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Tagged with “biology” (70)

  1. BBC Discovery: SOS Snail

    This is a big story about a little snail. Biologist Helen Scales relates an epic tale that spans the globe and involves calamity, tragedy, extinction and we hope, salvation. It stars the tiny tree-dwelling mollusc from French Polynesia, Partula, a snail that has captivated scientists for centuries. Like Charles Darwin studied finches on the Galapagos, Partula became an icon of evolution because, in the living laboratories of the Pacific islands, it had evolved into multiple species. But a calamity drove Partula to extinction, when a botched biological control, the predatory Rosy Wolf Snail, was introduced. It was supposed to eat another problem mollusc, but in a cruel twist, devoured tiny Partula instead. An international rescue mission was scrambled to save a species and from just one or two rescued individuals, populations of this snail species have been built up over thirty years in captive breeding programmes in zoos around the world. And now, in the nailbiting sequel, we track Partula’s journey home.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cstxnj

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  2. Carolyn Porco: Searching for Life in the Solar System - The Long Now

    Life nearby

    If we find, anywhere in the universe, one more instance of life besides what evolved on Earth, then we are bound to conclude that life is common throughout the vastness of this galaxy and the 200 billion other galaxies.

    The discovery would change how we think about everything.

    Most of the search for life beyond Earth, Porco explained, is the search for habitats.

    They don’t have to look comfy, since we know that our own extremophile organisms can survive temperatures up to 250°F, total desiccation, and fiercely high radiation, high pressure, high acidity, high alkalinity, and high salinity.

    In our own Solar System there are four promising candidate habitats—Mars, Europa (a moon of Jupiter), Titan (a moon of Saturn), and Enceladus (“en-SELL-ah-duss,” another moon of Saturn).

    They are the best nearby candidates because they have or have had liquids, they have bio-usable energy (solar or chemical), they have existed long enough to sustain evolution, and they are accessible for gathering samples.

    On Mars water once flowed copiously.

    It still makes frost and ice, but present conditions on Mars are so hostile to life that most of the search there now is focussed on finding signs of life far in the past.

    Europa, about the size of Earth’s Moon, has a salty ocean below an icy surface, but it is subject to intense radiation.

    Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that occasional plumes of material are ejected through Europa’s ice, so future missions to Jupiter will attempt to fly by and analyze them for possible chemical signatures of life.

    The two interesting moons of Saturn are Titan, somewhat larger and much denser than our Moon, and tiny Enceladus, one-seventh the diameter of our Moon.

    Both have been closely studied by the Cassini Mission since

    2004.

    Titan’s hazy atmosphere is full of organic methane, and its surface has features like dunes and liquid-methane lakes “that look like the coast of Maine.”

    But it is so cold, at 300°F below zero, that the chemical reactions needed for life may be too difficult.

    Enceladus looks the most promising.

    Cassini has sampled the plumes of material that keep geysering out of the south pole.

    The material apparently comes from an interior water ocean about as salty as our ocean, and silica particles may indicate hydrothermal vents like ours.

    “I hope you’re gettin excited now,” Porco told the audience, “because we were.”

    The hydrothermal vents in Earth’s oceans are rich with life.

    Enceladus has all the ingredients of a habitat for life—liquid water, organics, chemical energy, salts, and nitrogen-bearing compounds.

    We need to look closer.

    A future mission (arriving perhaps by the 2030’s) could orbit Enceladus and continually sample the plumes with instruments designed to detect signs of life such as complexity in the molecules and abundance patterns of carbon in amino acids that could indicate no biology, or Earth-like biology, or quite different biology.

    You could even look for intact organisms.

    Nearly all of the material in the plumes falls back to the surface.

    Suppose you had a lander there.

    “It’s always snowing at the south pole of Enceladus,” Porco said.

    “Could it be snowing microbes?”

    (A by-the-way from the Q&A:

    Voyager, which was launched 40 years ago in 1977, led the way to the outer planets and moons of our Solar System, and five years ago, Porco pointed out, “It went beyond the magnetic bubble of the Sun and redefined us as an interstellar species.”)

    —Stewart Brand

    http://longnow.org/seminars/02017/jul/24/searching-life-solar-system/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  3. Undiscovered: Mouse’s Vineyard

    An island associated with summer rest and relaxation is gaining a reputation for something else: Lyme disease. Martha’s Vineyard has one of the highest rates of Lyme in the country. Now MIT geneticist Kevin Esvelt is coming to the island with a potential long-term fix. The catch: It involves releasing up to a few hundred thousand genetically modified mice onto the island. Are Vineyarders ready?

    http://www.undiscoveredpodcast.org/mouses-vineyard.html

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  4. Underground: How Deep Can Life Survive?

    This week, The Forum delves into the subterranean world of life underground – from the forgotten tunnels and catacombs of our cities to life found in the stifling sunless world two miles below the Earth’s surface. Might humans one day retreat underground if living above ground becomes too tough? Bridget Kendall with Social Geographer Dr. Bradley L. Garrett, Zoologist Dr. Gaetan Borgonie and Isotope Geochemist Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0465kyq

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  5. John Searle - Where Does Consciousness Come From?

    About John Searle’s TED Talk

    Philosopher John Searle argues that consciousness is what makes us human. He makes the case for studying consciousness and accepting it as a biological phenomenon.

    http://www.npr.org/2016/07/15/485711630/where-does-consciousness-come-from?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=tedradiohour

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  6. The Story Collider - Carl Zimmer: Safety Carl Versus Gamera

    Science writer Carl Zimmer grew up loving monster movies, but he never guessed a real monster would show up in his own backyard.

    Carl Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times. He’s the author of a dozen books, including Parasite Rex and Evolution: Making Sense of Life. He has won prizes for his writing from the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Zimmer has appeared on radio shows such as This American Life and Radio Lab.

    https://soundcloud.com/the-story-collider/carl-zimmer-safety-carl-versus-gamera

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  7. The Story Collider - Carl Zimmer: Safety Carl Versus Gamera

    Science writer Carl Zimmer grew up loving monster movies, but he never guessed a real monster would show up in his own backyard.

    Carl Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times. He’s the author of a dozen books, including Parasite Rex and Evolution: Making Sense of Life. He has won prizes for his writing from the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Zimmer has appeared on radio shows such as This American Life and Radio Lab.

    https://soundcloud.com/the-story-collider/carl-zimmer-safety-carl-versus-gamera

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  8. Future Tense: Underestimated plants

    We know that plants are living entities, but we don’t tend to associate them with intelligence. For many of us, their potential lies in what they can produce post-mortem – timber, food, textiles, etc.

    A new field of research called Plant Neurobiology challenges that assumption. Trees not only exhibit a decentralised form of intelligence, proponents argue, but also a social side. And understanding the way in which they might communicate and interact is essential for good forest management and the maintenance of a healthy environment.

    We also hear about a project called flora robotica which aims to build a symbiotic relationship between plants and robots; and we’ll meet a Swedish scientist who’s busy trying to turn roses into living electrical circuits – all in the name of cleaner energy.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/plants/7208954

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  9. BBC Discovery - Eels and Human Electricity

    Naomi Alderman presents an alternate history of electricity. This is not a story of power stations, motors and wires. It is a story of how the electric eel and its cousin the torpedo fish, led to the invention of the first battery; and how, in time, the shocking properties of these slippery creatures gave birth to modern neuroscience.Our fascination with electric fish and their ability to deliver an almighty shock - enough to kill a horse – goes back to ancient times. And when Alessandro Volta invented the first battery in 1800, the electric eel was a vital source of inspiration. In inventing the battery, Volta claimed to have disproved the idea of ‘animal electricity’ but 200 years later, scientists studying our brains revealed that it is thanks to the electricity in our nerve cells that we are able to move, think and feel. So, it seems, an idea that was pushed out of science and into fiction, when Mary Shelley invented Frankenstein, is now alive and well and delivering insight once again into what it means to be alive.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03jkfs0

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  10. Freeman Dyson | Dreams of Earth and Sky

    Embodying “the ideal of the scientist as iconoclast” (Wired), Dr. Freeman Dyson is one of the world’s most intriguing and accomplished theoretical physicists and mathematicians, renowned for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, nuclear engineering, futurism, metaphysics, and astronomy. In addition to a decades-long career in academia and scientific publishing, he is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and is the winner of the Enrico Fermi Award, among dozens of other honors. Ranging in time from the seventeenth-century scientific revolution to the future of the human race, Dyson’s new collection of essays explores and celebrates the unconventional ideas that have changed the world.

    In conversation with Dave Goldberg, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Physics at Drexel University

    http://libwww.freelibrary.org/podcast/?podcastID=1355

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

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