Dust in the Wind Fertilized the Ice Age
Researchers from Princeton Univ. and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have confirmed that, during the last ice age, iron fertilization caused plankton to thrive in a region of the Southern Ocean.
The study published in Science confirms a longstanding hypothesis that wind-borne dust carried iron to the region of the globe north of Antarctica, driving plankton growth and eventually leading to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/03/dust-wind-fertilized-ice-age
NASA Plans Trip to Jupiter’s Watery Moon
NASA is plotting a daring robotic mission to Jupiter’s watery moon Europa, a place where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life.
The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson says that it will be launched in the mid-2020s.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/03/nasa-plans-trip-jupiters-watery-moon
Team Says Super-Earths May Be Dead
In the last 20 years the search for Earth-like planets around other stars has accelerated, with the launch of missions like the Kepler space telescope. Using these and observatories on the ground, astronomers have found numerous worlds that at first sight have similarities with the Earth. A few of these are even in the “habitable zone” where the temperature is just right for water to be in liquid form and so are prime targets in the search for life elsewhere in the universe.
Now a team of scientists has looked at how these worlds form and suggest that many of them may be a lot less clement than was thought. They find that planets that form from less massive cores can become benign habitats for life, whereas the larger objects instead end up as mini-Neptunes with thick atmospheres and probably stay sterile.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/02/team-says-super-earths-may-be-dead
Oldest Part of Crust Firms Up Idea of a Cool Early Earth
With the help of a tiny fragment of zircon extracted from a remote rock outcrop in Australia, the picture of how our planet became habitable to life about 4.4 billion years ago is coming into sharper focus.
Writing this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, an international team of researchers led by Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience Prof. John Valley reveals data that confirm the Earth’s crust first formed at least 4.4 billion years ago, just 160 million years after the formation of our solar system. The work shows, Valley says, that the time when our planet was a fiery ball covered in a magma ocean came earlier.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/02/oldest-part-crust-firms-idea-cool-early-earth
Organic Farms Harbor Diversity
On average, organic farms support 34 percent more plant, insect and animal species than conventional farms, say Oxford Univ. scientists. Researchers looked at data going back 30 years and found that this effect has remained stable over time and shows no signs of decreasing.
“Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” says Sean Tuck of Oxford Univ.’s Department of Plant Sciences, lead author of the study. “Organic methods could go some way towards halting the continued loss of diversity in industrialized nations.”
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/02/organic-farms-harbor-diversity
Life May Have Begun in a Drop of Water
Small molecules are normally slow to combine into larger ones. But in that case, how did big organic molecules, which make up life on Earth, first form? The answer might lie in a tiny aerosol droplet, an environment where this type of chemical reaction occurs much more quickly.
Creating a single large molecule is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. If you shake the puzzle out onto the floor, you can expect the pieces to fall into a disordered jumble, not into their correct positions. To put the puzzle together, you must spend time and energy increasing the order of the system.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/01/life-may-have-begun-drop-water
Researchers Make 21st Century Adaptation of the Miller-Urey Experiments
Today, Jan. 21, JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, published a modern approach to a famed experiment that explored one of the most intriguing research questions facing scientists today — the origin of life on earth.
The protocol, titled Conducting Miller-Urey Experiments, is comprised of a modern and simplified approach to the method used by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey in 1953. Their research evaluated the possibility of organic compounds important for the origin of life to have been formed abiologically on early Earth.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/01/researchers-make-21st-century-adaptation-miller-urey-experiments
Pregnant, Brain-dead Woman’s Husband Sues
The husband of a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman has sued the hospital keeping her on life support, saying doctors are doing so against her and her family’s wishes.
The lawsuit filed in state district court asks a judge to order John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth to remove life support for Marlise Munoz, a North Texas woman who fell unconscious in November while pregnant.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/01/pregnant-brain-dead-womans-husband-sues
Biology Puzzle: Why Do People Deteriorate?
Considering the enormous effort that goes into creating an entire organism from scratch, it seems odd that they degrade with time: after all, maintenance of the body should be a relatively minor task. Since deterioration with age (in humans this might be less elastic skin, weakening bones or memory loss) confers no advantage to the individual, why it happens has long been a puzzle to biologists. The esteemed Peter Medawar referred to it as “an unsolved problem of biology.”
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/01/biology-puzzle-why-do-people-deteriorate
Ocean Currents Shape Europa’s Shell, Impact Potential Habitats
In a finding of relevance to the search for life in our solar system, researchers at The Univ. of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research have shown that the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have deep currents and circulation patterns with heat and energy transfers capable of sustaining biological life.
Scientists believe Europa is one of the planetary bodies in our solar system most likely to have conditions that could sustain life, an idea reinforced by magnetometer readings from the Galileo spacecraft detecting signs of a salty, global ocean below the moon’s icy shell.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/12/ocean-currents-shape-europa%E2%80%99s-shell-impact-potential-habitats
Ancient Bacterial Ecosystems Found in Australia
Reconstructing the rise of life during the period of Earth’s history when it first evolved is challenging. Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare, but also almost always altered by hydrothermal and tectonic activity. A new study from a team including Carnegie Institution’s Nora Noffke, a visiting investigator, and Robert Hazen has revealed the well-preserved remnants of a complex ecosystem in a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old sedimentary rock sequence in Australia.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/11/ancient-bacterial-ecosystems-found-australia
Life in Harsh Environments Reproduces in Interesting Manner
A rudimentary form of life that is found in some of the harshest environments on earth is able to sidestep normal replication processes and reproduce by a back door, researchers at The Univ. of Nottingham have found.
The study, published in the journal Nature, centers on Haloferax volcanii — part of a family of single-celled organisms called archaea that until recently were thought to be a type of bacteria. The findings, led by scientists from the university’s School of Life Sciences, could offer new insights into how defective cells can multiply out of control in diseases such as cancer.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/11/life-harsh-environments-reproduces-interesting-manner
Lots of Oxygen Doesn’t Always Lead to Evolution
Any textbook will tell you that oxygen is essential for advanced life to evolve. But why did life not explode when oxygen levels rose dramatically 2.1 billion years ago? This is the big question after a Danish, Swedish and French research team, led by Univ. of Southern Denmark, has shown that the oxygen content 2.1 billion years ago was probably the same as when life exploded 500 million years ago.
Oxygen and advanced life are inextricably linked. Some simple organisms like bacteria can survive without oxygen, but all higher organisms need oxygen and the Earth’s biology would probably be a poor sight, if the atmosphere did not contain the 21 percent oxygen, which is essential for the human brain to function.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/10/lots-oxygen-doesnt-always-lead-evolution
Watery Asteroid Points to Habitable Exoplanets
The latest research on rocky relics suggests a distant planetary system, now past its “death throes”, had very similar water delivery system to our own — and consequently the potential to contain habitable exoplanets complete with water.
Astronomers have found the shattered remains of an asteroid that contained huge amounts of water orbiting an exhausted star, or white dwarf. This suggests that the star GD 61 and its planetary system – located about 150 light years away and at the end of its life – had the potential to contain Earth-like exoplanets, they say.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/10/watery-asteroid-points-habitable-exoplanets