Astrobiology

A Different Universe

universeDr. Laughlin won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1998 for his part in research to explain the quantum Hall effect in semiconductor physics. He is currently the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Physics at Stanford University.

Abiotic Nitrogen on Earth Like Planets: Habitability and the Origin of Life

Biology currently dominates nitrogen cycling on the Earth.  However, the non-biological chemistry of nitrogen is important to understanding the Early Earth and other terrestrial planets, such as Mars.  Nitrogen is necessary for compounds proteins, DNA, RNA, and for life as we know it.  To understand the origin of life we need to understand the prebiotic sources of nitrogen.  Similarly, life, in turn, affects nitrogen cycling.  For example, nitrous oxide has been proposed as biosignature on extrasolar planets.

Fast molecular adaptations to environmental fluctuations - a recipe for long-term survival of life in the extremes

A limiting factor for the survival of life in a changing environment is the intracellular production of reactive oxygen species. These can damage the building blocks of life (DNA, proteins, lipids) through oxidation. All organisms, including microbial extremophiles, have developed mechanisms to quench the reactivity of oxygen species or avoid their production. Not surprisingly, these same molecules are drivers for evolution.

How To Build A Time Machine

Time travel makes great science fiction, but can it really be done? Travel into the future is already a reality, but visiting the past is a much tougher proposition, and may require fantastic resources such as a wormhole in space. Nevertheless, if going back in time is allowed, even in principle, then what about all those paradoxes that make time travel stories so intriguing?

Planetary Science Decadal Survey Rollout Town Hall Meeting

The Solar System Decadal Survey report for 2013-2022 will be made public in a presentation on March 7 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, and the document will be available on the website of the National Research Council from that time onward.

Biological and Physical Considerations of Unfrozen Water Films: Mars and Antarctic Dry Valleys

Recent work in the Antarctic has found viable microbes in the dry permafrost of University Valley, relying on only interfacial water to effect exchange with the environment. The discovery of nearly pure ice at the Phoenix landing site is a possible indicator of in situ ice segregation, a physical process that depends on the same films of unfrozen water. We have recently found that even at temperatures as low as 245K, the forces arising in these unfrozen films are sufficient to initiate lens formation.

A New look at what Life is and how it began

Life has two unique processes. The first is precision assembly, in which the shape of a molecule is selected, and it is “glued” to another precisely selected molecule. The second is when the assembler-glue-selector device exactly copies itself. The first item produced must be a structure so as to be survival-selected. In turn this selection needs to have the eventual effect of selecting the assembler-glue-selector. The system requires the development of two different polymers, one for structures, the other for information transfer.

The Evolving Intersection of Physics and Biology

 In April 1953, Watson and Crick largely defined the program of 20^th century biology: obtaining the blueprint of life encoded in the DNA. Fifty years later, in 2003, the sequencing of the human genome was completed. Like any major scientific breakthrough, the sequencing of the human genome raised many more questions than it answered. Dr. Liphardt will discuss some of the big open problems in cell and developmental biology, and he'll explain why approaches, tools, and ideas from the physical sciences are currently reshaping biological research.

Astrobiology of Basaltic glass in the oceanic basins: a source for early life nutrients?

Brad Bailey will explain how basaltic glass could be a source of energy and/or nutrients for early life. This has enormous Astrobiological implications as recent work has shown that Earth’s late heavy bombardment period would not have been energetic enough to completely sterilize the Earth’s surface and life may have been preserved through this period by residing within the deep crust.

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