NAI

  1. FameLab at AbSciCon


    FameLab USA Facebook Page FameLab USA Facebook Page

    Season 3, Regional Heat #5 at AbSciCon in Chicago, IL

    The next FameLab USA competition will be held Saturday, June 13th, Sunday, June 14th & Monday, June 15th, during the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon).

    For more information, visit: http://famelab-eeb.arc.nasa.gov/competitions/season3-abscicon2015/.

    The preliminary competition round, lunch and the communications workshop will be held at the:

    Chicago Field Museum
    Lecture Hall 2
    1400 South Lake Shore Drive
    Chicago, IL 60605

    The evening competition round and reception will be held at the:

    Hilton Downtown Chicago
    Hilton Downtown Chicago Ballroom
    720 South Michigan Avenue
    Chicago ...

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  1. Molecular Crowding and Early Evolution


    A 3-D view of a model protocell (a primitive cell) approximately 100 nanometers in diameter modeled by a team of researchers at Harvard University. Credit: Janet Iwasa/NSF A 3-D view of a model protocell (a primitive cell) approximately 100 nanometers in diameter modeled by a team of researchers at Harvard University. Credit: Janet Iwasa/NSF

    Protocells are thought to be precursors to life’s first living cells and, in their simplest form, are a self-organized spheres of lipids. New research is providing insight into the environment in which protocells on the early Earth could have formed. The work indicates that protocells may have been crowded by small molecules and polymers. This crowding could have affected reaction rates, changed the structure and activity of water, and even enhanced the ...

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  1. Steps Toward Making Nucleosides


    A process known as intramolecular nucleosidation led to high yields of the molecule orotidine. This process could have implications for the prebiotic formation of nucleosides. Credit: Kim and Krishnam A process known as intramolecular nucleosidation led to high yields of the molecule orotidine. This process could have implications for the prebiotic formation of nucleosides. Credit: Kim and Krishnamurthy (2015).

    Astrobiologists supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program have provided new insight into a process that could have implications for the formation of nucleosides on the early Earth. A nucleoside is a component of genetic material in living cells, and is composed of a nucleobase attached to a sugar.

    The study, “Synthesis of orotidine by intramolecular nucleosidation,” was published in the journal Chemical Communications.

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  1. Impact Synthesis of RNA Bases


    Artist concept of the early Earth. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab Artist concept of the early Earth. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

    Understanding the origin of bio-organic molecules is a key step in determining how life on Earth began. In 1953, the Miller-Urey experiment showed that amino acids can be produced by electrical discharges in simple gases. Ever since then, scientists have demonstrated that many organic compounds can be formed from non-biological processes.

    Astrobiologists are now trying to determine how biomolecules used by life were selected from the complex mixture of molecules that may have been available on the early Earth. Of particular interest is the ...

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  1. Borucki Awarded 2015 Shaw Prize


    William J. Borucki awarded 2015 Shaw Prize. Credit: Service to American Medals/NASA William J. Borucki awarded 2015 Shaw Prize. Credit: Service to American Medals/NASA

    William J. (Bill) Borucki has been awarded the 2015 Shaw Prize in Astronomy. The announcement of this prestigious award, often referred to as the “Nobel of the East,” was announced yesterday in Hong Kong. The prize honors Bill for “his conceiving and leading the Kepler mission, which greatly advanced knowledge of both extrasolar planetary systems and stellar interiors.” The award will be presented on September 24, and is accompanied by a prize of $1,000,000 (US).

    Bill is in his 53rd year as a devoted civil ...

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  1. Euxinia in the End Triassic Ocean


    A new study shows that changes in the oxygen content at the ocean's surface may have led to an extinction event at the end of the Triassic. Image Credit: <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/centers/jpl/news/ A new study shows that changes in the oxygen content at the ocean's surface may have led to an extinction event at the end of the Triassic. Image Credit: NASA

    Researchers studying ocean chemistry around the end-Triassic extinction (ETE) event have revealed new details about how oxygen availability in ocean water could have disrupted Earth’s nitrogen cycle and the ecological turnover in certain groups of organisms. Their results provide the first evidence for what is known as photic zone euxinia (PZE) associated with this event in Earth’s history. The scientists report that if the conditions they found had developed ...

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  1. Conservation of Energy in Electromagnetic Fields


    Drawing of Faraday disk, the first homopolar generator, invented by British scientist Michael Faraday in 1831. Credit: Émile Alglave & J. Boulard (1884) The Electric Light: Its History, Production, an Drawing of Faraday disk, the first homopolar generator, invented by British scientist Michael Faraday in 1831. Credit: Émile Alglave & J. Boulard (1884) The Electric Light: Its History, Production, and Applications

    Poynting’s theorem deals with the conservation of energy in a electromagnetic field, and is typically applied to stationary circuits or circuit elements. A team of researchers has now applied the theorem to the homopolar generator. Instead of being stationary, the homopolar generator is a conductor moving in a background magnetic field. Their results reveal new information about how magnetic braking arises within Poynting’s theorem.

    The study was supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program.

    The paper, “Energy conservation and Poynting’s theorem in the ...

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  1. Hydrogen in Interstellar Ice Mantles


    NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, captured this colorful image of the reflection nebula IRAS 12116-6001. This cloud of interstellar dust cannot be seen directly in visible light, bu NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, captured this colorful image of the reflection nebula IRAS 12116-6001. This cloud of interstellar dust cannot be seen directly in visible light, but WISE's detectors observed the nebula at infrared wavelengths. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

    Researchers have developed a numerical model that could provide information about how hydrogen molecules diffuse on the surface of ice mantles on interstellar grains. Ice mantles cover the core of dust grains in dense interstellar clouds, and usually the main component of these mantles is water. According to the scientists, the method could be particularly ...

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  1. Distributing Marine Bivalves and Gastropods


    Right: This Xenophora snail from the Pliocene Epoch shows how it finds a way to survive by incorporating shelly material from other organisms into its own shell. Left: Bulk sample of several ancient b Right: This Xenophora snail from the Pliocene Epoch shows how it finds a way to survive by incorporating shelly material from other organisms into its own shell. Left: Bulk sample of several ancient bivalves (clams) and gastropods (snails). Credit: University of Cincinnati

    Researchers have produced a model of epoch-to-epoch changes in marine bivalves and gastropods during the Cenozoic period (65 million years go to present), providing a view of changes in distribution from tropical latitudes toward the Earth’s poles over time. The results show that climate change through the Cenozoic period had little effect on the migration patterns of ancient ...

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  1. Could ‘Green Rust’ Be a Catalyst for Martian Life?


    NASA’s Curiosity rover is among those machines that have discovered signs of ancient water on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona NASA’s Curiosity rover is among those machines that have discovered signs of ancient water on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

    Source: [astrobio.net]

    Mars is a large enough planet that astrobiologists looking for life need to narrow the parameters of the search to those environments most conducive to habitability.

    NASA’s Mars Curiosity mission is exploring such a spot right now at its landing site around Gale Crater, where the rover has found extensive evidence of past water and is gathering information on methane in the atmosphere, a possible signature of microbial activity.

    But where would life ...

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  1. The Order of Genes


    NJ phylogram, starting with 172 representative taxa, limited to only the 23 taxa found in the agreement subtrees for the 100 replicate trees formed using iterations of six predicted orthologs. Credit: NJ phylogram, starting with 172 representative taxa, limited to only the 23 taxa found in the agreement subtrees for the 100 replicate trees formed using iterations of six predicted orthologs. Credit: Figure 8, House et. al. (2015)

    Astrobiologists studying microbial genomes have found that determining the order of genes in an organism’s DNA could provide insight into how genomes from different organisms are related. The team took a large selection of prokaryotic genomes and developed a method for determining how closely the genomes were related to one another based on the conservation of gene order. In doing so, they showed ...

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  1. Carotenoids Through Time


    This National Weather Service photo depicts a turbulent sea surface in the North Pacific during a storm. Credit: NOAA/Historic National Weather Service Collection This National Weather Service photo depicts a turbulent sea surface in the North Pacific during a storm. Credit: NOAA/Historic National Weather Service Collection

    Current models of ocean redox on Earth suggest that anoxygenic photosynthesis in marine environments was more prevalent during Earth’s earliest time span (Precambrian) than during Earth’s current geological eon (Phanerozoic). To examine this theory, a team of scientists looked at products from carotenoid pigments in rock extracts and oils over a time period ranging from the Proterozoic (just before the rise of complex life) to the Paleogene (roughly 23 million years ago).

    Carotenoids are pigments that ...

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  1. Amino Acids in Chondrites


    Rumuruti (R) chondrites have been recognized as a chondrite group since 1994. The first R chondrite was found in Australia in 1977 and is known as the Carlisle Lakes R chondrite. Above are thin sectio Rumuruti (R) chondrites have been recognized as a chondrite group since 1994. The first R chondrite was found in Australia in 1977 and is known as the Carlisle Lakes R chondrite. Above are thin sections from Carlisle Lakes in plane-polarized light (left) and cross-polarized light (right). Image Credit: NASA JPL

    Many theories about the origins of life involve the delivery of organic molecules to the early Earth by objects from space. Previously, scientists have identified amino acids in carbon-rich meteorites. The abundance and structure of these amino acids can be very different depending on what type of meteorite they come ...

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  1. Calculating the Conductance of Ion Channels


    A molecular dynamics simulations of a transmembrane ion channel. Credit: <a href="https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/reports/annual-reports/2010/arc/origins-of-functional-proteins-and-the-early-evoluti A molecular dynamics simulations of a transmembrane ion channel. Credit: Pohorille et al. 2010

    Scientists supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program have used computer simulations and an electrodiffusion model to compute the conduction of simple ion channels.

    Ion channels are pore-like structures in cell membranes that regulate how ions move in and out of cells. In humans, everything from brain function to muscle contraction relies on ion channels. They are also essential in lower organisms, and help protect cells from toxins and antimicrobial agents.

    Ion channels are a basic mechanism found in all living organisms, and studying them could provide astrobiologists with important information about the origin and evolution of life on Earth. In addition, this research could have many applications in fields like biotechnology and medicine.

    The study, “Calculating Conductance of Ion Channels – Linking Molecular Dynamics and Electrophysiology ,” was published in the journal Journal of Physics: Conference Series.

    Source: [Journal of Physics: Conference Series]

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  1. Diversity and Distribution Around Hydrothermal Vents


    A view of a hydrothermal vent at the Main Endeavour Field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, snapped from the submersible Alvin. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution A view of a hydrothermal vent at the Main Endeavour Field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, snapped from the submersible Alvin. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    Scientists are studying barnacles that live around deep-sea hydrothermal vents in order to better understand the origin, dispersal and diversity of life in these environments. The study, supported in part by the Astrobiology Science & Technology Instrument Development (ASTID) element of the Astrobiology Program, indicates that barnacles have colonized deep-sea vents at least twice in history. A major lineage of barnacles that we see today originated in the western Pacific ocean during the Cenozoic, and then spread eastward through the Southern Hemisphere during the Neogene.

    Information about how and when barnacles became dispersed around Earth’s vents provides clues about the dispersal of other deep-sea organisms, and how the distribution of organisms shaped the diversity of vent ecosystems. The results could also help scientists assess the effects of human disturbances on life deep below ...

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