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"Will Life Beyond Earth Have DNA Roots?" World's Leading Authorities Say "Maybe Not"


 "To the best of our knowledge, the original chemicals chosen by known life do not constitute a unique set; other choices could have been made, and maybe were made if life started elsewhere many times."

Paul Davies -leading authority in astrobiology, director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and co-director of the ASU Cosmology Initiative.

A recent mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality.  DNA contains four deoxyribonucleotides, with the nitrogenous bases adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The code contained within the base sequence is ultimately translated into proteins, which are constructed from the 20 amino acids.

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 Ralph Pudritz, a theoretical astrophysicist and director of the Origins Institute at 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.

Early Earth was covered with carbonaceous material from meteorites and comets that provided the raw materials from which first life emerged. In his new book, The Eerie Silence, astrophysicist Paul Davies of Arizona State University suggests that the original cells would have been able to pick and choose from the early Earth's organic cocktail. To the best of our knowledge, he writes, "the twenty-one chosen by known life do not constitute a unique set; other choices could have been made, and maybe were made if life started elsewhere many times."

The Daily Galaxy

Image credit: jrtce1's photostream


FYI, the title of this is "Cosmic Shores". I took the original photo on the island of "Amorgos" in the Greek Isles.

Thats a cool shot, it looks insanely photoshoped.

Why is it always god vs science. Science is nothing but the system used by god to create life. And the more we understand science the more we understand how god created everything.

Religion is different from god.Religions were created by us humans to understand god in our own way.

So science can differ from religion.

Religions are man made,god isnt!!

From the article: "DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids"

This is false. DNA is built from a set of 4 nucleotides. These nucleotides may be transcribed into RNA and subsequently translated into amino acids. During certain conditions, the nucleotides may be methylated, and alter the transcription and translational processes, but these sorts of epigenetic process occur after the DNA is built.

Watson is right. This whole article has got its facts completely mangled. Even the headline is wrong: it isn't even about DNA. It's about proteins.

Still interesting for all that.

That makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Why not? Life isn't exclusive to planet earth. and Bipedal, humanoid life at that. Life didn't get here from an asteroid smashing the earth, nor panspermia, its by way of planetary seeding. A while back, just this year, they made a discovery of bacteria fossils on Mars. What we have in the news is just 5% of what the government knows.

Within thirty years bacteria will be produced 100% from scratch. I mean that both the DNA and the entire cell will be produced. Both will be designed entirely on computers. The computer output devices will link directly with synthesis equipment in the laboratory. Within a hundred years bacteria will be researched,designed,developed, and produced as quickly and as easily as computers are produced now. The research and development departments for new micro-organisms will be so common that they will be a basic part of a large synthesis industry. Safety programs with multiple fail-safe applications will be a well defined part of design. Designed single cell organisms will happen for sure. I have no idea where technology will go beyond micro-organisms. That is speculation, but science and technology will go there.

Going a bit off topic but I don't get why some people need to put "God" or a creator in the equation.

Assume a universe has to be created at some point in order to exist. Now take pure nothingness. That is no matter, no energy, no time, no dimensions of any other kind, no anything. Just the absolute definition of "nothing".

In that particular situation a lot of us can't seem to grasp how a universe with such complex physical laws as ours could spontaneously self-create. Which is very understandable.

But yet the same people find it perfectly acceptable for some divine being to create it in all of its complexity and beauty. Completely ignoring the fact that a self creating intellectual entity who then creates a universe is just as (or even more) absurd and incomprehensible than a directly self-creating universe.
A creator doesn't solve the question of why we're here, it just shifts it around a bit. (don't get me wrong though, cyclic models which include big bangs, - crunches or similar theorized events, do the exact same thing)

Maybe some day the gap between science and religion will be closed and physicists will admit that there will always remain at least one question partially unsolvable. Just as people will come to realize our universe is in fact "God". And the only laws we need to obey are those described by science as well as the laws we lay down for ourselves as human beings.

That being said, I'm fairly positive we'll be capable of creating simple (and perhaps more complex) forms of life in the future. It wouldn't exactly be playing God either. But yes it would raise a lot of ethical questions.

God is a human invention to control our ways, to console or to oppress the masses. The first sentient animals on this rock could not understand the workings of their surroundings, so supreme beings came in handy to help put sanity and order in a scary world. 2 millions years later the show goes on, differents shapes, names and rituals but it still remains a human invention that manipulates evey seconds of the humans. Our universe is an object way beyond the possibility of God, if it ever was its long gone attending more urgent matter.

"DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids." It was funny to hear the author pontificate about how science is so superior to religion after demonstrating he didn't even understand the central dogma of biology.


The Religious person is not going under the "absurd" assumption, as you put it. The religious person is acknowledging that there never was a time when there truly was "nothing", but instead, that "something" had to have been in existence prior to the formation of the universe in order for the universe to form. If there is no matter, there can be no matter. It was created by someone/something, or it does not exist.

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