Thursday, November 30, 2017
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
The Fungus That Turns Ants Into Zombies Is More Diabolical Than We Realized:
Carpenter ants of the Brazilian rain forest have it rough. When one of these insects gets infected by a certain fungus, it turns into a so-called “zombie ant” and is no longer in control of its actions. Manipulated by the parasite, an infected ant will leave the cozy confines of its arboreal home and head to the forest floor—an area more suitable for fungal growth. After parking itself on the underside of a leaf, the zombified ant anchors itself into place by chomping down onto the foliage. This marks the victim’s final act. From here, the fungus continues to grow and fester inside the ant’s body, eventually piercing through the ant’s head and releasing its fungal spores. This entire process, from start to finish, can take upwards of ten agonizing days
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Most Habitable Earth-Like Planets May Be Waterworlds:
A new study published in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society suggests that most habitable planets are wet. Like, extremely wet. Using computer models, astronomer Fergus Simpson from the Institute of Cosmos Science at the University of Barcelona found that habitable exoplanets, at least simulated ones, tend to be overrun by water, in most cases accounting for 90 percent or more of the total surface area.
“Larger planets are thought to be more prone to flooding for two reasons,” Simpson told Gizmodo. “One is that if they have the same composition (percentage of water by mass) then their oceans are deeper. The second is that their higher surface gravity makes it harder to have such large surface perturbations [dynamic topological features].”
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
The ability to copy information from one molecule to another is fundamental to all life. Organisms pass their genes to their descendants, often with small changes, and as a result life can evolve over the generations. Barring a few exceptions, all known organisms use DNA as the information carrier.
A host of alternative nucleic acids have been made in labs over the years, but no one has made them work like DNA.
This problem has now been cracked. “This unique ability of DNA and RNA to encode information can be implemented in other backbones,” says Philipp Holliger of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Friday, October 20, 2017
All quotes from this story, and lots more information here:
New Theory Suggests Life Can Emerge On Planets Without Water
A new theory upends this assumption by suggesting that alien life could thrive on "supercritical carbon dioxide" instead.
Carbon dioxide becomes supercritical when its temperature exceeds 305 degrees Kelvin (about 88 F) and its pressure goes beyond 72.9 the standard atmosphere (atm) at sea level (the kind of pressure you'd find a half-mile beneath the ocean surface).
Fascinatingly, the atmospheric pressure of Venus is about 90 times greater than that of the Earth, with an average temperature of 467 degrees C. About 97% of its atmosphere is carbon dioxide. It's possible, therefore, that the atmosphere of Venus is a SCF. And indeed, the researchers speculate that organic remnants of life could still be preserved in such a fluid.
Also an article in Space: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/11/16/alien-life-could-thrive-on-supercritical-co2-instead-water/
And the original research: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-1729/4/3/331
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Thanks to a rare orbital alignment between Europa and Io, an international team of researchers has identified and tracked a pair of lava waves as they coursed around Loki Patera, which is larger than Lake Ontario, and with a surface area of 8,300 square miles (21,500 square km). The most likely explanation for this apparently periodic wave action is an overturning circulation pattern, in which cool surface crust slowly thickens and sinks, pulling nearby crust along with it in a wave that spreads across the surface.
Massive Lava Waves Detected on Jupiter’s Moon Io