Well, the answer depends on what we mean by the “origin of life”. One could say that it all started 13.8 billion years ago with the birth of the universe – the “shock and awe” process we call the Big Bang. The impetus that kick-started the processes which led to primitive life-forms may have come from the seeding of our planet with molecules such as amino acids on asteroids, comets, stardust, or other cosmic bodies crashing into our young planet. Perhaps, the jolt to bring inanimate abiotic molecules together to form the precursors to biological molecules could have come from lighting strikes. This process of prebiotic synthesis was first experimentally tested back in 1952 by a graduate student Stanley Miller.
The now famous Miller-Urey experiment was an impressive attempt to show that it was possible to synthesis life’s building blocks by simulating conditions of the early Earth. With nothing more than hydrogen, water, methane and ammonia, Miller was able prepare a concoction of amino acids – the building blocks of everything alive on Earth. Continue reading
It happens at least once every month. Sometimes, rarely, it happens twice a month. It’s when lunatics roam the streets and when drivers get distracted by what they see up there in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a FULL MOON.
Yesterday, inspired by the beautiful sight of the Moon outside my window and soon after reading Thomas’s post about impact craters on the different hemispheres of the Moon, I wanted to find out if there were others around the world who were also thinking about the Moon. It turned out there were lots of people tweeting about the Moon (hashtag analysis suggested atleast hundreds of tweets per hour). Historical statistics suggested the around this time of each month, the webosphere goes wild about the Moon and so I began digger deeper. I plotted data from Google Trends and noticed how periodic peaks in searches for the keywords “Big Moon” coincided with the days around a full moon. Over the last few years, since social media took over the world, annual Supermoon events sparked the most interest with about 4 times as many Google searches than a typical day in the year.
So, what’s the fascination with the size of the Moon?
Alfred Nobel’s philanthropic gesture of establishing the Nobel Prizes enabled our society to annually recognise some of those who, in Nobel’s words, conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.
This is the story of how an annual event that celebrates the achievements of the Laureates, continues to spread the spirit of the Nobel Prizes and inspire the next generation. Continue reading
Last Saturday, Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott emphatically declared “Australia is under new management”. Since then, he has been briefed by a multitude of senior bureaucrats in Canberra. Apart from getting acquainted with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, our new PM has met the heads of Treasury and Finance, and the chiefs of the Defence Force and Department of Foreign Affairs. But what about the head of Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education? It seems like the PM-designate hasn’t yet sought* a briefing from this super-department… and that disturbs me. So is there anything we can do about it? Continue reading
What if you had just three minutes to leave your mark on the world? Could you share your contribution to humanity in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee?
In this age of texts, tweets and likes, it is time for young scientists around the world to join, the Three Minute Club. Recently, a multitude of top-rated journals have begun offering researchers the opportunity to summarise their work in a few minutes as video abstracts. See for example, Paper Flicks at the journal Cell or the AudioSlides offered by the journal publisher Elsevier. Continue reading
In today’s post, I was planning to tell you all about my trip in the last few weeks to Germany where I attended the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. This was an incredible opportunity to be inspired by 34 Nobel Laureates, discuss the latest in science and it’s role in our society, and meet other passionate early-career researchers from around the world. However, I would like to share some of the highlights from lectures at the meeting in this post, which are currently being processed by the media technicians at the meeting and so my post on my experiences at Lindau will happen at a later date (soon, I hope).
Instead, today I’d like to share with you a video that caught my attention last week as it offers stunning visuals that highlight the complexity and beauty of the Earth’s climate system. The 11-minute video, worthy I think of a re-post in our blog, was created by folks at the Youtube channel SpaceRip using material created at NASA from satellite observations. It is a good demonstration of how effective visuals can be to communicate science but also do interesting science by picking out signals which only become apparent when the datasets are viewed at different scales in time and space.
I encourage you to view the video in high resolution on your computer and share it with others. Then read this Scienctific American blog post for clarification of the science presented within the video by Eric Snodgrass (Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
We begin this week with what might seem to be a collection of random videos and stories that lead us from earthly elements to stellar spectacles. Individually, they are all interesting but there is also a common thread… Can you identify the “periodic” feature in all the stories?
The NEW Periodic Table Song (In Order)
You have probably heard the Elements song by Tom Lehrer or heard a rendition of that song by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). There have been a number of other interesting takes on it but this new attempt by ASAP SCIENCE to sing the Period Table in order of the elements for the 21st century audience is awesome!
I have always wondered if there will ever be a day when we shall be able to control time and space. You know, fast forward things we experience, then slow them down… Zoom into our world and then zoom back out simply with a two-finger pinch? For the time being at least, such control of our everyday experience seems to be in the realms of science fiction. But I recently discovered three new web-based visualization apps that can give us a feel for how useful such control would be for scientists.
Google Earth enters the fourth dimension.
I invite you to try out these novel ways of looking at the Earth, the planets and the stars! Continue reading
Microbes make the world go round. There are more microbial cells on you and in you, than your own cells – in fact 99% of them are not human! Some members of our microbiome enable us to digest the food we eat while others play an essential role in maintaining our immune system that fights off other pathogenic microbes. They are central to biogeochemical cycles of elements such as carbon and nitrogen and they have been doing so for billions of years. Long story short – you and I wouldn’t be alive without them!
Checkout the video Seven Wonders of the Microbial World if you want to find out more about the tiny critters that we depend on. Today, we pay homage to our most valued cousins – by talking to them!
Habemus Papam et Deus Particular – We have a Pope and the God particle.
The news bears an eerie likeness to Dan Brown’s plot in Angels and Demons.
Last week two important events took place. In the Vatican, the College of Cardinals were guided by the Holy Spirit (or so the legend goes) to choose Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. As the world learned more about Pope Francis (who as it turns out is a chemistry graduate), not far from Rome, in La Thuile in Italy, physicists upped the ante. Guided by results from the Large Hadron Collider, the physicists announced they were now sure that they had found the God particle.
So what? Well, in one meeting men dressed in red gowns chose a new direction for their institution. In the other meeting, men and women, some in suits, others in jeans, proclaimed it was time to move on to the next stage of understanding the universe we live in. As this is a science blog, let’s look at the latter news in more detail. Continue reading