Antimatter-Powered Supernovae

The largest stars die in explosions more powerful than anyone thought possible—some triggered in part by the production of antimatter

Image: Highest-energy supernovae might look quite spectacular from a planet orbiting the exploding star, but any civilization would most likely be obliterated. Credit: Illustration by Ron Miller

In recent years several supernovae have turned out to be more powerful and long-lasting than any observed before.

Archival images showed that the stars that gave rise to some supernovae were about 100 times as massive as the sun: according to accepted theory, stars this big were not supposed to explode.

Some supernovae may have been ther­mo­nuclear explosions triggered by the creation of pairs of particles of matter and antimatter.

The first generation of stars in the universe, which created the materials that later formed planets, may have exploded through a similar mechanism.

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7 Theories on the Origin of Life (by LiveScience)
Primordial Soup: Life on Earth began more than 3 billion years ago, evolving from the most basic of microbes into a dazzling array of complexity over time. But how did the first organisms on the only known home to life in the universe develop from the primordial soup? Here are science’s theories on the origins of life on Earth.

7. Electric Spark: Electric sparks can generate amino acids and sugars from an atmosphere loaded with water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen, as was shown in the famous Miller-Urey experiment reported in 1953, suggesting that lightning might have helped create the key building blocks of life on Earth in its early days. Over millions of years, larger and more complex molecules could form. Although research since then has revealed the early atmosphere of Earth was actually hydrogen-poor, scientists have suggested that volcanic clouds in the early atmosphere might have held methane, ammonia and hydrogen and been filled with lightning as well.

6. Community Clay: The first molecules of life might have met on clay, according to an idea elaborated by organic chemist Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. These surfaces might not only have concentrated these organic compounds together, but also helped organize them into patterns much like our genes do now.
The main role of DNA is to store information on how other molecules should be arranged. Genetic sequences in DNA are essentially instructions on how amino acids should be arranged in proteins. Cairns-Smith suggests that mineral crystals in clay could have arranged organic molecules into organized patterns. After a while, organic molecules took over this job and organized themselves.

5. Deep-Sea Vents: The deep-sea vent theory suggests that life may have begun at submarine hydrothermal vents, spewing key hydrogen-rich molecules. Their rocky nooks could then have concentrated these molecules together and provided mineral catalysts for critical reactions. Even now, these vents, rich in chemical and thermal energy, sustain vibrant ecosystems.

4. Chilly Start: Ice might have covered the oceans 3 billion years ago, as the sun was about a third less luminous than it is now. This layer of ice, possibly hundreds of feet thick, might have protected fragile organic compounds in the water below from ultraviolet light and destruction from cosmic impacts. The cold might have also helped these molecules to survive longer, allowing key reactions to happen.

3. RNA World: Nowadays DNA needs proteins in order to form, and proteins require DNA to form, so how could these have formed without each other? The answer may be RNA, which can store information like DNA, serve as an enzyme like proteins, and help create both DNA and proteins. Later DNA and proteins succeeded this “RNA world,” because they are more efficient. RNA still exists and performs several functions in organisms, including acting as an on-off switch for some genes. The question still remains how RNA got here in the first place. And while some scientists think the molecule could have spontaneously arisen on Earth, others say that was very unlikely to have happened. Other nucleic acids other than RNA have been suggested as well, such as the more esoteric PNA or TNA.

2. Simple Beginnings: Instead of developing from complex molecules such as RNA, life might have begun with smaller molecules interacting with each other in cycles of reactions. These might have been contained in simple capsules akin to cell membranes, and over time more complex molecules that performed these reactions better than the smaller ones could have evolved, scenarios dubbed “metabolism-first” models, as opposed to the “gene-first” model of the “RNA world” hypothesis.

1. Panspermia: Perhaps life did not begin on Earth at all, but was brought here from elsewhere in space, a notion known as panspermia. For instance, rocks regularly get blasted off Mars by cosmic impacts, and a number of Martian meteorites have been found on Earth that some researchers have controversially suggested brought microbes over here, potentially making us all Martians originally. Other scientists have even suggested that life might have hitchhiked on comets from other star systems. However, even if this concept were true, the question of how life began on Earth would then only change to how life began elsewhere in space.


Mix of Coffee, Genetics May Prevent Parkinson’s

A recent study co-authored by Evergreen Healthcare neurologist Pinky Agarwal finds good news for coffee drinkers: consuming caffeinated coffee may significantly reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease in some men and women depending on their genetics, according to research recently published by the Public Library of Science.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news-Mix-of-Coffee-Genetics-May-Prevent-Parkinsons-020612.aspx

The number of genes in the human genome, according to the most recent analysis by a group out of MIT/Harvard. This is down from old-school estimates of 150,000 and moderately lower than the numbers hypothesized after the Human Genome Project (35,000). The new analysis uses a way of comparing many species in order to predict what is and isn’t a gene in the human genome, since we don’t know how to ID them in a foolproof manner yet. So there you have it, every cell in your body has ~20,500 tools in its toolbox to make it . .  well, IT and you … well YOU. It’s all in the combinations. 





You don’t find many designers working in the funeral business thinking about more creative ways for you to leave this world (and maybe they should be). However, Spanish designer Martin Azua has combined the romantic notion of life after death with an eco solution to the dirty business of the actual, you know, transition.

His Bios Urn is a biodegradable urn made from coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose and inside it contains the seed of a tree. Once your remains have been placed into the urn, it can be planted and then the seed germinates and begins to grow. You even have the choice to pick the type of plant you would like to become, depending on what kind of planting space you prefer. 

(via This Awesome Urn Will Turn You into a Tree After You Die | Design for Good | Big Think)