Spring system made up of fettuccine rock at Yellowstone National Park. Tom Murphy "Fettucine rocks!" might sound like an advertising slogan for an Italian restaurant chain. But actually, the term fettucine rock doesn't refer to a tasty pasta dish, but rather to a geological phenomenon that scientists believe might provide an obvious sign of life on the planet Mars, if it exists there. The rocks in question are found on Earth in places such as Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. They're yellowish and contain crystalline formations that resemble layers of pasta, as researchers report in an article published recently in the scientific journal Astrobiology, and described in this University of Illinois press release. The interesting thing about the rocks is that their formation is controlled by a bacterium, Sulfurihydrogenibium yellowstonense, that evolved 2.35 billion years ago, which was before the oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere. Sulfuri microbes, as the … [Read more...] about Fettuccine Rock Could Signal Life on Mars
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Anthony Daniels, the man behind C-3PO, offered a cryptic tweet on Feb. 4 as Star Wars fans eagerly awaited the title of Episode 9, kicking off weeks of unusual Twitter activity."How strange. I am receiving images of something amazing coming towards us -- travelling over decades through space and time -- reaching out to all humans on this planet with its message," the actor said in a tweet that's best read in the iconic droid's British accent. "What could it be? Should I be afraid? Should you? Stay tuned." Fans immediately assumed that Daniels, who has played C-3PO since the original movie back in 1977 and completed his Episode 9 work on Jan. 28, was hinting at an imminent title announcement.But two followup tweets on Feb. 6 suggested that it could be something else entirely."Everyone -- except one -- is looking the wrong way... But it's getting closer... Amazing... Doesn't seem to be the right shape for a movie title or trailer... Can't see an X or anything... … [Read more...] about Star Wars’ C-3PO actor hints at memoir release after month of tweets
Jerry Ehman could not help scribbling 'Wow!' next to the sequence that seemed to suggest an extraterrestrial communication. The Ohio State University Radio Observatory and the North American AstroPhysical Observatory Thanks to NASA's Kepler mission, astronomers have identified more than 1,000 Earth-size planets in our tiny corner of the Milky Way galaxy alone [source: NASA]. Multiply those 1,000 potentially inhabitable planets by the vastness of space and time and it seems inconceivable that we are the only intelligent life forms in creation. Are we alone in the universe? This tantalizing question is what launched the first serious scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) in the 1970s. In 1973, the Ohio State University Radio Observatory — known as "Big Ear" — began scanning the skies for the slightest traces of extraterrestrial transmissions, blips in the deafening silence of space [source: Kawa]. And on an August night in 1977, the first … [Read more...] about How the ‘Wow!’ Signal Works
It's hard not to be a little disappointed that a comet seems to have been behind the Wow! signal. Wikimedia Commons/Art Montes De Oca/Getty It looks like one of the most famous signals in the history of searches for intelligent extraterrestrials wasn't triggered by chatty aliens after all – it was likely caused by a mischievous comet that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. On Aug. 15, 1977, Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope was fixed on three star systems called Chi Sagittarii in the constellation of Sagittarius as part of a SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project when it detected something weird. For 72 seconds, a powerful burst of radio waves erupted from deep space. On reviewing the computer printout from that observing session a few days later, astronomer Jerry Ehman noticed the strange clump of letters and numbers. To the untrained eye, the digits are nothing more than a random computer burp. But to Ehman, the message was clear: An … [Read more...] about The Famous ‘Wow!’ Signal Probably Wasn’t Chatty Aliens After All
The Kenwa center for HIV-positive women in Nairobi, Kenya Brent Stirton/Getty Images In the evolving world of AIDS prevention, the giddiness over studies showing that circumcision reduces a man's risk of contracting AIDS from an infected female partner has died down a bit in the wake of subsequent research. It now appears that a woman's risk of contracting AIDS from an infected man may be greater if that man is circumcised. But the latest news is not completely hope-dashing: The results are preliminary and might hinge on a major condition. In 2006, researchers released the results of three large studies that measured the effect of male circumcision on HIV transmission from female to male. The findings were incredible and consistent: Circumcision appeared to decrease a man's risk of acquiring HIV by 50 percent or more (see Why would circumcision decrease a man's risk of contracting AIDS?). But in sub-Saharan Africa, where almost 25 million people are HIV-positive, a majority of … [Read more...] about Does male circumcision up the risk of male-to-female HIV transmission?