A Tilted Ocean World Could Possibly Host Life

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How does living in an endless ocean sound? For some, a perpetual sea-side view may be a dream come true. And that dream may already be a reality for extraterrestrial life, according to a new study which suggests that watery exoplanets tilted on their axis in just the right way would boast a "rather mild" and habitable climate.

Experts have been searching for planets outside or solar system that could support life for a long time now. Nearly 2,000 exoplanets beyond our solar system have been identified to date, and NASA experts and their colleagues recently affirmed their belief that a stunning 10 to 20 percent of all the stars in the sky may host habitable planets.

Rethinking Why Life Exists

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Jeremy England has come up with an interesting new hypothesis on the origins of life. In a sense, we exist to dissipate heat. Via BI:

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat.

Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

Did Mars Have What it Takes to Support Life?

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Via MNN:

Ancient Mars featured flowing rivers and sizable lakes — but that doesn't mean the Red Planet definitely could have supported life, one prominent researcher stresses.

The presence of liquid water is just one of many factors that researchers need to take into account when investigating the past or present habitability of Mars or any other cosmic body, astrobiologist and mineralogist Pamela Conrad wrote in a "Perspectives" piece published online on Dec. 11 in the journal Science.

"The things that make a place livable are numerous, and sometimes, there's a showstopper you didn't think of," Conrad, deputy principal investigator for the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity rover, told SPACE.com. "So it's important to take a poll of the diversity of attributes that could contribute to making an environment livable or not."