Tag Archives | Life

Newly Discovered Planet Corot-9b Has Earth-Like Temperatures

Do Vulcans live here? Planetary temperatures range from -20 °C to 160 °C (-68 °F to 320 °F). Steve Connor writes on the Independent:
Corot-9b

The first planet with a “temperate” climate to orbit a distant star has been discovered by astronomers, who claim that the techniques used to study it will be critical in the search for Earth-like worlds beyond our own solar system.

Corot-9b, as the planet is called, is one of more than 400 “exoplanets” found to be orbiting other stars, but it is the first one with a near-normal temperature range that can be studied as it moves across (or “transits”) the sun it orbits. “This is a normal, temperate exoplanet just like dozens we already know, but this is the first whose properties we can study in depth,” said Claire Moutou, one of the team of astronomers at the European Southern Observatory who made the discovery.

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Sizing Up Sperm: The Most Extreme Race on Earth (Video)

The Great Sperm RaceWow, I had no idea that sperm have to fight Morlocks along the way! National Geographic presents Sizing Up Sperm:

Each of us was the grand prize in an ultimate reality competition, the amazing race a sperm makes on the road to fertilization.

Millions of sperm compete while overcoming armies of antibodies, treacherous terrain and impossible odds to reach their single-minded goal.

To illustrate the full weight of the challenge, Sizing Up Sperm uses real people to represent 250 million sperm on their marathon quest to be first to reach a single egg.

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Plants Are Actively Intelligent: What Does This Mean for Vegetarians?

VeggiesEthan A. Huff writes in Natural News:

Most vegetarians believe that by not eating animals, they are preserving life. Everyone knows that plants are alive but they are not viewed with the same level of intelligence as animals are. As science continues to uncover the complex nature of plants, it is becoming more apparent that plants are actively intelligent life that pursue their continued existence in similar ways as do animals.

Research on the subject naturally flies in the face of strict vegetarianism which often insists that eating animals is murder but eating plants is just fine. Yet the facts illustrate that the characteristics of animals used to argue that eating them is murder also apply to plants. In other words, in order for strict vegetarians to be consistent in their beliefs, they would also have to stop eating fruits and vegetables.

Plants are very sensitive to environmental changes and they have many built-in mechanisms to ward off attackers.

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A Meteorite, Older Than the Sun, Contains ‘Millions of Organic Compounds’

Definitely adding to the ideas for an exogenesis-related explanation for life on Earth. (I won’t go so far to embrace panspermia, although the co-discover of DNA, Francis Crick, did later in life.)

Interesting nonetheless. Doreen Walton writes on BBC News:

Scientists say they have confirmed that a meteorite that crashed into earth 40 years ago contains millions of different organic compounds. It is thought the Murchison meteorite could be even older than the Sun.”Having this information means you can tell what was happening during the birth of the Solar System,” said lead researcher Dr Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin. The results of the meteorite study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We are really excited. When I first studied it and saw the complexity I was so amazed,” said Dr Schmitt-Kopplin, who works at the Institute for Ecological Chemistry in Neuherberg, Germany. Meteorites are like some kind of fossil. When you try to understand them you are looking back in time,” he explained.

The researchers says the identification of many different chemicals shows the primordial Solar System probably had a higher molecular diversity than Earth.

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DNA 2.0: A New Operating System for Life is Created

DNALinda Geddes writes in New Scientist:

A new way of using the genetic code has been created, allowing proteins to be made with properties that have never been seen in the natural world. The breakthrough could eventually lead to the creation of new or “improved” life forms incorporating these new materials into their tissue.

In all existing life forms, the four “letters” of the genetic code, called nucleotides, are read in triplets, so that every three nucleotides encode a single amino acid.

Not any more. Jason Chin at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have now redesigned the cell’s machinery so that it reads the genetic code in quadruplets.

In the genetic code that life has used up to now, there are 64 possible triplet combinations of the four nucleotide letters; these genetic “words” are called codons. Each codon either codes for an amino acid or tells the cell to stop making a protein chain.

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The Strangest Liquid: Why Water Is So Weird

With a massive blizzard going on in the Northeastern U.S., water (albeit in a frozen form) is on everyone’s mind in this part of the world. Very interesting article, whether you are snowed in or not. Edwin Cartlidge writes in New Scientist:
Ice

We are confronted by many mysteries, from the nature of dark matter and the origin of the universe to the quest for a theory of everything. These are all puzzles on the grand scale, but you can observe another enduring mystery of the physical world — equally perplexing, if not quite so grand — from the comfort of your kitchen. Simply fill a tall glass with chilled water, throw in an ice cube and leave it to stand.

The fact that the ice cube floats is the first oddity. And the mystery deepens if you take a thermometer and measure the temperature of the water at various depths. At the top, near the ice cube, you’ll find it to be around 0 °C, but at the bottom it should be about 4 °C. That’s because water is denser at 4°C than it is at any other temperature — another strange trait that sets it apart from other liquids.

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Is It Time To Throw Out ‘Primordial Soup’ Theory?

Via NPR’s All Things Considered:

Is the “primordial soup” theory — the idea that life emerged from a prebiotic broth — past its expiration date?

Biochemist Nick Lane thinks so. The University College London writer and his colleagues argue that the 81-year-old notion just doesn’t hold water.

Lane tells NPR’s Guy Raz there’s another possible explanation for the emergence of life. But before we get to that, why toss out the soup theory?

Primordial Soup Can

Lane says the idea of a primordial soup goes back to 1929, and great biologists like J.B.S. Haldane.

“He proposed that the Earth’s early atmosphere was composed of simple gases like methane and ammonia. And they would react together under the influence of ultraviolet rays or lightning to produce a thin ‘soup’ — which became thicker over time — of organic molecules,” Lane says.

Primordial Soup Can created by James W. Brown

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Rush Limbaugh: I Don’t Even Want To Be Alive Anymore

Via The Onion:

I know there are a lot of people out there who are upset about some of the things I’ve been saying on my radio program lately. My comments about the situation in Haiti have hurt and angered many Americans who genuinely care about the plight of the Haitian people, and that hurt and anger will likely never go away. Many of you are probably wondering, “What would compel a human being to say things like that?” Well, here’s your answer: I am a very bad person. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t really want to be alive anymore.

Try to look at it from my point of view. I have no reason to live. In my 59 years, I’ve made millions of dollars, built a veritable media empire, and accomplished virtually everything that a man of my limited imagination and worldview could possibly accomplish. And yet, at this point, in no way could you refer to what I’m doing as “living,” exactly.

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The Death Throes of A Colossal Star, That Could Spawn New Life in the Universe

Jonathan Amos, BBC News

The death throes of one of the biggest stars known to science have been spied by Europe’s Herschel space telescope. The observatory, launched in May, has subjected VY Canis Majoris, to a detailed spectroscopic analysis.

It has allowed Herschel to identify the different types of molecules and atoms that swirl away from the star which is 20–25 times as massive as our Sun. VY Canis Majoris is some 4,500 light-years from Earth and it could be seen to explode as a supernova at any time.

It is colossal. If VY Canis Majoris were sited at the centre of our Solar System, its surface would extend out towards the orbit of Saturn. The star, in the constellation Canis Major, has been recorded by astronomers for at least 200 years…

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