Detects Ancient Life … in Australia


Test Run

In order to make sure it was ready to hunt for extraterrestrial life on Mars, scientists put NASA’s new Perseverance rover through its paces using samples from the next best thing: Australia’s deserts.

When it launches to Mars in July, Perseverance will go on the hunt for signs of ancient, microbial life. Now, new research provides a promising sign that its tech is up to the task: while analyzing samples from Australia’s Flinders Ranges, the rover was able to find physical fossils and signs of microbes from hundreds of millions of years ago.

Historic Reconstruction

After finding traces of ancient life, researchers were able to use data collected by Perseverance to make an educated guess about what environmental conditions they lived in. Their work, published in March in the journal Astrobiology, could help steer future astrobiological research into other worlds’ ancient history.

“What is interesting is that we did find signs of ancient microbial life from the Cambrian period — which is when animals first evolved on earth,” University of New South Wales astrobiologist Bonnie Teece said in a press release. “We found biomarkers, we found organic compounds and we found physical fossils and minerals that are associated with biology on Earth.”

Dry Run

Teece argues that the Flinders Ranges makes a reasonable analog for Mars because of the dry, dusty, and wind-swept terrain, as well as the fact that fossils could be degraded by the same sorts of heat and pressure there and on Mars.

“We wanted to use the same techniques that are on the Rover to pinpoint the best areas for looking for life and show that these techniques work together well,” Teece said in the release.

Editor’s note 5/5/2020: This article has been updated to clarify that Perseverance analyzed samples from Flinders Ranges but wasn’t brought there itself.

READ MORE: Astrobiologists put Mars Rover life-detecting equipment to the test [University of New South Wales]
More on Perseverance: NASA’s New Mars Rover Still Launching in July Despite Coronavirus

Only I will remain


“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

~ Frank Herbert ~

The race for coronavirus vaccines


More than 90 vaccines are being developed against SARS-CoV-2 by research teams in companies and universities across the world. Researchers are trialling different technologies, some of which haven’t been used in a licensed vaccine before. At least six groups have already begun injecting formulations into volunteers in safety trials; others have started testing in animals. Nature’s graphical guide explains each vaccine design.

Float like a butterfly


The Ballad of Muhammad Ali

From down in the south in the USA
There came a young fighter called Cassius Clay
As strong as a lion, handsome and tall,
Destined to be the best boxer of all.
‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’,
Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

Known in the ring as The Louisville Lip,
There was no fighter that he couldn’t whip.
With the skill of a poet, a message he’d send,
Predicting the round when each bout would end.
‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’,
There was no fighter like the great Ali.

With the speed of a panther, he would chant with glee,
‘Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see’.
And poor Sonny Liston would find it was true
When he took his title at age twenty two
‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’,
The new world champ was Muhammad Ali.

They said that Joe Frazier was his greatest test,
But Ali would prove to the world who was best.
And then there was Foreman, as strong as an ox,
But no one could conquer that wily old fox.
‘Float like a butterfly sting like a bee’,
There’ll never be another like the great Ali.

Three times world champion was his final score,
A feat that no fighter had accomplished before.
No other sportsman was greater than he,
He was voted the best of the last century.
‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’,
The greatest of all was Muhammed Ali.

“Me. We.”
“Yo. Nosotros.”