NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

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NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby LordHuffnPuff » Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:56 pm UTC

NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2


WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website at http://www.nasa.gov.

Participants are:
- Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
- Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
- James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

Media representatives may attend the conference or ask questions by phone or from participating NASA locations. To obtain dial-in information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole at stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov or call 202-358-0918 by noon Dec. 2.


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Bacteria on Mars? A discovery from Titan? Headline spinmaking to attract press? It's sure piqued my interest....

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby SummerGlauFan » Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:58 pm UTC

Exciting, I hope it's actually something they've discovered, and not just "hey, we have this idea that might make looking for life easier." Cool as that would be.
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Azrael001 » Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:41 pm UTC

I just started reading contact yesterday so this is kind of neat.
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Dark567 » Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:51 pm UTC

SummerGlauFan wrote:Exciting, I hope it's actually something they've discovered, and not just "hey, we have this idea that might make looking for life easier." Cool as that would be.

It specifically said "finding", which would hopefully its not just somebody thinking of an idea.
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:57 pm UTC

They have found that there's too many stupid people. Thus, they're colonizing Mars. You idiots aren't welcome.

Something like that.

Extra-terrestrial life would be nice. I'd like to see the religious nuts have at that for an explanation.

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Dark567 » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:02 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:Extra-terrestrial life would be nice. I'd like to see the religious nuts have at that for an explanation.

I have always wondered what there explanation would be, and then I asked:
"Well, God would have let them know he exists just like he let us know he exists"

I shouldn't have asked.
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Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby SummerGlauFan » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:10 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:Extra-terrestrial life would be nice. I'd like to see the religious nuts have at that for an explanation.

I have always wondered what there explanation would be, and then I asked:
"Well, God would have let them know he exists just like he let us know he exists"

I shouldn't have asked.


alien life != intelligent life. More than likely, bacteria on Mars would be seen as another creation of God, and not something that challenges their beliefs.

For those of us who are religious and not nuts, it's still exciting. It would also finally shut up the idiots who always try to point out that Earth is the only planet with life and is thus "specially blessed."

It did say "finding," and I hope it is alien life of some kind, but no point in getting my hopes that far up yet.

Edited because typing while multitasking on several other things leads to embarrassing typos...
Last edited by SummerGlauFan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:16 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby The Reaper » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:13 pm UTC

SummerGlauFan wrote:For those of us who are religious and not nuts, it's still exciting. It would also finally shut up the idiots who always try to point out that Earth is the only planet with lice and is thus "specially blessed."
God loves you but figures you forgot, so it sent parasites to let you know that it loves you more than bloodsuckers love your blood. The diseases are just an added bonus, to ensure the wholesale slaughter of only sinners.


Yay for aliens, be they macro or micro or just average.

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby SummerGlauFan » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:15 pm UTC

The Reaper wrote:
SummerGlauFan wrote:For those of us who are religious and not nuts, it's still exciting. It would also finally shut up the idiots who always try to point out that Earth is the only planet with lice and is thus "specially blessed."
God loves you but figures you forgot, so it sent parasites to let you know that it loves you more than bloodsuckers love your blood. The diseases are just an added bonus, to ensure the wholesale slaughter of only sinners.


Yay for aliens, be they macro or micro or just average.


I hate typos...
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I knew from that moment that she was something special"


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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby broken_escalator » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:26 pm UTC

Maybe they found a faraway galaxy that was communicating through binary...
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Soralin » Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:18 pm UTC

It did say "finding", but it also said a finding that will impact the "search for evidence" of extraterrestrial life. So I wouldn't expect anything too earthshattering from it.

But, it's fun to speculate, so while we're here.. :)

Hmm, the rovers that are on mars right now aren't really equipped for biology stuff, mostly geology, I wouldn't expect them to have found much of direct note, other than what conditions might have been like in the past on Mars. The next rover that's going to be sent to mars can test the chirality of amino acids I think, among other things, which could be a good indication of life, but it hasn't even been launched yet. As far as mars goes, you might get something like "Hey, you know that small amount of methane we saw being produced there, we figure that it's probably not from geological or chemical sources(or that it is)". Or that they tried looking closer at some of the mars-origin meteorites around and found something that they hadn't before.

Spectroscopy isn't too difficult, and could be done from a number of places. Finding free oxygen, or other various compounds where we weren't expecting to find them, could be a good indication of life at those places.

Or it could simply be something along the lines of, "Hey, we did this stuff in a lab and found out these set of molecules can form under these common conditions, so life might be relatively more common than we thought." Which seems rather likely.

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby frezik » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:42 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:They have found that there's too many stupid people. Thus, they're colonizing Mars. You idiots aren't welcome.


Would it be better to colonize Mars with the hairdressers, middle managers, marketing executives, and telephone sanitizers, or would it be better to leave them behind?
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby DrSir » Wed Dec 01, 2010 2:37 am UTC

Aww Soralin, you dashed many of my hopes :(. I'm really hoping it's something at least marginally groundbreaking...considering the scant details about the panel that will present and stuff, it should be something pretty interesting at least.

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:09 am UTC

frezik wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:They have found that there's too many stupid people. Thus, they're colonizing Mars. You idiots aren't welcome.


Would it be better to colonize Mars with the hairdressers, middle managers, marketing executives, and telephone sanitizers, or would it be better to leave them behind?

I see what you did there. And no, we tried that. Totally fucked things up.

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Cynical Idealist » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:30 am UTC

frezik wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:They have found that there's too many stupid people. Thus, they're colonizing Mars. You idiots aren't welcome.


Would it be better to colonize Mars with the hairdressers, middle managers, marketing executives, and telephone sanitizers, or would it be better to leave them behind?

I don't particularly care, but given what happened last time, we keep the telephone sanitizers.
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Internetmeme » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:54 am UTC

Cynical Idealist wrote:
frezik wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:They have found that there's too many stupid people. Thus, they're colonizing Mars. You idiots aren't welcome.


Would it be better to colonize Mars with the hairdressers, middle managers, marketing executives, and telephone sanitizers, or would it be better to leave them behind?

I don't particularly care, but given what happened last time, we keep the telephone sanitizers.

Well, it's not like Mars has trees or anything, so what would they use for currency, rocks?
Spoiler:

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Zanmanoodle » Wed Dec 01, 2010 6:09 am UTC

frezik wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:They have found that there's too many stupid people. Thus, they're colonizing Mars. You idiots aren't welcome.


Would it be better to colonize Mars with the hairdressers, middle managers, marketing executives, and telephone sanitizers, or would it be better to leave them behind?


You just made my day. Thank you.

Also, maybe they contacted the mothership that was supposed to come get me two years ago.

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Dec 01, 2010 11:01 am UTC

It's probably to do with that moon of Saturn where they've detected trace amounts of oxygen.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11834954
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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:04 pm UTC

They've clearly found some very confused Grebulons on Rupert (AKA Eris)
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Sharlos » Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:19 pm UTC

http://skymania.com/wp/2010/11/alien-li ... arth.html/

I wouldn't call it definitive about the conference, but it is interesting.

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:43 pm UTC

I'm sorry to ask, but if it uses DNA, how do we prove it is NOT from the same source? If DNA is the make-up of all alien life, it's a bit convenient that DNA and life spontaneously appears everywhere.

I'm always concerned Someone will "discover" life on another planet. When it really just grew from the mouldy sandwich the engineer left in the last probe by mistake.
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Thirty-one » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:49 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:I'm sorry to ask, but if it uses DNA, how do we prove it is NOT from the same source? If DNA is the make-up of all alien life, it's a bit convenient that DNA and life spontaneously appears everywhere.

I'm always concerned Someone will "discover" life on another planet. When it really just grew from the mouldy sandwich the engineer left in the last probe by mistake.


I'm not that into biology, so perhaps I'm misinterpreting the article linked to in the last post, but from:

All life previously discovered is of one basic type because it relies on phosphorous as an essential building block. The newly found microbes seem to use arsenic instead.
He added: “Phosphorous is key and absolutely essential for life. It forms the backbone of DNA. Every form of life of Earth we have known so far depends on phosphorous as well as another molecule called ATP, an energy storage molecule, or biological battery.


My understanding is that the life found in this lake isn't DNA based. Perhaps I'm way off though.

As for your worry that we'll travel far away from earth and come back with the "discovery" of some mould we brought along for the ride by accident, I'm fairly sure people will check for matches to known earth life.
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Soralin » Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:22 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:I'm sorry to ask, but if it uses DNA, how do we prove it is NOT from the same source? If DNA is the make-up of all alien life, it's a bit convenient that DNA and life spontaneously appears everywhere.

I'm always concerned Someone will "discover" life on another planet. When it really just grew from the mouldy sandwich the engineer left in the last probe by mistake.

If you can study it in detail, there are some huge things that you could look for that would indicate that it didn't share any recent ancestry with any life on Earth. for example, amino acid codons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codon Virtually every single living thing on the planet uses the same code, which is handy, because it means you can do things like insert the gene for human insulin into a bacterium, and have it produce the same result. :) There are only a few very small exceptions that have been found, where a single codon or two codes for something different in a specific organism, but even there, the rest still codes the same.

If you found an organism that used a different set of amino acids, or even if it used exactly the same set of amino acids, but a very different arrangement of codons, you could be quite sure that it wasn't anything that came from Earth. In fact, if you found something with the same coding scheme as Earth life uses, you could probably just toss it out as contamination right there. That's because there's nothing special about this specific coding, it's just what happened to get used very early on, and as a result, it got passed on to all of it's descendants, which in this case means all of life on Earth. And especially since it's not something that can be easily changed, try to change what a codon codes to, and suddenly every single protein which has that sequence in it is likely to not work anymore, since it was based on having the old amino acid in that position.

That's assuming that it's very similar to life on Earth, and doesn't use some other method of encoding altogether or such. But if it did that, it would be even more obvious that it's not from Earth. So even if it is very similar, that would be a good test, since it definitely should not be the same for two organisms that share no ancestry.

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Re: NASA calls Astobiology News Conference

Postby Rackum » Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:45 pm UTC

broken_escalator wrote:Maybe they found a faraway galaxy that was communicating through binary...
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That seems logical ... but if it had done things right we wouldn't have known it had done anything at all.

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Dark567 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:12 pm UTC

I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby bluestripe » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:15 pm UTC

Another article:

Spoiler:
A strange, salty lake in California has yielded an equally strange bacterium that thrives on arsenic and redefines life as we know it, researchers reported Thursday.

The bacteria do not merely eat arsenic -- they incorporate the toxic element directly into their DNA, the researchers said.

The finding shows just how little scientists know about the variety of life forms on Earth, and may greatly expand where they should be looking for life on other planets and moons, the NASA-funded team said.

"Life as we know it requires particular chemical elements and excludes others," Ariel Anbar of Arizona State University said in a statement.

"But are those the only options? How different could life be?"

The study, published in the journal Science, demonstrates that one of the most notorious poisons on Earth can also be the very stuff of life for some creatures.

Anbar, Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and colleagues found the strain of Halomonadaceae in California's Mono Lake, formed in a volcanic region and very dense in minerals, including arsenic.

The lake is teeming with life, but not fish. It also contains the bacteria.

"Life is mostly composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and phosphorus," the researchers write in Science.

These six elements make up the nucleic acids -- the A, C, T and G of DNA -- as well as proteins and lipids. But there is no reason in theory why other elements should not be used. It is just that science never found anything alive that used them.

The researchers grew microbes from the lake in water loaded with arsenic, and only containing a little bit of phosphorus.

The GFAJ-1 strain of the Halomonadaceae grew when arsenic was in the water and when phosphorus was in the water, but not when both were taken away.

"This organism has dual capability," Paul Davies of NASA and Arizona State said in a statement.

"It can grow with either phosphorous or arsenic. That makes it very peculiar, though it falls short of being some form of truly 'alien' life belonging to a different tree of life with a separate origin."

But it does suggest that astrobiologists looking for life on other planets do not need to look only for planets with the same balance of elements as Earth has.

"Our findings are a reminder that life-as-we-know-it could be much more flexible than we generally assume or can imagine," said Wolfe-Simon.

"If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven't seen yet? Now is the time to find out."

(Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Philip Barbara)


http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101202/sc_ ... c_bacteria

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby SummerGlauFan » Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:21 pm UTC

I am both interested and sad at this news.

Sad because no aliens have been found yet. :(
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby BlackSails » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:17 pm UTC

SummerGlauFan wrote:I am both interested and sad at this news.

Sad because no aliens have been found yet. :(


It would be an awesome discovery if announced by anyone else. But when there is a big announcement by NASA astrobiology.....

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Soralin » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:31 pm UTC

Well it's more awesome than some of my guesses were. :) We seem to be discovering a wide variety of conditions that life could survive in, on other planets, now we just need to go and actually find it. (Or if they are barren of life, send them some of our own. :))

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Greyarcher » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:42 pm UTC

Soralin wrote:We seem to be discovering a wide variety of conditions that life could survive in, on other planets, now we just need to go and actually find it. (Or if they are barren of life, send them some of our own. :))
Buff up our bioengineering and build some micro-organisms that can survive in harsh environments. Then seed other planets with them. :D Who knows, maybe in a few billion years it would become intelligent life.

That would be a pretty cool legacy. Though accidentally wiping out native life due to the foreign introduction would be uncool.
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Rackum » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:44 pm UTC

Greyarcher wrote:
Soralin wrote:We seem to be discovering a wide variety of conditions that life could survive in, on other planets, now we just need to go and actually find it. (Or if they are barren of life, send them some of our own. :))
Buff up our bioengineering and build some micro-organisms that can survive in harsh environments. Then seed other planets with them. :D Who knows, maybe in a few billion years it would become intelligent life.

That would be a pretty cool legacy. Though accidentally wiping out native life due to the foreign introduction would be uncool.

And then it could debate on whether or not the origin of life on that planet was a seeding project from some alien race that existed billions of years ago.

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:48 pm UTC

Astrobiology is a really weird field. On the one hand, we should be studying what compounds can be found around extraterrestrial space and how it could influence or be part of 'life'. On the other, it's at this point in time, not corroborated with anything 'astrobiological' at all. The entire field can basically be, instead, described as 'extremophile biology', or 'archaea', with a slant on looking at conditions expected in extraterrestrial environments.

It's sort of silly at this point. I mean, can we find life around metal etching acid that's hot enough to soften lead and so deep underwater that it receives no light from the sun? Sure! Does that mean Titan is chock full of sulfur eating acid loving pressure digging bacteria? Not even a little bit!

But honestly, any field of study that brings us closer to sex with blue aliens I'm all about. NASA, make it so!
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Thirty-one » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:59 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Astrobiology is a really weird field. On the one hand, we should be studying what compounds can be found around extraterrestrial space and how it could influence or be part of 'life'. On the other, it's at this point in time, not corroborated with anything 'astrobiological' at all. The entire field can basically be, instead, described as 'extremophile biology', or 'archaea', with a slant on looking at conditions expected in extraterrestrial environments.

It's sort of silly at this point. I mean, can we find life around metal etching acid that's hot enough to soften lead and so deep underwater that it receives no light from the sun? Sure! Does that mean Titan is chock full of sulfur eating acid loving pressure digging bacteria? Not even a little bit!

But honestly, any field of study that brings us closer to sex with blue aliens I'm all about. NASA, make it so!


It still makes sense in my mind to prepare a number of people to be somewhat ready to deal with the job of looking for life that might not look like what we're used to now, instead of having to train them later when we have samples ready or whatever. Whether or not it makes sense to call the field "Astrobiology" until that point isn't that important in my view (not really trying to imply it is to you either though).
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:25 pm UTC

I'm totally banking on the notion that NASA will need biologists to seed the canyons of Mars (!1!!!) with modified organisms.
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby SummerGlauFan » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:28 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
But honestly, any field of study that brings us closer to sex with blue aliens I'm all about. NASA, make it so!


I volunteer for those lab experiments...
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I knew from that moment that she was something special"


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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:29 pm UTC

I for one welcome our new heavy-metal based overlords!

*I know that arsenic is techincally a toxic semimetal, but it wasn't punny enough for me.
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Thirty-one » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:32 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I'm totally banking on the notion that NASA will need biologists to seed the canyons of Mars (!1!!!) with modified organisms.


Not sure if it's meant as sarcasm or what it is, but there is stuff beyond seeding life that these people would be useful for.
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Jahoclave » Thu Dec 02, 2010 11:57 pm UTC

SummerGlauFan wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
But honestly, any field of study that brings us closer to sex with blue aliens I'm all about. NASA, make it so!


I volunteer for those lab experiments...

Even if you had to wear a red shirt when you went down to the planet?




Also, NASA failed me. I had my students watch--well more like ignore and actually work on what they were supposed to--the press conference. While an awesome discovery, it was certainly not the kind of awesome that the amount of hype they gave it warranted.

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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby SummerGlauFan » Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:19 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:
SummerGlauFan wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
But honestly, any field of study that brings us closer to sex with blue aliens I'm all about. NASA, make it so!


I volunteer for those lab experiments...

Even if you had to wear a red shirt when you went down to the planet?


Well, I wouldn't be wearing it for that long. ;)



Jahoclave wrote:Also, NASA failed me. I had my students watch--well more like ignore and actually work on what they were supposed to--the press conference. While an awesome discovery, it was certainly not the kind of awesome that the amount of hype they gave it warranted.


Pretty much my feelings towards this.
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Re: NASA calls Astrobiology News Conference

Postby Sharlos » Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:25 am UTC

Well I dunno, finding out that life came into existence more than once on this planet, indicates it's not very improbable to occur given the right conditions.

And thanks to this discovery, we know those conditions can vary wildly.

Also, AFAIK, NASA didn't hype this up at all, people just saw the word astrobiology and jumped to their own conclusions.


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