The Curiosity rover can do a lot of things, but nobody is expecting her to find direct evidence of life on Mars. In fact, the hunt for life on the Red Planet has been a pretty stunted one. The last time we really looked was during the Viking missions, which tried to find chemical "footprints" that would exist if there had once been life on Mars, but that could end up on that planet for other reasons, as well. What we got back was a less-than-enthralling "Outlook Hazy. Try Again Later."
Ever since, we've contented ourselves with searching for indirect evidence — assessing the planet for signs that it might once have had the conditions necessary for life to happen. That's important, and it will make direct evidence of life more believable if we ever do find it, but it's not quite the same thing.
But now, DNA sequencing tools have become portable enough (and drilling technology has become powerful enough) that some scientists and Craig Ventner think we could send a probe to Mars which could find buried traces of actual DNA protected in the dirt and sequence that DNA on site.
It's also possible that life hitched a ride between Earth and Mars in their early days. Asteroid impacts have sent about a billion tonnes of rock careering between the two planets, potentially carrying DNA or its building blocks. That could mean that any genetic material on Mars is similar enough to DNA that we have a chance of finding it using standard tests.
Even if we don't, we can set up future sequencers to look for molecules that use alternative sugars or chemical letters in the genetic code. "We're not there yet, but it's not a fundamental limitation," says Chris Carr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who works on the NASA-backed Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes.
Read the rest of the story at New Scientist
The Wildbook project conducts wild animal population censuses by combining photos of animals taken by tourists, scientists, and volunteers and then using their distinctive features (zebra stripes, whale fluke shapes, leopard spots, etc) to identify individuals and produces unprecedented data that uses creepy facial recognition tools for non-creepy purposes.
A report published in The Lancet by a team of medical researchers shows that when cops in the United States murder unarmed black people, it messes with the mental health of black people who live nearby.
In 1992, University of Melbourne researchers TT Lim and TB Nickels wrote a scientific paper titled “Instability and reconnection in the head-on collision of two vortex rings.” The research so inspired Smarter Every Day’s Destin Sandlin that he launched his own research effort to study the phenomenon and capture it using high-speed video. Four years […]
While it’s fun to watch Hollywood action heroes hack into cameras to spy on their targets, the thought of an actual cybercriminal using our own security devices against us is chilling for most. That’s what makes the iPM World HD 360 Degree 1080p Wireless IP Camera essential for anyone looking to deter digital and physical intruders […]
Spring came and went, but we’re not here to judge if you didn’t get around to cleaning up your living space. After all, taking the time to vacuum your floors can stretch out into a lengthy task when you’re constantly switching between power outlets and trying to jam your machine into those tight corners. With […]
Projects big and small always go smoother when the whole team is collaborating, but members tend to get lost once the conference call ends. Timelinr is a project management solution that helps keep your stakeholders, team, and clients in the loop with high-level project roadmaps and granular task boards. Subscriptions are available today for $49.99. […]