Search for Intraterrestrial Life Scores Big

first_imgSingle-celled organisms may be tiny, but what they lack in bulk they make up for in volume and importance.  Scientists have been appreciating more than ever the ubiquitous presence of microbes on our planet and the roles they play to sustain the biosphere.    PhysOrg reported that half of the world’s life may lie below the land and sea.  Scientists at UC Santa Cruz are thinking earth’s “habitable zone” may extend much deeper than previously thought: to depths of hundreds or thousands of meters.  Microbes inhabit subsurface aquifers that could contain more water than all the rivers on earth.  The search for ET begins at home, they think: “Scientists say research on ‘intraterrestrial life’ complements astronomers’ hunt for ‘extraterrestrial life’ around other stars and planets,” the article said.    Of course, all life we know on earth uses the same genetic coding and translation system.  But the vast bulk of life on our planet may never see the sun, and some of it does not even need oxygen.  “Diving for Microbes,” an article in Caltech’s Engineering and Science magazine (LXXIII:1, 2010) discussed work to understand the microbes on the seafloor that digest methane and support entire ecosystems in the dark.  In passing, author Marcus Y. Woo gave some “wow factor” information about microbes in general:Scientists estimate that the planet has 5 x 1030 microorganisms—that’s more than a hundred million times the number of stars in the observable universe.  Scoop up all these little critters together, and they’ll weigh several hundred billion metric tons, a mass about a thousand times greater than that of all the people on Earth.  The majority of the planet’s microbes are believed to live inside Earth’s crust or just below the seafloor, regions that are scarcely understood and explored, so many more bug-based ecosystems are likely still undiscovered.    Often unjustly maligned, microbes are essential for life.  “They are an integral part of almost every facet of our planet,” [Victoria] Orphan [Assistant Professor of Geobiology, Caltech] says.  No species of archaea are known to cause diseases, and only a small fraction of bacteria do; most are harmless or even helpful.  Bacteria help digestion, and, as biologists are finding, they play essential roles in our immune systems and overall health….(For more on microbes aiding digestion, see this recent article on PhysOrg.  An article on Science Daily noted that there are more microbe genes in your gut than human genes for your body; so did the BBC News, that said your microbe passengers constitute a “second genome” of yours.)    What scientists are finding, therefore, is not only that we depend on microbes, which outnumber our own cells 10 to 1 as we live and move, but that they are essential for the habitability of the entire planet.  The methane-eating bacteria on the seafloor, Orphan’s team found, play a huge role in earth’s nitrogen cycle.  They are among the only life forms capable of “fixing” nitrogen from atmospheric nitrogen gas and making it available for use by other organisms.  “Without these microbes, the planet would run out of biologically available nitrogen in less than a month,” the article said.    Realizations like this are stimulating a flourishing field of “geobiology” – the study of relationships between life and the earth.  One member of the Caltech team commented, “If all bacteria and archaea just stopped functioning, life on Earth would come to an abrupt halt.”  Microbes are key players in earth’s nutrient cycles.  Dr. Orphan added, “…every fifth breath you take, thank a microbe.”    Since we depend on microbes so much, why not let them become our teachers?  Another article on PhysOrg reported about scientists seeking better ways to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, using sunlight.  They asked, “WWND?  What would nature do?”  They don’t have a particular microbe in mind that does this task, but realized that thinking like a microbe might provide a fruitful way to approach the problem.  An Oxford scientist commented, “We looked for a way that seems like nature’s way of doing it, which is more efficient.”Update 03/19/2010: Scientists at Michigan State found that microbes are important for promoting biodiversity and cleaning the environment, reported PhysOrg.  Because many of them can live for long periods in a dormant state, they can hold out in unfavorable conditions and respond to environmental cues.  “Microbes are the most abundant and diverse organisms on earth; they carry out essential ecosystem services,” said one of the scientists.  “Among these services are contaminant degradation, carbon sequestration and various processes that affect plant productivity.”Are you really an “individual”?  Yes and no; you couldn’t live without your contingent of microbes constantly at your service.  We are beginning to see biology as hierarchies of interrelated systems.  Who would have thought that our health depends on microbes digesting methane seeping out of the deep ocean?  Who would have thought that the air we breathe and the plants we consume owe their existence to hundreds of billions of metric tons of organisms too small to see?  Who would have thought that channels deep under the crust and ocean are thriving habitats for life?  Earth’s biosphere is a system of systems of systems – each of them showcasing intelligent design at all levels.    Unfortunately, some of the articles spoiled their otherwise good content with evolutionary non-sequiturs.  They told us that SITI is a first step to SETI – finding intraterrestrial life helps the search for extraterrestrial life.  That’s like saying finding a library in a large city will help locate libraries on Mars.  They told us that microbes were around billions of years before humans arrived – an unsupported assertion.  They told us that since microbes can digest methane on Earth, they might be digesting it on Titan.  Such statements serve little more than to restate reigning dogmas.  Learn to keep them separate from the observational facts, and you can still enjoy scientific articles.(Visited 15 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Environmental and economic rewards of Genome Project still emerging 20 years later

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Two decades ago, the corn plant got a huge boost with the announcement of the National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI). The historic research effort to map the corn genome has resulted in significant economic and environmental dividends for farmers and society at large.The gene mapping effort, which ran parallel to the mapping of the human genome, opened up a new frontier for corn that is still being explored today, according to Pam Johnson, a Floyd, Iowa farmer who served as the Chairperson of NCGA’s Research and Business Development Action Team and later as NCGA president.“The NPGI didn’t just build a bridge between scientific discovery and real-world solutions for corn, it laid the groundwork for a new interstate highway of discovery,” Johnson said. “Corn continues to be one of the most important crops for our nation and this will likely continue given the vision of early NCGA leaders and the large coalition they helped forge.”NPGI has funded more than $1.5 billion of genomic research to date and the undertaking continues to send ripples through the scientific community and agriculture.“Corn became the primary focus of the broader plant genomics project because of its economic significance and because of its complexity. The theory is if we could crack the secrets of corn, the knowledge gained could be applied to many other plants,” said Rodney Williamson, director of research and development for Iowa Corn Growers Association. “The idea of sequencing the corn genome was considered an immense and daunting task because it has one of the of the most complex genomes of any known organism. But we continue to see the payoff.”At 2.5 billion base pairs covering 10 chromosomes, this genome’s size is comparable to that of the human genome which explains why the data generated from the gene mapping will keep scientists sorting and exploring for decades to come, says Williamson, who was part of the group in 1997 that threw down the gauntlet challenging the scientific community.The new, emerging picture of corn helps researchers better understand its evolution and history. The crop was domesticated from a Central American grass called teosinte some 10,000 years ago. Much of the genetic diversity of maize, however, reaches nearly five million years back.“Today we are still investigating what each of the genes does with a new initiative called Genomes to Fields. It’s a big puzzle that we don’t have a complete map for yet, but the potential benefits and advances are mind-boggling,” Johnson said. “The data we have contains answers like the best way to adapt corn to different climates, develop more efficient corn plants, use less energy growing it, sequester more carbon and increase the supply of food and feed.”Williamson says the people in the nondescript hotel meeting room in 1997 contended the completion of the maize genome sequence would change agriculture and it has. Things such as increased breeding efficiency, streamlined delivery of new traits, discovering enhancements of properties such as drought tolerance, and a better overall understanding of the crop has enhanced corn’s position as the ideal crop for food, feed, fuel and industrial uses.According to the USDA, corn production in the U.S. has grown from roughly 9 billion bushels in 1997 when NPGI began to more than 15 billion bushels today. At the same time, the value of the U.S. crop has grown from $25 billion to more than $51 billion.last_img read more

Feeding Farmers Week One | Jeff Puthoff

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The Ohio Ag Net crew team traveled to West Central Ohio for the first of the Feeding Farmers events in 2019. Dale visited with Jeff Puthoff and his family who farms corn, soybeans, wheat, and runs a holstein feedlot operation.A notable crowd of about 40 turned out to the celebration where the group talked about their wet growing season and crops that are behind what’s been seen just south of the area.You can nominate yourself or a neighbor at agrigoldohio.com.last_img read more

The Perfect Wall, Roof, and Slab — Building Science Podcast

first_imgRELATED MULTIMEDIA Video: Superinsulating a Home with Rigid FoamA Home Energy AuditGreen Builder Won’t Compromise on the Envelope GREEN PRODUCT GUIDE Insulation Blown Insulation Batt Insulation Board Insulation Foam InsulationThe most important factors are often not considered in design, construction, and regulation; and the unimportant ones tend to have an overly enthusiastic and detailed amount of specs associated with them. The Perfect Wall has all of the structure to the interior and all of the control functions to the exterior. Let’s start at the outside of the perfect wall with the cladding. Cladding provides three functions: 1. Aesthetics, 2. Protection from UV light 3. Physical, mechanical protection of the other control layers. Aesthetics matter because people don’t take care of ugly things. Ugliness is not sustainable. The longer something is around, the more resources it consumes, so the more resource efficient it is, and the fewer resources it uses over its lifetime. We want a beautiful building that lasts a long time and is ultra-efficient. Claddings should be completely open — we want air circulation behind the cladding system. The more air circulation, the better the system works. Sealants are purely aesthetic, they’re not functional. If the sealants fail, the primary air, thermal, vapor and rain control elements are not affected. If we take the perfect wall and lean it, we get the perfect roof. From the inside to the outside, the control layers are:StructureVapor control membraneInsulationCladdingSome of the old-timers will recognize this type of roof as an IRMA — Inverted Roof Membrane system. If you replace the ballast with dirt, grass, and a goat, you would get a green roof. (That was a joke.) Flip the roof and you get the perfect slab:Dirt and stonesInsulationVaporConcrete (structure)The physics of a foundation, wall and roof are the same (this is an Ah-Ha! moment). When we look at a section of the perfect roof, wall, and slab, and we get the other Ah-Ha! moment — the important parts are the corners. You have to connect the rain control element of the foundation to the rain control element of the walls, the air control element of the foundation to the air control element of the walls, the vapor control element of the foundation to the vapor control element of the walls, the thermal control element of the foundation to the thermal control element of the walls… Pretty fundamental stuff. Most failures occur where roofs connect to walls _Tip: Buy multi-colored pens_ Whenever we do design reviews in our office, we tell the youngsters to take a colored pen and trace the rain control layer around the building enclosure. If the pen has to leave the paper, they’ve identified a discontinuity that needs to be addressed. Use a different colored pen for each of the control layers. Whenever the pen leaves the paper, you’ve identified a flaw. It’s as simple as that. We find that the flaws are concentrated at the connecting elements. Windows complicate the perfect wall Now these are pretty easy, but it gets complicated. In the real world, someone pokes a hole in the building and we call that a window. Windows have to do everything that a wall does, and more. It has to control water, air, heat, and vapor; you want to be able to see through it, and every so often someone is going to want to open it too. Windows can actually do all of that stuff, which is pretty amazing. No wonder they’re so expensive. All we have to do is connect the rain control element of the window to the rain control element of the wall, the air control element of the window to the air control element of the wall, the vapor control element of the window to the vapor control element of the wall, the thermal control element of the window to the thermal control element of the wall. The reason we’ve been having so much trouble with window-to-wall connections is because we’ve been relying on one person to do all of this: His name is “By-Others.” Mr. By-Others shows up on all of these specs and you have to make sure he is not going to be responsible for all of these connections. Someone has to be responsible. The window industry doesn’t do us any favors either — they don’t tell us in their window system which part of these windows systems are responsible for controlling water, air, vapor and heat. In the absence of guidance, we have to assume that the innermost component of the window is where all four of those functions collapse. So we wrap the window openings and make the connection at the back — so that if the window should fail, the water will go to the outside. That’s how you design a building: water continuity, air continuity, vapor continuity, thermal continuity. It can’t be that simple, right? Well, the answer is, “Yes it is.” Podcasts: Podcast:Air Barriers vs. Vapor BarriersHow Heat Moves Through HomesEfflorescence = Water Damage Insulation Retrofits on Old Masonry BuildingsHow Air Affects a House RELATED ARTICLES Insulation Overview Insulating Roofs, Walls, and Floors Installing Fiberglass Right” Insulation Choices Can Foam Insulation Be Too Thick? The Global Warming Impact of Insulation CONSTRUCTION DETAILS Building Plans for the Energy Star Thermal Bypass Checklist Energy Star checklist details Insulating behind tub with rigid foam Air sealing behind tub Foundation/Floor Intersections Roof/Wall Intersections Wall/Floor Intersections _This podcast series is excerpted from a two-day class called_ Building Science Fundamentals _with Drs. Joe Lstiburek and John Straube of Building Science Corporation. For information on attending a live class, go to BuildingScienceseminars.com This week Dr. Joe talks about enclosure design principles of energy efficient buildings_ _______________________________Let’s start with smart things The building enclosure has four functions. In order of importance, they are: 1. Rain control 2. Air control 3. Vapor control 4. Thermal control Thermal control is the easiest to specify, calculate, and measure, so that’s what codes focus on. Codes typically ignore the most important layers because they’re the most difficult to specify. The vapor control layer is easier to specify than the air control layer, so codes obsess over specifying the vapor control layer and ignoring the air control layer. Video:last_img read more

3 LeT militants gunned down in Kashmir’s Pulwama

first_imgThree Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants were killed in a night long encounter in Pulwama. Their charred bodies were recovered on Thursday morning.Police sources said all three trapped militants, who engaged the security forces in a gunfight on Wednesday night, were killed in a house. The house of a civilian was completely damaged in the encounter as it caught fire.The slain militants were identified as Majid, Irshad and Shariq. Two rifles have been recovered from encounter site. All killed militants were locals. One of the three militants is a teenager, aged around 14.The fresh killing takes the toll of slain militants to five in the past 24 hours.PTI adds…The encounter lasted for over six hours.Majid Dar, one of the slain militants, was involved in a number of killings, including that of sarpanch of Kakapora and district president of Pulwama, a police official said here.This is the first successful counter-insurgency operation in Pulwama area, which is believed to have large presence of local militants aided with a strong-network of over ground workers, he said.The successful operation is a big blow to the LeT terror outfit, which recently lost its commander Junaid Mattoo in an encounter at Arwin village in Anantnag district of South Kashmir on June 17, he added.This is the second successful operation against the terror outfit within three days.On Wednesday, two militants were killed in an encounter in Sopore township of Baramulla district in north Kashmir.last_img read more

Has Conte found a Luiz replacement in Ampadu?

first_imgChelsea Match-winner Morata & unlikely Luiz replacement Ampadu provide Chelsea with timely boost Nizaar Kinsella Click here to see more stories from this author Chelsea correspondent Last updated 1 year ago 06:02 12/21/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(1) Ethan Ampadu Chelsea Getty Images Chelsea League Cup Antonio Conte Morata Chelsea v AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth Opinion The Spanish striker netted the late winner against Bournemouth but the Blues’ teenage sensation turned in another hugely encouraging display lvaro Morata and Eden Hazard stepped up when Chelsea needed them most, combining for a sublime late winner just seconds after it appeared that Dan Gosling had earned Bournemouth extra-time in dramatic League Cup tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.It was a brief but decisive contribution from Spain international Morata, who had come on in the 72nd minute for the disappointing Michy Batshuayi.Morata’s dummy allowed the ball to find its way to Hazard, who took a touch before producing an audacious backheel to put his fellow foward in on goal.  Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player Morata prodded home to send the home fans wild and leave Bournemouth heartbroken. Indeed, there had only been 75 seconds between the winner and Gosling’s equaliser. Given the late nature of the goal, and the fact that Morata had been struggling of late, the former Real Madrid man celebrated enthusiastically but he was booked for doing so and will now miss this weekend’s Premier League clash with Everton through suspension.Alvaro Morata Chelsea BournemouthIn light of Batshuayi’s latest failure to convince Antonio Conte of his worth, that will once again leave Chelsea without a prolific No.9 against the Toffees.Still, there was one other big positive to come out of the quarter-final win over Bournemouth, with Ethan Ampadu having once again underlined his colossal potential with an impressive display. Ampadu filled the void left by the injured David Luiz and did so wonderfully well. The 17-year-old only finished school in the summer before then moving to Stamford Bridge from Exeter City and the clubs have actually yet to agree a fee for the prodigy. Whatever the eventual price, though, Ampadu will be worth it. The childhood Chelsea fan is not only the first player born in the 2000s to wear the shirt, he is also the first youngster to break into the side under Conte.His evening actually started poorly, with Ampadu picking up a booking after just 80 seconds of player for a mistimed sliding challenge that forced veteran Bournemouth striker Jermaine Defoe from the field.Ethan Ampadu Chelsea BournemouthHowever, despite having the threat of a red card hanging over him for the remainder of the game, he turned in a composed, commanding display, which was made all the more impressive by the fact that this was just his second start for Chelsea.He was undoubtedly aided by defensive duo Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger, who regularly advised him of the best positions to take up at the back.Of course, that level of understanding will come with experience but his comfort on the ball and physicality really stood out against tough opposition in Bournemouth. There will be some consternation that he has jumped ahead of so many academy graduates at Chelsea but Conte is only interested in players he feels capable of doing a job for him.Ampadu is clearly one such player. Indeed, on the evidence of Wednesday night, Conte may have even found the ideal replacement for the Luiz, given that Ampadu is just as adept as playing as a defensive midfielder.All of a sudden, the prospect of the Brazilian leaving in January doesn’t seem like such an issue.last_img read more