World's Fair

Astrobiology is an amazingly interesting, highly interdisciplinary, and relative new field of science. Basically, it’s both the search for life elsewhere in the universe, and it’s the study of how to sustain human life in space and on other planets (and how to protect other planets from Earth life). Our lab works on several different astrobiological projects. Given both the amazing breadth of science that falls under the heading of “astrobiology,” and the fact that it is a branch of “space exploration”, some of the titles of talks and papers in this field can seem rather bizarre when seen out of context. Here are some of my favorites from the program of the upcoming AbSciCon 2010, along with my own added “smart assed subtitles” (SAS’s) attached.

Molecular Survival in Planetary Nebulae
SAS: It’s every molecule for itself.

State of the Art in Life Detection
SAS: We’re way past spoons and fogging mirrors.

Using Edible Models to Communicate Principles of Comet Science
SAS: I am not making this up.

The Evolution of Interstellar Ices
SAS: I wonder if the Discovery Institute has problems with ice evolution?

Synthetic Microbes for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond

Titan: Past Present, and Future
SAS: I saw the original version of the movie when it came out, not this new 3D crap.

Solubilities of Hydrocarbons in the Seas of Titan and Tests for Exotic Life
SAS: Exotic, indeed. Did you know one of the seas of Titan is called the Kraken Mare?

An Energy Balance Model for the Habitability of Serpentinizing Systems
SAS: Is that, like, snakes?

Archael Ecology in the Shadow Zones
SAS: The Shadow knows (where “our key(s) are”)

Cryopreservation as a Means of Suspended Animation
SAS: I love it when Sci-Fi becomes real.

Fried Phosphate and Organic Survival
SAS: Isn’t fried phosphate a Mexican molecular desert?

A Warm, Wet Mars?
SAS: No one under 18 will be admitted to this session.

Resurrecting Ancient Alcohol Metabolism
SAS: You know, I didn’t want the rest of that beer last night, and I don’t want it now.

Two Years in the Life of a Stromatolite
SAR: In case you get bored watching grass grow.

Paleoneurology and the Planet of the Apes Fallacy
SAR: This one really doesn’t need a smart assed subtitle, now does it?

Our lab’s two presentations sound fairly normal by comparison:

Enzyme Kinetics in Microgravity
Meet an Astrobiologist: A Series of Short, Dynamic Video Profiles of Astrobiology Researchers Designed for General Audiences

The conference runs April 26-29 in Houston, TX, and definitely should be interesting.


  1. #1 Birger Johansson
    April 19, 2010

    “Cryopreservation as a Means of Suspended Animation
    SAS: I love it when Sci-Fi becomes real.”

    Does this refer to merely reducing body temperature a bit like hibernating mammals, or to actually freezing tissue and finding ways to impede water crystal formation?
    The latter can be done by some amphibians and insects.
    A beetle in Alaska uses a non-protein molecule to inhibit crystal formation, so it might theoretically pass through the blood-brain barrier…
    If vertebrates need non-small molecules to inhibit water crystal formation, then the brain cells must create those molecules themselves, requiring genetic engineering.

    By contrast, ordinary hibernation would be much less complex, but we need to understand the way hibernating bears prevent muscle tissue from wasting away.

  2. #2 Bob Agen
    April 19, 2010

    Let’s hope President Obama doesn’t see this or he will cut off all funding.

  3. #3 Birger Johansson
    April 21, 2010

    Check this out: ‘Goldilocks Zone’ may go colder than previously thought

  4. #4 ??? air
    March 23, 2013

    Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone! ??? air