Readers weigh in on microbes touring by smoke, ‘Oumuamua and extra

Up in smoke

A band of researchers is learning how microbes carried by wildfire smoke would possibly have an effect on human and ecological well being, Megan Sever reported in “Smoke and microbes” (SN: 4/10/21, p. 22).

Sever’s story is “a superb overview” of pyroaerobiology analysis, particularly that of fireside ecologist Leda Kobziar, reader Forrest M. Mims III wrote. Mims’ daughter Sarah found that smoke can loft microbes into the air almost 20 years in the past when she was a junior in highschool, Mims famous. Utilizing a “50-cent air sampler she flew from a kite and a reasonable microscope,” she discovered that smoke from biomass fires in Yucatán, Mexico, had arrived in Texas, carrying micro organism and fungi, he wrote. The daddy-daughter duo printed the ends in 2004 in Atmospheric Surroundings.

“That was a important pioneering examine certainly and is cited in every of my papers,” says Kobziar, of the College of Idaho in Moscow. Whereas Sarah Mims’ examine didn’t spark Kobziar’s preliminary curiosity about pyroaerobiology, Mims’ story ought to “encourage younger scientists to comply with their curiosity,” Kobziar says. “It definitely has impressed me!”

Sparks of life

Phosphorus from a lightning-forged model of a mineral referred to as schreibersite might have gone into constructing the primary DNA and RNA molecules on Earth, Maria Temming reported in “Lightning could have sparked life” (SN: 4/10/21, p. 7).

Reader Craig Smith questioned why DNA and RNA would wish phosphorus from schreibersite fairly than different naturally occurring types of the factor.

“The model of phosphorus that existed within the soil earlier than the lightning struck was not a model that could possibly be used to make biomolecules,” Temming says. Phosphorus within the mineral schreibersite is very lowered, which implies it’s not tightly sure to oxygen within the mineral. That makes this phosphorus simpler to extract from the mineral, and thus simpler to include into DNA and RNA molecules, than different naturally occurring types of the factor, she says.


The weird-looking interstellar object often called ‘Oumuamua could also be a bit of nitrogen ice that broke off a Pluto-like exoplanet, Maria Temming reported in “ ‘Oumuamua will get a brand new origin story” (SN: 4/10/21, p. 6).

Previous illustrations of ‘Oumuamua advised that the thing had an elongated form just like that of a cigar (SN: 5/9/20 & 5/23/20, p. 12). If the thing is fabricated from nitrogen ice, how might it have retained such a form given the “crushing gravitational forces of its method to our solar?” reader Bob Reckers requested.

‘Oumuamua is definitely now considered extra pancake-shaped than cigar-shaped (see illustration under). Researchers hypothesize that the thing was a lot thicker when it entered our photo voltaic system, Temming says. Proximity to the solar winnowed down ‘Oumuamua, just like how rubbing a chunky bar of cleaning soap progressively wears the bar all the way down to a flat, sharp shard.

If the thing is certainly fabricated from nitrogen ice, then it additionally have to be a lot shinier than scientists initially anticipated, Temming says. Which means ‘Oumuamua should even be barely smaller than scientists thought to account for the quantity of sunshine seen reflecting off it because it whizzed by, she says.

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