All Blog Posts (85)

Idea: Humans Reproduce through Genetic and Non-Genetic Information

A word to the wise:  This is an incomplete set of ideas, and I welcome criticism and discussion.  After conversing with several individuals, I realized that my ideas were extremely similar to Memetics (  Instead of focusing on the Memes themselves, I would like to instead incorporate them in a discussion of the human behavior that lead me to independently believe in…


Added by Brooke Kubby on April 22, 2016 at 11:44pm — 6 Comments

Are machines considered life?

When one imagines the species that is humanity’s closest ally they might think of man’s best friend, the dog, or his ever trusty steed, the horse. It is easy for humans to consider animals as friends; when we reach out to touch another mammal, everything about it, the warmth of the body, the sound of breathing, the reacting glance, exudes an unmistakable aura of life. It’s no surprise that the distinction between life and non-life carries a significant weight in the eyes of humans; after…


Added by Charles Wen on April 15, 2016 at 11:58pm — 2 Comments

Life Exists !

Life exists.

This might seem like an obvious statement, but it is important when thinking about the nature of how things exist. Things exists as either a natural low energy state (what scientists refer to as the equilibrium state), or as ordered structures generated in response to the approach of low energy states. Essentially, an equilibrium state references the physical arrangement of the matter within a system after enough time has passed for all transformations to occur,…


Added by Tucker Ely on April 15, 2016 at 1:42pm — 2 Comments

Why is Life so Complicated?

A friend recently mentioned that the most complex phenomena in all of the universe seem to occur roughly on the length scale of humans. What is meant by this is that we have equations governing the universe as a whole and equations governing interactions between subatomic particles, but much of what we see in everyday life can't be captured by a simple equation. The issue at hand is really what is…


Added by Jake Hanson on April 10, 2016 at 7:24pm — 2 Comments

Challenges in observational science or why eating more cheese won't help you get a PhD

When we think about scientists, most times one of two images come to our minds: either a lonely (and most likely white-haired) man frantically writing equations on a paper, or someone on a lab coat mixing liquids in test tubes. These stereotypes basically correspond to two of the main types of scientists: theorists and experimentalists.

Broadly speaking theorists develop hypothesis that try to explain how the Universe works while experimentalists conduct controlled experiments…


Added by Alicia Gonzalez on April 8, 2016 at 3:13pm — 2 Comments

What’s the best approach for solving the origin of life?

What’s the best approach for solving the origin of life?

The origin of life is a very tricky question to answer. I say this not because it is a very interdisciplinary science question (that also uses some philosophy), but because it requires a unique thought process. Researchers within this field have to think outside of the box and come up with explanations for a completely unknown process that, as we know of, only happened once, happened an extremely long…


Added by Stone Hanlon on April 1, 2016 at 4:09pm — 1 Comment

Why humans rule the Earth

Humans are the world’s most dominant species.


I think this is something that most people would agree with, but probably for different reasons. While other organisms may be more numerous (like the Pelagibacter ubique bacteria, thought to number ~10^28 [1]), or contributing more total mass (also probably the Pelagibacter ubique bacteria, which is estimated to have a collective mass more than…


Added by Harrison on March 25, 2016 at 12:00pm — 4 Comments

The Gray Area of Life

The Problem of Defining Life

The question "what is life?" seems at first to be a strange one with clear answers. You typically know it when you see it, and everyday examples are easy to list: people, dogs, grass, trees, ants, and so on. All of those things appear to have something special that a rock or a screwdriver does not. However, it takes more than a few examples and a vague special something to form a rigorous universal definition for life. In practice,…


Added by Greg Vance on March 18, 2016 at 6:32pm — 3 Comments

Solid, Liquid, Gas…. Life.

“What we use to call biophysics often is just physics of biological material or the dynamics of the material processes involved. …. I am asking for a ‘physics of biology’.” -Manfred Eigen 2000.

What is a Phase of Matter?

    In school, we are taught about states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. Normally people graduate high school with the impression that those represent the only examples of states of matter- you may remember hearing something about a…


Added by Cole Mathis on March 4, 2016 at 12:00pm — 2 Comments

The Universe Computes Life

When I say “the universe”, what do you immediately think of?

Me, I think of an old documentary with dark pictures and lots of equations. Maybe Morgan Freeman is narrating. Maybe someone with a British accent is narrating. In my imagination, I’m flying through a supernova, galaxies, and a…


Added by Alyssa Adams on February 27, 2016 at 12:30am — 6 Comments

People drink in Antarctica (oh, and everywhere else)

I was sent two versions of this article today that claims, in a dramatic way, that scientists are drinking way too much in Antarctica. The Wired link is below and the other one which was sent to me was on the popular "I f****** love science" Facebook page.

I have spent 3 field seasons at the smallest American…


Added by Mrinalini Nikrad on October 12, 2015 at 5:30pm — No Comments

HI-SEAS - What would you do before leaving Earth for a year?

I was asked many times how I felt about being isolated for a year. I wish I had a deep and subtle answer to that but, to be honest, I didn’t have time to think about it.

The last two weeks were a succession of two kinds of moments. First, preparation work. Between finishing research projects, leaving my flat in Rome and driving to Paris, writing project proposals, getting a year’s worth of lab supplies in the dome, managing partnerships, answering media, having kilograms of paper…


Added by Cyprien Verseux on August 24, 2015 at 11:41pm — No Comments

HI-SEAS - Ten days left

In ten days, the doors will close.

From then on, and for a whole year, I will never feel the wind in my hair or the sun on my skin. I will live in an isolated, 36-feet-in-diameter dome, together with 5 other people. These will be the only people I will see. The only people I will talk to, too: I will have no direct communication with anyone else. Showering will be a luxury, limited to a few minutes a week. My internet access will be…


Added by Cyprien Verseux on August 19, 2015 at 3:30pm — No Comments

Astrobiology: Like Wearing Academic Beer Goggles

By Mrinalini Nikrad, PhD.


“I am interested in Astrobiology”. When they hear that phrase, some people look amused, like I was trying to be funny. Others look at me like I’m crazy, a poor misled scientist, interested in a non-existent field and a disturbed mind (soon to use tax dollars for alien research). Sure, astrobiology sounds as far out as E.T., more like…


Added by Mrinalini Nikrad on July 3, 2015 at 1:00pm — No Comments

Finding Sustainability in Unexpected Places

Imagine that its 6 am in the building where you work. In the vacant hallways, the lights suddenly flicker on. The air conditioning kicks in with the sound of fans whirring to life. Laboratory fume hoods resume their daily battle with the air handlers, playing tug-o-war between the room’s air temperature and the thermostat…


Added by Gina Riggio on April 2, 2015 at 6:22pm — No Comments

Fire and Ice: Starting Up the Snowball

I attended a talk last week by Francis Macdonald, discussing his work on Snowball Earth geology. He touched on the "Fire and Ice" hypothesis for the initiation of the Snowball, and I thought I would interpret it in ballad form. Needs a little work and maybe another verse, so feel free to critique. 

In late Proterozoic times 

the Earth was calm and warm

A billion peaceful years since the



Added by Regina Carns on February 17, 2015 at 10:23pm — No Comments

First Contact: NJ Middle School Students Meet Microbes Face-to-Face

Yesterday I participated in a fun day of microbial outreach organized by the fabulous students of the Rutgers ASM (American Society for Microbiology) Graduate Student Chapter. The outreach event included about 40 students from grades 5-8, the perfect time to be exposed to real-live microbes! We started with a…


Added by Mrinalini Nikrad on February 8, 2015 at 5:30am — 2 Comments


Well, that was a somewhat protracted hiatus. I think my muse was in hibernation. In any case, she rose to the occasion when I defended my Ph.D. a couple of weeks ago, and here's how I summed up my talk: 

“Measured and modeled albedos of sea-ice surfaces on the oceans of Snowball Earth”

A planet orbits round a yellow sun

Light years away or megayears ago

Its seas are dark, its continent is dun

But brilliant sea ice sets its pole aglow

Its CO2…


Added by Regina Carns on January 30, 2015 at 6:12pm — 2 Comments


Intermission - The drive to Geysir

Geysir, the biggest tourist spot in Iceland, is located about an hour and half drive east of Reykjavik on the highway, but because we were coming from further north in Vesturland, our path took us across roads that made for arguably the most epic drive I have taken (driving Western Australia's Pilbara Craton is a close second). This drive took us on Icelandic "F roads",…


Added by Sanjoy Som on August 4, 2014 at 3:00pm — No Comments

Site 3 - Landbrotalaug, Snaefellsness Peninsula

Site 3 - Landbrotalaug, Snaefellsness Peninsula

Our third site was the rather unassuming site of Landbrotalaug. It is located on the Snaefellsness Peninsula, made famous by Jules Verne in his book "Journey to the Center of the Earth". There, the Snaefells volcano, situated near the tip of the peninsula, is actually the entrance!

What is interesting about Snaefells is that the rocks are a bit…


Added by Sanjoy Som on July 23, 2014 at 2:30pm — No Comments

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