Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chosen topic - example 1

I thought I'd illustrate the 'Chosen topic' idea a bit more by giving you some examples as we go along. What we don't want you to do is to spend your time reading and writing about the basics. We want you to get to something fun, new and cutting edge as soon as possible.

So, for example, you might wonder what's new in the field of abiogenesis research? Because I know this is a very hot topic I'm going to start with a simple Google scholar search restricted to 2013 on that single term. I can widen that to 2012 if I don't find anything. You can do the same thing in Web of Knowledge.,5

Although that only produces 5 hits from 2013 (it increases to 138 if you include 2012) we have a couple of interesting prospects.

The first, a paper entitled A review on the spontaneous formation of the building blocks of life and the generation of a set of hypotheses governing universal abiogenesis looks interesting. Neither the link nor the UC e-link brought the paper up for me but, undaunted, you can cut and paste the title into regular google and up pops the paper at the first link (you could also hunt it down via WoK or the citation and library).

I got lucky first time here. That paper looks well worth a read and it proposes a set of five hypotheses that govern abiogenesis.

Your investigation can now take off in various directions. In some cases you might want to investigate the response to a paper (might be too soon for this one). You might want to follow up some of the references in the paper if you find a particular part of the paper interesting. Or, if it hasn't gripped your interest yet, you could take a step back and browse the latest edition of the journal it was in 'The International Journal of Astrobiology'.

Oh and those five hypotheses are:

. Any celestial mass that has a body of liquid water and therefore has access to energy, will form at least the building blocks of life, if not life itself.

. The major component of any life form anywhere in the universe will be H2O.

. Any organism, anywhere in the universe, will be carbonbased.

. All life in the universe will be composed of nucleic acid based molecules as its code for life.

. The cell is the universal unit of life.

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