Looks like it's possible that life on Earth came from 'Alien' beginnings
New Evidence Suggests Comets Carried Life To Earth
March 28, 2012
New evidence has come up that supports the idea that comets bombarding Earth billions of years ago carried and deposited the key ingredients for life.
Scientists reported at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) that the research is part of a broader scientific effort to understand how amino acids and other ingredients for the first living things appeared on Earth billions of years ago.
The team used laboratory “guns” and computer models to recreate the conditions that existed inside comets when these objects impact Earth’s atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour.
“Our research shows that the building blocks of life could, indeed, have remained intact despite the tremendous shock wave and other violent conditions in a comet impact,” Jennifer G. Blank, Ph.D., who led the research team, said in a statement.
Comets are chunks of frozen gases, water, ice dust and rock that astronomers consider a “dirty snowball.” They orbit the Sun in a belt located far beyond the most distant planets in the solar system, but periodically break loose and hurtle inward.
“Comets really would have been the ideal packages for delivering ingredients for the chemical evolution thought to have resulted in life. We like the comet delivery scenario because it includes all of the ingredients for life — amino acids, water and energy,” Blank said.
Evidence suggests that life on Earth started at the end of a period 3.8 billion years ago, which was known as the “late heavy bombardment” that involved comets and asteroids. Before this event, Earth was considered to be too hot for living things to survive.
The team set out to determine whether amino acids could remain intact after a comet’s descent through Earth’s atmosphere.
They used gas guns to simulate the temperatures and powerful shock waves that amino acids in comets would experience when entering the planet’s atmosphere.
The gas guns hit objects with high-pressure blasts of gas moving at supersonic speeds, shooting the gas at capsules filled with amino acids, water and other materials. The amino acids began linking together with proteins, forming “peptide bonds.”
The scientists said the pressure from the impact of the crash offset the intense heat and also supplied the energy needed to create the peptides.
Blank suggested that there may have been multiple deliveries of seedlings of life through the years from comets, asteroids and meteorites.
Also, the chances that we are alone in the Universe keep looking slimmer and slimmer...
Scientists estimate billions of habitable planets in Milky Way
This artist's impression shows a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc. (ESO / L. Calcada / March 28, 2012)
By Deborah Netburn
March 28, 2012, 1:17 p.m.
Looking for a new planet to colonize? A team of European astronomers says you've got options -- billions of them.
Using results from the High Accuracy Radical Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the European Southern Observatory, the scientists say there are likely tens of billions of planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone that may be able to sustain life.
They estimate that one hundred of those planets are in the sun's immediate neighborhood -- which in space-speak is 30 light years away.
The generally accepted (though perhaps shortsighted) definition of a planet that can sustain life is one that has a mass between one and 10 times that of Earth, as well as a rocky surface, and the ability to sustain liquid water -- meaning the planet's surface temperature is neither too hot that water would evaporate nor too cold that it would freeze.
Although there are no planets that meet those criteria in our own solar system, the report suggests that they are common around other stars.
For this study, scientists focused exclusively on finding planets orbiting red dwarf stars, which are fainter and cooler than our sun, but which make up 80% of the stars in the Milky Way.
After surveying a carefully chosen sample of red dwarf stars over a period of six years, the team concluded that 40% of all red dwarf stars have rocky planets roughly the same size of the Earth located in the "habitable zone."
"Because red dwarfs are so common -- there are 160 billion of them in the Milky way -- this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone," Xavier Bonfils, the French astronomer who led the research team, said in a statement.
There is a caveat, however, and it's kind of a big one.
Since red dwarfs are cooler than our sun, a planet would have to be much closer to the star than Earth is to the sun] in order for the planet's surface to be warm enough to sustain liquid water.
And as team member Stephane Udry of Geneva University notes, the planet may then be all the more susceptible to the "stellar eruptions or flares, which may bathe the planet in X-rays or ultraviolet radiation, and which may make life there less likely."
Which leads us to conclude that there is no place like home.
The company on Wednesday unveiled a long-rumored concept called "Project Glass," which takes all the functionality of a smartphone and places it into a wearable device that resembles eyeglasses.
The see-through lens could display everything from text messages to maps to reminders. They may be capable of showing video chats, providing turn-by-turn directions, taking photos and recording notes -- all through simple voice commands, according to a concept video produced by the company and released on YouTube.
Project Glass is nowhere near complete, and Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) says it only went public with its effort to gather outside feedback. The stealth project has been in development for two years by a small team of engineers.
The "heads-up display" glasses were born in Google's Google X lab, which is the same future-thinking research facility that developed a driverless car and is working on a space elevator.
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Google has no timeline for when the device will go on sale, but Google X engineers are beginning to use prototypes outside of the lab's walls.
One thing they're working on in field tests: The researchers haven't yet decided whether the glasses should be stand-alone or be wirelessly powered by a smartphone.
The precise look and feel of the hardware and software is still in the early design phase, but Google produced a concept design that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. They're not quite what you'd see on RoboCop or Geordi LaForge, but they'll never be mistaken for normal eyeglasses either.
The Google concept shows a video camera and a small piece of glass over the right eye, with no lens on the left. That half-and-half design was an intentional choice.
"We think technology should work for you -- to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don't," the company said on its Google+ page.
The software design appears a lot cleaner than the hardware, with friendly icons and unobtrusive notifications. But Google's concept video portrays perhaps the loneliest vision of the future ever.
A man starts his morning by putting his glasses on, then goes through most of his day talking to himself, without actually interacting with anyone face-to-face, save one friendly pat of a bulldog and a super-quick visit to a coffee truck with a buddy.
A notification delivered in the morning to "See Jess tonight at 6:30 p.m." turns out not to be an actual date, but a video chat. As the sun sets, Google's protagonist remotely serenades his friend's avatar with a ukulele.
What Google's final version will look like -- and whether it will actually end up on store shelves -- is anyone's guess.
But Google X's futuristic sketch proves that those little plastic rectangles we've been accustomed to communicating through could soon be outdated technology. To top of page