Oxygen Being Not Crucial for Survival, Unspoken Conversation Between our Brain and AI and Other Top Research News of the Week

Impact Insider – Weekly Round Up of Trending Research

Volume 1 | Issue 12

Iron: The Chef that Prepared Meals of our Primordial Ancestors

That life originated somewhere in the unique combination of heat, pressure, and chemicals available in hydrothermal vents is now well-established. However, it was not as simple as a spark setting off a reaction resulting in cell formation; for even the most basic life form, certain energy-rich organic compounds are required. Modern organisms create these through an elaborate 11-enzyme process combining carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen. Without these enzymes, simply putting together CO2 and hydrogen would not work. Scientists believe that the key to the first synthesis, when these enzymes were not available, could have been iron-rich minerals abundant in the vents. They recreated the conditions of these primeval vents in the lab, putting together greigite, magnetite, and awaruite, all iron-rich minerals, in water and bubbled CO2 at high pressure, and found that a mix of organics including the required energy-rich compounds were synthesized. The first meal of life, they suggest, were these simple compounds.

Great Parenting Skills Could be Key to Surviving Extinctions – a Lesson from our Crocodilian Friends

Crocodilian Friends

Crocodiles, apart from being the ultimate killing machines, are also known as one of the most resilient organisms on earth, having survived two mass extinctions—the first of which happened more than 60 million years ago. Scientists at the University of Bath now show that this could be partly due to their practical parenting skills. In crocodiles, like turtles, the sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature at which eggs are incubated. Global warming has negatively affected the sex ratios of turtles worldwide, and the scientists wanted to see if it had a similar effect on crocodiles. They studied 20 different species of crocodiles across the world and looked at the relationship between latitude and egg mass, clutch size and incubation temperature of crocodiles. Surprisingly, they found no correlation between latitude and incubation temperatures, which meant that the female crocodile had a part to play in influencing the incubation temperature. The scientists confirmed this when they found that crocodiles are very picky in selecting nesting sites and bury their nests in rotting vegetation or mud, which protects the eggs against fluctuating incubation temperatures. This is probably why rising global temperatures don’t affect crocodiles the same way as it affects turtles.

Evolutional Theory Challenged: Oxygen May Not Be Crucial for Survival After All

Evolutional Theory Challenged

One thing common to all evolved life forms is that they need oxygen to survive. This is because they contain “mitochondria,” organelles that utilize oxygen and convert it into energy—a process that is thought to be crucial for cell survival. In a recent breakthrough, scientists found their previous knowledge about evolution challenged, when they discovered a new life form that can survive without oxygen; in fact, it doesn’t even contain mitochondria! This discovery, like some other major breakthroughs, was accidental: scientists were trying to sequence the genome of a jellyfish-like parasite, when they noted that the organism does not contain the mitochondrial genome and hence does not need oxygen to survive. This revelation challenges the well-accepted theory that the availability of oxygen is important to evolution. It also raises several interesting questions: Do all life forms have the capacity to adapt to a non-oxidative environment? What does this tell us about the presence of extra-terrestrial life forms? What does this mean for evolution? It’s time to solve another new puzzle now.

How Would Unspoken Conversations Between Your Brain and an AI Go?

AI

Our brain is essentially a circuit of nerves. Replicas of these circuits are what wire artificial intelligence. We can’t read minds, so common sense would say that a human brain can’t directly communicate with an AI mind. But in a break through study, scientists in Zurich, Switzerland, and Padova, Italy, found a way to make this communication happen over the internet. They set up an experiment comprising rat neuron networks in Padova and silicon chips with artificial neuron networks in Zurich. They were able to establish real-time communication between spikes in neuron signals at both ends via the internet and capture this exchange in a virtual laboratory containing nanoelectronic devices.
So, can we read minds now? No; perhaps, in the far future. But what could cross-over from the realm of science fiction to reality over the coming decades is the ability to replace dysfunctional parts of the brain with AI chips.

Seashell Stories: What a Prehistoric Clam Shell Has to Say

Seashell Stories

Sea shells have been oft used in future prediction, but can they tell us stories of the past? Yes, suggests a new study. Scientists analyzed the fossil of a fast-growing clam which developed daily growth rings and found that the length of a day 70 million years ago was 23 and a half hours, and there were 372 days in a year. The findings help develop models of the Moon formation and the Earth-Moon distance at that time. What’s more, the study also reveals a daylight dependency in the mollusks, suggesting a possible symbiotic relationship with light-dependent creatures. The information that a shell of a single clam that lived for a short 9-year period millions of years ago tells us paints the most detailed picture of a day in the lives of our ancestors yet.

Image courtesy:
‘Underwater cave’, ‘Crocodiles’, ‘Oxygen bubbles’, ‘Dinosaur’ by Shutterstock
‘Robot’ by Alex Knight from Pexels

Contributors:
Anupama Prakash, Sharang Kolwalkar, Avantika Deo, Rachana Bhattacharjee

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