Feeds

Fireflies aid hunt for ET

Little green bugs seek little green men

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Fireflies could in future help scientists in the search for extraterrestrial life.

The insects contain a chemical called luciferase and it's this that makes the bugs glow.

Luciferase is already used in various forms of bioanalysis - in particular for analysing DNA and as a positive indicator for the presence of bacteria. It reacts with all living material to create light, and this makes it a good candidate for use in the search for biological life on Mars. There's just one small problem.

Luciferase is temperature dependent and just doesn't work when the heat is on. Anything sent to Mars must be able to withstand some temperature variation to be viable, and this is where a team of Swedish boffins comes in.

They've managed to get the stuff to glow at much higher temperatures than normal - up to 37 degrees centigrade - using what doctoral student at the Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology, Jonas Eriksson, calls a thermodynamic "magic trick".

Although this breakthrough paves the way for equipping future rovers like Spirit and Opportunity with bio-detecting sensors, the most immediate benefit is more accurate analysis of DNA using pyrosequencing. At lower temperatures, reactions can occur that render test results difficult to interpret, but with the thermodynamic trick Eriksson has discovered, this is no longer a problem.

So, next stop for the humble firefly - the Red Planet? ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.