Top Story: October 8, 2010

Saturn’s Moons and Beer

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Saturn’s Moons, Passenger Pigeons and Beer! Here are some of this week’s science news headlines we didn’t want you to miss.

Saturn’s moons got all sorts of attention. From Enceladus’ warm “Perrier” ocean to the potential for life on Titan, one of the best-known planets in our Solar System enjoyed particular popularity this week.

In the lab, researchers were able to create the building blocks of life in Titan’s atmosphere. From SPACE.com:

In the lab, researchers simulated possible chemical reactions occurring high up in the nitrogen-rich atmosphere of Titan. They found that various complex molecules, such as amino acids and nucleotide bases, could form without much prodding.

Also in the news this week, the idea that perhaps it was the death of a large, early moon around Saturn that formed its lovely rings. From Universe Today:

[Robin] Canup’s new alternative theory is that Titan-sized moon with a rocky core and an icy mantle spiraled into Saturn early in solar system history. Tidal forces ripped off part of the icy mantle, distributing it into what would become the rings.

The Academy’s own Jack Dumbacher made news this week with research on the family tree of extinct passenger pigeons. DNA extracted from century-old museum specimens reveals that the spectacular passenger pigeon was most closely related to other North and South American pigeons, and not to the Mourning Dove, as was previously suspected. You can read more in the abstract, published in this month’s Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Now for three news items about beer and flirtation...

Italian researchers recently published a protein library of beer, and according to the Discoblog in Discover:

…better knowledge of the proteins that survive brewing could help improve flavor, aroma, and retention of the foamy head so prized by beer drinkers.

Cheers!

And how about Beers in Space? Popular Science had a story this week about a non-profit space research company that is “about to test an Australian beer that's brewed and bottled especially for consumption in microgravity.” Apparently, due to numbed taste buds and carbonation, regular beer just won’t do.

Finally, our science-geek neighbors at UCSF posted a very funny, must-see YouTube video late last week, “Most Beautiful Girl in the Lab.”

What turned you on in science news this week? Let us know!

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