The subseafloor is home to over one third of the bacteria on the planet, but up until recently it was unclear if this huge microbial biosphere was alive and dividing. Now, the same group that demonstrated this activity has shown that bacteria from the hostile sea-floor environment have adapted by over-activating stress response and DNA-repair mechanisms, to cope with the harsh conditions.
Subseafloor sediment contains the Earth’s largest habitat for microbial life – over one third of all the planets microbial biomass. By drilling deep into the sea floor and taking samples, it can be proven that the subseafloor contains a variety of microbial life forms, but it’s only in the last year that researchers have proven that sea floor microbes are actually active in in their natural sea-bed situation – it is difficult to analyze life forms that live hundreds of meters below the sea surface because of their low activity levels. A group of researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Univ. of Delaware developed techniques to analyze the messenger.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/subseafloor-bacteria-survive-over-activating-dna-repair
Climate Change May Explain Lack of Alien Encounters
Enrico Fermi, when asked about intelligent life on other planets, famously replied, “Where are they?” Any civilization advanced enough to undertake interstellar travel would, he argued, in a brief period of cosmic time, populate its entire galaxy. Yet, we haven’t made any contact with such life. This has become the famous “Fermi Paradox.”
So why don’t we see advanced civilizations swarming across the universe? One problem may be climate change. It is not that advanced civilizations always destroy themselves by over-heating their biospheres (although that is a possibility). Instead, because stars become brighter as they age, most planets with an initially life-friendly climate will become uninhabitably hot long before intelligent life emerges.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/climate-change-may-explain-lack-alien-encounters
Twenty-seven chemical elements are considered to be essential for human life. Now there is a 28th – bromine.
In a paper published today by the journal Cell, Vanderbilt Univ. researchers establish for the first time that bromine, among the 92 naturally-occurring chemical elements in the universe, is the 28th element essential for tissue development in all animals, from primitive sea creatures to humans.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/bromine-essential-life
Sheltered Life Breeds Evolutionary Success in Fish
Research into reef fish species diversity will provide conservationists with new information to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Univ. of Queensland researchers who looked at species diversity patterns through fish family trees for the past 100 million years have found that parents who guarded their young were more likely to yield new species.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/06/sheltered-life-breeds-evolutionary-success-fish
Volcano on Mars May Have Been Habitable
The slopes of a giant Martian volcano, once covered in glacial ice, may have been home to one of the most recent habitable environments found, so far, on the red planet, according to new research led by Brown Univ. geologists.
Nearly twice as tall as Mount Everest, Arsia Mons is the third tallest volcano on Mars and one of the largest mountains in the solar system. This new analysis of the landforms surrounding Arsia Mons shows that eruptions along the volcano’s northwest flank happened at the same time that a glacier covered the region around 210 million years ago. The heat from those eruptions would have melted massive amounts of ice to form englacial lakes — bodies of water that form within glaciers like liquid bubbles in a half-frozen ice cube.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/05/volcano-mars-may-have-been-habitable
China Tests Virtual Biosphere
Three Chinese volunteers have ended an experiment that saw them live for 105 days in an enclosed capsule, eating only laboratory-grown plants and insects. This was China’s first manned test of the “Moon Palace 1,” a 500-cubic meter module that is China’s first and the world’s third bioregenerative life support base.
The closed lab set on the campus of Beihang Univ. is a virtual biosphere, where people can provide food for themselves by cultivating grain, vegetable, fruit and insects. The system can also produce water and fertilizers, process waste and clean air.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/05/china-tests-virtual-biosphere
Sense of Purpose May Add Years to Life
Feeling that you have a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer, no matter what your age, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The research has clear implications for promoting positive aging and adult development, says lead researcher Patrick Hill of Carleton Univ., “Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose. So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur.”
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/05/sense-purpose-may-add-years-life
Astronomers Find Sun’s ‘Long-lost Brother’
A team of researchers led by astronomer Ivan Ramirez of The Univ. of Texas at Austin has identified the first “sibling” of the sun — a star almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust as our star. Ramirez’s methods will help astronomers find other solar siblings, which could lead to an understanding of how and where our sun formed, and how our solar system became hospitable for life. The work appears in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
“We want to know where we were born,” Ramirez says. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.”
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/05/astronomers-find-sun%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98long-lost-brother%E2%80%99
Honeybees’ Changing Roles Linked to Brain Chemistry
Scientists have been linking an increasing range of behaviors and inclinations from monogamy to addiction to animals’, including humans’, underlying biology. To that growing list, they’re adding division of labor — at least in killer bees. A report published in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research presents new data that link the amounts of certain neuropeptides in these notorious bees’ brains with their jobs inside and outside the hive.
Mario Palma and colleagues at the Univ. of São Paulo State explain that dividing tasks among individuals in a group is a key development in social behavior among Hymenoptera insects, which include bees, ants, sawflies and wasps. One of the starkest examples of this division of labor is the development of “castes,” which, through nutrition and hormones, results in long-lived queens that lay all the thousands of eggs in a colony and barren workers that forage for food and protect the hive.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/05/honeybees-changing-roles-linked-brain-chemistry
Hardy Little Space Travelers Could Colonize Mars
In the movies, humans often fear invaders from Mars. These days, scientists are more concerned about invaders to Mars, in the form of micro-organisms from Earth. Three recent scientific papers examined the risks of interplanetary exchange of organisms using research from the International Space Station. All three, Survival of Rock-Colonizing Organisms After 1.5 Years in Outer Space, Resistance of Bacterial Endospores to Outer Space for Planetary Protection Purposes and Survival of Bacillus Pumilus Spores for a Prolonged Period of Time in Real Space Conditions, have appeared in Astrobiology Journal.
Organisms hitching a ride on a spacecraft have the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies, making it difficult for scientists to determine whether a life form existed on another planet or was introduced there by explorers. So it’s important to know what types of micro-organisms from Earth can survive on a spacecraft or landing vehicle.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/05/hardy-little-space-travelers-could-colonize-mars
Viruses Hijack Deep-sea Bacteria
More than a mile beneath the ocean’s surface, as dark clouds of mineral-rich water billow from seafloor hot springs called hydrothermal vents, unseen armies of viruses and bacteria wage war.
Like pirates boarding a treasure-laden ship, the viruses infect bacterial cells to get the loot: tiny globules of elemental sulfur stored inside the bacterial cells. Instead of absconding with their prize, the viruses force the bacteria to burn the valuable sulfur reserves, then use the unleashed energy to replicate, eventually filling the bacterial cells to the bursting point.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/05/viruses-hijack-deep-sea-bacteria
Ocean Microbes Are Remarkably Diverse
The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences and interactions with other species. But the full extent and characteristics of diversity within this single species remains a puzzle.
To probe this question, scientists in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) recently performed a cell-by-cell genomic analysis on a wild population of Prochlorococcus living in a milliliter — less than a quarter teaspoon — of ocean water, and found hundreds of distinct genetic subpopulations.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/ocean-microbes-are-remarkably-diverse
Observatories Confirm First Earth-sized Potentially Habitable Planet
The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes.
"What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form," says Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center who led a paper published in the current issue of the journal Science. The region in which this planet orbits its star is called the habitable zone, as it is thought that life would most likely form on planets with liquid water.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/04/observatories-confirm-first-earth-sized-potentially-habitable-planet
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