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.
Molecular gastronomy is a branch of food science that explores how chemical processes transform ingredients. Chefs like Wylie Dufresne apply this research from the lab to the kitchen, creating dishes that are both inspired and informed. At this month’s Adventures in the Global Kitchen event, The Magical Meal with Wylie Dufresne, Dufresnse will discuss how to alter the texture, viscosity, and appearance of food with the Museum’s Provost of Science, Michael Novacek. Below, Dufresne answers a few questions about his cooking inspiration.
While “snake oil” is shorthand for false cure, snake venom may have real healing power. At March 7’s SciCafe, From Poison to Panacea: Using Snake Venom to Combat Cancer, University of Southern California biochemistry professor Frank Markland will share his research on a protein found in snake venom and how it’s being used to combat cancer in the lab. Below, Markland answers a few questions about his research.
How are you using snake venom in cancer research?
Frank Markland: We injected contortrostatin, a protein found in southern copperhead snake venom, directly into the mammary glands of mice where human breast cancer cells had been injected two weeks earlier. Not only did the injection of this protein inhibit the growth of the tumor—it also slowed angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels into the tumor that supply it with nutrients and allow the tumor to grow and spread. The protein also impaired the spread of the tumor to the lungs, one site where breast cancer spreads effectively.
On Monday, March 5, 2012, John Logsdon, space history and policy expert and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, traced the factors leading to President John F. Kennedy’s decision to send astronauts to the Moon and the steps Kennedy took to turn that decision into reality.