The fifth regional heat of FameLab USA’s Season 3 took place at the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference in Chicago. Credit: NASA Astrobiology
The fifth regional heat of FameLab USA’s Season 3 took place in Chicago, IL, on June 13-15 in conjunction with the 2015 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon).
Fifteen early career scientists participated, and the research represented covered everything from the geological history of Earth to planetary atmospheres and the search for life on planets beyond our solar system! The first round of competition was held in The Field Museum of Chicago.
Ten of the fifteen participants advanced ...June 25, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Ice Ages that covered much of the world in glaciers is thought have occurred twice during the Cryogenian period, between about 720 and 660 million years ago, and again from 650 to 640 million years ago. Credit: NSF
Researchers have discovered what they think are fossils of a unique red algae species that lived about 650 million years ago during a brief respite between some of the most extreme ice ages the world has ever known. The fossils could speak to how life coped in the aptly named Cryogenian period, when glaciers held most of Earth in ...
An outcrop of fossil bivalve shells from the Miocene. Credit: UC Berkeley
Researchers studying living and fossil marine bivalves are providing new insights into how geographic range relates to the evolution of diversity in families of organisms. The study, supported in part by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program, focuses on how an organism’s position in a morphospace can affect evolution.
A 'morphospace’ is a way of representing an organism’s possible form, shape or structure. A morphospace has multiple dimensions, and each axis corresponds to a different character of the organism being studied. A single point on the morphospace represents an individual organism in the population.
The ...June 22, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...June 11, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...June 10, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...June 5, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...June 4, 2015 / Posted by: Miki Huynh
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 ...June 4, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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.June 3, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...June 2, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...June 1, 2015 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...May 29, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...May 28, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...May 28, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
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]May 27, 2015 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal