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Life Helps Make Almost Half of Earth’s Minerals
A new origins-based system for classifying minerals reveals the huge geochemical imprint that life has left on Earth. It could help us identify other worlds with life too.
What Is Life?
Without a good definition of life, how do we look for it on alien planets? Steven Strogatz speaks with Robert Hazen, a mineralogist and astrobiologist, and Sheref Mansy, a chemist, to learn more.
Secrets of the Moon’s Permanent Shadows Are Coming to Light
Robots are about to venture into the sunless depths of lunar craters to investigate ancient water ice trapped there, while remote studies find hints about how water arrives on rocky worlds.
A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change
A centuries-old concept in soil science has recently been thrown out. Yet it remains a key ingredient in everything from climate models to advanced carbon-capture projects.
Radioactivity May Fuel Life Deep Underground and Inside Other Worlds
New work suggests that the radiolytic splitting of water supports giant subsurface ecosystems of life on Earth — and could do it elsewhere, too.
Scientists Pin Down When Earth’s Crust Cracked, Then Came to Life
New data indicating that Earth’s surface broke up about 3.2 billion years ago helps clarify how plate tectonics drove the evolution of complex life.
Inside Deep Undersea Rocks, Life Thrives Without the Sun
Newly discovered worlds of microbes far beneath the ocean floor, inside old basaltic rocks, could point to a greater likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe.
Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start
A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar system’s beginnings.
What Made the Moon? New Ideas Try to Rescue a Troubled Theory
Textbooks say that the moon was formed after a Mars-size mass smashed the young Earth. But new evidence has cast doubt on that story, leaving researchers to dream up new ways to get a giant rock into orbit.