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NASA Astrobiology Institute: October 2009


Astrobiologists searching for life in the universe, believe that Darwin's vision of natural selection promises to profoundly alter and expand the notion of life and its origins.

John Baross, an oceanographer and astrobiologist from the University of Washington, Seattle, will explore this topic on Monday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. PST at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View, Calif. Baross will reflect on Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and possible evolutionary adaptations on other planetary bodies, in a lecture titled "Evolution of Astrobiology: Searching for Life in the Universe - A New Darwinian Voyage." Admission is free.
Sponsors of the lecture include the NASA Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Corporation, Sunnyvale. Calif. This is the last in a series of Ames-hosted public lectures centered on the concept of evolution. In honor of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species," Ames is looking at the evolution of science and technology, particularly as it contributes to the NASA mission.

For more information, visit: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/

The NAI extends its congratulations to Beth Shapiro, member of NAI's Pennsylvania State University team. Beth, Shaffer Career Development Assistant Professor of Biology at Penn State, has been selected as a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. According to the foundation, the prestigious award is given to talented individuals, in a variety of fields, who have shown exceptional creativity, originality, dedication to their creative pursuits, and potential to make important contributions in the future. For more information: http://live.psu.edu/story/41679 [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Jack W. Szostak, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is among a group of three researchers who have been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Szostak, who shares this year's prestigious scientific award with Elizabeth H. Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, and Carol W. Greider of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is also a principal investigator with NASA's Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program and a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The award was presented by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on October 5th, and was given to the group "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase." According to the Royal Swedish Academy, this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to these three scientists for solving a major problem in biology: how chromosomes can be copied in a complete way during cell divisions and how they are protected against degradation. For more information: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2009/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Podcast on the NAI and Astrobiology

Tune into the latest from Omega Tau, a wide-reaching podcast series from Stuttgart, Germany, for an interview with NAI's Director Carl Pilcher as he talks about NAI, astrobiology, and the search for life elsewhere in the universe. For more information: http://omegataupodcast.net/2009/09/18-astrobiology-at-the-nasa-astrobiology-institute/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Jack W. Szostak, a principal investigator with NASA's Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program and a member of the NASA Astrobiology Insitute, is among a group of three researchers who have been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. The award was presented by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on October 5th, and was given to the group "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase." According to the Royal Swedish Academy, this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three scientists for solving a major problem in biology: how chromosomes can be copied in a complete way during cell divisions and how they are protected against degradation. [source: NAI]