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Posts Tagged "astrobiology"

Cross-Check

Are Scientists on the “Cusp of Knowing” How Weird We Are?

In his new book Caleb Scharf writes: "So are we unusual or not?... Neither side is yet a winner. But we are much, much closer to an answer than we have ever been in the history of the human species; we are on the cusp of knowing."

I’m writing this post for two reasons. One is to recommend a new book by Columbia astrobiologist Caleb Scharf (who also writes a terrific Scientific American blog, “Life, Unbounded“), and the other is to defend an old book of mine. Scharf’s book is The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and [...]

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Guest Blog

Teaching Scientific Thinking and Encouraging Creativity with Astrobiology

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." ~Albert Einstein In 2007, a few graduate students at the National University of Colombia grew interested in astrobiology, the search for extraterrestrial [...]

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Guest Blog

Living Interplanetary Spaceflight Experiment–or Why Were All the Strange Creatures on the Shuttle Endeavour ?

This morning, the world witnessed the safe landing of the space shuttle Endeavour, after a 16-day mission to the International Space Station. For those of us inhabiting Earth’s more western time zones, we got to watch the landing last night, with no inconvenience, other than having to divert from the Colbert Report. While I did [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Have we got Solar System Habitability Backwards?

(NASA)

Enceladus, Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Triton, Pluto, Eris…they may all have, or have had, large oceans of liquid water trapped beneath a frozen crust. That poses some interesting questions. I’ve written before on these pages (and elsewhere) about the wealth of evidence for internal bodies of liquid water in our solar system. Since the Pioneer, and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Tricksy Mars may be Obscuring Signs of Organic Matter

The view from Curiosity (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

[Correction: jarosite has indeed been detected on Mars, this post has been updated to reflect that fact.] Picture a hot volcanic spring. Mineral-laden acidic water flows through sulfur-rich rocks. A foul odor hangs in the air. For us it’s a nasty environment, best enjoyed through the lens of a tourist’s camera. But for tough thermophilic [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Is AI Dangerous? That Depends…

earth-ai-web.001

Somewhere in the long list of topics that are relevant to astrobiology is the question of ‘intelligence’. Is human-like, technological intelligence likely to be common across the universe? Are we merely an evolutionary blip, our intelligence consigning us to a dead-end in the fossil record? Or is intelligence something that the entropy-driven, complexity-producing, universe is [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Notes From The Frontier: Life’s Origins

(Credit: Wikipedia/Swollib)

I spent some of last week at a fascinating and lively symposium on the origins of life and the search for life in the universe, held at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. To say that the science under discussion was broad in scope would be the understatement of the [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Lost And Found On Mars

Close up, showing a possible partial deployment of solar panels (ESA).

Lost, presumed crashed, the Beagle-2 lander is finally located on Mars. Back in December 2003 a bold and decidedly British robotic device was released from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express orbiter. The $120 million Beagle-2 lander was designed to plunge through the martian atmosphere and parachute down to the surface. Once there it [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Will We Find Extraterrestrial Life In 2015?

ESO

Probably not, but just possibly yes. One of the reasons that the search for life elsewhere in the universe is so exciting is that it would take only one chance discovery, one lucky break, for all the walls to come tumbling down. But where is that revolution going to come from? Perhaps the best news [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Mars, Ancient Water, Deep Hydrogen, and Life

mars-earth.001

Two billion year-old water pockets and a revised deep hydrogen content are good news for Earth’s vast subsurface biosphere, and could offer clues to life on Mars and much further beyond. Excitement over the Curiosity rover’s recently reported detection of a ‘spike’ in localized atmospheric methane – persisting over a couple of months – is [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Cusp of Knowing and the Evolution of Science

(Credit NASA/JPL)

In a nice piece on his Scientific American blog ‘Cross-Check‘, John Horgan recently gave me some much appreciated praise, whilst provoking discussion on a contentious subject – whether or not big science as we’ve known it ‘may be coming to an end’ (John’s words). Wrapped into this assertion is the idea that fundamental physics and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Astrobiology Roundup: Planets, Moons, and Stinky Comets

707154main_astrobiology

Scientific discoveries across all fields just keep coming and coming. Here’s a small assortment of goodies from the past couple of weeks. How do you form planets around stars in triple systems? You feed them of course. New data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in northern Chile has probed the gas and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Complex Life Owes Its Existence To Parasites?

mitochondria.001

Is complex life rare in the cosmos? The idea that it could be rests on the observation that the existence of life like us – with large, energy hungry, complicated cells – may be contingent on a number of very specific and unlikely factors in the history of the Earth. Added together they suggest that [...]

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Observations

Live Chat at Noon Today on Dreams of Other Worlds and NASA’s Next Mars Mission

Robotic exploration of space is fascinating, complex and quite important to our understanding of the universe. To learn more about how scientists and engineers overcome challenges of robotic space exploration for successful data collection, join us for a live chat today (Tuesday, October 29) at noon EDT with Chris Impey, astronomer and author of Dreams of [...]

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Observations

How did life begin on Earth?

LINDAU, Germany—What steps led to the origin of life on Earth? Scientists may be zeroing in on that most profound of questions. “We’ve gone a long way to showing” the processes that “set the stage” for cellular life on Earth, Jack Szostak said Tuesday here in his talk at the 60th annual Nobel Laureate Lectures [...]

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