Feature Stories

  • 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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  • Stuck in the Muck
    Deep beneath the ocean floor, microorganisms by the billions survive - but just barely. Measurements of the rate at which they carry out life's chemical reactions show that perhaps as few as one in a million is active.
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  • The Tree of Life: Cold Start?
    For decades, scientists have used a comprehensive tree of life showing heat-loving bacteria as the Earth's earliest bacteria. Now, a more accurate reanalysis of the data place those bacteria up among the leaves.
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  • The Life That Spawned A Quarter-Million Descendant Species
    The first cellular organisms with a nucleus, called protists, now comprise nearly a quarter-million named species. Including green algae and parasites, they make up the first link in the complex food chain that not only sustains all life on Earth, but modifies terrestrial weather.
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  • Concerted Evolution
    The rapid advances in genetic sequencing have allowed comparisons previously unavailable to those scientists who try to understand how such a complicated structure as DNA might have evolved. But communicating an entire organism compactly in code may require a more ancient art: the music
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  • When Did Life on Earth Begin? Ask a Rock
    Some of the oldest rocks on Earth, found in Greenland, hold important clues to life's beginnings. The problem is, experts disagree both about how to interpret the clues and about how old the rocks really are.
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  • Looking for Carbonates in Dry Places
    A research team claims it has found carbonates in dust around two dying stars, where water cannot exist. If the finding is confirmed, astronomers may have to re-think some assumptions about the presence of water during the formation of our own solar system. But both
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  • Studying Evolution with Digital Organisms
    Can we grasp the workings of Darwinian evolution by studying the behavior of digital organisms that exist only as strings of computer code? Scientists in Caltech's Digital Life Laboratory think so.
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  • Homing Signals
    Phoning home intergalactically may have one natural prerequisite if a civilization is hoping to connect: timing their precursor signal or 'ring' so that we might know that they're broadcasting. Dr. Robin Corbet, of the Universities' Space Research Association discusses his research findings on Synchronized SETI.
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  • Water Worlds
    Italian astronomers report on a method for water detection on extrasolar planets and cometary clouds, and their shortlist of candidates with promising initial findings from the 32-meter Medicina radio telescope.
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