Gaul, is divided into three parts. The Linnaean system of classification, with its prescriptive hierarchy of species, genus, family, order, class, phylum and kingdom, ultimately lumps everything alive into one of three giant groups known as domains.

The most familiar domain, though arguably not the most important to the Earth’s overall biosphere, is the eukaryotes. These are the animals, the plants, the fungi and also a host of single-celled creatures, all of which have complex cell nuclei divided into linear chromosomes. Then there are the bacteria—familiar as agents of disease, but actually ecologically crucial.

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Creepy Naked Babies: The Memorial Art Dolls of Jennifer Stocks-Dearborn

Vermont artist Jennifer Stocks-Dearborn sculpts realistic clay babies for parents who have lost infants or unborn children. Much in the tradition of Victorian post-mortem photography, these “memorial art dolls” bear the likeness of the deceased. Leon Thompson of Seven Days writes:

…Stocks-Dearborn’s art began with anything but laughter. As much creativity does, hers originated in darkness — death, to be precise. Her 16-month-old daughter Madison died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) on October 8, 2000. Within the next three years, Stocks-Dearborn married and had two sons. But the healing process from her daughter’s death did not really begin until April 2006, when a friend forwarded an email about Canadian sculptor Camille Allen’s “Marzipan Babies.”

“As I stared at these tiny, hand-sculpted babies made from clay, I thought, I can do that,” Stocks-Dearborn recalls. “And I did. I remember sculpting my very first piece, and how my anxieties and overwhelming tidal waves of emotions subsided.

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Are We All Martians?

Martian

Ray Walston as "My Favorite Martian"

Sounds a bit like panspermia but occurring within our inner solar system. Interesting post from David L. Chandler of MIT News Office:

According to many planetary scientists, it’s conceivable that all life on Earth is descended from organisms that originated on Mars and were carried here aboard meteorites. If that’s the case, an instrument being developed by researchers at MIT and Harvard could provide the clinching evidence.

In order to detect signs of past or present life on Mars — if it is in fact true that we’re related — then a promising strategy would be to search for DNA or RNA, and specifically for particular sequences of these molecules that are nearly universal in all forms of terrestrial life.

That’s the strategy being pursued by MIT research scientist Christopher Carr and postdoctoral associate Clarissa Lui, working with Maria Zuber, head of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and Gary Ruvkun, a molecular biologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, who came up with the instrument concept and put together the initial team.

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