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Showing content with the highest reputation on 10/24/2021 in Posts

  1. Ok, I've extrapolated a bit from the what this new technique can currently do, but if it can be successfully integrated into future planetary probes, then who knows? https://www.unibe.ch/news/media_news/media_relations_e/media_releases/2021/media_releases_2021/scientists_detect_signatures_of_life_remotely/index_eng.html https://www.aanda.org/component/article?access=doi&doi=10.1051/0004-6361/202140845 I can think of several locations where this technique could feasibly be used in our solar system. Venus Last year the gas phosphine was detected in the upper atmosphere of Venus. Currently there is no known non-biological source of this gas, so scientists are scratching their heads, wondering how any airborne living organisms could survive the acidity of the Venusian clouds. Phosphine could be a biomarker or there could be some unknown, exotic chemical reaction happening on Venus that is new to us. So, no life, but a weird series if reactions that seem to be mimicking the appearance of life. An orbiter equipped to scan for the polarized chiral signature of life would be an ideal tool to investigate this mystery. Mars There's another gaseous mystery on this planet too. The gas methane has been detected in small amounts in the Martian atmosphere, with its concentration waxing and waning over time. We currently understand that methane can be generated not just by living organisms but also by inorganic geological sources. So, which is it on Mars? Finding the chiral polarization signal generated by life would settle the issue. Conversely, not finding that signal would also be a useful result. If Mars turns out to be sterile, that's actually a plus for human colonization. No need for stringent decontamination procedures as a part of daily life. Europa, the second Galilean moon of Jupiter We know that there is a large subsurface ocean of liquid water several kilometres under the icy crust of Europa. Our space probes have passed through huge plumes of ice crystals jetting out of cracks in this crust. If there is life in the dark oceans of Europa, traces of it could be found in the plumes. Scanning by a chiral polarimeter could reveal the presence of life-bearing molecules in them. Enceladus, the second moon outside of Saturn's rings Chemical signatures consistent with hydrothermal vents have been discovered in the plumes coming from cracks in the icy surface of Enceladus. Deep under the oceans of Earth there are hydrothermal vents surrounded by rich ecosystems teeming with microbial life, plants, crustaceans and other weird and wonderful living things. So, could there be the same in the Saturnian system? Once again, scanners calibrated to find the chiral signature of living molecules would tell us. Thank you. Walter.
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  2. The end is finally in sight for my "official" work life - I'm less than a year from my 65th birthday, and pension documents have automatically started arriving in my mailbox. I may stop altogether, but more likely I'll request a part-time position (say, four hours a day or three days a week) where I can work from home. It's been quite a ride - My college degree is in media arts, but I've worked at a lot of things: Accounts clerk, product demonstrator, dishwasher, waitress, painter's helper, printer, executive secretary, IT technician, teacher, medical transcriptionist. Seriously thinking of something that expresses my love of writing and of clarinets - writing or proofreading by day, playing in a band by night.
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