Can a Robot Build Itself?
September 30, 2005
The news media got a load of Joseph Jacobson’s toy robots that could make copies of themselves. Ker Than on LiveScience, for instance, called these “biological” robots: Inspired by biological systems, scientists have developed miniature robots that can self-assemble using parts that float randomly in their environments. The robots also know when something is amiss […]
How Much Can the Origin of Life Be Simplified?
September 15, 2005
“No problem,” a report from Spain’s Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona seems to say: “Life’s origins were easier than was thought.” (See also EurekAlert.) The problem they claim to have solved is described in their press release: In the primordial soup that produced life on earth, there were organic molecules that combined to produce the first […]
Next Generation Microchips Inspired by
September 14, 2005
An article in ComputerWorld1 reports that Hewlett Packard, IBM, Fujitsu, and Texas Instruments are putting effort into developing nanotechnologies for chip manufacturing based on a principle found in nature: the tendency of matter to fall into predictable patterns as molecules assume low energy states. There aren’t many structures that can be built today, but researchers are […]
Mars and Moons Shed Cocoons
September 13, 2005
With so many spacecraft touring our solar system, there’s almost too much news to process. Here are a few highlights, starting with Mars, then comets, asteroids, a Titanic puzzle, and what Cassini found mini moons ago. Mars Ice Age: Mars Express may have found evidence for deep ice deposits on Mars around the equator in […]
Comet Theories Vanish in Puff of Powder
September 7, 2005
They were supposed to be dirty snowballs, those comets, pristine relics from the primordial solar system. They were supposed to be blasting volatile ices from their interiors as they approached the sun. What are they doing with aromatic hydrocarbons, olivine, iron, clays and carbonates? When the Deep Impact probe hit its target July 4, it […]
Origin of Life: How Dry I Am?
August 23, 2005
Stephen Benner (U of Florida) has stopped looking for life in water. A researcher into the evolutionary origin of life, he understands that “water is a terrible solvent for life” – not life as we know it today, he means, but life at the beginning. This sounds strange, considering most astrobiologists believe in a “follow […]
Origin of Life Studies: Motion or Emotion?
August 15, 2005
Harvard is going to fund origin-of-life research to the tune of a million dollars a year, according to an AP release reported by LiveScience.com, MSNBC News and the Washington Post. The goal is to reduce life’s origin to a “series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention,” according to Harvard […]
Origin of Life: Can A Liability Be Turned Into an Asset?
August 5, 2005
Most of us know the Second Law of Thermodynamics (2TD) as the law of decay and disorder, and would tend to assume it would constitute a major obstacle to theories of the origin of life by chemical evolution (see online book); certainly creationists Duane Gish and Henry Morris frequently employed the 2TD skilfully in their […]
Tailpipe Soot: Can It Live?
July 28, 2005
Better stay clear of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). They come out of your tailpipe and furnace, line your chimney, and generally are products of unhealthy processes like industrial waste and cigarette smoke. According to Environment Canada, “PAHs are a concern because some of them can cause cancers in humans and are harmful to fish and […]
Life on Mars and Titan?
July 26, 2005
Life has not been found on Mars, but some scientists, according to National Geographic News, are worried that we are contaminating the planet with Earth germs that will make the search for Martians more difficult. Speaking of Mars, a report in Science Now claims that Mars rarely got above freezing in its entire history. […]
Astrobiologists Search for Lefty Life in Chile
July 13, 2005
The title isn’t meant to imply Chile is dead or devoid of left-handers. Instead, it announces that astrobiologists are practicing life detection strategies in the high deserts of that South American country, according to Astrobiology Magazine. Chile’s Atacama desert is one of the driest places on earth, with almost no signs of life. NASA scientists […]
Miller Time Party Drags On
June 16, 2005
Astrobiologists threw a party when a team of researchers decided there was more hydrogen in the early earth’s atmosphere than thought (see “In the beginning, hydrogen: was it Miller Time?, 04/22/2005). While this was good news for those wishing for better conditions on the early earth for chemical evolution, a few are staying sober enough […]
Mars Radiation Dosage Makes Life Improbable, Even with Global Flooding
May 18, 2005
An upcoming (June) paper in Icarus1 states, “ The biologically damaging solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation (quantified by the DNA-weighted dose) reaches the martian surface in extremely high levels.” Earth has an ozone layer and global magnetic field to shield out the damaging rays, but Mars has no known atmospheric filter. “Therefore, the existence of life […]
Self-Replicating Robot: Is It Alive?
May 11, 2005
The news media are all excited about a cube-shaped robot that, when stacked in threes, can make a copy of itself. The device, invented by Hod Lipson of Cornell, was illustrated in Nature.1 For a video demonstration, see MSNBC News. The BBC News quotes Lipson claiming that this achievement “shows the ability to reproduce is […]
In the Beginning, Hydrogen: Was It Miller Time?
April 22, 2005
A press release from University of Colorado says that the spark-discharge experiments of Stanley Miller in the 1950s (see 05/02/2003 entry) might be relevant again. Why? Researchers used new models to estimate the amount of hydrogen in the early earth’s atmosphere, and came up with numbers 100 times higher than before. If hydrogen did not […]