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Evolving Rocks

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the survival-of-the-firmest dept.

Earth 172

SpaceAdmiral notes a new study making the claim that rocks have been evolving throughout Earth's history. "'Mineral evolution is obviously different from Darwinian evolution — minerals don't mutate, reproduce or compete like living organisms,' said Hazen in a statement announcing the study's findings. 'But we found both the variety and relative abundances of minerals have changed dramatically over more than 4.5 billion years of Earth's history. For at least 2.5 billion years, and possibly since the emergence of life, Earth's mineralogy has evolved in parallel with biology,' Hazen added. 'One implication of this finding is that remote observations of the mineralogy of other moons and planets may provide crucial evidence for biological influences beyond Earth.'"

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But where did it go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898475)

Did it all fly into space? Did Earth misplace its minerals somewhere?

Re:But where did it go? (1, Funny)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898543)

I think Lemmy ate them all! He is Rock!

Re:But where did it go? (4, Funny)

Mushdot (943219) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898593)

They turned into Dwayne Johnson [wikipedia.org]

Re:But where did it go? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898845)

Enjoy the free porn(no blin links, no popups)

http://mrfriendly.freehostia.com/

Re:But where did it go? (2, Funny)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898897)

One word: Horta [70disco.com] .

WHAT THE FUCK MODS HAVE YOU GOT ROCKS FOR BRAINS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898929)

What's with the mass Offtopic moderation. Half the comments are relevant if you've got half a brain.

Re:WHAT THE FUCK MODS HAVE YOU GOT ROCKS FOR BRAIN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25899015)

Half the comments are relevant if you've got half a brain.

Does that mean they are off-topic if I have a whole brain?

Re:WHAT THE FUCK MODS HAVE YOU GOT ROCKS FOR BRAIN (0, Offtopic)

MaxwellEdison (1368785) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899151)

Possibly, but you could also unravel any riddle, for any individdle...in trouble or in pain.

Oh the thoughts you'd be thinkin'! You could be another Lincoln! If you only had a brain.

The Galaxy Quest 'Rock Monster'? (1, Interesting)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898485)

There has to be a Galaxy Quest 'Rock Monster' joke in here somewhere...
(Cue the F4 'Thing' jokes too...)

Re:The Galaxy Quest 'Rock Monster'? (0, Offtopic)

theilliterate (1381151) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898507)

The silicoids wouldn't talk to me.

They did, however, have a brief conversation with my merculite missiles.

Re:The Galaxy Quest 'Rock Monster'? (1, Interesting)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898525)

Look around, can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?

Re:The Galaxy Quest 'Rock Monster'? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900019)

And then it exploded.

Re:The Galaxy Quest 'Rock Monster'? (1)

genner (694963) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899041)

(Cue the F4 'Thing' jokes too...)

You mean the alt f4 thing?
Go ahead and press it.

Re:The Galaxy Quest 'Rock Monster'? (1)

Cowmonaut (989226) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899343)

No, F4 as in Fantastic 4. The "Thing" reference should of been a dead give away. If you were attempting to be humourous it didn't work, sorry.

Oh dear what has happened here? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898509)

What happened to showing the story outline on the front page?

Now I have to click each story to find out what it is about, considering most headlines are inaccurate.

Slashdot's new look certainly doesn't ROCK.

Re:Oh dear what has happened here? (-1, Offtopic)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898587)

This new mainpage 'layout' is a fucking abortion.

It's also now the default for all new users, or anyone not logged in.

I guess every site has to die sometime, but I sure wasn't expecting suicide.

Re:Oh dear what has happened here? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898753)

Dude, not cool. How can you compare the front page to an abortion? An abortion is easily thousands of times more pleasant to look at.

Re:Oh dear what has happened here? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898899)

I wouldn't use such harsh words to express it, but, yes, I completely agree.

Re:Oh dear what has happened here? (-1, Offtopic)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898641)

I don't see any change.

However, I must say I'm forced to use IE at work, so the only way slashdot layout could look worse would be by flashing shock pictures at random moments.

Re:Oh dear what has happened here? (-1, Offtopic)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898643)

They changed it back.

Re:Oh dear what has happened here? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898731)

Thank christ.

So we're not 2nd generation? (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898539)

The research team, led by U.S. geologists Robert Hazen and Dominic Papineau of the Washington, D.C.-based Carnegie Institution, recounted how just 12 minerals are believed to have been present among the dust particles swirling through space at the dawn of planetary formation some five billion years ago.

So the Earth is not, at least, part of a 2nd generation system? With the heavier elements formed during a previous sun's life cycle and explosion?

Re:So we're not 2nd generation? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25899031)

There's nothing in the article saying that. It's just the usual, overly dramatic journalistic nonsense.

And I don't even understand the point of the article. *Chemical* evolution / differentiation of the minerals making up the Earth is a fundamental understanding. How could you not appreciate it when you've got a Great Barrier Reef composed of many cubic kilometres of limestone, there are thousands of comparable examples past and present, and that's only one example of the linkage? Banded iron formations [wikipedia.org] (related to oxygenation of the atmosphere - oxygen produced by photosynthesis), siliceous ooze [wikipedia.org] and chalk [wikipedia.org] (made of the bodies of planktonic organisms), soils [wikipedia.org] in vegetated areas (e.g., affected by organic acids and sediment trapping by roots) -- there are all sorts of areas of interaction, especially because the atmosphere and waters of the Earth are so profoundly influenced by life. And even in the non-biological realm chemical differentiation is why the Earth has a crust and mantle, or why the crust of the continents and oceans is different in composition, for example. People have realized molten rocks and weathered surface sediments experience predictable chemical changes over time, with and without the presence of life, for almost as long as geology has existed as a science.

I'm sure there is something genuinely new in the scientific paper, but the way it's expressed in the press article is awful. It makes it sound like this is something geologists have never thought about or appreciated before.

Re:So we're not 2nd generation? (2, Interesting)

cream wobbly (1102689) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900699)

Calling it "evolution" is a mistake, because there's no appreciable way an arbitrary collection of minerals can evolve in the same way that, say, life forms evolve. It's like saying poop evolves. It doesn't. It changes solely due to external influences. Evolution is a response to internal as well as external influences, and that's what makes it special.

But hey: geology is pretty simplistic. They've got to have something to crow about.

Re:So we're not 2nd generation? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900259)

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devils bargain

its life Jim (4, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898541)

but not as we know it?

Misuse of words (4, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898547)

What a misuse of terms.

Our Earth's surface is overwhelmingly shaped by biology - most of the surface carbon, for example (which on Venus is in the atmosphere) is in carbonate rocks, like limestone. There are whole island chains (coral atolls) made biologically. Soil results from biological processes (in fact, I would suspect that soil has evolved over time, as the organisms that make it have evolved). The marble in our public buildings results from biology (and metamorphism).

Could this be used to look for extra-terrestrial life ? Sure. Does this mean that the rocks are evolving ? No.

Re:Misuse of words (3, Informative)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898597)

Misuse of words it isn't. Saying rocks evolve is like saying technology evolves : of course it doesn't do it by itself, but it does nonetheless.

Re:Misuse of words (1, Informative)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898649)

Misuse of words it isn't. Saying rocks evolve is like saying technology evolves

That's specious. There's an obvious (and inappropriate) allusion to biological processes here. Rocks don't 'evolve' in any way, shape, or form, your weasel-words notwithstanding.

No its worse than that (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898725)

No its worse than that. They are using "evolved" to mean changed. Its like saying that spring evolves into summer, or a newspaper of paper mache.

It won't be long before the "Intelligent Design" crew start bringing up evolving rocks to show that "evolutionists don't know what they are talking about".

Re:No its worse than that (1)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899179)

It won't be long before the "Intelligent Design" crew start bringing up evolving rocks to show that "evolutionists don't know what they are talking about".

Yep, and tree hugging hippies will find increased love for rocks and soil.

Re:No its worse than that (0)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899535)

If you bother to RTFA, they say that the earth's mineralogy and crustal composition has changed and is affected by biology. That is, things like the banded iron formations in Michigan (our dominant deposit of iron) could only form because the atmosphere became rich in oxygen suddenly (in geologic terms) after the evolution of photosynthetic organisms. In TFA, they also point out that limestone couldn't be created without marine organisms evolving the ability to create calcium carbonate exoskeletons e.g., coral reefs, phytoplankton, shells, etc. It's no misstatement or weasel words to say that the earth's mineralogy has been evolving over time, you all are just being willfully ignorant.

Re:No its worse than that (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900353)

True, but it's a damn loose interpretation. Plus the moor I look into that guys education and back ground, the less confident I am of his findings.

All definiti0ns I found if 'Evolve' involve changes in an organism or genetic changes over time.

So it's like saying cars evolve.

Re:No its worse than that (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900403)

If you bother to RTFA, they say that the earth's mineralogy and crustal composition has changed and is affected by biology.

Yes, and this is not news. This would have been news in 1908,
maybe, so as news this is at least century late, probably more.

Now, the America Heritage Dictionary says

evolve
v. tr.
To develop or achieve gradually: evolve a style of one's own.

To work (something) out; devise: "the schemes he evolved to line his purse" (S.J. Perelman).

Biology To develop (a characteristic) by evolutionary processes.

To give off; emit.

Are the rocks developing this gradually ? Are they working out how to adapt to changing oxygen levels ? No. This is like saying "As Christmas approaches, the mall parking lot will evolve to be full of cars." It is a misuse of words (which is different from saying that it is wrong).

Given the politicization of biology, this misuse of words makes me suspicious, but it is more probably just over-enthusiasm.

Re:No its worse than that (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25899983)

Who cares what the intelligent design nuts bring up? They're only an issue in USA anyway (okay maybe in other crappy ultra religious places too). But still why should we let nutcases influence anything? No one cares about the morons who believe the conspiracy theory that Bush & Co orchestrated 9/11 (2001, not 1973 in which USA actually was involved), that global warming is made up by "The Elite" (Illuminati maybe?) or that the moon landing was a hoax, so it's annoying that the creationists are treated almost as if they are legitimate.

Todays captcha is "benefit", something we all would when people stop bringing up creationists every time there's a story with the word "evolution" in it.

Even worst still... (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900321)

he is part of the ID crew.

According to this article:
http://cgc.rncan.gc.ca/dir/index_e.php?id=14970&_h=bleeker [rncan.gc.ca]

He went to the "Free University of Amsterdam".
A theology school.
http://www.godgeleerdheid.vu.nl/english/index.cfm [godgeleerdheid.vu.nl]

I can get a Phd in Theology in 5 minutes on the internet, and yes it would qualify as a 'Doctorate'. Because, you know, religion always gets a special pass.

Maybe I misread, or miss interpreted some information...I certianly hope so.

I did notice he offers no falsifiable tests or evidence.

Re:No its worse than that (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25900333)

I'm waiting for PETR (People for the Ethical Treatment of Rocks) to be formed. Who would question another club with which to bludgeon the mining industry?

Re:No its worse than that (1)

SleepingWaterBear (1152169) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900519)

No its worse than that. They are using "evolved" to mean changed. Its like saying that spring evolves into summer, or a newspaper of paper mache.

Exactly. The modern use of evolution to describe the biological process of descent with modification is in fact a rather poor use of language. Dictionary.com [reference.com] defines 'evolution' as "any process of formation or growth," which is clearly an appropriate description in this case. Furthermore, Darwin himself avoided using the word 'evolution' [guardian.co.uk] to describe his theory, because it was such a poor description.

Of course the Slashdot headline is, as usual, meant to deceive, but then what would we have to talk about if the headlines and summaries were reasonable and accurate?

Re:No its worse than that (3, Insightful)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900553)

But "evolved" does mean changed. It is the biologists who have specialized the word far more tightly than its original meaning, not the other way around. Just because biological evolution by means of heredity and natural selection is on our minds doesn't mean that is the exclusive meaning of the word.

Re:No its worse than that (2, Informative)

phosphorylate this (1412807) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900577)

Is this not what the word "evolved" means? To change slowly with time. My understanding is that Darwin simply used a word which meant "gradual change" to describe his biological theory of mutation and selection.

Perhaps the authors of the current study made a poor word choice simply due to the connotations associated with "evolved" but technically are they not correct?

Re:Misuse of words (1, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898889)

Evolve simply means 'to change over time'. It doesn't mean 'to grow', or 'to become better', or anything. It doesn't mean 'adapting to the environment', or 'survival of the fittest' or the like (although these are mechanisms involved in life's evolution). Stars evolve. Rocks evolve. Technology evolves. Life evolves. Everything evolves. The mechanisms of change differ, but the fact of change does not.

Re:Misuse of words (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899149)

Wouldn't biological evolution tend to follow trends of environmental evolution, that is the state of the climate, soil, water, etc? A more bold assertion may be that biological evolution is a response to longer term mineral evolution.

Re:Misuse of words (1)

MaxwellEdison (1368785) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899295)

And the mineral evolution is then effected by the biological processes. Its not a simple cause and effect, not a line. Its a web, or more accurately a cloud. Nothing living here can change without changing whatever it interacts with, and similarly, nothing around a living organism can change without have some effect on that organism. Are these effects noticable? Not really, certainly not in the short term. But they are certainly not negligable.

Re:Misuse of words (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899601)

Evolve simply means 'to change over time'. It doesn't mean 'to grow', or 'to become better', or anything. It doesn't mean 'adapting to the environment', or 'survival of the fittest' or the like (although these are mechanisms involved in life's evolution). Stars evolve. Rocks evolve. Technology evolves. Life evolves. Everything evolves. The mechanisms of change differ, but the fact of change does not.

What a load of claptrap. Evolution doesn't mean 'to change over time'. If I turn the plant on my desk 90 degrees every day, it's not evolving. Revolving maybe.

Evolution is when the progeny of individuals in a group undergo mutation, and some of those mutations die out without recreating themselves, reducing diversity, while others do not die out, thereby changing the nature of the group.

You can argue that this is bullshit and doesn't happen if you like. But this is still what the word means. Mutation is about change. Evolution is about extinction.

Re:Misuse of words (3, Funny)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899753)

Give 'em a break, they study ROCKS for pete's sake.

This is as exciting as it gets for them.

Definition of evolve (1)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899801)

evolve
verb
develop gradually

develop
verb
grow or cause to grow more mature, advanced, or elaborate

If they follow the definition, then they are saying that minerals have become more elaborate over time. Whether that is true and whether it is linked to life could be determined from physical evidence. I won't be surprised if it proves true, but I will be surprised if it hasn't been proposed before.

Re:Misuse of words (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900395)

Link to a definition? I did a quick search, and all the definitions I found involve DNA or organism.

Change does not equal evolve.

Re:Misuse of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898685)

Misuse of words it isn't. Saying rocks evolve is like saying technology evolves : of course it doesn't do it by itself, but it does nonetheless.

Say that again after AI is invented ;-)

Re:Misuse of words (1, Interesting)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898665)

I no longer recall whether I read this in one of Dawkins' books or somewhere else, but it seems that organic mollecules evolved (at least in part) as a by-product of "mineral life", i.e. replicating crystals in the soil.

My terminology may be off as it is not my immediate area of expertise and I've read it a while back, but I think that this is one of the reasons Dawkins was so ready to suggest memes as another form of life.

A good read, if you are interested. (3, Interesting)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899663)

Here's a paper from 2003 that is an excellent read, if you are really interested in a very strong, coherent, and comprehensive hypothesis of the change from geochemistry to biochemistry, that is, abiogenesis:

On the origins of cells: a hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells [royalsociety.org]
(Royal Society Publishing - Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (1990-) - Volume 358 - Number 1429/January 29, 2003)

In a nutshell, it offers a hypothesis of life having evolved in FeS and NiS deposits around ancient deep sea geothermal vents. The nature of such rocks is that they form small compartments which acted as "cell walls" to hold early biomolecules in such concentrations to be able to begin biochemistry. Over time, the biochemistry for lipid synthesis began, at which point eubacteria and archaebacteria diverged as they evolved very different mechanisms for making lipid membranes. This gave rise to the first free life forms, prokaryotic bacteria. It is then further hypothesized that Eukaryotes evolved from archaebacteria involved in a symbiotic relationship which became endosymbiotic with a eubacteria that eventually became mitochondria. And so on and so forth. Read the paper. It lays it all out very well and the hypothesis seems to fit very well with available data, both in the geologic record and the phylogenies of various modern archaebacteria, eubacteria, and eukaryotes.

It is perhaps the most coherent, comprehensive, well-supported treatment of the idea of abiogenesis I have ever read.

Re:Misuse of words (1)

j_166 (1178463) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898719)

I regretfully agree. Hundreds of failed mating experiments between my pet rocks seem to support your hypothesis. My life, it seems, has been wasted.

Re:Misuse of words (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898745)

If you take surface to mean the top 10 feet, biology has been overwhelming. If you take surface to mean the top 10 miles, not so much.

Re:Misuse of words (0, Offtopic)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898771)

kdawson's editing skills are evolving

Don't forget oxygen (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900283)

Our Earth's surface is overwhelmingly shaped by biology

In addition to the carbon cycle, the large quantities of oxygen in the atmosphere affect what kind of rocks can exist on the surface.

ugh (-1, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898567)

slashdot is starting to be a lot like windows -- copy eye candy from elsewhere without realizing it sucks. But at least windows has an option to use the classic theme.

Fix your site guys, you have to.

Re:ugh (0, Offtopic)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898615)

Who decided this site redesign was ready to go live? Because that person is fucking incompetent.

Re:ugh (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898853)

What is everyone talking about? It looks exactly the same as it has for quite some time. Firefox 3.0.4/NoScript/AdBlockPlus here, although it's irritating that they've changed the user preferences layout..

Re:ugh (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899537)

For about 30 minutes this morning they brought the beta Firehose thing live, and made it the default for all users.

The homepage was a stack of one-lined entries for each story, with no summaries. It looked like an RSS feed.

Truly terrible stuff. They changed it back fast, heh.

Yay (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898583)

something to make watching grass grow exciting...

Evolving... the god will of the 21st century... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898627)

... can we not explain anything without bringing up the concept of evolution, what ever happened to cause and effect? It seems to me that the world evolve is a weasel word that can mean anything you want it to mean

evolution-shmevolution (5, Funny)

j_166 (1178463) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898639)

There ain't no monkeys in MY pet rock's family tree!

Re:evolution-shmevolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25899451)

God-Schmod! I want my Monkey-Rock-Man!

Re:evolution-shmevolution (1)

TimSSG (1068536) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899517)

I hear your pet rock is stoned most of the time. Tim S

Of course. (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898663)

> But we found both the variety and relative abundances of minerals have changed dramatically

Well, duh. Obviously stuff like that would change over time. The only reason anyone would *ever* assume otherwise is to make radioactive dating sound slightly less preposterous.

Mineral Evolution... (1)

j_166 (1178463) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898673)

...What a load of Schist.

Re:Mineral Evolution... (1)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899677)

Now, that wasn't very gneiss.

Re:Mineral Evolution... (1)

j_166 (1178463) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900469)

I apologize, it was a little igneous of me.

One Scientist trying to convince the other... (3, Funny)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898821)

"Dr. Smith, we want you to study this rock."

"OK, what am I looking for?"

"Well, we believe that it's changing."

"Ahhhhh....Right. OK, would you mind passing me some of that good stuff you're smoking? Rather obvious at this point I'm gonna need some too."

Re:One Scientist trying to convince the other... (4, Funny)

vjmurphy (190266) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898975)

"Dr. Smith, we want you to study this rock."

"Silence, you blundering, bubble-headed boobie!"

ma8e (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25898907)

Need... coffee... now... (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898957)

I read the title as "Roving Ewoks"... That sure got my attention.

What doesn't evolve? (1)

Nux'd (1002189) | more than 4 years ago | (#25898971)

'If something is more likely to survive, it survives more often'. Sounds pretty obvious, but that's what evolution in this sense amounts to. The atom too is so abundant simply because it's a stable structure which survived where other structures did not.

Progressively apply the term more generally and it won't be long before you're saying "Things that are, exist". There's a good reason why we make the distinction where the object is considered living or not. Life is a notable step further wherein the complexity has reached a new scale. Analogy is fine, but sensationalism like this serves only to confuse.

I see what they did there (3, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899003)

'Mineral evolution is obviously different from Darwinian evolution -- minerals don't mutate, reproduce or compete like living organisms,' said Hazen in a statement announcing the study's findings.

Thereby neatly summarizing why it's idiotic to call this process "evolution".

But, holy shit! Earth's mineral composition changes over time? And here I thought that the obvious hypothesis was that it has remained completely unchanged over the last couple of billion years.

Also reported by The Economist (2, Informative)

bj bignell (1120471) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899069)

The Economist recently had an article about this study [economist.com] as well.

On A Serious Note (2, Insightful)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899133)

I wonder, is evolution, really at a fundamental level, the inverse of entropy?

If entropy, as a concept, is the movement from an ordered state to a disordered state then evolution is the concept of moving from a lower ordered state to a higher or more advanced\structured state. (The whole entropy is a measurement issue)

If things can evolve from basic to complex then doesn't that impact the concepts of our universe decaying into a cool nothingness?

Just a passing thought is all...

Re:On A Serious Note (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25899561)

Actually the perpetual growth of entropy is only true for closed systems, like the universe.
That means that there is no law against having decreasing entropy in one corner of the universe (earth), as long as the rest of the universe compensates for that drop in entropy.

In more detailed terms, earth takes up a few (relatively speaking) low entropy photons from the sun (~6000K), and exports a lot of entropy to the surrounding universe by exporting the same amount of energy as A LOT of low energy photons.

Another example that could, superficially, seem to contradict that entropy grows perpetually is the egg of a chicken (a closed system?). It starts out in a high entropy state (homogenous goo), and end up being a highly structured chicken.

In actuality the egg is in no way a closed system - there is exchange of gasses over the membrane, and the egg exchanges large amount of heat with the surroundings (i.e. the laying hen).

Re:On A Serious Note (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25899885)

Your view is too myopic. But it's a nice idea. In a closed system the more complex things are in fact better and faster at increasing the total entropy than the basic things.

No,it isn't (3, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900153)

(I know an AC has already replied but, of course, with low visibility. And I have no mod points. So I will try to give a nontechnical explanation.

First of all, entropy only increases with time in what is called a closed system. Nothing in, nothing out. If I mix water and salt, I increase the entropy (there are more ways the atoms can be arranged, in effect.) But if I am allowed to bring in energy from outside, I can fix this. I could boil the mixture in a flask, asnd condense the steam. Now I have the water and the salt separated again, but only because I fed "high grade" heat energy in, and I removed "low grade" heat energy from the steam. The water and salt have lost entropy, but the heat source and sink show a net gain. Overall, it can be shown that the entropy gained by the heat source alwasy exceeds the entropy lsot by the water/salt solution.

In the same way, life on Earth can use high grade energy from the Sun to reduce entropy locally, but that energy then has to be re-radiated as low grade energy, with a net gain in entropy. (If the energy wasn't re-radiated, the Earth would get hotter and hotter, gaining entropy. There is no fix for this.)

However, there is an additional point. Evolution does NOT mean evolving from a lower to a more organised state. You need to read Jay Gould on this, he explains it very well. But, in a nutshell, suppose that as a result of human or other activity the earth became unsuitable for any life forms other than high temperature sulfur bacteria. Evolution would ensure that bacteria evolved to fill this ecological niche and more complex lifeforms died out. This is the "survival of the fittest", which does not mean "survival of those with the biggest muscles".

Life maintains itself by keeping down its local entropy. It does this by, in effect, causing entropy to increase somewhere else and then getting rid of the high entropy "waste products", ultimately into space.

In doing so, life may cause geological changes by e.g. depositing calcarious skeletons in rivers and seabeds, or changing the atmosphere and rainfall patterns. You could say that some rocks are INVOLVED in the evolutionary process, and to that extent at least the article is correct.

Re:On A Serious Note (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900433)

No, not at all. Sadly, most people don't actually understand what entropy is.

The earth is not a closed system.
And as amazing as it seems, the universe may not be a close system either.

Evolving rocks (1)

amnezick (1253408) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899181)

Of course it rocks, 'tard!

Didn't you learn this in Geochemistry? (1)

PhuFighter (1172899) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899259)

This is just a bit of an extension from what I learned in my geochemistry and economic mineralogy courses. So chemical composition changes as some elements are used.. sounds almost as bad as the IBM pay at the table patent...

Re:Didn't you learn this in Geochemistry? (1)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899607)

Yes, that the dominant minerals and rocks that form have changed over geological time has been long known. The difference is the emphasis that the Earth's biological ecosystem affects the mineralogy and rock types that form, and the rocks that form have an influence on later biological organisms. For example, soil overlying limestone makes more fertile farmland for us to grow crops and support a wider range of biological organisms. Yet, that limestone couldn't have formed without other earlier biological organisms evolving the ability to make calcium carbonate exoskeletons. It's not a breakthrough in the sense of a new experiment done or something like, although they did some of those to examine the early earth's mineralogy and found something like just twelve minerals, whereas today we have 4300. It's more a recognition that biology and geology are irrevocably intertwined, and as biology has evolved, so has the geology changed.

Evolution is change over time (4, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899433)

Understanding this article does require, of course, that you understand that the word "evolve" simply means "change over time."

The one that the ID-ists object to is Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection-- that is, the theory of the mechanism of that change in living beings.

(and, of course, the hardline creationist object to the fact that living beings change over time, since God created them all exactly as they are now. Except for the snakes, which were originally created with legs-- that's a special case. I don't think that they have any particular problem with the idea of rock types changing, though.)

Re:Evolution is change over time (2, Interesting)

z80kid (711852) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899749)

The one that the ID-ists object to is Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection-- that is, the theory of the mechanism of that change in living beings.

For what little it's worth around here, I used to belong to one of those churches in my youth. This is the part that they do not object to.

They do believe in adaptation - that a species changes over time due to natural selection. But they do not believe in evolution - that one species changes into another (as in monkey to human).

No, they never took a stand on rocks :) At least not while I was there.

Re:Evolution is change over time (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900443)

And circles; Since PI seems to ahve changed from exactly 3 to 3.14.

FUCK YEAH, (1)

Linuss (1305295) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899559)

EVOLVING!

So how much time do I have before this "evolution" (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899621)

dictates I must stop saying "dumb as a rock"?

Minerals -- Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25899711)

The minerals WANTED to become life so they made sure they were near the right conditions and the right phenomena to produce themselves into a community form of life structure.

Image Fantastic Four with "The Thing"... (1)

manoelhc (1172781) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899855)

He is a great example of Mineral Evolution...

Rock Lobster!! (3, Funny)

lessthanpi (1333061) | more than 4 years ago | (#25899953)

The sensational band the B-52's already discovered that rocks were evolving back in '78. Just look what they said...

We were at the beach
Everybody had matching towels
Somebody went under a dock
And there they saw a rock
It wasn't a rock
It was a rock lobster

Along the lines of evolution and rock, man didn't evolve from The Monkeys, he evolved from The Beatles!!!

A timescale problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25900065)

Of course the Intelligent Design crowd is going to have a problem with rock's mineral composition changing. Geologic timescales are many orders of magnitude larger than 4500 BC, which is when they believe God created Earth. It can take millions of years for the metamorphic processes to occur. The mineral (homogenous crystaline compounds) composition of rocks is changing through chemical weathering.

ObNoxious (2, Funny)

XLawyer (68496) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900199)

I, for one, welcome our new igneous overlords.

Evolution does not require life (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900315)

Competition does not require that living beings are the actors. Nor does cooperation. Therefore evolution can act on nonliving systems.

Competition is this: a state where one pattern continues to exist while another does not due to the better pattern's fitness in a given environment.

Cooperation is this: a state where two patterns reinforce their fitness in a given environment through interaction.

Given these definitions, why can't evolution act on nonliving systems?

Of course Earth's systems evolve. (2, Insightful)

rockhopjohn (1374347) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900451)

Minerals are just like any other chemical species on earth. They react with one another, and form into new and more diverse populations based on a variety of fundamental thermodynamic factors. Since the earth's processes have changed and evolved since planetary accretion, it only makes since that the assemblages of minerals we see on the earth would evolve in much the same way.
It appears that this paper focuses primarily on the biological effects on mineral speciation, but there have been a variety of geologic affects that have had equally profound impacts on the earths mineralogy (which in turns defines the variety of rocks we see). Factors such as the development of the earths core, mantle, and crust, plate tectonics, the development and evolution of our atmosphere and hydrosphere, and then of course the evolution of biota and related biogenic sedimentary rocks are all going to have an effect on the mineralogic evolution of the earth.

Good news for Christians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#25900633)

Now that science has proven that rocks are capable of evolution, there is now hope for the brain of an average Christian.

Didn't geology inspire evolution? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#25900729)

Pardon me if I'm wrong, but, I thought it was the idea of sedimentary rocks that first gave real proof that the earth itself was a static thing.

Early geologists began to make great arguments that huge processes created a dynamic planet, and that really opened up the can of worms. If the planet changed, and change slowly, a naturalist might ask, then, wouldn't living organisms breed themselves in different directions in response to that? Animals have changed as a result of breeding by humans, and so what if nature had a similar hand?

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