Monday, November 05, 2012

Science & SF Tidbits: Life giving asteroid belts and the ethics of cloning

A couple of articles about what might help create life out there and what's possible for the creation of life right here:

Alien Life May Require Rare 'Just-Right' Asteroid Belts »

Astronomers Rebecca G. Martin and Mario Livio and have proposed that an asteroid belt that's just the right distance away from a system's sun and other planets may make life more likely. Why is that the case? Because asteroids may have helped bring water and organic materials to early Earth.

You may be thinking about the hypothesis that a meteor hitting the Earth caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. But maybe massive extinctions are ultimately a boon to life as well, opening up ecological niches for rapidly evolving critters to expand into.

Yes, it's (educated) speculation, based on the conditions on the only planet that we know has life - Earth, but it's interesting to consider. Considering that less than 4% of known solar systems appear to have an asteroid belt, if they are right that could reduce the chances of our finding life - at least as we know it - in other solar systems.

Image: There are several different scenarios for the evolution of asteroid belts. Depicted is our solar system where Jupiter (or a similarly-sized planet) orbits the sun just outside the asteroid belt. For other models see the NASA Scenarios for the Evolution of Asteroid Belts page. Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScI (not copyrighted and free to use)

Could Clones of 'Cloud Atlas' Be in Our Future? : Discovery News »

In the future depicted in the movie Cloud Atlas, fabricant" Sonmi-451 clones are servants, slaves and sex toys.They sound a lot like the "Gammas" and "Deltas" in Brave New World (only sexier).

Is it even technically possible to grow of an army of human clones in artificial wombs? According to the linked article, while there is ongoing research, it likely would not be really workable for a long time - and that's assuming that ethical considerations allow the development of the technology in the first place.

Discovery News also provides a video where geneticist Robert Lanza talks about cloning technology that can resurrect extinct animal species - and at least theoretically could be used to bring time-displaced genetic copies of dead people back to life too. 

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