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Thread: NASA to hold press conference "to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life"

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    Default NASA to hold press conference "to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life"

    NASA - NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2

    WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

    The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website at NASA - Home.
    There was a report released by The Telegraph that discusses potential evidence of the possibility of methane-based extraterrestrial life on Titan.

    Edit: I'm obviously skeptical of the speculation, but it should at least be an interesting conference nonetheless

    Edit 2: I need to correct what I thought was speculation of The Telegraph of what the press conference will be when in fact it is not speculation of the press conference at all, but rather a report from June on two studies that suggested that there might be indicators of evidence of methane-based life on Titan.
    Last edited by tereg; 12-01-2010 at 09:23 PM.
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    It's NASA. When do they ever do something cool?

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    "Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.
    At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thanks Arthur View Post
    It's NASA. When do they ever do something cool?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thanks Arthur View Post
    It's NASA. When do they ever do something cool?


    I still wanna go.

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    Needed to correct the OP. The Telegraph article is not speculation of the press conference but rather a report done in June about two studies that suggested indicators of the possibility of methane-based life on Titan.

    NASA - What is Consuming Hydrogen and Acetylene on Titan?
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    Snowballing speculation over a NASA press conference | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

    So, obviously there is a lot of speculation about what this press conference could discuss, and of course we know what happens with speculation that blows out of control.

    So what’s the press conference about? I don’t know, to be honest, beyond what’s in the announcement. The scientists on the panel are interesting, including noted astrobiologists and geologists who work on solar system objects like Mars and Titan. So this is most likely going to be something about conditions on another moon or planet conducive for life.

    Of course, the speculation is that NASA will announce the discovery for life. Maybe. I can’t rule that out, but it seems really unlikely; I don’t think they would announce it in this way. It would’ve been under tighter wraps, or one thing. It’s more likely they’ve found a new way life can exist and that evidence for these conditions exists on other worlds. But without more info, I won’t speculate any farther than that.

    As for the public reaction, well, we’ve seen this type of thing before. Just last June, JPL had a press release about a surprising lack of acetylene in Titan’s atmosphere, with the title "What Is Consuming Hydrogen & Acetylene on Titan?" That sparked vast speculation, and even though the press release was clear enough it was misleadingly reported as NASA finding signs of life on Titan. It got so silly that I wound up writing a post about it, and a NASA scientist went so far as to write an article to clear up the rumors of life on Titan.

    I can’t really blame NASA, the press outlets, or the public about this. When scientists have newsworthy findings that are published in a journal, there may be a press conference about them. But some journals have embargoes; they don’t want the news released until the issue is published. Fair enough. So NASA schedules a press conference for the time the issue publishes, and sends out a notice to the press about it. I got just such an email for this one, for example. They have to say something in the email so the press can decide whether to cover it or not, and NASA doesn’t want give too much away. So they give some minimal line about findings that’ll have an impact on the search for life, and those of us who’ve dealt with it before know what that means.

    But the public is naturally more inclined to interpret that line as NASA having found life, or at least solid evidence of it. That’s not surprising at all. But it can lead to "news letdown", where the reality is something less than the speculation. And that leads to news fatigue, which is worse. If people keep expecting really exciting news and don’t get it, well, there you go.

    Basically, don't get too worked up about this press conference, but we'll see.
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    I think it might have to do with the new findings that life can be build out of arsenicum or something like that. This was previously unknown and changes the way we have to look at life evolvement.

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    Yup, that's exactly what it was

    NASA - NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical

    NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

    Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

    "The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it."

    This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express.

    Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.

    Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.

    "We know that some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new -- building parts of itself out of arsenic," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA Astrobiology Research Fellow in residence at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and the research team's lead scientist. "If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven't seen yet?"
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    Some of the reaction to this story in the blogosphere is interesting; not all of it is favourable.
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    I doubt NASA would be allowed to announce the discovery of life in other planets, if they found it, unless they came up with some story that it originated on earth via creationism or other in order to satisfy the American bible bashers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Words View Post
    I doubt NASA would be allowed to announce the discovery of life in other planets, if they found it, unless they came up with some story that it originated on earth via creationism or other in order to satisfy the American bible bashers.
    they are allowed because they already did it in the past.

    They found something that looked like a print of life in a rock from mars or the moon, can't remember. But after a month or so, the scientist said they couldn't be 100% sure it was life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarno View Post
    they are allowed because they already did it in the past.

    They found something that looked like a print of life in a rock from mars or the moon, can't remember. But after a month or so, the scientist said they couldn't be 100% sure it was life.
    So you mean they found life but then denied it or something?

    Well, maybe they could, but I could imagine large swathes of the US population and US politicians somehow becoming convinced that NASA was under the control of Lucifer or something. When it comes to life on other planets, and the manipulation of life such as genetic engineering, conservative peoples (not necessarily political or anything to do with tcaud) don't want to hear it, as per proof of creationist theory and reactions towards genetic engineering.

    But I hope you're right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Words View Post
    So you mean they found life but then denied it or something?
    Come on! You don't know? They're already everywhere, look around you!
    "Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.
    At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions."

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    Quote Originally Posted by KeroZen View Post
    Come on! You don't know? They're already everywhere, look around you!
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    force my hand - What's going around in the blogosphere? Is it related to these sorts of criticisms from scientists?

    The NASA study of arsenic-based life was fatally flawed, say scientists. - By Carl Zimmer - Slate Magazine

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    Quote Originally Posted by April View Post
    force my hand - What's going around in the blogosphere? Is it related to these sorts of criticisms from scientists?

    The NASA study of arsenic-based life was fatally flawed, say scientists. - By Carl Zimmer - Slate Magazine
    Sure is - in fact, that Zimmer article is the best introduction to the controversy for anyone interested in why this research may be suspect!
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