24, Sep 2019

The Living Universe in Your Back Garden

As a guide to how to look for life on other planets, there is no need to look any further than your own back garden. Whether it sprawls over countless acres or is compacted into a small balcony, a garden artfully demonstrates the theories, methods and tools astrobiologists use in their search for alien life on worlds far beyond Earth. A garden is a cultivated space, forever being nudged away from the wilderness it desires to become by the hand that shapes it.

29, Jan 2019

The Great British Weather and the Habitability of Other Worlds

Earth 2.0 has been a popular term in the media for many years now, despite the fact that – to date – no planet beyond our solar system has yet been found that can be confidently described as a copy of our world (let alone a superior, more advanced version of Earth as the postpositive 2.0 tends to imply). This has led to some prevalent misconceptions of the planets we have been finding recently.

10, Jan 2015

How interesting would the discovery of alien microbes really be?

Recent evidence suggests microbial life may have been present on Mars, deep in that planet’s past. Some microbes have been exposed to space and survived, suggesting they are tough enough to endure incredibly harsh conditions If life is something that originates easily, then it is probably only a matter of time before we find evidence of living, or extinct, alien microbes.

22, Aug 2014

Are we still trying to answer the same questions as ancient astronomers?

Of all the sciences, astrobiology seems to capture the public imagination in a way that no other topic does. The quest to find other worlds like our own and to find life on other planets is something that people from all walks of life get excited about...

9, Aug 2019

A Clarification on CO2 and the End of the World

In the past few years, I have noticed my name cited in articles that attempt to debunk climate science. I ignored it at first, working on the assumption that most people either would never read these articles anyway, or would at least see through the agendas behind them. However, more recently, there has been a notable increase in such articles – particularly from within a certain country post-2017 – which has prompted me to write this clarification.

15, Jan 2016

Predicting Evolution

Evolution is often thought of as a haphazard, random process, the results of which cannot be predicted. A famous biological thought experiment, dreamt up by Stephen Jay Gould, imagines re-winding the tape of evolutionary history on Earth, then replaying this “tape of life” from the beginning. Given the random nature of evolution, it is often thought that the new life history of the planet would look very different from the current one...

18, Dec 2014

Where did all the water come from?

It was recently announced that the Rosetta space mission to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko found that water contained by the comet did not resemble water on Earth. This has added to evidence that comets probably did not deliver the oceans to our planet billions of years ago when it first formed. In that case, where did all the water come from and how can we be so sure about...

12, Aug 2014

Will we really find any signs of life beyond Earth?

Astrobiology is a science with little to no evidence. We know there is life here on Earth and, because Earth is in no way separate to the rest of the universe, we know that there is life in the universe. However, when it comes to looking for life beyond Earth we really have nothing much to go on...yet. By studying life on Earth we know increasingly more about where life could live...

12, Jul 2019

Brexit and the Search for Life in the Universe

At first glance there seems to be little connecting Brexit with the search for life on other worlds (beyond, perhaps an impact on the funding of and involvement in that search). However, given time to think on it, odd parallels between the two begin to emerge. Over the three-and-a-bit years since the day of the June 2016 referendum, constant wall-to-wall media coverage of the UK’s plodding, tortoise-like random walk towards leaving the European Union...

12, Mar 2015

A Glass of Martian Red?

Wine has been with us, in one form or another, for 1000s of years, its origin stretching back to before written records began. When people settled new lands, they brought their vines with them, spreading viticulture across the world. If and when people settle on Mars (an idea that’s gradually moving away from the realms of fantasy and becoming a real possibility) they will almost certainly want to continue this trend. The problem is that...

3, Oct 2014

Life in the Air

On Earth, life has managed to find a foothold in a range of seemingly inhospitable environments. Often the most extreme of environments are solely the domain of microbes; from the hot, high-pressure environments of deep sea vents, to the insides of nuclear reactors, but not always. There are also ice worms that spend their lives in glacial ice, so adapted to the cold that they would melt in your hand if picked up...