Saturday, January 24, 2009

Life around black smokers and into the universe’s hidden corners

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here's today's news:
g Stars - Scientists from Princeton University and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan have agreed to collaborate over the next 10 years, using new instrumentation on the Hawaii-based Subaru Telescope to peer into hidden corners of the nearby universe and ferret out secrets from its distant past. See article.
g Abodes - Scientists studying life around "black smokers" deep below the Pacific Ocean have discovered unique organisms that can survive in one of the harshest environments on Earth. The habitat may also provide information about how life could survive on other locations in the solar system. See article.
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Alien Safari.” New from NASA PlanetQuest, Alien Safari can be used in your classrooms or informal education settings to help kids discover some of the most extreme organisms on our planet, and find out what they are telling astrobiologists about the search for life beyond Earth. See article.
g Aftermath - Book alert: The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies in “Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life.” Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject. See reviews.

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Atrueoriginall said...

I think Blogger has a little problem here. At this bottom of this article are "Links to this Post" that just appear on their own but don't really link to this post. I haven't even posted this one of yours yet.

I had about 12 of my own links on my "links to this post". I'm afraid that they're on all of them but don't want to look. lol

As far as your schedule....Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. $$ comes first. Us nimrods come 2nd.

I'm sure Blogger will be notified about this "Links to Post" thingy because it is an eyesore now.

Atrueoriginall said...

I just figured it out. This particular link is right now in my Blogroll on two of my Bloggers. That's why. Yea, they'll realize what they did and fix it.

I wondered why Blogger went down yesterday for a little while, now I know. Now they'll just have to go down again and fix it.

Martin J Sallberg said...

The black smoker article unjustly ignored the multicellular animals in the vent communities. Molecular analysis show all deepsea animals have extremely pressure-resilient biomolecules. Human divers breathing heliox get damaged liver molecules by pressure at 350 meters, but some species of flatfish thrive at more than 11000 meters deep. The reason why high pressure destroys molecules is of course that it pushes molecules hard against each other. Since heat is the movement of molecules, the reason why extreme heat destroys molecules is because it makes the molecules slam hard into each other. That means extreme pressure resilience automatically gives extreme heat resilience. Prions can withstand 1100 degrees Celsius (2012 degrees Fahrenheit), debunking the often-cited upper temperature limits of life, and there is photographic evidence of deepsea species of crabs standing calmly and eating in streams of 400 degrees Celsius (752 degrees Fahrenheit) hot pressurized water. That is far higher than any specialized thermophile, but the limit of specialized thermophiles is that the more extreme the temperature, the smaller its distribution, restricting their evolution, while facultative thermophiles (tolerating extreme heat simply by virtue of hard-to-break biomolecules but able to thrive in normal temperatures as well) are free from that limit and can approach prion-like tolerance levels. And yes, crabs are complex multicellular animals, not microbes.