In a sense, the history of astronomy has been a history of the marginalization of life on Earth in our understanding of the universe. When humans first assumed the existence of an Earth beyond the horizons we could see directly, we assumed its centrality in the cosmos. After Copernicus demonstrated that, no, the Earth actually orbits the Sun, and not the other way around, well, it was at any rate our Sun at the center of the cosmos -- even if we now realized we shared it with other planets.
But from there it's been pretty much down-hill for human-centric cosmology: We now know that...
To answer that question, you first have to answer this one: what, exactly, is life? We may have a general sense of life as it exists here on Earth -- one that involves a given object's ability to metabolize and grow, to respond to stimuli, to maintain homeostasis, to reproduce. But that textbook definition of life -- "life," that is, "as we know it" -- is itself entirely defined by the particularities of Earth. It's a set of criteria determined by a planet that happens to be terrestrial, that happens to be covered in salt water, that happens to orbit a yellow dwarf star ... and that happens to be shielded from said star by a protective ozone layer.... Read more about When We're Looking for Life on Other Planets, What Exactly Are We Looking For?
George M. Whitesides, and Robert S. Langer, were awarded the distinguished Industrial Research Institute Medal on May 22, as part of IRI’s 75th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in technological innovation that have contributed broadly to the development of industry and the benefit of society. Whitesides and Langer each received a gold medal.
NASA announced a problem on Wednesday that threatens to cripple one of its highest-profile missions, the Kepler Space Telescope, an instrument dedicated to finding Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.
Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has found 130 planets orbiting other stars and 2,500 planet candidates requiring further investigation. The space telescope has pulled back the veil on the true nature of the Milky Way, showing it to be a galaxy rich with planets, and potential homes for life outside of Earth.
Gazette staff writer Alvin Powell discussed the problem with one...