Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekly Science Roundup #10

They extract the preserved blood from the mosquito, and bingo: dino DNA!

...or not. It's Weekly Science Roundup Time!

1. Jurassic Park Just a Dream?

New research shows that DNA, like other chemical substances, has a decay rate known as a half-life. This research shows that DNA's half-life is 521 years. That means every 521 years, half of its bonds break (or decay away). Then 521 years later, half of what's left decays away. And so on, and so forth.

Practically speaking, this means DNA over 1.5 million years-old would be unreadable and basically just a mess of mostly broken bonds. After 6.8 million years, every single bond would have been broken and there'd be nothing left to even pick at. Therefore, 65 million year-old dinosaur DNA would be impossible to read, much less use to clone a dinosaur.

However, with this research being done on the bones of extinct moa (giant birds from New Zealand that died out thousands of years ago), it actually proves that cloning an extinct dinosaur is totally plausible. The moa DNA is less than 1.5 million years-old. We could therefore use it to bring back their species! Since birds are dinosaurs, we'd have actually achieved the Jurassic Park dream. It might not be a T. rex, but it'd still be bringing back an extinct dinosaur from the grave, which would totally count as awesome in my book.

2. Asteroid Fly-By

Lines point to the asteroid. Copyright: Gianluca Masi

Asteroid 2012 TC4 flew by Earth on Friday, just about 60,000 miles away from Earth's surface. That's only a quarter of the distance from here to the Moon!

However, the asteroid itself was only about the size of a house. Yes, a house is big, but a house-sized asteroid hitting Earth wouldn't mean worldwide devastation. Local devastation, sure, but not worldwide. ;)

In any case, scientists were positive it wouldn't hit our planet, despite flying by so close to us. But this is a great reminder of why we need to keep pushing forward with space missions and research. There are asteroids that come close to Earth, and at some point there's sure to be one that puts our world at risk. We know asteroid collisions are possible, we've got the brainpower to figure out how to stop them, we just need the funding to get the programs in place. Vote science! It may save your life! </minipoliticalstatement>.

3. Curiosity Finds Another Cool Rock!

In other space news, Curiosity is still shooting lasers at rocks and has yet again found something unexpected. 

Similar to a bizarre type of igneous rock from Earth, this rock likely formed from (possibly water-rich) magma getting pushed up through Mars' mantle. On Earth, the crystals in this only form when magma is water-rich, so this adds to the growing pile of evidence that H20 was present at least at some point in Mars' past, and possibly still around today. Eep! It's just getting more and more likely that water played a real role in Mars' past.

I hope I get to report again next Roundup about another cool rock Curiosity finds! Go, Curiosity, go!

1 comment:

  1. Way to crush my dream of meeting a T-Rex. :-P