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"The DNA Code" - New Research Shows Life Hardwired in the Universe

Ch2201 A recent mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality.  DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids - the first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and now it seems that those ten are thermodynamically destined to occur wherever they can.

For those unfamiliar with thermodynamics, it's the Big Brother of all energy equations and science itself.  You can apply quantum mechanics at certain scales, and Newtonian mechanics work at the right speeds, but if Thermodynamics says something then everyone listens. An energy analysis by Professors Pudritz and Higgs of McMaster University shows that the first ten amino acids are likely to form at relatively low temperatures and pressures, and the calculated odds of formation match the concentrations of these life-chemicals found in meteorite samples.

They also match those in simulations of early Earth, and most critically, those simulations were performed by other people.  The implications are staggering: good news for anyone worried about how we're alone, and bad news for anyone who demands some kind of "Designer" to put life together - it seems that physics can assemble the organic jigsaw all by itself, thank you very much, and has probably done so throughout space since the beginning of everything.

The study indicates that you don't need a miracle to arrive at the chemical cocktail for early life, just a decently large asteroid with the right components.  That's all.  The entire universe could be stuffed with life, from the earliest prebiotic protein-a-likes to fully DNAed descendants.  The path from one to the other is long, but we've had thirteen and a half billion years so far and it's happened at least once.

The other ten amino acids aren't as easy to form, but they'll still turn up - and the process of "stepwise evolution" means that once the simpler systems work, they can grab the rarer "epic drops" of more sophisticated chemicals as they occur - kind of a World of Lifecraft except you literally get a life when you play.  And once even the most sophisticated structure is part of a replicating organism, there's plenty to go round.

Posted by Luke McKinney.

Humans and Aliens might share DNA roots


thank you

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Then we are one with nature. Pretty great.

We are a means by which the Universe learns and experiences itself. Life is a byproduct of reality. Cool stuff folks.

You can't create life from death. There is so much information to unlock.

I expect the Intelligent Design crowd (except for the ever-present lunatic fringe) to retreat to an updated version of the Deism that was popular at the end of the eighteenth century. God wrote the rules, dialed in the initial conditions, and pushed the Big Bang Button. He then sat back to see what would evolve. The result, as far as we can determine, is indistinguishable from the atheistic case. If God is there, He -literally- doesn't give a damn. Or a blessing, though he might be amused by some of the elaborate Cargo Cults that have sprung up.

Could you please cite your sources? You say "A recent mathematical analysis says". What analysis, by who, when, can I read it myself?

Great read though

There's so much being left out in this article to make give it any persuasive strength.

I think that you meant proteins and not DNA!

This is an outrage!!!!!!

How dare you?

DNA is formed from nucleotide bases. Proteins are formed from amino acids

Steve | July 09, 2009 at 10:06 AM
Could you please cite your sources? You say "A recent mathematical analysis says". What analysis, by who, when, can I read it myself?

Perhaps this will do:
P. Higgs and R.E. Pudritz, 2007, "From Protoplanetary Disks to Prebiotic Amino Acids and the Origin of the Genetic Code", in "Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life", R.E. Pudritz, P.G. Higgs and J. Stone (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK), p. 62-88.


I get it ray. You rather believe that the Big Bang 'just happened' and that no one and certainly not the One aka 'God' pushed the button. So what caused the big bang? How come I am called a 'ever-present lunatic fringe' when I can accept that an equation governs the life cycle. But YOU can't accept that a 'God' governs the equation. Math is the language of God and defines the Universe. We are not creating the equations we are discovering them. The book has been written we are just reading the chapters!

@abstract logic

You had me a little lost but I assume some of your directions seem provisory. You talk like you are preaching a sermon!

Yikes!: "DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids"

Correction: "Protein is built from a set of twenty amino acids"

DNA encodes these amino acids with codons (a combination of three base pairs from A, C, G or T), and these amino acids are linked together to make proteins.

however comparing the rarer amino acids to epic lewtz in MMOs was kinda... geeky. I like geeky.

Humm. Sounds like the argument "If humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?". The answer of course, invented without proof, is there was a split millions of years ago.

Now, your trying to disprove the 2nd law of your renowned Thermodynamics. Which states that everything decays. So no, Life is not going to just spontaneous create itself, no matter how much faith you have in your god Dirt.

Life is a gift. Accept it or reject it, it is your choice. Then, explain to me how the eyeballs figured out how to create tear ducts so that they would stop drying up and falling out of ape heads. That took what, a million years?

@nmezib - That's either a solid troll or a profoundly idiotic attempt to make anything close to a reasonable point.

Thermodynamics doesn't state that everything decays. You're confusing a skewed definition of entropy (a tendency towards statistical disorder) with the fact that chemicals tend to exist in the most energetically favourable state. Your explanation does nothing to address enthalpy. This is not something that is debatable.

Your closing comment shows that you have no understanding of biological processes or the evolution that shapes them. It's likely that if you hold such views you are content with your own ignorance and would never be persuaded by any explanation or attempt to clarify your understanding of science.

Sorry if this constitutes feeding the trolls, folks.

@DavesNotHere ... who are you talking to?

Regardless, the second law of thermodynamics states:

"The total entropy of any isolated thermodynamic system tends to increase over time, approaching a maximum value."

Entropy being:

"The traditional qualitative description of entropy is that it refers to changes in the status quo of the system and is a measure of "molecular disorder" and the amount of wasted energy in a dynamical energy transformation from one state or form to another." (both of these are snippets from Wikipedia)

So the second law does not state, in such simple terms, "everything decays".

More accurately, "entropy increases, and entropy is the amount of 'molecular disorder' (or wasted energy) in a system" - and now more succinctly, "molecular disorder (or wasted energy) increases over time".

You seem to have a misconception that as life advances, order increases. This hinges on one's definition of 'order'.

A human being, considered as a closed system, is in a high state of entropy, a high state of disorder. We are a constant, unending, gigantic chemical reaction, and that means we are wasting a great deal of energy. A grown person, purely by virtue of being tens of kilos more of reactant material, is wasting more energy than a baby. Thus over time, the system 'a person' experiences increasing entropy. -- This is obviously a very simplified and abstracted example, but is necessary to demonstrate that a living being is not an ordered or order-increasing element of a system; life is the ultimate grower of disorder.

Life expands. When it has the potential to do so, it often does on an exponential scale. Everything that is life is powered by chemical energy, and so as life spreads, more and more energy is wasted. Life is like a naturally occuring function of the universe which _increases the rate of entropy_.

You could classify entropy-increasing mechanisms into various classes: Atomic Decay, Physical interaction (space rocks collide, cause heat), Chemical Interaction (oxidization of a material), Sustained Chemical Interaction (natural production of simple hydrocarbons), Simple life (mono or low-count cellular organisms, like algae), Complex life (like squirrels), and I believe, Spaceborne Life, which we will soon be.

With this examination, you could derive that as the universe ages, more complex and more powerful means of increasing entropy necessarily develop. Life (and we) are just a natural part of the process designed to guide the universe on its path to entropic maximum, as quickly as possible.

While I don't know how much I subscribe to the fact, one could make the argument that such a fascinating, sensible, and seemingly *purposeful* system is likelier to have a designer. A designer is by no means required, but still definitely not excluded.

@DavesNotHere: how is it that you accept the science of thermodynamics but not the science of biology? Oh, of couse, how foolish of me. The science doesn't matter to you, you're just using whatever excuse is convenient to support your preconceptions.

@ the article in general: that's just plain old chemistry at work. There's nothing inherently "life-y" about amino acids, other than that they happen to be used by living organisms on Earth. Life is a *process*, not a substance as the old vitalists used to think.

@ ray

Yikes!: "DNA encodes these amino acids with codons (a combination of three base pairs from A, C, G or T), and these amino acids are linked together to make proteins."

Correction: "DNA is transcribed to mRNA which which codons (a set of three base pairs from A, U, C, or G), which is read by tRNA that brings the individual amino acids to be linked together by ribosome to make proteins."


Your argument does not seem to take into account the quote from Irene Chen. " the absence of some experimental backup, it’s generally difficult to know if this kind of analysis is a Panglossian argument."
So today we know nothing more than yesterday. Don't go jumping up and down so!

It is not a matter of defining how "life was put together" starting from aminoacids, and whether this was done by a Designer. If you just concentrate on the gift of vision and each and every detail of the eye and the way it works in connection with the brain (FEW LEARN TO USE THIS MARVELOUS DEVICE), you will come to the conclusion that this detail of a human organism just can't have been accidentally created out of a chemical soup. We just haven't been around so long to understand creation, so it is easy to deny the existence of what originated Thermodynamics and the rest.

When trying to understand the need of so many expressions of beauty and aesthetics, not required for our physical survival, one learns that we are not just flesh and bones. You also begin to learn what you can achieve by means of your brain.

Simon Says


Please do some actual RESEARCH before posting your dogmatic drivel, Simon. Who knows? You might actually learn something instead of being spoon fed the crap you usually take.

Were the attacks on religion necessary?
Isn't that why you hate religion in the first place, because it's a bandwagon and people use it to excuse their ignorance?

now look, an otherwise informative article has spawned a downward spiral of hatred.

although it would have happened anyways.
it's cool, I do it too, but just be aware of it folks.

I don't see why God and physics have to be opposing views. Self evidently, us being here to contemplate ourselves and our origin and place in the universe is miraculous. Wonderful. Amazing. Science gives us a way to read the creation story that is all around us (don't get your panties twisted if you think everything just is and there is no point in trying to explain it in terms of creation. Fine. I'm not berating your viewpoint.) Why did the Big Bang occur? Why are the rules of physics such that the precursors of life are self-assembling? Science allows us to decompose the world around us into laws and rules that explain the mechanics, but it will never explain the deepest question of them all - Why? I think the answer to that question is just so that a mother can see her child's smile. Is any other reason necessary? This is where you decide to ascribe to some faith, or you are agnostic/atheist. It really comes down to, either the world just is, or God just is. At a certain point causation doesn't apply anymore in either case. To me, I see miracles all around me - birds, the river, quantum physics. Something I cannot comprehend is responsible. This I call God. From the evidence I have seen, God doesn't actively decide how things play out in the world beyond setting the stage and giving it a nudge. Yet the world IS here in all its wonderful complexity. The quantum building blocks can only be described by science in terms of probability, which I believe is the loophole in physics by which we are free to make our own choices - the universe is not a clockwork predestined to play out a certain way - we can make choices - amazing. Maybe free will is an illusion, but I don't think so. At any rate I feel in my heart that God loves everything. Look how wonderful and beautiful it all is! Because of the message of forgiveness and love, I have chosen to be a Christian. My God will understand when I do not dogmatically believe what people tell me but rather I keep an open mind and heart and let him speak to me in his own way. He tells me to do simple things. Love my family. Be nice to people. Raise my kids as best I can. Try to make others laugh. Lend a hand to those in need. My life is most enriched by included both a scientific and a spirtual component in my worldview. Teach science in our classrooms, and let people seek out their faith, or not, as they will. Smile and be happy. Amen.

I am in no way a Creationist or even religious for that matter. I think science has and will continue to astonish us with new findings like this one. But I reserve judgment on the whole question of God until science can explain the what where when and how of the big bang event. It does seem that the big bang theory was the origin, however, I haven't read anything that could explain the origin of the origin, where did the big bang come from? How did it form? Why did it happen? Who or what put it there?

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