The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are the origin of life, T-Rex’s walk and space plants.

Article written by Grace Chan.

Did life really begin in the sea?

For decades, it was believed that life began in the sea. However, researchers from the University of New South Wales Sydney have recently discovered ancient mineral structures (stromatolites) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Those stromatolities serve as evidence for discovering the origin of life on Earth. Unlike previous hypotheses, these stromatolites appear not to have been formed in salty sea water, but instead in an environment more similar to hot springs (similar to environments found at Yellowstone in the US). This discovery has pushed the timing of the first emergence of microbial life on land back by 580 millions years and also suggests that life actually originated in a freshwater environment. So maybe Charles Darwin was right after all when he postulated that life did begin in ‘some warm little ponds’.

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Life in a primordial jacuzzi?

T-Rex the jogger

Unlike the suggestion by the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex car chase of Jurassic Park, researchers now believe that the T. Rex could only walk at a brisk 12mph. Using computer simulations taking into account the size and mass of the dinosaur, scientists from the University of Manchester have found that it would have been physically impossible for the fearsome dinosaur to run since the dinosaur’s legs were not designed to withstand the stresses and strains associated with such quick movement. The likely implication is that T. rex’s prey was slower herbivorous dinosaurs, such as the Edmontosaurus and Triceratops. So maybe its time for a more scientifically remake of our favourite dinosaur movie?

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Could Jeff have outrun the T-rex?

Space Farmer

When growing plants on Earth, both gravity and water gradients govern the directionality of root growth. Identifying which factor has a more significant influence on root growth has been of great interest, especially for future space exploration. To test this, cucumber plant seeds have been taken to the International Space Station and are being grown in special water chambers in space. It has been found that water alone is enough to direct root growth in a microgravity environment. This means that growing plants in a low gravity environment such as Mars or the Moon might not be as difficult as we imagine, and the results of this study will be extremely useful as we learn to efficiently cultivate plants on future space farms. It seems like Matt Damon might soon not be the only successful space botanist out there!

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Farming space corn

Article written by Grace Chan