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Cometary Impacts May Have Provided Key Elements of Life

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the interstellar-snowball-fight dept.

Earth 85

trendspotter writes with news of research indicating that impact events might be responsible for seeding the Earth with reactive forms of the precursors to amino acids. From the article: "Early Earth was not very hospitable when it came to jump starting life. In fact, new research shows that life on Earth may have come from out of this world. Lawrence Livermore scientist Nir Goldman and University of Ontario Institute of Technology colleague Isaac Tamblyn (a former LLNL postdoc) found that icy comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced life building organic compounds, including the building blocks of proteins and nucleobases pairs of DNA and RNA. Comets contain a variety of simple molecules, such as water, ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide, and an impact event with a planetary surface would provide an abundant supply of energy to drive chemical reactions." The paper (PDF).

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Except.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915201)

..that life emerged billions of years ago.

Not that I am finding fault with the underlying theory, but still..

CAPTCHA: creator!

Re:Except.. (1, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43915243)

And comets only appeared last Tuesday?

Re:Except.. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915299)

I know that reading TFA is not in fashion on /. but can you at least read the summary? It says, "..that icy comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced life building organic compounds." That's what I was pointing out. Sheesh.

Re:Except.. (5, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43915547)

Well, I for one am extremely unfashionable and actually RTFA:

"The flux of organic matter to Earth via comets and asteroids during periods of heavy bombardment may have been as high as 10 trillion kilograms per year, delivering up to several orders of magnitude greater mass of organics than what likely pre-existed on the planet," Goldman said.

The words "heavy bombardment" have particular meaning in the context of solar system history; the most well-known being the (not quite ubiquitously accepted) Late Heavy Bombardment [wikipedia.org] , on the moon, 4.1–3.8 billion years ago. The bit about "millions of years ago" was probably added by the public relations science writer and should have been "billions." They get this stuff wrong all the time.

Re:Except.. (4, Funny)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year ago | (#43916095)

And billions of years is still millions of years (just more of them).

Re:Except.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917289)

The Lindbergh Baby was kidnapped days ago.

Wait, what? (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43915203)

Is this even a new idea?

I've heard this for quite some time now, and I thought this was a prevailing understanding.

Re:Wait, what? (3, Insightful)

telchine (719345) | about a year ago | (#43915219)

Is this even a new idea?

I've heard this for quite some time now, and I thought this was a prevailing understanding.

It's like that news story that comes up every few months... Scientist Discover Signs of Water on Mars!

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43915295)

You would prefer "scientists now pretty sure water was on Mars, not even going to bother any more"?

Re:Wait, what? (2)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#43915623)

You would prefer "scientists now pretty sure water was on Mars, not even going to bother any more"?

That's rather like what The Onion might write. Except that it would probably be a good idea to stop going all ThePriceIsRight over every piece of info that comes back from the Mars rovers in the first place.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43915829)

Yes.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915341)

Is this even a new idea?

I've heard this for quite some time now, and I thought this was a prevailing understanding.

It's like that news story that comes up every few months... Scientist Discover Signs of Water on Mars!

Right because that's a discovery that no more certainty or details could arise from, right? Just a regular binary thing without any details like when, where and how much.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915861)

Does any of that really matter?

How will it impact ANY life going forward? It won't, so why bother?

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43915901)

Well, mostly it sets boundaries on the probability that Mars had/has life, as well as how habitable it will be if/when we colonize it. Both of these are pretty big deals.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915579)

1492...

Guy finds previously unknown land and peoples. No need to follow up.

Re:Wait, what? (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43915725)

1492...

Guy finds previously unknown land and peoples. No need to follow up.

Guy with terrific PR connections finds "previously unknown land", if you don't count the Vikings, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Polynesians, etc.

Re:Wait, what? (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43916097)

if you don't count the Vikings, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Polynesians, etc

Which, oddly enough, they never do.

Much of history boils down to "the world was invented by white Europeans because we wrote the history books".

People tend to downplay just how much stuff we actually knew even 2000 years ago and act like it wasn't there.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43917505)

if you don't count the Vikings, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Polynesians, etc

Which, oddly enough, they never do.

Much of history boils down to "the world was invented by white Europeans because we wrote the history books".

People tend to downplay just how much stuff we actually knew even 2000 years ago and act like it wasn't there.

Like I said: terrific PR connections. Same guys that convinced the world that Edison invented the light bulb, that the Wright brothers invented the airplane, and that Graham Bell invented the telephone.

Hmm... I should get them to write my resume.

Re:Wait, what? (2, Insightful)

chill (34294) | about a year ago | (#43916159)

You don't count the Vikings, Chinese, etc. because they didn't do anything with the discovery. Their "knowledge" of the Americas didn't translate to anything that noticeably impacted history or civilization either there (Norway, China, etc.) or here (North America).

The occasional potsherd or remnants of an abandoned village don't amount to anything. All of them left the equivalent of "Kilroy was here" marks and nothing more.

Columbus' "discovery" shook the world.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43920689)

You don't count the Vikings, Chinese, etc. because they didn't do anything with the discovery. Their "knowledge" of the Americas didn't translate to anything ...

Columbus' "discovery" shook the world.

I agree, and considering the practice of logging your discoveries wasn't common until recently, perhaps thousands of "discoverers" predated Columbus.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#43916535)

I'm sure that people 'invented' vulcanized rubber long before Charles Goodyear as well. It's not unlikely that some latex got dropped in a fire at some point and discovered as the ashes were cleared. But if something is discovered and then forgotten, we really don't consider it a true discovery.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

pellik (193063) | about a year ago | (#43916819)

So all those other peoples found it first, and then said 'No need to follow up'.

Re:Wait, what? (2)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43917049)

No, they said, "There are already people and powerful kingdoms here. There are too many of them to conquer." The Europeans came and said, "There is gold here. People are dieing like flies, maybe we can use the chaos to steal it all." If the Vikings had been as filthy as the Western Europeans and introduced influenza, smallpox and tuberculosis to Labrador then they wouldn't have had trouble with the 'Skraelings' and their colonies would probably succeeded.

Re:Wait, what? (5, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43915273)

The idea that comets might be the source of early prebiotic components is old, but this specific research demonstrating that the high pressures and temperatures involved in impacts is capable of converting the simple, common molecules found on comets into more complex prebiotic structures is new.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Shotgun (30919) | about a year ago | (#43915519)

But, wouldn't those same pressures and temperatures be involved in a volcanic eruption? "We came here from another world" sounds more like an episode from Enterprise:TNG than a valid scientific theory. There is no practical implication, and no possible way to test it until we can get to other planets and find some samples that haven't been corrupted by being on this planet.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43915745)

Yes, and that is how these molecules (including water) have traditionally thought to arise. TFA does some more modeling to suggest that cometary impact would produce the appropriate chemicals. I am unaware of any similar research done on volcanoes but 1) I'll bet it exists and 2) I'll bet that the results have significant similiarities.

This is really pretty handwavy - modeling conditions on theoretical impacts. But unless somebody is planning on moving a comet to a earth shattering kaboom orbit, it's the best we've got.

Re:Wait, what? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43915835)

"We came here from another world" sounds more like an episode from Enterprise:TNG than a valid scientific theory.

It really depends on what you mean by 'we' and your stance on how life forms in the universe.

If by 'we came from another world' you mean the basic chemical precursors for life came to planet Earth through things like comets, and somewhere along the way something happened through chemical processes... sure. Because the elements in your body all came from burned up stars, so it's not like the selenium in your brain came from Earth. It ended up here from a bunch of other stuff floating around in space.

If you mean humans were transplanted here from another planet, then, yes, I'd say that sounds absurd.

and no possible way to test it until we can get to other planets and find some samples that haven't been corrupted by being on this planet

Actually, no. From TFS:

Comets contain a variety of simple molecules, such as water, ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide, and an impact event with a planetary surface would provide an abundant supply of energy to drive chemical reactions

You can factually say that comets contain these things. We know that there's big clouds of alcohol [redorbit.com] floating around in space, for instance.

So, if you think life is simply a combination of chemical processes, a lot of time, and a lot of luck ... given that the precursors are floating around in space, life (of some form) is pretty much inevitable over large enough scales if the right conditions present themselves.

At which point, saying that 'life came from stuff in space' isn't exactly a stretch.

Re:Wait, what? (4, Informative)

moeinvt (851793) | about a year ago | (#43915931)

Actually, I don't know what's new about this.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16215-meteor-impacts-may-have-sparked-life-on-earth.html [newscientist.com]

"Yoshihiro Furukawa... used a high-velocity propellant gun to simulate the impacts of ordinary carbon-containing chondrite meteorites .... recovered a variety of organic molecules, including fatty acids, amines, and an amino acid."

There was a multi-part Nova episode called "Origins" where they also demonstrated this. I can't remember the scientist or laboratory, but they put some simple organic compounds inside a metal plug and then fired a high speed projectile into it (or maybe they fired the plug into a target?). When they opened the container, they found that they had created more complex compounds like amino acids. It looked like a translucent liquid at first, and came out looking like dark slime.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43922409)

Chondrite meteorites aren't comets.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

cangrejoinmortal (1315615) | about a year ago | (#43915315)

Is not new, but neither Is prevailing understanding, as far as I know.

Re:Wait, what? (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#43915339)

They bring it up every now and then just to stir up the "Creationists".

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916269)

This explanation doesn't exclude Creationism. There is no explanation of how the Earth was created only that it was.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

RavenousRhesus (2683045) | about a year ago | (#43915943)

Is this even a new idea?

I've heard this for quite some time now, and I thought this was a prevailing understanding.

No, it's not new at all, but there is at least one "news" story on it every year.

See here [telegraph.co.uk] for 2012's, or here [space.com] for 2011's, here [phys.org] for 2010's, etc., etc.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916137)

Not really, watch H2 and you can see the ancient aliens theories abound. I guess that evolution thing isn't working out.

Re:Wait, what? (3, Funny)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#43916147)

Is this even a new idea?

BTW, did you hear Voyager has left the solar system?

And then what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915309)

So a comet comes smashing into the earth and generates a scattered smattering of amino acids and nucleic acids. Then what?

How exactly does this arrange itself into life? How much of a critical mass of these varied building blocks are needed for them to somehow self-assemble into a primitive, reproducing set of chemical reactions (aka lifeform)? I mean, this is like saying that if one dude tossed Lego bricks randomly around the world periodically over millions of years, eventually some of them will fall into a little Lego house. It seems unlikely given the size of the planet and the improbability of things falling into place even with high concentrations.

It just seems like the scale is completely off for this to be the origin of life.

Re:And then what? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43915615)

I'm pretty sure we're still working on that last part. The event doesn't have to be that probable, however, due to the Fermi paradox—if it were probable, we'd be tripping over alien civilizations on a daily basis.

That being said, though, an early solar system might have quite a lot of comets with unstable orbits. Any small chunk of rock capable of floating through a dust cloud or nebula might potentially crash into a planet in the solar system. It's been theorized that all of the water on Earth [wikipedia.org] arrived this way, in which case there were definitely enough comets to bring in organic building blocks.

Re:And then what? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43915905)

if it were probable, we'd be tripping over alien civilizations on a daily basis.

All of whom had developed the technology to MOVE THEIR CIVILIZATION trillions of miles on a regular basis.

Re:And then what? (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43915957)

No, not all of them. Some of them would be as poorly off as us, or worse. We have no particular reason to believe we're at the bottom end of development, or that evolution into sentient life takes the same amount of time everywhere, or even that it's favourable everywhere. And given enough alien civilizations, anything can happen, including thugs looking for slaves.

Re:And then what? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43915977)

Then we wouldn't meet them, would we?

Re:And then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917349)

Wait for tomorrow...

Re:And then what? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43921821)

Give it time, give it time... But seriously, the anthropic principle covers a lot of this.

Re:And then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43918555)

Or that once the life is sentient it does something useful. We're still arguing and killing each other of imaginary space monkeys and have been for thousands of years. Or perhaps we're just not sentient yet.

Re:And then what? (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43916059)

How does it arrange itself into life? Or at least the precursors?

If only we had science for an answer.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/10/simple-reaction-makes-the-building-blocks-of-a-nucleic-acid/ [arstechnica.com]

"all the reaction required was copper ions and some UV light."

Re:And then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916591)

How does it arrange itself into life? Or at least the precursors?

If only we had science for an answer.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/10/simple-reaction-makes-the-building-blocks-of-a-nucleic-acid/ [arstechnica.com]

"all the reaction required was copper ions and some UV light."

So called "building blocks" have not been proven to be so, or ever shown to be able to create anything that one would think is life. It's a cop out statement.

Re:And then what? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43917235)

Building blocks, like cytosine????

  ""But the group from Cambridge showed it was possible to build relatively simple compounds into a three-ring chemical that could then be converted into cytosine, an RNA component."

http://arstechnica.com/science/2009/05/origin-of-life-building-an-rna-world-from-simple-chemicals/ [arstechnica.com]

Re:And then what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43918149)

Then you circulate it through most environmental conditions available on the planet. Boiling mud pools, tidal pools, crashing from waves against rocks, freezing and thawing, exposure to sun, and clays and various rocks with natual catalysts, occasional lightning strikes, and things like hematite where the magnetic fields may be strong enough to affect polar molecules and such and line them up in repeating structures or perhaps a similar mechanism occurs as material builds up on crystal structures.

Of course the material is allowed to circulate in a fairly random manner, but eventually the mix of all the organic compounds gets organized and starts doing it's own thing and using sun, longer chain molecules, or sulfur compounds where it derives the energy to keep the process going and making more of itself.

An act of faith (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915345)

When this is all atheists (not scientists) can muster up to explain life's origins and current state then believing in universal common descent and Abiogenesis is really an act of faith.

Re:An act of faith (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915617)

Making an educated guess about what probably happened based on available evidence is completely different than 'believing' it to be so. If/when new evidence is uncovered the understanding of life's origin will improve and evolve.

Re:An act of faith (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915703)

Atheism has always been based on faith. Otherwise they would state that they can't prove or disprove existence of ... Not even sure I know what they are certain doesn't exist. Omnipotent intelligence? Jesus Chris? Buddha? Aliens designing Earth-life with advanced bioengineering? Anyway, atheists are absolutely certain these things don't exist and humans are "meat computers" and you never existed (from your point of view) when you die (all memories of your life gone as well as your conscious).

See Atheism sub-reddit and compare to three other sub-reddits of mainstream religions. Subject matter will be different, but the spirit and zeal will be the same.

Re:An act of faith (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916077)

Atheism has always been based on faith.

Do you think it is faith to not believe in invisible pink elephants that live in your refrigerator?

Otherwise they would state that they can't prove or disprove existence of ... Not even sure I know what they are certain doesn't exist. Omnipotent intelligence? Jesus Chris? Buddha? Aliens designing Earth-life with advanced bioengineering?

You must not pay attention to any of them since any reputable person will state that you cannot disprove the existence of anything. Atheism is the acknowledgement that there is not evidence for these beliefs.

Anyway, atheists are absolutely certain these things don't exist and humans are "meat computers" and you never existed (from your point of view) when you die (all memories of your life gone as well as your conscious).

Many people are certain of many stupid things. Atheism itself does not assert that certainty. There is a difference between someone saying there is a gap in our knowledge and someone saying that gap is either god or isn't god.

Re:An act of faith (3, Interesting)

gewalker (57809) | about a year ago | (#43915979)

Sure it is. Scientific explanations are a priori naturalistic. Supernatural explanations are forbidden. What else can science produce. If God, Buddha, or a certain noodly being is responsible, it is not science.

Scientistics typically believe the science can explain everything, it certainly seems to be the best (most accurate and most useful) explanation for a very large number of observable phenomena.

This does not guarantee that it true for any phenomenon though. God could be actively moving atoms, sending photons, etc. continually just so it appears to follow natural laws. Everything could be a Matrix simulation, etc. This is the realm of philosophy, not science. Science is a useful tool even if God is prime mover of every phenomenon because it allows you to make predictions that actually match observable phenomena. Not so much for something in the non-historical past, but certainly for pretty much everything that is observable today.

Unless -- science discovers something in "the natural world" that is indisputably "unnatural" -- thus breaking the scientific presumption of natural causes. What would be proof?, say a sequence of bits in pi that contains perfect unicode copies of the Bible in the 100 most popular translations followed by of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek text (and clearly labeled as such) guarded by a billion zeroes on each side beginning exactly at 2**666 bits should suffice for any honest scientist. A far more likely "unnatural sequence" was "accepted as proof" by Carl Sagan in his novel, Contact - but I don't recall the details of his example. BTW, if the Bible is to be believed, no such proof will ever be provided by God as that which is proven is not a faith and faith will not become knowledge before the 2nd coming of Christ (Romans 13, somewhat long explanation though).

Interestingly, with infinite bits of pi this sequence is certain to exist an infinite number of times (since pi in transcendental). Infinity is not just a really big number, it is so much more.

Re:An act of faith (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43919829)

So your answer is that you insist on a naturalistic explanation no matter what the evidence and no matter how unreasonable the evidence makes all possible naturalistic explanations look. That's not science. At least it's not good reasoning. You know what that is? It's religion. It's faith. It's a predetermined outcome irrespective of evidence.

Acts of faith (1)

Molochi (555357) | about a year ago | (#43919245)

Sure my thought processes engage many acts of faith every day.

I will have faith that my life, your life, the universe around us and all of history weren't created by an omnipotent being at the end of the very post I'm typing now. But I won't be able to disprove it to you after the fact.

I have faith enough in the documentation of biologic processes to dismiss the idea that one can live only on water and meditation. I believe organs will fail and I will die when my body runs out of fuel.

I have faith that the process of scientific thought, where evidence builds on evidence and where doubt due to conflicting evidence challenges the existing models, is preferable a process of religious thought that prefers to discard evidence in order to preserve the existing model.

Anyways a supreme being is telling me that it wants to create the universe now...

commetary life (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915351)

Are we kicking the can down the road now ? Where does cometary life come from ? This is a circular argument.

Re:commetary life (4, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43915555)

No-one's saying there was life on the comets - just some very useful chemicals.

Re:commetary life (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#43915719)

There's no "cometary life". TFA isn't saying that life was on comets, then the comets crashed and life jumped ship to Earth. That'd be like saying your car is powered by a fire contained in the gas tank. It's saying that the raw materials for life were on comets (fuel) and that the temperature and pressure shocks of impact (spark plug) caused them to react and form the components of life.

Re:commetary life (1)

Dasher42 (514179) | about a year ago | (#43915867)

The article cannot make that claim. The raw materials can be shown to have made the trip. The rest is speculation - where there is very compelling reason to speculate.

Take for example this research which is saying that if the average of evolutionary increase of genome complexity approximates to Moore's law, then life would date back ten billion years, necessarily arriving on Earth from elsewhere. Of course, this means that extremely simple microbes would have shown up, but that replication and evolution were already underway.

http://phys.org/news/2013-04-law-life-began-earth.html [phys.org]

Re:commetary life (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43917561)

Moore's Law applied specifically to microprocessors. Keep in mind that the first couple of billion years life on Earth was confined to archae, bacteria, algae and maybe some fungi. More complex organisms have only been around for a quarter of the time that Earth life has existed. That alone should demonstrate the inapplicability of Moore's Law in this case. It's not a universal law meant to apply to all types of complexity, that's just absurd.

Re:commetary life (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year ago | (#43916029)

exactly. and comets (and meteoroids/ites) provide annother crucial ingredient: chaos.
a lump of idle rock will take longer to spontaneously evolve life than one with lots of mixing and interaction. kinda like how they think tidal pools and other boundary zones were the first palces life and precursors started to occur. impacts of space objects is another source of that chaotic mixing that leads to neat stuff.

Grammar FTW (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915379)

In fact, new research shows that life on Earth may have come from out of this world.

It's more fun to read this as life came up from the center of the Earth to the surface.

In laymans terms (since I'm a layman) (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | about a year ago | (#43915437)

I mean, look at our moon and other planets/moons in our solar system. Look at their craters. Look at the craters on our planet. Something hits something else, a peice breaks off and flies toward something else (eventually). Let's say a comet so big hit Earth that gravity from the comet attracts water, bacteria, plantlife, some fish, etc. and then flies off in another direction...carries it somewhere else. If you think about how LONG the universe has been around, this is a scientific certainty that the "building blocks of life" will be carried around and distributed to other planets.

I like to think that the universe has been playing a nonstop game of billiards for billions and billions of years.

Re:In laymans terms (since I'm a layman) (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43915799)

You're jumping ahead of the game. You're describing Panspermia [wikipedia.org] (I always thought that term a tad chauvinistic). This is just splattering pre biotic chemicals around. Then the really interesting part occurs - somehow these precursor chemicals assemble / get transformed / major hand waving into life as we know it.

Re:In laymans terms (since I'm a layman) (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43915945)

Re:In laymans terms (since I'm a layman) (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43916641)

That's a pinky bend. We've got some major hand waving to figure out.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big proponent of the RNA hypothesis. I think life DID evolve here de novo. We just don't know exactly how.

Re:In laymans terms (since I'm a layman) (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43917237)

"But the group from Cambridge showed it was possible to build relatively simple compounds into a three-ring chemical that could then be converted into cytosine, an RNA component. Now, they've revisited that work and shown that all of the precursors of that reaction can be made with little more than cyanide."

That's a lot of hand waving going bye bye.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2009/05/origin-of-life-building-an-rna-world-from-simple-chemicals/ [arstechnica.com]

Re:In laymans terms (since I'm a layman) (1)

Darby (84953) | about a year ago | (#43920719)

Panspermia [wikipedia.org] (I always thought that term a tad chauvinistic)

No, it makes perfect sense.

You have big planet that's been sitting there developing a fertile environment.

Then out of millions of tiny bits of organic matter navigating a hostile environment one lodges in the fertile environment and using her resources his contribution helps create new life.

So, nope, not chauvinistic. It only works that way as an analogy of human reproduction.

Plus, what, Paneggia? Panovia?
That last one sounds like a crappy car name. Sometimes you just have to go with what's catchy.
 

Re:In laymans terms (since I'm a layman) (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43915843)

You'll have to narrow your scope a little: we're pretty sure that all of the interesting bits of evolution (the distinction between bacteria and archaea, the rise of animals, plants, protists, and fungi, multicellularity, and everything since) happened right here. To use a surprisingly good computing analogy, not only do we have the fossil records, but we can compare the source code and see where the forks happened. A lot of the most interesting adaptations are serendipitous re-uses of really old code.

The possibility that living cells might have arrived on Earth is considered something of a toss-up. There have been quite a lot of difficult-to-test proposals about how they could've arisen from fairly basic building blocks here, and they all seem pretty plausible. We're pretty sure about the RNA world hypothesis (the idea that life only started using proteins for enzymes and DNA for storage later, and started off using just what we think of as a makeshift intermediary for everything) but we don't have much of a clue about what happened before that, and we can't say for certain it happened here or not. We also don't know how life went from being a single self-replicating molecule into a membrane-protected cell, nor if there was some storage molecule before RNA that was even simpler to operate on.

However, this article [slashdot.org] is almost certainly wrong because RNA's inherent stability causes it to evolve at a much faster rate. So at the very least, it's still possible that there was enough time for life to evolve here from pure abiogenesis.

No (1)

Molochi (555357) | about a year ago | (#43919653)

That's not what is being presented. The idea is that the comet has a high concentration of the chemicals needed to create the more complex chemical building blocks of life when combined with the plentiful chemicals on earth at that time and a lot of heat and pressure. It's collision with the earth would provide that heat and pressure.

There is no supposition of life being transferred from one planet to another here. The resulting chemicals wouldn't be alive, they'd just exist in high concentration allowing "life" to happen more easily.

GODLLGETYOUFORTHAT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43915453)

So it is written and so shall it be !!

Ahhhhmmmmm !!

Impossible (1, Flamebait)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year ago | (#43915565)

The Earth is only 6,000 years old. Or so says this guy [youtube.com]

So 'Gravity is God'... (4, Funny)

starglider29a (719559) | about a year ago | (#43915583)

According to Hawking, Gravity (capital G) created the Universe: http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/13013/stephen-hawking-says-universe-can-create-itself-from-nothing-but-how-exactly [stackexchange.com]
According to TFA, Gravity (capital G) created life (via the kinetic energy of the comets obeying laws of Gravity)
According to Genesis, God created the Universe and life.
Therefore, Gravity = God.

Glad we finally solved that! Can we move on now?

Re:So 'Gravity is God'... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43915813)

Glad we finally solved that! Can we move on now?

Sure, now that we've solved the easy bits, we can try to figure out what women are really thinking.

Re:So 'Gravity is God'... (2)

coinreturn (617535) | about a year ago | (#43916127)

Glad we finally solved that! Can we move on now?

Sure, now that we've solved the easy bits, we can try to figure out what women are really thinking.

Women don't even know what women are really thinking.

Re:So 'Gravity is God'... (1)

meglon (1001833) | about a year ago | (#43917729)

If we were to figure out what women thought, the universe would collapse in on itself, then reinvent itself into something even more bizarre than what it is now, with an entirely new set of physical laws...and women with even different thinking patterns.

Why do you hate this universe so much!!!!!

Re:So 'Gravity is God'... (3, Funny)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year ago | (#43916037)

hmmm...God is unknowable...and we're having trouble tying Gravity into the universal Theory of Stuff...

My Gravity, he's right!

"Solving a 3.5 Billion-Year-Old Mystery" (1)

trendspotter (2931603) | about a year ago | (#43915603)

The University of South Florida has more about this topic and writes that: "life-producing phosphorus was carried to Earth by meteorites." http://news.usf.edu/article/templates/?a=5477&z=210 [usf.edu]

Re:"Solving a 3.5 Billion-Year-Old Mystery" (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#43916115)

Well, considering that Earth is just a big pile of meteorites surrounding a Racnoss nursery ship, I'd hardly call it news that that's how phosphorus got here. It's also how copper, zinc, and samarium got here.

Zombies (3, Funny)

VorpalRodent (964940) | about a year ago | (#43915783)

I initially misread the headline as "Cemetery impacts..." and assumed that this was going to be a nice discussion of zombies and/or how to be successful with necromancy.

Unfortunately, once again, it's only a discussion of how to set up abiogenesis.

Giveth & Taketh (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43916057)

That idea is a hard sell to dinosaurs.

mandatory Numan quote... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916177)

I'm praying to the aliens!

Immaterial (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916983)

Of no real consequence.

One might ask, when did FSM create gold. It was not (as far as we can deduce) in existence at the moment of the big bang, yet inexorably through the progress of inviolable physical processes and events, there came a moment when the first gold atom appeared. The timing of its first appearance, however, does not conflict with the notion that it was, in fact, created at the moment of the big bang, but existed (at that moment) only potentially.

By extension, life can be said to have been likewise created at the instant of the big bang, but appeared only later as a consequence of the operation of "natural" processes, all following the laws governing the matrix of energy and matter brought into existence at that instant.. Whether life's first appearance was on a comet or on earth is not a particularly interesting question IMHO.

Of more interest is the question that, given that the simplest known organism has something like 500,000 base pairs in its genome, how could any organism self-assemble randomly in a chance-governed universe, and having assembled, find itself in an environment where it would survive and propagate. The import of this question is this: does FSM actively direct the sequencing of events in the universe (in which case He is very much alive), or did FSM set the initial conditions of the big bang so carefully that the appearance of life was inevitable (in which case prayer to Him may be in vain).

Whence, of God, is the description: "The most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden."

Capcha: Convoke

I doubt life started on planets. (1)

koan (80826) | about a year ago | (#43918695)

More likely it arose in micro gravity forming bubbles in gas/water clouds, nebula, Oort clouds, etc. flash frozen and then spread throughout the galaxy like dandelion seeds.

So von Daniken was right, after all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43932393)

Eric von Daniken [daniken.com]

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