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Tagged with “life” (35)

  1. 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

  2. The Institute of Arts and Ideas: A Goldilock’s World | Chiara Marletto, Bernard Carr, Massimo Pigliucci

    Copernicus and Darwin taught us to be skeptical of feeling we were special. Yet from the size of the electron to the cosmological constant our universe is strangely fine-tuned for life. Is this a spectacularly fortuitous accident? Has the universe been tailored for us or do the theories just make it look that way?

    New York philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, M-Theorist and author of Universe or Multiverse? Bernard Carr, and Oxford constructor theorist Chiara Marletto wonder why we are here.

    https://soundcloud.com/instituteofartandideas/a-goldilocks-world

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  3. 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

  4. Radiolab - Reasonable Doubt

    Update: Watched "Making a Murderer" and pining for an update to our Reasonable Doubt segment? Producer Pat Walters sat down with the producers of "Making and Murderer" to talk about their show and we have an update for you! (Which you’ll hear at the very end of this segment.)

    On July 29th, 1985, a 36-year-old woman named Penny Beerntsen went for a jog on the beach near her home. About a mile into her run, she passed a man in a leather jacket, said hello and kept running. On her way back, he re-appeared. What happened next would cause Penny to question everything she thought she knew about judging people — and, in the end, her ability to be certain of anything.

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/278180-reasonable-doubt/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  5. Radiolab - The Bitter End (How Doctors Would Want To Die)

    Producer Sean Cole introduces us to Joseph Gallo, a doctor and professor at Johns Hopkins University who discovered something striking about what doctors were not willing to do to save their own lives. As part of the decades-long Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, Gallo found himself asking the study’s aging doctor-subjects questions about death. Their answers, it turns out, don’t sync up with the answers most of us give.

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/bitter-end/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  6. Mayday Mayday

    During the dying minutes of April 2003, as the Cornish town of Padstow celebrated the coming of summer, actor Tristan Sturrock broke his neck falling off a wall.

    Paralyzed in hospital and about to become a father for the first time, he was told he may never walk again. Mayday Mayday was produced and directed by Becky Ripley with editor James Cook for BBC Radio 4.

    This story is a winner of the 2015 TC/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  7. BBC - The Life Scientific - Nigel Shadbolt 14 Apr 15

    Sir Nigel Shadbolt talks about artificial intelligence and open data with Jim al-Khalili

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  8. Radiolab: Worth

    This episode, we make three earnest, possibly foolhardy, attempts to put a price on the priceless. We figure out the dollar value for an accidental death, another day of life, and the work of bats and bees as we try to keep our careful calculations from falling apart in the face of the realities of life, and love, and loss.

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  9. Radio Open Source: Earth 2.0

    With hundreds of Earth-like planets discovered over the past few years, it’s fair to say we’re on the verge of finding alien life. Two new programs at NASA hope to find and analyze thousands more of these exoplanets, as they’re called. Scientists working on the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope say there’s a very real chance of finding extraterrestrial life within the next two decades. So, if we’re about to meet our extraterrestrial neighbors, let’s get to work on some opening lines. What if we’re really not alone?

    • David Latham, Astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
    • Dimitar Sasselov, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative,
    • Jason Wright, Professor of Astronomy at Penn State, expert in the search for advanced extraterrestrial civilizations,
    • Sarah Rugheimer, PhD student at Harvard University studying the atmospheres of exoplanets.

    http://radioopensource.org/earth-2-0/

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

  10. Space Oceans And Looking For Life

    All kinds of excitement over potential life in space in the last week. Light years away – maybe, but beguilingly – on a planet that looks amazingly like earth. Squint and you can picture Earth-like oceans and land out there. And much closer to home, on a moon in the rings of Saturn. Icy and cold on the outside. But inside, evidence of an underground ocean in space. Sending geysers to the surface. Lighting up astro-biologists’ fondest dreams. Maybe teeming with life. This hour On Point: the buzz over life in space, maybe on an Earth-twin way out there, maybe on a moon close to home. And the push to learn more.

    Carolyn Porco, leader of the imaging science team on the Cassini mission. Director of CICLOPS, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations, at the Space Science Institute. (@CarolynPorco)

    Chris McKay, senior scientist at the Space Science and Astrobiology Division at the NASA Ames Research Center.

    Carl Murray, professor of mathematics and astronomy at the Queen Mary University of London.

    —Huffduffed by Clampants

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