Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Urey Life Detector

The Urey: Mars Organic Oxidant Detector has been designed by NASA-funded researchers to look for life on Mars. This "life detector" will check for life's essential molecules at incredibly small concentrations. Urey will also distinguish between amino acids made by biological and non-biological processes.


(Urey: Mars Organic and Oxidant Detector)

The device is named after Harold Urey, who received the 1934 Nobel Prize in chemistry; Dr. Urey is also known for a 1953 experiment with Stanley Miller in which it was shown that a lightning-like discharge in a test tube full of methane, hydrogen, ammonia and water could produce amino acids.

Every form of life on Earth has proteins assembled from chains of amino acids. However, amino acids can be made both by living organisms and by non-biological processes. The presence of amino acids alone do not prove the existence of life.

It turns out that non-biological processes create a 50/50 mix of left- and right-handed versions of the molecules. Living things on Earth, however, make and use left-handed amino acids almost exclusively. Clever Urey the life detector will be looking for the ratio between left- and right-handed molecules.

A Urey component called the micro-capillary electrophoresis unit has the critical job of separating different types of organic compounds from one another for identification, including separation of mirror-image amino acids from each other. "We have essentially put a laboratory onto a single wafer," said Dr. Richard Mathies of the University of California, Berkeley, a Urey co-investigator.

The European Space Agency has chosen Urey to be part of the payload for the ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013. The rover will grind Martian soil to a fine powder and then deliver it to a suite of instruments, including Urey.

The Urey sensor will remind many people of the long range "sensor scans" on science fiction programs like Star Trek. However, author Frank Herbert thought about the idea a decade earlier in his short story Cease Fire:

The antennae of the Life Detector atop the OP swept back and forth in a rhythmic halfcircle like so many frozen sticks brittle with rime ice...
(Read more about Frank Herbert's )

You might also be interested in this earlier article on life detecting sensors: Zoe Robot To Find Life On Distant Worlds. See also these related stories:

Read a bit more at the Hubo lab website.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/13/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

FLOAT Levitating Train On The Moon ala Clarke
'The low-slung monorail car, straddling its single track, bored through the shadows on a slowly rising course.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1955.

SpaceX Intros Extravehicular Activity Suit
'Provision had been made to meet the terrific cold which we knew would be encountered the moment we had passed beyond the atmosphere.' - Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.

SpaceX Wants A Moonbase Alpha
'And he had been sent with troops, supplies and bombs to command Russia's most trusted post, the Moonbase.' - L. Ron Hubbard, 1948.

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Live Stream With Meta-Ban Multimodal Smart Glasses
'...the bug-eyed, opaque gape of her True-Vu lenses.'

'Autonomous' Waymo Improves Driving With Remote Human Operators
'...some bored drone pusher in a remote driving centre has got your life... in his hands.'

Will Whales Be Our First Contact?
'He had piloted the Adastra to its first contact with the civilization of another solar system.'

Heinleinís Controlway - Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) Corridor In Michigan
'Well, that's us,' said Lazarus.

SliceIt! Why Not Teach Robots To Use Knives?
'One building now gushed forth smoke and another stench that was unmistakable.'

NYC/Dublin Portal Fails To Meet 'Guardian Of Forever' Standards
I am the Guardian of Forever.

FLOAT Levitating Train On The Moon ala Clarke
'The low-slung monorail car, straddling its single track, bored through the shadows on a slowly rising course.'

Singapore Writers Push Back On LLM Training
'...we've promised him a generous pension from the royalties.'

SpaceX Intros Extravehicular Activity Suit
'Provision had been made to meet the terrific cold which we knew would be encountered the moment we had passed beyond the atmosphere.'

Athena Smart Security Guard Robot With Face Recognition
'You are who we say you are, Dr. Dakin,' Turner said.'

The FLUTE Project - A Huge Liquid Mirror In Space
'It's area, and its consequent light-gathering capacity, was many times greater than any rigid mirror...'

Robot Preachers Found To Undermine Religious Commitment
'Tell me your torments,' the Padre said, in an elderly voice marked with compassion.

CyberCab - Tesla Renames The Robotaxi
'A cybercab dogged their heels...'

SpaceHopper Microgravity Robot Lands On Its Feet
'...a slender-legged tripod surmounted by a spherical body no larger than a football.'

Brin's 1990 Novel Earth Still Full Of Predictions
'... making the point that their likenesses, every move they made, were being transmitted.'

'Whisper Mode' ala Blue Thunder Researched At Bristol
'Forest Lawn.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.