Feature Stories

  • Evolution’s Sweet Tooth
    How did intelligence evolve? A scientist studying differences between humans and great apes may have found a biochemical step in that direction.
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  • The Driest Place on Earth
    How much water does life need to survive? Chile's Atacama desert hold some interesting clues - clues that may help researchers in the hunt for life on Mars.
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  • Europa: Chewy or Crunchy?
    For geophysicist William B. Moore, the question of whether life exists on Jupiter's moon Europa boils down to whether the moon's center is chewy or crunchy.
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  • Build Your Own Planet
    Build your own virtual planet, complete with weather, habitable tropics and a tunable thermostat. In reality, changing an entire biosphere would dwarf the limits of engineers' most grand projects: Hoover Dam, Suez and Panama Canals, or hurricane cloud-seeding.
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  • Minimalist Life
    Microbiologist Karl Stetter travels the world hunting game, small game. In May, he revealed the discovery of a new archaean, at 400 nanometers so small it rides the surface of another merely normally small archaean.
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  • Scouting for Martian Molecules
    Mars Scout finalists are this week's selections for the Extreme Explorers' Hall of Fame.
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  • Sunset on Io
    Jupiter's closest moon, Io, is revealed in new imagery at sunset, giving a stunning glimpse of a mountain nearly as tall as Mount Everest. Io's unique volcanism gives it heat far from the Sun.
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  • Ripples in Time
    Until the last fifteen percent of the Earth's age, the continents were barren, lifeless wastelands. Life had yet to hit the shore. But a kind of molecular clock says the hands of time may have started ticking many billions of years earlier.
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  • Aliens Depend on Time to Grow Brains
    To understand how intelligence develops, we have only one example to study: the development of human intelligence on Earth. Since intelligent life took a long time to develop on Earth, some believe it will take just as long on other worlds.
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  • Life from Scratch?
    As pioneers of the Human Genome Project announced their next target- life created de novo, or from a minimal genetic recipe- the debate heats up about what 'minimal' actually might mean when their prospective life forms start to take shape.
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  • Surviving the Final Frontier
    Could life on Earth have spread to other planets? Or the other way around? An idea nearly 140 years old is resurfacing in a new form: microbes surviving space travel inside meteorites. Shielded from the intense radiation of the sun, dried out microbes could survive
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  • Smoking Craters: Home to Martian Life?
    Mars may be smaller than Earth, but it's still huge to a roving spacecraft that can cover only 100 meters a day. For that reason, Mars mission planners must go to great lengths to find landing sites that might still carry evidence that life once
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  • Venusian Cloud Colonies
    Thick Venusian clouds mask a dense greenhouse atmosphere that is inhospitably hot. But 30 miles up from the surface, conditions suggest a more temperate zone. Some scientists wonder what strange equilibrium sustains a reactive gas mixture that shouldn't co-exist there: exotic biology or not?
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  • The Envelope of Life? Please
    What we think and what we don't know, strongly affect our method of studying life in the universe. Perhaps more than what we know.
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  • Martian Rocks, Robot Retrieves
    Remarkably, on average, one Martian meteorite lands on Earth each month. But finding these scientific treasures is not a job for a human, at least according to the Nomad robot - this week's entry in the Extreme Explorers Hall of Fame.
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