Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Scientists in Newcastle, England claim that they created mature, motile human sperm from scratch in a laboratory.  This would be the first time anyone has created human sperm.  Although the lab has officially announced their discovery, it will still take several years to perfect the process.  The research was conducted to help infertile men to have children. 

Sperm created by scientists

Sperm created by scientists

The scientists began the process by using stem cells derived from day-old human embryos.  The stem cells were placed in a chemical bath at body temperature to encourage rapid growth.  At a certain stage of growth, they were marked or “tagged” with a genetic marker to help the researchers identify germline stem cells.  Germline stem cells develop into eggs and sperm.  The male, XY stem cells underwent the meiosis, cell division producing haploid gametes.  Haploid gametes have half the number of chromosomes of a normal cell. 

The Cosmic Perspective

Scientifically, life is 

the condition which distinguishes active organisms from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, functional activity and the continual change preceding death.

I have no desire to alienate people by lecturing about what is right and what is wrong.  Your beliefs are your business, just as mine are my own ( I would gladly discuss my feelings in the comments).  That being said, we must begin asking ourselves deeper questions.  “What are my feelings about this?”  “Is it moral or ethical?”  It is important that we do not blindly follow religious leaders or scientists.  We must evaluate the facts for ourselves, and make an unbiased decision.  We also must be able to listen.  When you come to that final decision, we cannot be set in our ways.   Somebody could have a new, very insightful perspective about which you thought you knew everything.  New facts are constantly pouring in.  Knowledge is in a constant state of flux.  And remember, people are zealous for causes when they are not sure their ideas are true.


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The Phoenix lander’s analysis of soil samples taken on Mars has found possible traces of a harmful chemical contaminant called perchlorate, a highly oxidizing substance which is detrimental to life according to NASA.

Perchlorate is a chemical found in rocket fuel; is harmful to life.

Perchlorate is a chemical found in rocket fuel; is harmful to life.

The tests, however were of very preliminary quality.  Thanks to the extended mission, the lander will be able to do more conclusive tests on the substance found in two separate soil samples.  There is a definite possibility that the perchlorate readings were caused by the spacecraft itself rather than the soil sources. 

The water found a few days ago, however, did not contain any perchlorate, adding to the mystery.  The soil samples containing percholorate were analyzed by the Wet Chemistry Lab of the spacecraft’s Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer.  The Phoenix team is also waiting for complementary results from the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, which also is capable of detecting perchlorate, it added.   This is the device that detected the presence of water on the Martian surface.

And although important nutrients including sodium, potassium and magnesium had been discovered on Mars, no organic materials had been found so far, possibly caused by the perchlorate.

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NASA scientists have confirmed that the Phoenix lander exploring Mars has found on the planet after analysis of a surface soil sample.  The discovery was made after the lander’s robotic arm delivered a sample this week to an instrument (Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer) on-board the lander that identifies the resulting vapors by heating samples.
The Phoenix using its mechanical probe to dig out some ice for analysis.

The Phoenix using its mechanical probe to dig out some ice for analysis.

 NASA officials also said that the Phoenix’s mission had been extended until the end of September as a result of its success.  The lander dug a number of small holes into Martian soil after touching down near the planet’s north pole on May 25, revealing a white substance that scientists have now confirmed as ice.  Although evidence for water ice was often speculated from observations made by the Mars Odyssey orbiter, this is the first confirmed collection of water on the Red Planet. 

The ice scooped up by Phoenix’s robotic digging arm is being analyzed to see if conditions on Mars could have supported life.  The detection of water suggests that there were in fact materials at one point in time that were the basic ingredients needed to “create” and support life.  Despite important nutrients including sodium, potassium and magnesium had been discovered, no organic materials had been found as of now.

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A small unmanned spacecraft built and driven by NASA named the Phoenix landed on the icy northern pole of Mars at 4:53 PDT yesterday.  This is the first time that a spacecraft has landed on one of the poles.  This touchdown was particularly stressful as there were no cushioned landing gear on the craft unlike the previous Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers.

An Illustration of the Phoenix Landing

The craft, pulled by Mars’ gravity, screamed through space at somewhere around 12,700 mph before it hit the  atmosphere, allowing it to deploy a parachute to land safely on the ground.  Thus, the Phoenix ended its 10-month, 423 million-mile flight. 

NASA’s scientists discovered liquid water underneath the ice of the poles in 2002.  This mission was to sample the water and find out if life could be present in it.  NASA attempted a landing on Mars’ southern pole in 1999, but a problem (scientific calculations of distance are done with the metric meter, not feet NASA!) during the descent ended the mission with a bang.  The later Spirit and Opportunity rovers explored Mars’ equatorial region for signs of water existing in the past.  The Phoenix was built from parts of smashed up polar spacecraft.  Hopefully, we will finally find out if little green men (or bacterial life) can exist on Mars.

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Adult European River Lampreys live in the sea near the shore.  In autumn, adults usually undergo reproductive migration from the sea to the rivers giving them their Anglicized name.  During reproductive migration and reproduction, adults do not feed, but instead use their lipid reserves.  They spawn in pre-dug-out pits in river beds, after which they die.   

A European River Lamprey Mouth

The blindlarvae are filter feeders and live mostly buried in river beds where they were conceived.  When they reach around 13 cm., the larvae will metamorphose into juveniles and migrate back to the sea.  They will live there until they are ready to reproduce and feed on fish by sucking out blood and organs by latching onto the fish with their sharp teeth.  After all of the organisms’ tissues are eaten, the lampreys will detach. 

They reside all around Europe in temperate coastal waters.  They can grow up to 50 centimeters long and .15 kilograms. in the wild.  They have characteristic yellow dorsal portion (back)  and a pale white ventral portion (belly).

I found most of this information on a website begun by Dr. E. Wilson, a world renowned entomologist and ecologist called the Encyclopedia of Life.  Check it out for yourself.  http://www.eol.org/index

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World famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking believes that Earth is not the only planet that harbors life.  He is skeptical, however, of intelligent aliens who drive intergalactic space ships like in Star Wars.  He made these comments at George Washington University at a speech honoring NASA for its 50 years of work.

Dr. Stephen Hawking

“Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare,” he then quickly added: “Some would say it has yet to occur on earth,” stated Hawking.

Are There Jabba-like Aliens?  Probably Not.

Hawking compares those who do not support research for space exploration to be of the same mindset as those who opposed the Spanish government’s sponsorship of Christopher Columbus.  He believes that if the burgeoning human population is to continue to survive, we must search through the depths of space in order to find new inhabitable lands.  If we do come in contact with aliens, we ought to be careful of strange new diseases, or we may end up much like the native peoples of the Americas when they met the Europeans.

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