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SGS Biology

Is there life out there…..?

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The BBC have recently reported on the latest planetary object that they say is likely to be supporting life. Whilst this all sounds very exciting is this getting us any closer to answering whether there is life out there in the universe?  I’ve briefly covered these some of the issues surrounding this before but from a different angle, looking at the nature of why we have not been contacted by life outside our planet: http://www.sgsbiology.co.uk/planet-hunting/

The BBC article however specifically identifies with the issues surrounding the exact conditions necessary from a planet to support life: namely the ”Goldilocks Zone”.  This region has sufficient atmospheric pressure to maintain liquid water on its surface.  With the seemingly endless supply of galaxies out there and the notion that Earth is not an exceptional planet in terms of it’s mass or distance to the sun, many believe there must be other planets out there like ours to support life.  However, this is a very simplistic view and many features need to be in place for there to be life at all – let alone intelligent life.  These include:

  • the right distance from the nearest star and the right distance from the centre of the galaxy
  • a star of the right kind of mass
  • a planet of the right mass
  • oceans
  • a continuously stable orbit
  • a large enough nearby moon
  • plate tectonics
  • an evolutionary trigger for complex life
  • enough time since the big bang for evolution to have occurred

As can be seen this does mean there is a lot of people who are very sceptical, believing in a ‘Rare Earth hypothesis.  This is countered by the idea that we are not only finding new suitable planets all the time, but perhaps life on other planets can not only occur in the absence of oxygen, but perhaps without DNA also, using a completely different system of heredity.   So where do you stand with this great scientific question that no one knows the answer to…..yet!


Into Oblivion!

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This new science fiction film currently in cinemas is another visual masterpiece.  There are some stunning scenes of a space ship flying over an old and decrepit earth which contrast so sharply to the pristine and polished tablet technology used by the characters.

oblivion-movie

 

However, more is afoot than the mere clearing up of earth……we get a front row seat to witness what it would be like to have a fist fight with your own clone!  Amongst this one also gets to observe what it would be like to come to the realisation that you are a clone of many thousands of ‘you’ and that you were definitely not the original. 

The film provides a decent portrayal and forces you to reflect on what you would do if you were faced with your own ‘self’.  I’m not sure I’d cope as well as the character did here!


A homage to the British expedition team in the Antarctic

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This British crew were doing real science out in the field going to the edges of where we can get to on this planet, and trying to find out answers to questions relating to whether life existed in the frozen lake Ellsworth 3km below the ice. BBC cover the basics (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20850126) but their own website has a number of fascinating live feeds and vide: http://www.ellsworthlive.org.uk/
Although it did not end in success, what a valiant effort from the team and it is worth reading their final comments:


Human Brain Project!

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Science is not just a body of facts, or even a particular way of studying something, but also a group of people.  Studying something as complex as the human brain is not only about a few scientists in one university doing experiments, but a whole host of multinational bodies coming together to pool their resources and findings to move this field of science forward.  This is the essence of the Human Brain Project.  Something incredibly ambitious but with huge possible ramifications for overcoming neurological diseases and to help move computing power forward into the twenty-first century.  This has now begun, but who knows exactly where it will end up…..


The Beauty of TRIMs

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Me gusta TRIMs – the extent of my Spanish knowledge.

TRIMs are extremely awesome and extremely important. Without them in fact, our body would be helpless against all sorts of bacterial infections and viruses.

For those of you who don’t know, TRIM stands for Tri-partite motif-containing proteins… which is basically a posh name for an antibody that has the purpose of binding onto specific immunoglobins. E.g. TRIM21 binds onto Immunoglobin G and M…

So anyway, what do TRIMs really do and what is their role in our constant war against pathogens?

Well, to put it simply… TRIMs are involved in pathogen-recognition and are created by the body to patrol the body’s pathways.

AND SO TO FINISH!

TRIMs are awesome and very amesomerespecterest… I LOVE TRIMs!


Advice to young budding scientists

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This short talk is from famous American biologist Edward Osborne Wilson who is extensively experienced and incredibly insightful.  This, I believe, will be a seminal talk in the years to come.  Enjoy!


thomas davisthomas davis