Category Archives: Bugs

VENUS fly-trap: An ALIEN INVADER?

drawing_of_venus_flytrapThat plant may be smarter than you think.
The meat-eating Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) can actually COUNT! CS Monitor

When a bug (okay, insect if you need to be precise) brushes up against one of the Venus Flytrap’s sensitive trigger hairs, nothing happens outwardly. The bug hits a hair again and the trap closes. The more it struggles, the more the plant is stimulated to continue the digestion process.

So why is that so remarkable or (gulp) smart? It’s because if a mote of dust or a leaf fell on the plant’s sensor hair, it would have wasted energy trying to digest something that was not nutritious. It learned and evolved over time, that more activity on the part of its prey, is better.

What’s curious is that the “Venus” Flytrap is only native on this planet to a certain small area in North Carolina, site of an ancient METEOR IMPACT CRATER!

Haha, I remember reading this in a John Keel book:

The famous Venus’s-fllytrap, a bug-consuming plant, has been found growing naturally in only one spot on the earth. That spot is an ancient meteor crater in North Carolina. Colonial Governor Arthur Dobbs discovered the flytrap in 1760, and there has been much speculation since then that the plant was somehow introduced to our world by a crashing meteor.

Hardly, but it’s a fun myth.

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NASA Floats Idea for Titan probe

A Submarine on Titan!

“We propose to develop a conceptual design of a submersible autonomous vehicle (submarine) to explore extraterrestrial seas. Specifically, to send a submarine to Titan’s largest northern sea, Kraken Mare.

This craft will autonomously carry out detailed scientific investigations under the surface of Kraken Mare, providing unprecedented knowledge of an extraterrestrial sea and expanding NASA’s existing capabilities in planetary exploration to include in situ nautical operations.

Sprawling over some 1000 km, with depths estimated at 300 m, Kraken Mare is comparable in size to the Great Lakes and represents an opportunity for an unprecedented planetary exploration mission.

This mission would be a logical follow-on to a Titan surface mission such as TiME (Titan Mare Explorer) or even a component of a flagship mission of multiple vehicles.

The mission concept we propose to study will investigate a full spectrum of oceanographic phenomena: chemical composition of the liquid, surface and subsurface currents, mixing and layering in the “water” column, tides, wind and waves, bathymetry, and bottom features and composition.

Measurements of all these aspects of Titan’s hydrocarbon ocean environment can only be made through focused in situ exploration with a well-instrumented craft.

This investigation represents a significant advancement in our understanding of the history and evolution of organic compounds in the solar system, and hence a critical step along the path to understanding the evolution of life here on Earth and potential life elsewhere in the galaxy.

Titan Submarine, or Titan Sub for short, will be a fully autonomous, highly capable science craft that will allow a complete exploration of what exists beneath the waves on another world.

http://www.nasa.gov/content/titan-submarine-exploring-the-depths-of-kraken/

Slim chance for life on Mars

3065b81600000578-3409278-image-a-16_1453331177007What Antarctica tells us about hope for life on Mars

We tend to assume that every sample of surface soil on planet Earth should be crawling with microbes, but in a corner of Antarctica (University Valley), not only one of the driest and coldest (-9 °F mean year-round) spots on Earth, but also high in elevation, scientists have failed to find life (i.e. microbial activity).

Now this would be a big “whoopie-doo!” from most quarters until you realize that these conditions in University Valley would be considered to be utterly luxurious in any place on Mars.

It was a big surprise for NASA. University Valley was specifically chosen to simulate the conditions around the Mars Rover.

Lyle Whyte, McGill university professor, said that if there is indeed no life here, which is what this study indicates, then the likelihood of finding life on Mars, where conditions are even colder and drier, is slim indeed.

“If we cannot detect activity on Earth, in an environment which is teeming with microorganisms, it will be extremely unlikely and difficult to detect such activity on Mars.”

Reverse-Engineering Aliens on Titan

We’ve been gazing longingly up at Saturn’s moon, Titan, since the Huygens probe touched down, and frankly, for some time before that. Although it’s very dark and cold there, Titan does possess some interesting features that might suggest some kind of alien life forms there: liquid oceans of methane. Also an atmosphere containing hydrogen, acetylene and ethane, each of which appear to be consumed somehow by some as-yet unidentified process,

Our Terran model of life depends on a membrane composed of two layers of lipids. The cell walls in your body are made in such a manner. This membrane was evolved with liquid water, and basically depends on the availability of liquid water in order to main cell function and – live.

Now on Titan, liquid methane is the way to play; water is only available as a solid, and the temperature is very cold. So what sort of cell membrane would have to exist in order for life on Titan to thrive?

I can’t believe somebody has worked this out.

From the research article by , and

“We take a step toward answering this question by proposing a new type of membrane, composed of small organic nitrogen compounds, that is capable of forming and functioning in liquid methane at cryogenic temperatures. Using molecular simulations, we demonstrate that these membranes in cryogenic solvent have an elasticity equal to that of lipid bilayers in water at room temperature. As a proof of concept, we also demonstrate that stable cryogenic membranes could arise from compounds observed in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan, known for the existence of seas of liquid methane on its surface.”

Is this what we will be encountering when we finally launch another probe to Titan?

Read the original report: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/1/e1400067

A bug that eats metal

Science continues to find life – on Earth! – that evades our definition of what life should be. That’s on Earth.

Scientists have discovered a “metal munching” plant (Rinorea niccolifera) in the Philippines. “Professor Fernando said that the Rinorea niccolifera’s leaves can take in up to 18,000 parts per million of nickel. This is a thousand times more than what any other known plant species can safely absorb.”

We need news such as this, to help us prepare for the likely undefinable life that we will encounter on other stars one day.

Of course, it’s ironic, that the first thought upon this discovery, is who we can make money from it, putting it to work in our mines.

http://www.chinatopix.com/articles/2285/20140513/philippine-scientists-discover-new-species-metal-munching-plant.htm

Inconceivable!

There could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive

http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2014/01/recognizing-extraterrestrial-intelligence-there-could-be-life-and-intelligence-out-there-in-forms-we.html

Absolutely what I have been saying all along: when we meet genuine alien life forms or intelligence, we will have difficulty recognizing it for what it is.

“They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology.”

The intriguing remark was made by Lord Martin Rees, a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England. Rees believes the existence of extra terrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.

“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains,” Rees observed.
An alien might have four limbs, just like we humans. Or it might sport 17 tentacles, depending on evolutionary pressures. We can observe, quantify and describe such things. But how can we truly gauge the workings of an alien mind?

 

Titan

Yes, one of my favorite places in the system surrounding the star called “the Sun”.

Titan is a large moon orbiting Saturn. It is remarkable in that it has lakes consisting of methane and ethane, which are liquid at Titan’s temperature.

Recently, waves have been observed in the surface of one of its lakes. 1

What’s so remarkable about that? Follow me.

There IS wind on Titan. The mostly nitrogen atmosphere blows enough to visibly sculpt dunes in the surface of Titan. Yet the lakes of Titan have – until now – not shown evidence of waves. 2

Methane, in its liquid state, has very low viscosity. Thus it should be easy for it to form waves. 3

Here we go:
Researchers had previously toyed with several explanations, including that the lakes may be frozen or covered with a tar-like substance that damps wave motion. 4

A TAR-LIKE substance? Think about that for a minute. If we know the physical characteristic of the liquid in this lake, and we have a ballpark idea of what kind of winds are blowing, then we should be able to predict what kind of waves we should see.

It appears that the waves are smaller and less frequent than we have predicted.

Is there something floating on the surface of this lake. Pond scum? LIFE? How would it survive there?

Well, we do have forms of life on Earth that are methanogens, meaning that they create methane in the way that we create carbon dioxide when we breathe. They are archaea, simply the most primitive and ancient forms of life on our planet. These MIGHT be the source of all this methane.

There are also methanotrophs, primitive lifeforms that consume methane.

Since Titan’s methane inevitably evaporates into space, something on the surface must be producing it. And something seems to be consuming atmospheric hydrogen at the surface.

I think it’s time to get ourselves back to Titan. There are just too many mysteries and opportunities for astounding discoveries on this remote rock.