This looks interesting: NASA has put an embargo on a new Science Journal paper and then scheduled a news conference for Thursday at 2pm to reveal a big astrobiology discovery. The head of NASA doesn’t look to be on the guest list, so this probably isn’t The Big One. Anybody know or care to speculate about this? Did we finally figure out where all that Hydrogen is going on Titan’s surface?
Here’s the list of attendees:
- Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
- Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
- James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe
Registration for spring 2011 classes just opened up for grad students today. Below is a list of interesting classes related to astrobiology in the Earth & Planetary Science Department:
AS.270.114 “Guided Tour: The Planets” TTh 1:30pm-2:45pm
I believe this class is an intro science course that’s required for undergrads. It’s taught by Bruce Marsh and Darrell Strobel. It’s also completely full, but you might be able to audit it.
AS.270.407 “Seminar in Planetary Sciences” W 12pm-1:20pm
The “Seminar in Planetary Sciences” was offered last spring, and it was an incredible hit. Researchers from APL came in once a week to give a presentation on their current research and the latest discoveries. In fact, not more than a week after it was announced water was discovered on the moon did we learn that OH counts as water.
AS.270.647 “Earth’s Interior” TBD
The “Earth’s Interior” course is a seminar as well. The semester topic changes each time the class is offered. I took it last spring, and the class’s focus was on planetary formation. No tests, but there’s a lot of reading, and every few weeks you have to present on a paper. It’s an excellent seminar taught by the always excellent Peter Olson. If he goes with planetary formation again (if you sign up for the class, definitely email him suggestions about what the seminar should focus on), it’ll beat the pants off anything the physics & astronomy department can offer up.
After these three courses, we’re also offering two climate change courses that may be interesting to some:
AS.270.360 “Climate Change: Science & Policy” MW 1:30pm-2:45pm
AS.270.377 “Climates of the Past” TTh 1:30pm-2:45pm
I haven’t taken either, so I can’t speak to the course content.
UPDATE: One of the members of the astrobiology club email list sent this in.
Biology is also offering a recapitulation of the Planets Life and Universe class. The fall class is a pre-req, but I’m guessing that’s just a suggestiong.
AS.020.716 (01) – Planets, Life, and the Universe Seminar
Based on the course Planets, Life and the Universe in the Fall, this seminar series is for students who would like to read and discuss interesting current papers in the field, including the latest developments that may lead to interesting ideas on interdisciplinary research. Pre-requisites: It is preferable but not required that students will have taken the Fall 2010 course Planets, Life and the Universe (171.333/699 or AS.020.334/616 ). Reading material Papers will be assigned to read each week.
We’re back from getting kicked in the teeth by the semester to bring you the next meeting of the JHU Astrobiology Club! We’re meeting in Shaffer 302 at noon on Monday, December 6th. It’s a reading day, so no classes or exams. Just free pizza, drinks, and three talks on a wide range of topics. There will be more information after the holiday, but mark your calendar today!
Prof. Scharf leads Columbia’s astrobiology initiative and has been sharing his thoughts at this blog:
Check it out as a source for news and commentary on the field.
The new semester is upon us and so is our next meeting! Come to Bloomberg 475 tomorrow, tuesday 28th at 6 pm and discuss all the exciting news and olds on what you’ve heard and learned over the summer. Bring papers or just your curiosity. We’ll be also organizing our first “field trip” to Arlington, VA for “Seeking Signs of Life, A Symposium Celebrating 50 Years of Exobiology and Astrobiology at NASA”.
There’s a new doodle survey to help schedule our next meeting of the JHU Astrobiology Club. Disregard the dates and select just the times you find most favorable for attending a JHU Astrobiology Club meeting during a regular week. Once we know a time when the most folks will be available, we can pick the day of the month to have the meeting. In the meantime, look for current events, recent papers, or questions you might have about astrobiology to bring to the meeting for discussion. Also, if anyone would like to give a presentation, coordinate with Adam. Also, we’ll most likely have this first meeting of the fall semester in the same classroom where “Planets, Life, and the Universe” meets, Bloomberg 274.
“Will Alien Life Resemble Us (and How Could We Possibly Know)? Astrobiology, Evolution and the Amino Acids”
The first lecture of the semester in the STSci Astrobiology Lecture Series is coming up this Friday! This lecture will be by Stephen Freeland from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. It’ll be in Bahcall Auditorium at STSCI starting at 12pm on Friday, September 3rd. The lecture is entitled “Will Alien Life Resemble Us (and How Could We Possibly Know)? Astrobiology, Evolution and the Amino Acids.” The abstract:
A fundamental challenge for astrobiology is to establish the relative contributions of chance versus predictability in the origin and evolution of life on our own planet. Thus, for example, all Earth-life creates metabolism from an interacting network of protein molecules that catalyze various biochemical reactions. Furthermore, early during evolution it had arrived at a standard set of 20 amino acid building-blocks with which to build each of these proteins. We now have good reason to think that many of these amino acids are formed in significant quantities throughout the galaxy – but so are many others – so would alien life be like us, and how could we possibly know?
I just mentioned this on our email list (http://lists.jhu.edu, seach for “astrobioclub”): yesterday Greg showed me JournalFire, an online journal club website and suggested we use it for online sharing and discussion of research papers. I just set up a journal club for us. If you’re interested, register at the site and join the club. I just added a bunch of papers from the “hydrogen-eating microbes on titan” controversy.
Here’s a list of scientific writing tips from a science journalist that are good to follow regardless of whether you’re writing a journal article or an email to a friend. They dissect a famous human genome paper from Nature to address points about using jargon, long and short sentences, subjective and objective clauses, active verbs, and speculative voice. My favorite piece of advice is “you should be able to read a sentence out loud in one breath.”
Today’s XKCD comic: