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Posts Tagged ‘Discovery’

Excuse me, sir, but there’s arsenic in my DNA!

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Mono Lake, where the arsenic bacteria was discovered

Yes, the big NASA press conference was not about aliens, but instead about a very peculiar type of bacteria.

The discovery is being published in this week’s issue of Science, entitled ‘A Bacterium That Can Grow Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus’ and has already been written about by pretty much every science blogger out there.

So rather than bore you with my own re-hash of all the other posts I’ve read on this subject, I will direct you to the best one I’ve read so far. It is by Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science. Enjoy!

Mono Lake bacteria build their DNA using arsenic (and no, this isn’t about aliens) by Ed Yong.

Did We Really Find an Earth-Like Planet?

September 30, 2010 2 comments

Distant Planet “Could Have Life”

New Planet May be Able to Nurture Organisms

Astronomers Discover ‘Goldilocks’ Planet that Could Be Just Right For Life

1st Habitable Distant Planet Found

Yup, we have all seen the headlines. Now it’s just a matter of time before the aliens descend upon us. Or is it?

Astronomers can actually tell if a planet is orbiting a star by looking at the light of the star itself. As the planet orbits, it tugs on the star ever-so-slightly. This causes the light emitted by the star to be doppler-shifted. Basically this means that the colour of the star changes as the planet orbits.

By looking at how much the colour of the star changes, and how often it changes, we can tell how big the planet is, and how far away from the parent star it is.

That’s pretty freakin’ amazing if you think about it. And now, astronomers have announced that there is a planet roughly 3 times the size of the Earth orbiting a star called Gliese 581, a red dwarf star roughly 20 light years away. The planet is called Gliese 581g.

Artists impression of Gliese 581g. Credit: NSF

What is making this headline news is that the planet is orbiting the star in the so-called “Goldilocks” zone. A distance which is just far enough from the star that liquid water could exist on the surface. Many scientists believe that liquid water is essential to the development of life. THAT’S whats gotten the media’s attention.

While I hate to cheapen the importance of this discovery, because it is important, we shouldn’t start panicking about a possible alien invasion just yet.

The only things we are sure of is that the planet is roughly 3 times the size of Earth, and orbits about 1/6 of the distance of the Earth from the Sun. That’s all. Yes, it is possible that liquid water could exist on the surface. This means that it is possible that life could develop on the planet, at some point. But we don’t know that, its just speculation.

Phil Plait also wrote about this on Bad Astronomy. It’s important to clarify what the scientists have actually discovered, and what the news outlets put into their articles. He also points out that perhaps the most important thing about this discovery is that 1) we can detect planets roughly the size of the Earth and 2) that if we can find Earth-size planets only 20 light years from Earth, it is very possible that our galaxy is teeming with planets. Very, very exciting.

For those interested, here is a link to the .pdf of the paper detailing the discovery of the planet. Like I said, it’s a pretty cool discovery, but we haven’t found the Klingon homeworld just yet.

Klingon homeworld of Kronos

Dinosaur Found in Sewer by My House!

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Yup, its totally true.

A city worker in Edmonton, Alberta (not far from yours truly) was having a regular, shitty day at work in the sewer. Thats gonna be my only sewer joke, I swear.

So this young man named Aaron Krywiak found what he described as “an interesting shaped rock.” Well that rock turned out to be the tooth of an Edmontosaurus. But thats not all.

Aaron Krywiak

Upon further investigation, Aaron found a “motherlode” of dinosaur bones belonging to Edmontosaurus and Albertosaurus.

Edmontosaurus

Albertosaurus

I love living here. Its pretty cool to be so close to such world class dinosaur research and sites.

I still haven’t made it to the Royal Tyrell Museum though, which is where these fossils are going to be taken. Not to worry, I’ll get there soon and you’ll be sure to hear about it!

Scientists Get Drunk and Name a New Dinosaur

July 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Even dinosaur nerds have a sense of humour. At least, when they are out drinking.

From xkcd

A new dinosaur discovery, published this past week in the Journal of Paleontology, led to the most difficult part of discovering a new dino friend: what to name it.

So, after a few rounds, some Yale grad students thought of a great one. You ready?

Mojoceratops.

Yup, Mojoceratops perifania was first discovered in 2008 when a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University was rummaging through some old fossils at the American Museum of Natural History.

Skull of Mojoceratops

While looking through a pile of bones thought to belong to a dino named Chasmosaurus, he realized that the skulls looked a little weird. Then BAM! it hits him, a brand new dino species.

Mojoceratops used to live up near yours truly in Western Canada. I really need to go check out some of the dinosaur museums around here.

Also kind of makes me want to go rummaging through my old closet and see what cool stuff I can find there…

How Do You Have Sex In Space?

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Source: Gizmodo

You don’t. At least, you CLAIM you don’t.

That was basically the response of Alan Poindexter, commander of the Space Shuttle Discovery. At a recent press conference in Tokyo, Poindexter was quoted as

“Personal relationships are not an issue. We don’t have them and we won’t.”

There are two things I find amazing about this story.

1) There is actually an astronaut named ‘Poindexter’.

2) That people don’t have sex in space. I mean, c’mon!

First of all, there are more women being put into space than ever before. Don’t think me a sexist, I’m just saying that the possibility is there.

(Aside: Of course homosexual sex is an option, but I will assume it is less common than heterosexual sex.)

Second: How could you not want too? Zero gravity. The possibilities seem endless, and awesome. I find it hard to believe that these days, with astronauts (and cosmonauts) spending months aboard the International Space Station, that they don’t get lonely enough in the vastness of space to kill a bit of time with some space nookie.

Sure most astronauts are married or in a relationship. But I think its unlikely that it hasn’t happened at least once.

What do you guys think? You think its happened already? Or at least will happen in the future? Don’t be shy, we’re all adults here!