Caltech Geologists Find New Evidence That Martian Meteorite Could Have Harbored Life

PASADENA—Geologists studying Martian meteorite ALH84001 have found new support for the possibility that the rock could once have harbored life.

Moreover, the conclusions of California Institute of Technology researchers Joseph L. Kirschvink and Altair T. Maine, and McGill University's Hojatollah Vali, also suggest that Mars had a substantial magnetic field early in its history.

Finally, the new results suggest that any life on the rock existing when it was ejected from Mars could have survived the trip to Earth.

Scientists Find "Good Intentions" in the Brain

PASADENA—Neurobiologists at the California Institute of Technology have succeeded in peeking into one of the many "black boxes" of the primate brain. A study appearing in the March 13 issue of the journal Nature describes an area of the brain where plans for actions are formed.

Caltech Chemists Design Molecule To Repair a Type of DNA Damage

PASADENA—Chemists have found a way to repair DNA molecules that have been damaged by ultraviolet radiation. The research is reported in the March 7, 1997, issue of the journal Science.

Question of the Week: Why Does an Engine Cooling System Have a Thermostat, and Hos Does It Relate To the Coolant Flow Rate?

Question of the Month Submitted by Bill McLellan, Pasadena, California, and answered by Melany Hunt, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Caltech.

The cooling system is an important part of an automobile engine. I've certainly become more aware of this fact after having my car overheat on the Santa Monica Freeway.

Question of the Week: What Causes a Gene To Mutate or Change?

Submitted by Virginia Salazar, Whittier, Calif. and answered by Dr. Paul Sternberg, Professor of Biology, Caltech

In most cases, the sequence of DNA making up a gene is copied accurately when a cell divides. This accurate process ensures that each cell is like its parent cell. DNA consists of a string of DNA bases, the letters in the genetic alphabet.

Question of the Week: How Often Do Meteors Fall To Earth?

Question of the Month Submitted by Bob and Pat Gaskill, Orange County, and answered by Dr. William Bottke, Texaco Prize Fellow, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, Caltech.

Caltech Astronomers Obtain the Most Detailed Infared Image of the Environment of an Active Black Hole

TORONTO — Sophisticated imaging techniques applied on the Keck Telescope have uncovered a new structure in a nearby active galaxy.

The image and associated research are being presented today at the semiannual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Alycia Weinberger, a doctoral student in physics at the California Institute of Technology, and her collaborators have used the computer-intensive technique of speckle imaging and the 10-meter W. M. Keck Telescope atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to image the nucleus of NGC 1068.

Question of the Week: All the Planets Spin West To East, Except One. Why Does It Spin In the Opposite Direction?

Question of the Month Submitted by Michael Dole, Covina, Calif., and answered by Peter Goldreich, Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Physics at Caltech.

You're undoubtedly thinking of Venus as the planet that spins east to west. In other words, if you arrived on Venus in the morning, the sun would be in the west and would set in the east. The only thing is that it would set about four Earth-months later! That's because a day on Venus lasts for 243 of our Earth-days.

Question of the Week: Why Is the Night Dark and Not As Light As the Day?

Submitted by Jim Early, Orange County, and answered by Dr. Roger Blandford, Richard Chace Tolman Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics and Executive Officer for Astronomy; and David Hogg, Caltech graduate student in physics.

A similar question was asked by Shawn McCord, age 8, of Covina.

Question of the Week: Could There Possibly Be New Elements In the Universe That Haven't Been Detected?

Question of the Month Submitted by Rick Conner, Laguna Niguel, and answered by Donald Burnett, Professor of Geochemistry, Caltech.

The answer is yes.

Elements are numbered according to the number of protons they contain. For example, hydrogen, the first element on the periodic table, has one proton. Oxygen has eight, iron has 26, and gold has 79. Uranium, with 92 protons, is the heaviest element that has been detected elsewhere in the universe by astronomers.


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