Neanderthal Genes Could Increase Likelihood Of Schizophrenia, Other Illnesses

Although Neanderthals have been extinct for about 30,000 years, Neanderthal genes still manifest in today’s modern human beings. But it isn’t exactly in a good way, as it’s those genes that may make us more likely to catch specific diseases. A report from The Verge focused on a study published earlier in the week in the journal Cell, which talks about a phenomenon known as regulation of gene expression. This term refers to how the DNA we have inherited from Neanderthals can affect such variables in modern humans. These variables may include our height, as well as how likely we are to develop diseases such as lupus or schizophrenia. According to the researchers, people with Neanderthal genes may be more likely than others to get the above diseases and others. The new research comes three years after two separate papers had suggested that approximately one to four percent of our DNA had come from Neanderthals. The Smithsonian wrote in 2014 that the researchers behind the two studies used different approaches, yet came up with the same conclusion – modern humans still have a tiny little bit of Neanderthal in them. Neanderthal DNA still influence how genes are turned on-off in modern humans such as height, schizophrenia or lupus https://t.co/dfXEAFhlAx pic.twitter.com/7snBidGqHD — Xavi Bros (@Xavi_Bros) February 25, 2017 A report from Scientific American detailing one of the early-2014 studies stressed that today’s humans received a mixed bag from their Neanderthal ancestors. On the plus side, having Neanderthal genes allowed people to adapt easier to new environments, but on the negative side, this made people more susceptible to certain diseases. “Those genes with the highest Neanderthal ancestry are associated with keratin, a protein found in skin and hair. The Neanderthal variants of these genes may well have helped early modern humans adapt to the new environments they found themselves in as they spread into Eurasia. But the researchers also found that people today carry Neanderthal genes that are associated with diseases including Crohn’s, type 2 diabetes and lupus.” Going back to the present study, co-author Joshua Akey, a geneticist at the University of Washington, said that Neanderthal genes had a “pervasive” effect on us. His team used genetic data from tissues, as opposed to medical records, and went into the intricate process of determining which genes are “turned on or off” in today’s humans. Based on the analysis of 52 different tissues, all but two of them had any preference for human or Neanderthal gene expression – the only exceptions were the brains and the testes. The gene expression in both those tissues wasn’t as strong as it was in other tissues, and the researchers believe that this may be because they both evolved much faster than other body parts did. “If we understand the Neanderthal genome and its function better, then we’ll understand the human genome and its function better,” Akey commented to The Verge. Altamura Man: this remarkable skeleton – encrusted in calcite for >150,000 years – has yielded the oldest known samples of #Neanderthal DNA. pic.twitter.com/rc8YSOn4rP — The Ice Age (@Jamie_Woodward_) February 23, 2017 A separate and newer report from the Smithsonian adds that there were differences in human and Neanderthal gene expression in 25 percent of the tissues tested. Some of the differences resulted in a better chance of people becoming taller, but others had, as mentioned above, made them more likely to contract lupus or develop schizophrenia. Tony Capra, a Vanderbilt University geneticist who wasn’t involved in the study, was quoted as saying the lack of gene expression in the testes may have compromised fertility when Neanderthals and ancient humans began to interbreed. “It further illustrates that Neanderthal DNA that remains in modern humans has the potential to influence diverse traits.” Following these new and revealing takeaways from their study of modern human and Neanderthal genes, the researchers are hoping to study gene expression in people of Melanesian descent, due to the fact they have gene sequences inherited from the Denisovans. Akey added to The Verge that he wants to study more geographically diverse populations, and that these research projects may potentially yield the discovery of new groups of early humans. [Featured Image by

Horrific 6-Foot Carnivore Worm With Snapping Jaws Uncovered, Predates Dinosaurs

Scientists have uncovered fossil evidence of a new species, a terrifying 6-foot-long prehistoric carnivorous worm that once swam in abundance in the seas in North America about 400 million years ago. And if being 6 feet long wasn’t enough for nightmares, the part scientists found to base their extrapolations on was the creature’s massive jaws. The fossil find, according to the Daily Mail, is that of the largest bristle worm ever discovered. Said Luke Parry, a PhD student at the University of Bristol told the Mail, “Through our research we’ve managed to describe the largest bristle worm ever known. We found jaws of the worm in a remote locality at the bottom of Hudson Bay in Ontario in Canada. We then compared the jaws with those of their closet living relatives which are bobbit worms and we managed to work out that this new species was around two meters long.” The new species was dubbed Websteroprion armstrongi after Alex Webster, a bassist from Death Metal band Cannibal Corpse, which is Parry’s favorite band. It was discovered at the bottom of Hudson Bay near Ontario, Canada. Parry said that it is unclear why this particular species, long extinct, grew to be so large. The fact that they inhabited tropical regions where the water as warm and shallow could have enabled the worms to grow “bigger and bigger,” he postulated. Parry said another reason for the worms to have gotten so large may have been due to “competitive dominance.” He said this could have been in response to the need to be larger than its rivals in order to obtain the most food. Much of the prehistoric worm’s history is unknown. “We’ve only found one set of fossils so it’s difficult to tell how long they were around for or when they went extinct,” Parry admitted. Still, the huge jaws of the prehistoric creature led scientists to the worm’s closest extant relatives. From there, researchers were then able to figure out how the monster worm behaved in its environment. Websteroprion armstrongi is related to the bobbit worm, whose actual name is “giant eunicid,” which also uses its large jaws to capture unsuspecting prey, like octopuses, squid, and fish. This species averages about one meter (3.3 feet) length-wise, although they can grow to three meters (10 feet) in length. Parry describes the bobbit worm as an ambusher. “Bobbit worms sit in burrows at the bottom of the sea and use their sensory appendages to monitor what food is going by. When they sense prey is near, they snatch it up and pull it into their burrow.” The Bobbit worm, a descendant relative of the new species, ambushes its prey from an underground lair. [Image by By Jenny (Flickr: “Aliens” movie star!) (CC BY 2.0)/Wikimedia Commons] But the new species, comparatively, is enormous and has the largest jaws ever recorded on a creature of this type. Lund University’s Mats Eriksson, lead author of the study, noted that the “gigantism,” though optimal for competitive dominance, is a “poorly understood phenomenon among marine worms and has never before been demonstrated in a fossil species.” He added that it was a “unique case” in the Paleozoic. The researchers’ findings were published February 21 in Scientific Reports. And even though gigantism may have been a unique feature during the Paleozoic, the Earth would soon, geologically speaking, be overrun with gigantic creatures beginning about 230-245 million years ago in the Triassic Period. The dinosaurs would evolve and reign through the Jurassic Period and see a sudden die-off of most dinosaur species about 66 million years ago which is attributed to various catastrophic occurrences, such as a meteor impact (Chixhulub), increased volcanic activity, and global climate change, all of which may have been interrelated. The Titanoboa is the largest prehistoric snake on record. [Image by Ryan Quick from Greenbelt, MD, USA (Titanoboa 1) (CC BY 2.0)/ Wikimedia Commons] And although the Age of the Dinosaurs may not have had a 6-foot carnivore worm, the giant beasts’ demise may have helped give rise to gigantic snakes like the Titanoboa, a massive reptile that lived around 58-60 million years ago during the Paleocene epoch of the Paleogene Period. The only known fossil evidence of the genus was uncovered in Colombia in 2009 by an international team of paleontologists, according to Science Daily. The boa constrictor-like creature was estimated to be from 42-45 feet long and weighed about 1.25 tons. [Featured Image by Herschel Hoffmeyer/Shutterstock]

Woolly Mammoths May Walk The Earth Again, And It Might Happen Soon

The woolly mammoth went extinct approximately 4,000 years ago, but if researchers leading a “de-extinction” project have anything to say about it the giant elephant-like mammals will once again be roaming the earth soon. “Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Professor George Church at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston earlier this week, according to TheIndependent. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.” Church leads the Harvard-based research team working on the project. He says his team is only about two years away from creating the hybrid embryo, in which “mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.” Harvard-led woolly mammoth de-extinction project gets closer to reality https://t.co/NbrH2kA6xE pic.twitter.com/GcwfKB52D4 — TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) February 19, 2017 As The Independent‘s Hannah Devlin explains, “the creature, sometimes referred to as a ‘mammophant,’ would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.” The Inquisitr previously reported on Crispr gene-editing technology, particularly in regards to Chinese researchers introducing Crispr-edited genes into humans for the first time in hopes of finding new and better ways of treating certain types of cancers. CRISPR is so successful at altering genes because it achieves two crucial processes at once — with impressive levels of accuracy and efficiency. It can target specific genes and lock on them while also cutting the DNA strand. “The reason it’s able to manage this precision double act is because CRISPR is made of ribonucleic acid (RNA) — a molecule that can be tailor-made to perfectly match a sequence of DNA or to bind to a protein,” science writer Bernie Hobbs explains in an Australian Broadcasting Commission report. Church’s team has completed the cellular development phase of their research and is now prepared to move forward with developing the complete embryo. That means things could start getting a little more tricky for the scientists. Woolly mammoth on verge of resurrection, scientists reveal.https://t.co/KV1LsREqxk
Woolly mammoths, stuff of a child’s dreams – #evolution pic.twitter.com/7Ak7riPj3A — Cosmological (@kenserlore96) February 16, 2017 “We’re working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits and basically trying to establish embryogenesis in the lab,” Church said. “We already know about ones to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood, but there are others that seem to be positively selected.” Church’s team initially estimated they would need to make 15 edits to allow for the embryo to be viable and exhibit the traits they desire. They have since increased the number of edits to 45. Of course the prospect of reintroducing a long-extinct animal, especially one the size of a woolly mammoth, raises several practical and ethical concerns. Church and his team hope that these concerns will be assuaged by the fact that their experiment has a very practical, and some may even say vital, goal: They hope that reintroducing the mammoths, or their hybrid test-tube cousins at least, will help to stave off climate change. “They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in,” Church said of woolly mammoths. “In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.” It is uncertain how effective the mammoths would be in these efforts, or how many of them would need to be reintroduced, but at this point perhaps every little bit helps. [Featured image by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]

Is Zealandia A Continent? Scientists See It As One, But Not Everyone Agrees

There’s been a lot of noise made about Zealandia as a new continent. And while more than 90 percent of this land mass is underwater, scientists believe that it fulfills the criteria to be considered the world’s eighth continent. But there are some who disagree, asserting that Zealandia doesn’t fit the bill as a conventional continent. According to the Huffington Post, Zealandia also covers New Caledonia and other nearby islands and territories located in the southwest part of the Pacific Ocean. 94 percent of the continent, which is estimated to be about two-thirds the size of nearby Australia, is submerged underwater. Previously, both Australia and New Zealand were thought to be part of the continent of Australia, but research published earlier this week by the Geological Society of America (GSA) suggests that New Zealand rests on a separate piece of continental crust measuring about 1.8 million square miles. Due to this vast continental support and its being separate from Australia, the multinational team of researchers believes that New Zealand is part of Zealandia, and not part of Australia or part of a microcontinent with nearby islands. “The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth… (and) provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup.” New Zealand may be Australia’s smaller neighbor, but it sits on a massive new continent scientists call “Zealandia” https://t.co/RDKdgPVeCW pic.twitter.com/TWLpQn7QUA — CNN (@CNN) February 17, 2017 A report from The Guardian detailed how geologists have long been pushing for Zealandia’s inclusion as a continent, having done so for over 20 years. American geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk had first come up with the name in 1995, but in the time since then, his study wasn’t widely recognized by international researchers. As for the new study, co-author and New Zealand geologist Nick Mortimer told The Guardian that his team had first created a map to prove the existence of Zealandia in 2002, gathering data and “joining the dots” over the years as more information became available. “That’s when the penny dropped, really… From that point, that map was literally our road map for some crosses, just trying to get rocks out of all the four corners of Zealandia that we could, so we could prove up the geology.” Scientists say Zealandia qualifies as a continent &have now made a renewed push for it to be recognised as such: https://t.co/u1yehRxq3r pic.twitter.com/hhTv3DWerq — UN Environment (@UNEP) February 19, 2017 Zealandia is believed to be part of a super-continent known as Gondwana, a prehistoric continent that covered most of the Southern Hemisphere, including Australia. This makes it similar to another recent candidate for Earth’s “eighth continent” – Mauritia – which also may have split off from Gondwana millions of years ago. Some have doubted whether Mortimer’s study does officially qualify Zealandia as a continent, despite its features being consistent to how the researchers define one. For example, The Verge wrote earlier this week that continents are “identified mainly by convention,” meaning continuous landmasses and not those that are mostly submerged underwater. “Europe and Asia are considered separate continents, for instance. They are, however, a continuous landmass, Eurasia, and are treated as such by geologists. ‘Zealandia’ is 6 percent land and pretty much all sea.” BBC News wrote that while it’s true Zealandia met the continent criteria set by Mortimer and his associates, there is no official board that could officially elevate it to continent status. This is a contrast to how the International Astronomical Union (IAU) removed Pluto from the list of planets over a decade ago, “demoting” it to the status of dwarf planet. And there may be more research needed before textbooks can be updated to state that there are eight, and not just seven, continents. However, if Zealandia is a continent, those school books and other official literature will need to be updated for the 21st century, as it joins Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America as the world’s eighth and smallest continent. [Featured Image by David Hallett/Getty Images]

Zealandia: Reaction To The Newly Discovered Lost Continent Grows

Asia, Africa, Australia, and Zealandia? The recently unearthed continent may soon have schoolchildren around the world seeing the addition of an eighth continent in their textbooks if social media buzz this week is any indication. The news of Zealandia may be new to laypeople, but scientists have been using the term since 1995 when, according to ABC News, a geologist by the name of Bruce Luyendyk coined the phrase to describe area encompassing New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the landmass underwater. A summary of the research findings, entitled “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent” was presented by GSA Today. In the article, researchers made the argument that Zealandia could be categorized as a continent because of its elevation, ancient and diverse rock structure, physical terrain, and size. The lead author of the GSA Today study, Nick Mortimer, noted in a recent interview that it may be hard to visualize the presence of Zealandia because it is hidden deep in the ocean. “If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have mountain chains and a big, high-standing continent.” According to the study authors, Zealandia is comparable in size to India at approximately 1.9 million square miles. It is also believed that the land mass was once part of Gondwana, which was once a supercontinent that split apart 180 million years ago. Zealandia is roughly 5% the size of Gondwana, which gives some idea of the enormity of that long-ago supercontinent. #BreakingNews Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent (Mortimer et al., 2017. Geology). Abstract: “A 4.9 Mkm2 region of the southwest #Pacific Ocean is made up of #continental crust. The region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding #oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure. Its isolation from #Australia and large area support its definition as a continent—Zealandia. #Zealandia was formerly part of #Gondwana. Today it is 94% submerged, mainly as a result of widespread Late #Cretaceous crustal thinning preceding supercontinent breakup and consequent isostatic balance. The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental #islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of #Earth. Zealandia provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup.” #geography #geology #paleogeography #igers *instanature #igtoday #instatoday #map A post shared by ???????? Brazilian Paleontologist (@rodrigo.paleontologist) on Feb 16, 2017 at 5:23pm PST Gondwana was the southernmost part of an even larger continent known as Pangea that formed after a massive collision. What we now know as Antarctica, Australia, Africa, and South America were once part of Gondwana. Although mostly underwater, anyone up for a visit? PS: No visa required! #8thcontinent #Zealandia #discovery #geology #Science https://t.co/TDhwvsnatp — Visa Guide (@TeamVisaGuide) February 16, 2017 Researchers hypothesize that about 100 million years ago Zealandia developed when it broke away from Gondwana because of ongoing continental drift, which is the theory that our modern continents formed through a slow interaction of plate tectonics. As Scientific American noted, the continental crust of Zealandia is distinct and separate from Australia As evidenced by its name, Zealandia is 94% submerged underwater in the Pacific Ocean with New Zealand and nearby island New Caledonia representing the tiny fraction of the continental crust that remained above water. For the New Zealand scientists who have studied Zealandia, they believe the landmass illustrates that “The large and the obvious in natural science can be overlooked.” They also noted that what ultimately makes Zealandia unique is that is has existed for so long submerged and intact. News of Zealandia comes after scientists found evidence of another lost continent named Mauritia located in the depths of the Indian Ocean near the African island nation of Mauritius. The discovery of Mauritia happened when rocks that are billions of years old were discovered in Mauritius that could not have existed in the period that the island has been around. S/O to #Zealandia making us rethink the way we see the ????! — Spencer Miller (@SpencerBMiller) February 17, 2017 The study of Zealandia is already providing greater insight into the distinct geology of New Zealand, which as The Christian Science Monitor found, has seen a complete reshaping of its landscape due to a recent earthquake. The sea wall, located along The South Island’s coastline, now has an elevated area covered in seaweed and misplaced sea snails and other animals pushed from their deep-water homes. Kaikoura, New Zealand. [Image by Pool/Getty Images] Zealandia represents an integral part of future research into how not New Zealand formed, but the entire region. According to the study authors, “depictions of the Paleozoic-Mesozoic geology of Gondwana, eastern Australia, and West Antarctica are both incomplete and misleading if they omit Zealandia.” For geologists that study the evolution of landmasses, Zealandia is a game-changer. It expands knowledge of how continents broke apart and formed over the course of hundreds of millions of years. It is also a reminder to us all that the planet we occupy is constantly shifting and transforming over time. [Featured Image by NASA/Getty Images]

New Continent Found! 'Zealandia' Discovered By Geologists After Decades Of Work

Researchers have long suspected that there’s a big hidden underwater continent located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, and after years of exhaustive gathering of data and data analysis, they can now confirm that it exists. They are calling it Zealandia. Since we were kids we were taught that the Earth has seven continents — Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Six, if you combine Europe and Asia together and call it Eurasia. But now, it appears that there’s an underwater continent that’s been hiding under our noses all this time. By gathering satellite data and rock samples, among many other things, 11 researchers now have conclusive evidence that they found a new continent on Earth aptly named ‘Zealandia.’ Earth has a new continent called ‘Zealandia,’ and it’s been hiding in plain sight for ages https://t.co/JW8q6Wl9QA pic.twitter.com/eDzlCWrRMe — Business Insider (@businessinsider) February 15, 2017 “This is not a sudden discovery, but a gradual realization; as recently as 10 years ago we would
not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper,” researchers wrote in GSA Today, a journal of the Geological Society of America. The study concludes that New Zealand and New Caledonia aren’t just island chains, but are part of a 1.89 million-square-mile region separate from Australia. The researchers are calling Zealandia as “the youngest, thinnest, and most submerged continent on the planet. GSA Today #Science Online Ahead of Print
‘Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent’ https://t.co/gB85focR0w https://t.co/fTa7B0Xo1P pic.twitter.com/sIZsFdUoFB — geosociety (@geosociety) February 14, 2017 The theory that there’s a new continent on Earth called Zealandia isn’t new. In 2007, Hamish Campbell, one of the authors behind the GNS report, argued in his book “In Search of Ancient New Zealand” that Zealandia was completely submerged before shifts of continental plates caused New Zealand and New Caledonia to emerge from underwater, as reported by Travel and Leisure. Bruce Luyendyk, a geophysicist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, coined the term “Zealandia” in 1995. Though he wasn’t part of the research team that worked on the GNC study that proves there’s another continent on Earth besides the ones we already know, he vouched for the abilities of the scientists who diligently worked on the study. “These people here are A-list earth scientists,” Luyendyk told Business Insider. “I think they’ve
put together a solid collection of evidence that’s really thorough. I don’t see that there’s going to be a lot of pushback, except maybe around the edges.” Lyendyk said that he never intended Zealandia to be a new continent, saying that he only coined the term to describe New Zealand, New Caledonia, and some pieces and slices of crust that broke off from Gondwana, a 200 million-year-old supercontinent. “The reason I came up with this term is out of convenience,” he said. “They’re pieces of the same thing when you look at Gondwana. So I thought, ‘Why do you keep naming this collection of pieces as different things?’” Little did Lyendyk know that researchers would advance his ‘Zealandia’ idea. Like any worthwhile scientific discovery, the discovery took not only years but decades of painstaking and exhaustive research and data gathering before it was fully realized. According to Business Insider, the researchers used four criteria to come up with their conclusions. Land that pokes up relatively high from the ocean floor. A diversity of three types of rocks: igneous (spewed by volcanoes), metamorphic (altered by heat/pressure), and sedimentary (made by erosion). A thicker, less dense section of crust compared with surrounding ocean floor. “Well-defined limits around a large enough area to be considered a continent rather than a microcontinent or continental fragment.” Geologists determined that New Zealand and New Caledonia satisfy criteria one, two, and three. Both regions poke high enough from the ocean floor that it’s easy to imagine them being part of a larger continent on the earth’s crust. Both are also geologically diverse and are made of thicker, less dense crust. Welcome to Zealandia. Inside this fence is an ancient world where devastated New Zealand species can thrive again https://t.co/iw6Bo2Wu80 pic.twitter.com/p296ixECCQ — New Scientist (@newscientist) February 3, 2017 Now that we can confirm for a fact that there’s a brand new continent called Zealandia, researchers are presented with new opportunities for predicting and examining how the Earth’s continental crust moves. [Featured Image by Ross Land/Getty Images]

Winston Churchill On Aliens: Newfound 1939 Essay Posited We Are Not Alone

Sir Winston Churchill was a man of letters and opinions and although there are numerous volumes of his works to be found, one would never find the man going on about the possibility of alien life on other worlds. Until now. A 1939 essay has been recovered that sheds light on Churchill’s thoughts concerning not only the possibility of but the search for extraterrestrials. Space.com reported this week that Winston Churchill, the revered Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, was very open to the position that alien life was likely to exist. In an essay, “Are We Alone In The Universe?”, he spelled out his reasoning and even put forth a definition for what we today call a “habitable zone.” “I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures,” he wrote in the essay, “or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.” Churchill, among his many pursuits, was a proponent of science and a bit of an astronomer. (He actually was the first prime minister to appoint a science advisor.) These interests led to an 11-page essay that pondered the search for alien life, an essay that was never formally published and only came to light recently when it was uncovered at the Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri. Although originally written in 1939, it was revised in the late 1950s. Last year, Timothy Riley, the museum’s director, showed the essay to astrophysicist Mario Livio, who is head of the Institute Science Division at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Livio described the essay, using plenty of exerpts, and Churchill’s very modern approach to science in a recent article for Nature. “I was amazed to see the title of this article, first of all,” Livio told Space.com. “And then I read it and was even more astonished, because I saw that this great politician is musing about a real scientific topic, an intriguing scientific topic, [and] he is reasoning about this in the same way that a scientist today would go about it.” Churchill wrote (per Phys.org), “I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets.” From that jumping point, the Englishman concluded that it was likely that quite a few planets in the universe that might harbor living organisms. He wrote that, for a planet around some faraway star to be suitable for life, it would have to maintain an orbit that would be sufficiently agreeable to sustaining liquid water. Kepler-186f, the first Earth-size exoplanet discovered to be in the habitable zone. [Image by Egyptian Studio/NASA/Shutterstock] He wrote that there must be a number of other planets that are “the right size to keep… water and possibly an atmosphere”, and “at the proper distance from their parent sun to maintain a suitable temperature.” Today we know this orbital area to be the “habitable zone.” And scientists still believe that, when searching for alien life, the presence of liquid water will be a requisite for living organisms to exist. “At a time when a number of today’s politicians shun science, I find it moving to recall a leader who engaged with it so profoundly,” Livio wrote in Nature. Today, the hunt for exoplanets is commonplace, with emphasis being placed on those that might be in habitable zones. Just last week, it was announced, according to the Daily Mail, that a team of researchers led by the University of Hertfordshire had discovered 60 new planets and evidence of 54 more. Some of those planets could be found to be in their stars’ habitable zones. Kepler 22b, a planet in the habitable zone, one of an estimated 200 billion in the Milky Way alone. [Image by Marc Ward/Shutterstock] In 2015, scientists calculated, also according to the Daily Mail, that there were 200 billion planets orbiting parent stars in habitable zones — and that was just in the Milky Way. Still, the search for alien life has produced no confirmed living organisms outside planet Earth. But Winston Churchill would likely be pleased to note that his is the consensus scientific opinion with regard to alien life and where it will be found. [Featured Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]