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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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ScienceShot: Building Blocks of Life in Titan's Atmosphere?
7 October 2010 4:26 pm
It's unlikely that the process produced Titanians, but experiments simulating the chemistry of the dense air on Saturn's biggest moon have yielded some of the basic buildings blocks of life. Today at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Pasadena, California, researchers described how they used radio-frequency radiation—a more convenient substitute for ultraviolet sunlight—to turn methane, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide (the main constituents of Titan's atmosphere) into glycine and alanine, the two smallest amino acids. The experiments also produced cytosine, adenine, thymine, and guanine, the four most basic components of DNA. And they created uracil, a precursor of RNA. The researchers said that because they achieved the reactions without the presence of liquid water, it's possible life could have sprung forth on Earth not in the seas, as commonly assumed, but perhaps in the planet's early atmosphere—a considerably thinner version of the fog enveloping Titan today.
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