Old data reveals life could exist on Mars

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Photo Credit: Colin Mullin | Daily Texan Staff

A research group, which published its findings in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences, believes data from the Viking 1 and 2 spacecrafts that landed on Mars in 1976 suggest that there is microbial life on Mars. The crafts looked at soil samples, which when analyzed with modern techniques, indicate a different amount of gaseous release than what one would find in a non-biological sample. The technique is far from perfected at this point, even for samples taken on Earth, but it gives us hope that life in the universe may indeed be very common.

Lone Star Stem Cells

Texas has become the first state to create requirements for how stem cells can and cannot be used — however, there’s some controversy as to how effective these requirements will be. Although some in the scientific community admire the spirit of the new standards, many object to the specifics. One of the major issues involves who grants permission to use stem cells. According to the requirements, stem cell use would have to be approved by the National Institute of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or a private “institutional review board.” Critics also state the lack of enforceability of the standards, as there are already federal requirements for the use of stem cells.

Alt-DNA

Scientists have long been fascinated by DNA and RNA, the self-replicating molecules that form the basis of life. However, there were questions as to whether or not these were the only possible games in town. In other words, does chemistry allow other molecules that allow for both heredity and adaptation? A new report in the journal Science indicates that the answer seems to be yes. Researchers created a new molecule with the properties of the DNA and RNA, which they have named anhydrohexitol nucleic acid. Research into this molecule could shed insight into the initial formation of RNA as well as the origins of life itself.

Death Penalty’s Effectiveness Uncertain

A recent review of the available literature shows that our understanding of whether or not capital punishment deters people from committing homicide is inconclusive. Though several studies have been done on the subject and reached various conclusions, a report from the National Research Council notes that they were often based on implausible or unsupported assumptions. However, the review makes suggestions as to possible roads for researchers to travel down in order to reach more substantial conclusions.

Left Is Right

A new experiment shows that people seem to prefer the left over the right sides of subjects’ faces. The study, published in Experimental Brain Research, asked participants which side of a photographed person’s face they preferred. Half of the photographs were normal, while the other half were mirror reversed. The results showed that, regardless of the orientation of the photographs, subjects preferred the left side. So, next time you jump into any situation, be sure to put your left foot forward.