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Extremophiles and Life Beyond Earth

Q&As

Research about organisms that can weather Earth’s harshest environments has broadened ideas of where living things can thrive. On Sunday, March 11, the Museum’s 2012 Milstein Science Series kicks off with Extremophiles: Life in Extreme Environments, an exploration of how such organisms survive and what studying Earth’s extremophiles could mean for the search for extraterrestrial life. Seth Shostak, one of the guest speakers at the March 11 program, is a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and researches whether life—from the intelligent to the extreme—could exist elsewhere in the universe. Below, Shostak answers a few questions about extremophiles and the search beyond life as we know it.

Tags: Exhibitions, Hayden Planetarium, Q&A

The Re-making of Mars: Terraforming Table

On Exhibit posts

The scent of evergreens, stones covered in moss, and the hum of rushing water are familiar features in many forests on Earth. But could these also describe a future landscape on Mars?

Once a staple of science fiction, terraforming—or making a planet more like Earth—is now being studied as a real possibility, as scientists research how to apply knowledge of evolution, climate, and technology to re-create the blue planet’s environment on the red planet. Visitors can learn firsthand how humans might make Mars habitable with a custom, multi-user touch table featured in the Museum’s exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration.

Tags: Hayden Planetarium, NASA

CBC Associate Director Felicity Arengo Profiled in New Conservation Book

Research posts

For her research on flamingos, Felicity Arengo, associate director of the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation,has been profiled in Wildlife Heroes, a new book by Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken. Combining photographs and fun facts with tales from the field, Wildlife Heroes features 40 conservationists dedicated to saving some of Earth’s diverse wildlife.

Arengo’s fieldwork has taken her across South America, from high-altitude lakes to fertile lowlands. “Flamingos are adapted to environments described as ‘inhospitable,’” says Arengo. “They live in landscapes of extreme salt, wind, sun, and high altitudes.” It takes a dedicated team to follow the birds and track their numbers.

Tags: Center for Biodiversity and Conservation

Podcast

Podcast: SciCafe: The Virus Hunters

Podcasts

Highly publicized diseases like Ebola and swine flu are only some of the many viruses that spread from animals to humans. In this talk titled “The Virus Hunters” from a recent SciCafe, join virologist Nathan Wolfe and computational biologist Daniel Janies as they discuss their efforts to track infectious agents in animals before they reach people.

“The Virus Hunters” was introduced by Mark Siddall, a curator from the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology. The SciCafe took place at the Museum on February 1, 2012.

Podcast: Download | RSS | iTunes (1 hour, 7mins, 80 MB)

Tags: Podcasts, SciCafe

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David Gruber on Microscopic Glowing Aliens Friday, March 02 9:18 am

On Exhibit posts

Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31. This week, he invited marine biologist David Gruber, an assistant professor at The City University of New York (CUNY) and a Museum research associate who consulted on the exhibition, to contribute the guest post below.

Imagine a group of single-celled animals smaller than the width of a human hair that possess 25 times the amount of DNA as humans. These organisms both bask in the sun to obtain energy, like plants, and actively hunt, like animals, even slurping out the insides of other cells. They include some of the fastest speed demons of the microscopic domain, propelling themselves up to 200-500 μm/second—the equivalent to a 6-foot Olympian athlete swimming at 40 mph. On top of these feats, a few members are responsible for creating the nighttime sparkle on breaking surf.

Tags: Bioluminescence

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