The current line-up of BBC documentary series is a thing of wonder. It is as if one high-level BBC executive pondered his grade school experience watching those terrible state-produced, mundane documentaries and decided that “The Savanna” and “Your Home: Earth” deserved to be replaced with short films that would hold the interest of viewers and explain the world. Human Planet is an excellent example of this genre of educational and entertaining documentary fare.
Sadly, the BBC’s iPlayer isn’t available to people outside the UK, and people with aversions to nefarious endeavors will have to sustain themselves on simple YouTube clips for now. But there is good news for the future: the iPlayer app for the iPad and Android is rumored to be available in some international markets in the near-future.
At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.
But not this one. This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible.
Kottke.org postulates the existence of bacteria on Titan; Atlantic editor Alexis Madrigal says “Urm, I don’t think so”
So Jason Kottke did something called “research” and looked into the backgrounds of all the scientists at Thursday’s NASA press conference.
This was what he came up with:
So, if I had to guess at what NASA is going to reveal on Thursday, I’d say that they’ve discovered arsenic on Titan and maybe even detected chemical evidence of bacteria utilizing it for photosynthesis (by following the elements).
Then former Wired man and current tech editor at The Atlantic Alexis Madrigal had to go and quash the hopes and dreams of every nerd in America (and the whole world, in fact).
Damn you, Madrigal! At least give me Tuesday and Wednesday (and much of Thursday)!
In a media advisory posted earlier today, NASA announced that it will hold the a press conference at 2pm on December 2 “to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” The announcement is likely related to the recent discovery of Oxygen in the atmosphere of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.
And with wording like that, we can only assume that this is a truly major announcement. If it just turns out to be a dud — some non-announcement announcement — I sincerely hope their press release writers will soon be looking for another job.
The full media advisory is copied below:
IEEE Spectrum reports on a UC Berkeley robot gecko that uses biology-inspired three dimensional analytical models to right itself as it falls through the air, kind of like a cat, but more like lizards, of course, which can use the heavy weight of their tales to twist themselves right in mid air (and very much unlike me when I was five years old fell from the top of the playground and got a damn bloody nose).
Researches at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Center for Developmental Genetics were surprised to discover that nearly every segment of a fruit fly larva contains light-sensitive cells. The fly probably evolved this feature as a response to the need to avoid sunlight. The larvae must burrow deep into their chosen fruit, where they live off yeast. Too close to the fruit’s surface and not only do they run out of yeasty goodness, but they also get shriveled up by the sun and the elements.
Okay, I freely admit that I am no expert on either giving or receiving sponge baths. But even I can say definitively that this robot is years away from challenging the sponge bath pros.
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By Casey Reed via Wikimedia Commons
According to a new study published in Nature, a spectral analysis of the neutron star’s gravitational path proves once again that we have no fucking clue about what kind of matter makes up densest object we know.
It doesn’t matter what these stars are made of, just don’t forget to aim your Wii-mote around it to catch the Star Bits that came loose when the supernova collapsed in on itself.
This video is 2 years old, and we still haven’t had a follow-up on whether or not Håkan Nordkvist has a working time portal under his sink. Look at the grainy cellphone video &emdash; how much more proof do people want? Because if I traveled through time and met myself from the future I wouldn’t ask any questions that could help me. I’d just play a game of catch, shoot some video, and then crawl back through my time portal. Which is under the sink. In my kitchen.
Is it a hoax? Of course it is. But it’s a pretty decent hoax at that. Turns out it’s viral marketing advertisement for a Swedish pension firm. The most interesting thing about the hoax is that this Super Mario-themed, plumbing-based time travel scenario was take fairly seriously on the intertubes. There’s another video that explains the whole situation over at Metacafe.
There may not be any bat people on the Moon’s surface, but scientists have found the remains of a likely reservoir. A few weeks ago NASA bombarded the moon’s south pole with spent rockets full of sensors. What water they found acts nothing like how water does on Earth.
“None of the moon’s water is ever liquid. Water in its reservoirs can be imperceptibly sparse, flows into its reservoirs may proceed a few molecules at a time, and none may ever leave.”
Even more curious, the molecules seem to cluster around a thin belt around the moon’s surface instead of forming large pockets.
Still not enough water for Vespertilio homo to thrive there, but we’ll keep looking. After all that’s the whole point of this exercise isn’t it?