Discovered: Super-Earth exoplanet seems habitable; it's alive—this gelatinous lab-bred blob; rethinking the theory that genes cause disease; fairy-wrens identify themselves with code words.
The truth may be out there on that newly discovered exoplanet. Someone call SETI and tell them to train efforts on HD 40307, the newly discovered exoplanet in a six-planet system 42 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pictor. This Super-Earth has great potential to harbor life, according to the a team of European astronomers that discovered it. The star it orbits is a bit smaller and a bit dimmer than our own sun, but its distance from the star is optimal for sustaining oceans and temperate climates. [Wired]
Scientists animate a lab-made blob. It's not quite on the same order as animated a stitched-together corpse a la Frankenstein, but scientists have discovered a way to make drops of gelatinous, protein-rich substance move by themselves. The blob is made of proteins extracted from cow brains, tiny polymers, and motor proteins from bacteria, which when combined are able to move themselves at a rate of about 8 nanometers per step. "It mimics a little bit what might happen in a living system," comments biomaterials researcher M. Cristina Marchetti from Syracuse University. This kind of autonomy is a crucial feature of life, but the researchers stress that the substance has no life of its own. They hope it will prove useful for delivering drugs in the human body, or perhaps even targeting cancer cells. Watch it come to "life" below: [New Scientist]