Astrobiology

Refactoring Space Exploration with Soft Machines

T12 robotTo understand how we control motion, we need to understand the physical mechanism being moved. Emerging theories of vertebrate physiology are overturning the traditional bone-centric model of the body in favor of a "tensegrity" model, in which the primary load paths are in the continuous tension network of the soft tissues.

Life before genetics: autogenesis, information, and the outer solar system

moon of giant gas planetThe investigation of the origins of life has been hindered by what we think we know about current living organisms. This includes three assumptions about necessary conditions: 1) that it emerged entirely on Earth, 2) that it is dependent on the availability of liquid water, and 3) that it is coextensive with the emergence of molecules able to replicate themselves.

Engineering the emergence of life through convection, serpentinization and the first metabolic pathway

mike russel in labThe alkaline hydrothermal theory for the emergence of life holds that the endergonic (thermodynamically uphill) reactions vital for life’s origin and continued existence require free energy converters (nano-engines) fuelled by various disequilibria.

Characterizing the Atmospheres of Low-Mass Low-Density Transiting Exoplanets

exoplanetNASA's Kepler Mission has revealed that the most common size of planet in our galaxy may be those from 2-3 Earth radii.  Such medium-sized planets are significantly more common on close-in orbits than Neptune and Jupiter-class giant planets.  We have no analog for these planets in our solar system.  What are they made of?  An example relatively close to home is planet GJ 1214b, which is 2.6 Earth radii and 6 Earth mass

Planetary Lake Lander

Deglaciation subjects lakes to interannual variability, affecting lake habitat, biogeochemical cycles, and biodiversity. Investigating its impact contributes to a better understanding of the changes currently affecting Earth's glacial lake ecosystems. From an astrobiology perspective, it may bring new insights into the evolution of Mars habitability during comparable geological periods.

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?

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