A new study suggests that rapid cooling within the Earth's mantle through plate tectonics played a major role in the development of the first life forms, which in turn led to the oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere. The study was published in the March 2018 issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Scientists at the University of Adelaide and Curtin University in Australia, and the University of California at Riverside, California, USA, gathered and analyzed data on igneous rocks from geological and geochemical data repositories in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States. They found that over the 4.5 billion years of the Earth's development, rocks rich in phosphorus accumulated in the Earth's crust. They then looked at the relationship of this accumulation with that of oxygen in the atmosphere. Phosphorus is essential for life as we know it. Phosphates, which are compounds containing phosphorus and oxygen, are part of the backbones of DNA and RNA as well as … [Read more...] about Did Plate Tectonics Set the Stage for Life on Earth?
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Research led by Kuhan Chandru and Jim Cleaves from the Earth-Life Science Institute at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, has shown that reactions of alpha-hydroxy acids, similar to the alpha-amino acids that make up modern proteins, form large polymers easily under conditions presumed prevalent on early Earth. These alpha-hydroxy acid polymers may have aided in the formation of living systems on early Earth. There are different theories for how life first formed on early Earth. One popular one suggests that life may have arisen in specialized environments, such as tidal pools or shallow water hot springs, where simple chemical reactions would have helped generate life's precursors. All life is made up of polymers, large molecules made up of a sequence of molecules called monomers. A key question is how biological polymers could have formed without enzymes on early Earth. While environments of early Earth might have had monomers that could give rise to life, it would have been … [Read more...] about Study Reveals Simple Chemical Process That May Have Led to the Origin of Life on Earth
The United Nation’s sustainability development goals can be met with the help of technology developed for outer space. This is what Danielle Wood, founder of Space Enabled at MIT Media Lab, explained at TNW Conference last week. Speaking about her work, she said: “We ask how tech from space encourages sustainability on Earth for everyone.” It’s mostly about satellites and how their capabilities let us better understand our planet, but Wood explains how we can move beyond current implementation to meet goals in the future. Satellites and sustainability There are 17 global goals of sustainability, and satellites play a large part in making them a reality. Satellites that observe the Earth give us data to predict droughts in impoverished areas, which can help us improve farming and prevent famine. This helps to accomplish the second goal of ‘no hunger.’ Many satellites also measure key variables on Earth, in the atmosphere, on land, and in the … [Read more...] about How space tech could solve sustainability problems here on Earth
The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin is partnering with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) at Columbia University to host one of the largest data collections for Earth sciences of its type in the country. The data relates to the Ross Ice Shelf, a massive slab of floating ice that is about the same size as the country of France. Over the past four years, researchers at LDEO have been flying over the frozen waters in the polar regions and collecting field data for the ROSETTA-Ice project, which studies the Ross Ice Shelf. The shelf is constantly fed by a flow of ice from glaciers draining from both the East and West Antarctic ice sheets. The field data includes crucial information on the shelf and the underlying tectonics of the Antarctic region. Ice shelves, like icebergs, lie mainly below the waterline. This means that the majority of the shelf is not visible without the use of scientific instruments. Studying how the ice, ocean … [Read more...] about TACC, Lamont Observatory of Columbia University Host One of the Largest Earth Sciences Data Collections in the Country
In October 2013, a moon-orbiting NASA spacecraft aimed a laser beam at Earth, 239,000 miles away. Within seconds, the intended recipient—an observatory in southern California—locked onto the beam of infrared light, invisible to the naked eye. Encoded inside the light was a high-definition video of NASA administrator Charles Bolden delivering a short speech. Bolden had, of course, recorded the video on Earth. NASA had first beamed the video up via laser link to the spacecraft, which beamed it right back down. “We’re making a leap in space communications ability that is unmatched in NASA’s history,” Bolden proclaimed in the video while flanked by US and NASA flags. It was—and still is—the furthest anyone has ever beamed an infrared laser message. But engineers at NASA, the European Space Agency, and private companies like Airbus are preparing more ambitious laser communications projects in the next few years. They think that … [Read more...] about How to Build a Space Communication System Out of Lasers