"What Does It Mean for a Civilization to be a Million Years Old?"
A Preview of Life Beyond Earth? Micro-Organisms in Andes Volcanoes Found Thriving on Gases vs Photosynthesis

Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" Suggests DNA May Be a Constant in the Universe --Richard Dawkins and Other Scientists Agree

 

           PrometheusO_screencap14

 

Mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality. The genetic code is the set of rules by which information encoded in genetic material --DNA or mRNA sequences-- is translated into proteins (20 amino acid sequences)  by living cells.The code defines how sequences of three nucleotides, called codons, specify which amino acid will be added next during protein synthesis. The first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and 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 showed 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 indicated 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. It's no accident that we see stars in the sky, says famed Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins: they are a vital part of any universe capable of generating us. But, as Dawkins emphasizes, that does not mean that stars exists in order to make us.

"It is just that without stars there would be no atoms heavier than lithium in the periodic table," Dawkins writes in The Ancestors Tale -A Pilgramage to the Dawn of Evolution, "and a chemistry of only three elements is too impoverished to support life. Seeing is the kind of activity that can go on only in the kind of universe where what you see is stars."

A fascinating corollary according to both Dawkins and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, is whether DNA is inevitable as the foundation for the coding of life, or has life started with DNA in only one place in the solar system and then spread among the livable habitats through panspermia. Microbial life can land on and seed another planet, thereby not requiring that you have to create life from scratch multiple times and in multiple places.

Another totally intriguing possibility, one of many that deGrasse Tyson Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and host PBS's NOVA scienceNOW., describes in Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, is that there is life that has encoding that has nothing to do with DNA. It is the relentless shifting and mutating of DNA, says Dennis Overbye in a brilliant essay in The New York Times, that generates the raw material for evolution to act on and ensures the success of life on Earth (and perhaps beyond).

Dr.Paul Davies co-director of the Arizona State University Cosmology Initiative said that he had been encouraged by the discovery a few years ago "that some sections of junk DNA seem to be markedly resistant to change, and have remained identical in humans, rats, mice, chickens and dogs for at least 300 million years."

But Dr. Gill Bejerano, Assistant Professor of Developmental Biology and of Computer Science at Stanford, one of the discoverers of these “ultraconserved” strings of the genome, said that many of them had turned out to be playing important command and control functions. “Why they need to be so conserved remains a mystery,” Berjerano said, noting that even regular genes with known functions undergo more change over time.

Most junk bits of DNA that neither help nor annoy an organism mutate even more rapidly, Overbye points out. What your quess: Is the DNA the cosmic code for life in the universe, or is it possible that there's are alien, unknown foundations?

At the Galaxy, we place our chips on DNA. Don't miss the Dawkins video below...get past the first 5 minutes and you'll witness a brilliant discussion of his views on DNA as the universal foundation for life in the universe.

The Daily Galaxy via wired.com and New York Times

 

                    

Click Here to View Today's Hot Tech News Video from IDG --Publishers of PC World, MacWorld, and Computerworld

Comments

Scientists can prove that complex life, given a lot of time and the right conditions, can form without a creator; but that still doesn't mean there wasn't one. Not that I'm highly religious, but I still think science's inability to explain the singularity or what happened before the big bang may be a clear sign of some divine creator that set the pre-BB conditions right for the eventual creation of us!

They love to circumvent this deduction with the usage of the 'infinite universes' speculation and that we just happen to be in the right universe to support complex life!

Or maybe the answer is simpler - we simply are not yet evolved enough to understand the universe. But simply not understantind something so complex does not mean we should jump in the "all mighty creator that did it all for the fun of it" boat.

@DimcheSRQ scientists say many theories b4 BB...but they are mathematical speculations and comprehensive research still going on..string theroy, m-universe, multiple universe etc etc are various speculations or assumptions...if u wish u can add creator,god to that list too, but unlike creationists scientists do not adamantly say they r absolutly right!!....For example as we do not know what happened what happened b4 BB....I can add another theory that the BIG bang itself was caused by a big wet Gods Fart and eventually we were all created...just another theory...

The caption for this topic is ridiculous. You make it sound like Ridley Scott came up with this idea of DNA on his own and scientists suddenly heard of it and agreed. It is the other way round! Editor's Note: Please...if you can write a better headline, we'll use it.

Thank you, DimcheSRQ, for talking some sense. Yes, just because scientists can come up with an explanation for something that doesn't involve a Creator doesn't mean that a Creator wasn't involved. To make it a general adage, which I've used in many other contexts: Just because you have *an* explanation doesn't make it *the* explanation.

(Though personally, for evidence of God, I prefer to believe the eyewitness reports of millions of people, today and through history, who have known and befriended Him, rather than physical proofs and other impersonal theories. It's hard for a skeptic to disprove the existence of Someone you've met in person.)

I must point out that no scientist is credible when making such statements - no scientist of any field, knows it all. I get very annoyed when scientists make out they know it all. The world is full of qualified scientists and the like, they are actually human ... yes human. Limited brains the same as the rest of us.

I am an self taught scientist who has also studied at the university of city life - hard upbringing yes , but my advantage is i'm normal - most of these scientist folk don't know anything about normal.

DNA is composed of atoms full stop. Configurations of
atoms constitute molecules.
Atoms 'over this side' of the universe, im sure will be different from the periodic order of another section of our universe. simple

To clarify - our collection of atoms or the periodic table.. is incomplete. Why do narrow minded scientists surcome to such dogma. I would suggest that the list goes on and on, millions upon millions of nuetron/proton/electron configurations are out there. Earth is a spec in ocean of elements.

Saying that science's inability to prove how life started does not make God anymore of a valid arguement.

I'd rather we try and work out how life started than just INVENT a story which has no logical basis for accuracy, an old story written by people who knew nothing about their world.

And to those who rebel against any kind of creator - as i mentioned , the human brain is a limited system - that which is limited, is incapable of accepting all patterns in every sequence - some of which may well indeed point to a creator. My open mind is happy to accept a creator, because remember - something does not appear from nothing. There must be a creation mechanism at some point of universal sequence - which is why i dont accept the big bang model - it is mans attempt to discount any creator.

So when we kill 'agents' of DNA in utero, we might be going against universal physical law?

Being familiar with both the periodic table and thermodynamics, I accept that DNA is a logically supported thermo-chemical outcome but is it the only one? I feel, “No”, there must be other chemical/conformational possibilities under different temperature-pressure environments as might be experienced even in our solar system much less the galaxy and the rest of our visible universe.
Simply, the uniqueness of our DNA might be true…for an earth-like pressure-temperature planet.

"Scientists can prove that complex life, given a lot of time and the right conditions, can form without a creator; but that still doesn't mean there wasn't one. "

True, but there are a lot of things that *might* exist, yet that isn't a rational reason to believe in them.

"DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids" Wait what now? DNA codes for a set of twenty amino acids, it's built from sugars, phosphate and 4 (also some slightly modified) nucleobases.

Imagine yourself to be a bio-molecular engineer somewhere at some time and place, and maybe not human…let’s just say of "advanced sentience”. And you were given a project to seed the galaxy or universe with life with sufficient robustness built in to maximize its chances of surviving on a wide range of planetary homes it might land on. One would analyze typical solar systems, determine the standard chemical profiles, find the least volatile solar zones (Goldilocks range) and proceed with molecular design. One might determine that by accident, or if seeded, the available chemical elements in the selected thermodynamic stable zone self-assembles into a 3-d shape, the DNA helix, that one can add to, preserve, and by virtue of it’s being 3-d, maximize it’s information content by known theory linked to entropic-order principles. All of this so far is fine but, by introducing order and information coding, we now need an energy source; and so we design a series of Turing concept energy cycles that transform raw energy sources (wheat, meat, water) into electron fluxes that drive a central processing unit (brain=CPU) that controls muscles, heat exchange (for thermo stability), repair of muscles and cosmic-ray damages to DNA. And so on until, though not perfect because the system does have a tendency to degrade over time (death), we are ready to set free on the galactic solar winds and E/M streams little asteroid toy boats loaded with our project molecular systems, our DNA project, our babies. And in addition, we have added a cracker jack candy prize - deep within the DNA structure a rogue programmer has added his/her/? personal touch - an emergency pack of extra DNA information just to give a boost to repair or adaptiveness as our “baby” travels along.

@DimcheSRQ - Well said. And although I am Christian, I like to look at things from an unbiased point of view. Maybe God was the initial creator of life, and the elements needed to sustain and reproduce life...

@Tom - You said it's just a story written by people who knew nothing about the world... clearly you don't realize that thousands of years ago there were people who knew astronomy better than any of us, built pyramids so advanced in size and construction that even today, no one has any real clue how, or that there are many other ahead-of-our-time ancient pieces of equipment found all over the world. Your statement is ignorant and not very-well thought out.

Hey guys, how about we just draw a line in the sand and say "this is what we know" and "This is what we don't know". Ignorance and arrogance only prevent us from learning more. The very important point at this time in human learning is to keep an objective and open mind otherwise we will only build knowledge silos that will limit our growth and create conflict. Sometimes the most inconsequential voice has the answer to the biggest problem. If no one is listenng, that information can be lost.

So if we call God an alien then its ok for all of you to believe in him? Kind of funny I guess but what ever. Or when Ridley Scott creates his own religion maybe he can name it "Scientology"? Oh, wait, that name has all ready been taken by a science fiction writer turned god. Hmmmm, what ever its called I wonder if they will do battle with Scientologist over which sci-fi writer is the true god? All right, I know Ridley Scott is not claiming to be God, just to know how he operates. Maybe he personally knows (knew) L. Ron Hubbard? Their storys do have similarities. Aliens, future and such. Hahahaha, ok venting off now. Besides, this post will likely be deleted soon also. Seems like a lot have been lately. Must be me twisted sense of humor?

It is always disturbing when people make grand statements like "Well, if scientists can't explain how X came to be, then God must exist." (paraphrased of course). Science is always an evolving endeavor; an idea which seems to get lost on many "believers". No one has all the answers, and clutching to their campfire stories of Moses and Jesus doesn't help them explain mRNA or DNA or how to develop the new iPhone.

@Bob Greenwade: Your statements are the most astoundingly narrow and incomplete. You basically say that actual evidence for/against a creator doesn't matter, it's meeting people who "befriended" god is enough proof that he exists. Wow. So, by your account, believing in anything makes it real. Then you may want to get a posse together and come help out my 9yo daughter, because he has a monster that she "believes" exists in her closet, and you seem the most qualified to deal with such matters.

10000 years ago, man looked at the sun and did not understand it - it became a god.

They looked at lightning, and did not understand. They thought it the work of the gods.

They looked at volcanic eruptions, and did not understand. They thought it the work of gods.

What we don't understand,we put down to the divine. When will we stop doing that?

Evolution is just a theory, right? There's no proof, right?

Then God is just a theory too. There's no proof, right?

Gravity is just a theory, but I don't see any non-believers floating away.

I know which theories I would choose to believe. The ones that come with a degree of evidence to support them.

@SanePerson: actually both gravity and evolution are facts, not theories. There is plenty of proof for both.

@SanePerson: Agreed, however you shouldn't conflate the terms used in science are different from laymen conversation. Evolution and Gravity are facts as they have been observed to occur. There are scientific theories that explain these facts(Theory of Evolution or Theory of special relativity).

A later thought from my comment above: under different (from the Goldilocks conditions) and perhaps a wide spread of pressures and temperatures, the 'thermodynamics of stability’ - i.e. those conditions under which an information coding morphology of elements, ionic states, crystal structures, physical state, etc - might well fall into many “zones”. It might likely be that exotic life-forms may exist where least expected and be stable and thus candidates for evolution to higher levels of sentience. I just can’t give up on this notion. And, at least in the ‘standard’ technical media outside the restricted sponsored research and exploration, there have been few ideas of this sort posed and worked through on paper,…although it would not involve complicated thermo calculations. And we have heard equally few ideas explored about what kinds of non-DNA bioinformation devices might there be in the wide universe.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)