With growing fascination for the large land vertebratomorphs that are so startlingly diverse on Tatooine, I secured Imperial funding for an expedition to Tatooine, to survey the exotic megafauna and search for fossils of Tyrannodraconis that might further illuminate their evolution. My ensuing report summarizes my trilogy of investigations and discoveries from this “holiday in the suns." [more inside]
Dr. David Morrison is the senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute in the Ames Research Center in California. For the past eight years he's also run the Ask an Astrobiologist feature on the institute's website. "Started by a civic-minded intern, the column has become the go-to place for concerned citizens to write to NASA and ask if, as they'd heard on the internet, the world will truly end on December 21, 2012. Before he took the helm on Ask an Astrobiologist, Dr. Morrison hadn't heard anything about such theories. Now he can't escape them." Meet NASA's unofficial answerer of apocalypse emails -- at least until December 23rd. [more inside]
A strange bacterium found in California’s Mono Lake cannot replace the phosphorus in its DNA with arsenic, according to researchers who have been trying to reproduce the results of a controversial report published in Science in 2010. (Via Bad Astronomy.) Previously.
NASA Proves Building Blocks Of DNA Come From Space. "NASA researchers studying meteorites have found that they contain several of the components needed to make DNA on Earth. The discovery provides support for the idea that the building blocks for DNA were likely created in space, and carried to Earth on objects, like meteorites, that crashed into the planet’s surface. According to the theory, the ready-made DNA parts could have then assembled under Earth’s early conditions to create the first DNA."
Dmitar Sasselov is an astrophysicist, Director of the Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard and a co-investigator of the Kepler space telescope project to find Earth-like planets around the Cygnus constellation and discover extraterrestrial life. But no matter how successful the Kepler project may be, it still won't answer the most fundamental questions of astrobiology: How diverse is life in the universe? If alien life exists, will it have Earthly DNA and proteins? Or will it run on something else? So Dr. Sasselov has decided to collaborate with two synthetic biologists, asking them to create a life form based on mirror-image versions of what we know as the essential building blocks of living things on Earth. [more inside]
Source Of Geysers On Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Be Underground Water. Earlier this year the Cassini spacecraft detected organic material in the geysers of Enceladus. The question now is, how's the fishing?
The Meaning of Life. "We create life, we search for it, we manipulate and revere it. Is it possible that we haven't yet defined the term (PDF)?" [Via The Loom.]
Ad Aspera Per Astra - an interview with Brother Guy Consolmagno, one of several full-time Vatican astromomers at the Vatican Observatory. He talks about the Church's take on astrobiology and the eventuality of encountering an alien race. The idea of the Church's mission beyond the Earth is something that's come up in a few good books, like The Sparrow and A Canticle for Leibowitz. Interesting to hear an actual Jesuit's take on the matter. [Via BoingBoing]