The alyssum flowers pictured above aren't just pretty -- they're good for the planet, too. A recent study from the University of Warwick suggests that the common flowers and their relatives could help restore chemically poisoned land to a more livable state by leeching toxins from the ground. As an added bonus, researchers think they could one day harvest those same toxic chemicals -- now broken down to tiny nanoparticles -- for use in new technologies.
NASA has whipped up a ruckus with their release teasing an announcement about "an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." We've surmised that the press conference will primarily be about organisms that use arsenic rather than phosphorus for energy, and also incorporate it partially in their DNA. The conference begins at 2pm EST, and you'll be able to watch live, streaming video here. Word has gotten out in advance of the press conference that this is to be the main focus of the announcement, but we'll know soon enough if if there's more. If you're interested, check out the livestream at 2pm.
You've got to hand it to NASA for their ability to routinely make a ruckus: Whereas many scientists struggle to elicit anything more than yawns from their audiences as they try to explain why their work matters (and, more pointedly, why it deserves tax or grant money), the whole "aliens" and "outer space" thing gives NASA a more receptive audience, and they know how to press that audience's buttons. In this case, though, things have gotten a little out of hand: A NASA press release on "an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life" morphed into Jason Kottke's "Has NASA discovered extraterrestrial life?", a question which he admitted was hyperbolic, which in turn mutated into progressively crazier herp-a-derp Internet speculation. Wired's Alexis Madrigal tweeted, "I'm sad to quell some of the @kottke-induced excitement about possible extraterrestrial life. I've seen the Science paper. It's not that." What is it, then? NASA's press conference isn't until 2pm EST tomorrow, so we won't know for sure, but it seems to relate to the decidedly less sexy, though still intriguing, research done on organisms that use arsenic rather than phosphorus for energy.