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Life from the Ancient Soup: The Miller and Urey Experiment

Alright, so we know how eukaryotes came to be, but how did life arise in the first place? In the early 1950s, an experiment performed by a couple of guys at the University of Chicago gave us a pretty good idea.

Early in Earth’s history, the conditions of the planet were relatively hostile. Temperatures were high, lots of energy was running riot (such as lightning, volcanoes, and UV radiation), and the atmosphere was reducing rather than oxidising, meaning that it was devoid of gaseous oxygen, but had plenty of methane, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapour and nitrogen.

Miller and Urey decided to simulate these early Earth conditions in the lab to see if they could produce some form of life. Basically, their aim was to find out whether these abiotic (lifeless) conditions were conducive to the rise of living organisms.

To do this, they sealed ammonia, methane, hydrogen and water into a closed, sterile system. Then they heated it to form water vapour, and passed electrical sparks through it to simulate lightning.

After a week or two of brewing time, they analysed their mixture and found that up to 15% of the carbon in their system had formed into organic molecules—most noticeably, amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are one of the three most important macromolecules of life.


(Image Source)

By themselves, amino acids are relatively small and simple, but together they join to build structures far bigger and grander than individual molecules: life.

So, Miller and Urey found that it’s a cinch to synthesise at least the building blocks of life out of some messy soup.

Further resources: Animation


The Far Future of the Universe

It’s natural to wonder what the future has in store for us. While we may not be able to predict what will happen to us tomorrow, science has made some pretty strong predictions about what will happen to the universe in the eons to come.

From the rearrangement of the constellations and meteorite impacts to the evaporation of our oceans and the stars themselves going out, there’s a lot of stuff to (not) look forward to.

Sure, the universe might not have a happy ending, but that just makes today more special, doesn’t it? Plus, BLACK HOLES.

Watch the latest It’s Okay To Be Smart (below) and I’ll tell you all about it!





GIF: SeaLaunch Zenit 3SL launches Eutelsat 3B.

Glad to see SeaLaunch get a successful launch under their belt after what happened last time.

I was sitting on console in the Mission Control Center as the Lead Propulsion Engineer for the spacecraft that was riding up on their last launch, which ended in spectacular failure and destruction of my spacecraft and the launch vehicle.

Sea Launch experienced some failures recently that led to the loss of vehicle and payload on previous flights. Yesterday’s mission was considered a successful return to flight that likely returned the company to credibility within the industry.

start of returning credibility. The launch industry is very risk adverse so it is likely going to take a few launches before the big players trust SeaLaunch again.


How Nanotechnology Could Reengineer Us

from Keithly:

Nanotechnology is an important new area of research that promises significant advances in electronics, materials, biotechnology, alternative energy sources, and dozens of other applications. The graphic below illustrates, at a personal level, the potential impact on each of us. And where electrical measurement is required, Keithley instrumentation is being used in an expanding list of nanotechnology research and development settings.



An Intelligent Rug That Detects When You Fall And Calls For Help

SensFloor, a large-area sensor system, is based on a textile underlay with a thickness of only 2mm. The sensor system has four integrated radio modules and 32 proximity sensors per square meter. Whenever a person walks across the floor, sensor signals are sent to a control unit and various different types of events are identified: The sensor system differentiates between a person standing or lying on the floor and determines the direction and velocity of movements. Static signal detection and self-test capability are important features for security applications. 

SensFloor switches lights, controls automatic doors, and detects unauthorised intrusion. In health care, SensFloor detects patients leaving their beds or their rooms and transmits alarm signals through indoor call systems or radio components. For high-security applicationslike access control in combination with RFID, SensFloor can count individual people

SensFloor can be installed beneath PVC, carpet, and laminate. 

[read more] [via Designtaxi]

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