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Meteorites May Have Delivered Seeds of Life On Earth

Zonk posted about 6 years ago | from the thanks-for-the-lift dept.

Space 277

esocid writes "At the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, scientists presented evidence today that desert heat, a little water, and meteorite impacts may have been enough to cook up one of the first prerequisites for life. The result of that brew could be the dominance of "left-handed" amino acids, the building blocks of life on this planet. Chains of amino acids make up the protein found in people, plants, and all other forms of life on Earth. There are two orientations of amino acids, left and right, which mirror each other in the same way your hands do. These amino acids "seeds" formed in interstellar space, possibly on asteroids as they careened through space. At the outset, they have equal amounts of left and right-handed amino acids. But as these rocks soar past neutron stars, their light rays trigger the selective destruction of one form of amino acid."

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I wonder if they wanted to shout (-1, Offtopic)

Weirdbro (1005245) | about 6 years ago | (#22985026)

as much as I do.

Re:I wonder if they wanted to shout (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985078)

Speaking of seeds, my prostate could use a good massage. Your cock, my ass. Any takers?

Re:I wonder if they wanted to shout (-1, Offtopic)

Nimey (114278) | about 6 years ago | (#22985142)

Did you remember to wipe this time?

Re:I wonder if they wanted to shout (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985212)

dog fucking faggot.

Re:I wonder if they wanted to shout (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985500)

hell no. I keep it real.

Discussed Organic Material in Meteor (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 6 years ago | (#22985030)

We discussed something similar to this here [slashdot.org] where they found organic molecules in a Canadian meteor.

Re:Discussed Organic Material in Meteor (4, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | about 6 years ago | (#22985916)

The idea that nucleic acids and other organic building blocks were delivered to Earth from a meteor is not new. In fact, I remember reading about that in a space book when I was 5.

Personally, I think that whether or not the "seeds of life" originated here or came here on a meteor is a stupid idea, as it's not where they came from that is even remotely interesting, but how they came to be in the first place. If they originated here, then an asteroid impact may have scattered them elsewhere, and there may be other bewildered life forms on other planets wondering where they came from, or vice versa. What difference does it make?

What I want to know is how complex organic molecules were formed into self-organising, self-replicating structures. Bigfoot is not the missing link. How we got to elemental material spewed out from a supernova to DNA, *that's* the missing link.

Re:Discussed Organic Material in Meteor (2, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | about 6 years ago | (#22985928)

"How we got to elemental material spewed out from a supernova to DNA"
Should read:
"How we got from elemental material spewed out from a supernova to DNA"

I'd say I didn't preview, but that excuse no longer exists. I guess I'm just a tard :(

Re:Discussed Organic Material in Meteor (3, Informative)

ampathee (682788) | about 6 years ago | (#22986446)

What I want to know is how complex organic molecules were formed into self-organising, self-replicating structures. Bigfoot is not the missing link. How we got to elemental material spewed out from a supernova to DNA, *that's* the missing link.
For the answer, I recommend you read "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. It's a very well written and interesting book which answers that exact question. I just finished it a couple of months ago.

Re:Discussed Organic Material in Meteor (3, Interesting)

24-bit Voxel (672674) | about 6 years ago | (#22986502)

Maybe complex organic molecules form into self-organising self replicating structures BECAUSE they were delivered from elsewhere. The two need not be mutually exclusive.

What if the "seeds" of life require foreign interference to mutate into life. I don't understand how we can evaluate a missing link if we don't know where all the components came from. The Earth could have been an unfertilized egg waiting to be inseminated. For that reason how they came to be is just as interesting as where they came from especially if they are intertwined.

Imagine the odds that would have to be overcome if it takes a specific type of meteor to react with a specific type of dead planet to make life. If that is true the odds of the right elements being present in both cases could be so high that they could be conceivably called divine. It would be pretty funny as well if the chain reaction took 7 days.

This is good news! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985050)

It means that there is only a 50% chance we are edible for aliens!

Re:This is good news! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985400)

The better news is that we're 100% edible to each other. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go finish reading my copy of How to Serve Man.

God vs. ...that. (4, Insightful)

75th Trombone (581309) | about 6 years ago | (#22985068)

I have a feeling a creation vs. evolution flamewar is about to start. Creationists will be creationists, but everyone else just think for a second:

If you were an average joe, not even a stupid joe but an average joe, which honestly sounds more convincing: 1) A supreme being did it, or 2) blah blah amino acids blah blah meteorites blah blah neutron star light rays blah blah?

So y'know, take it easy on the creationists. They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?

Re:God vs. ...that. (5, Insightful)

Dada Vinci (1222822) | about 6 years ago | (#22985122)

Well, you've actually hit on one of the main creationist talking points -- "what are the odds that we'd all have left-handed amino acids, instead of a random mix that wouldn't work?" I'd be intersted to hear how they respond. I'd imagine with the same response as always (God put it here), but who knows. A good theory of why left-handeness is preferred (at least among amino acids) is a pretty big deal.

Re:God vs. ...that. (3, Interesting)

the cheong (1053282) | about 6 years ago | (#22985854)

"what are the odds that we'd all have left-handed amino acids..."

In econometrics, I learned this to be "Sample Selection Bias". The odds that we'd all have left-handed amino acids might be nill. However, the odds that we'd all have left-handed amino acids GIVEN that we've become conscious beings able to analyze such a thing?

I mean, maybe there WERE a lot of failures. But somewhere in the universe, ONE worked. And BECAUSE we worked, we're able to wonder about it.

Re:God vs. ...that. (4, Insightful)

TheNarrator (200498) | about 6 years ago | (#22985872)

Seems there's a lot of people out there who think that this or that scientific discovery will make all the creationists wake up and finally abandon creationism. Not going to happen. You just can't reason somebody out of something they weren't reasoned into in the first place.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

mithras invictus (1084169) | about 6 years ago | (#22986382)

There's no point in wondering what a coincidence it is that we are in the situation we are in. If we weren't, we wouldn't be able to wonder about it (or we'd be considering another unlikely situation)

Re:God vs. ...that. (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 6 years ago | (#22985178)

They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?
Poorly written news articles don't excuse flawed thinking. One shouldn't depend on shallow news stories or vague religious texts for explanations of the physical world.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

Moonpie Madness (764217) | about 6 years ago | (#22985568)

no one is pretending this isn't speculation.

This is food for thought. It's the interesting banter to provide a bit of context and fun. It's like the crossword puzzle or the Garden Tips in your local newspaper.

So ease off a bit... no one is depending on this article for anything but a bit of fun thinking. And who knows, they could very well be right! so what if it's very unlikely? Common sense, after all, tells us the Earth is flat.

Re:God vs. ...that. (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 6 years ago | (#22985206)

So y'know, take it easy on the creationists. They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?

Really, you should have gotten a +1 Funny not a Troll mod. Fact is, those are exactly the kind of people that bring down civilizations, so going easy on them isn't an option. So far as not understanding science ... well, it's not my fault they didn't pay attention in 7th grade science class. If they don't understand what they're talking about they should either educate themselves or just shut up.

Re:God vs. ...that. (5, Funny)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 6 years ago | (#22985432)

"A cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree."


"A rock from space covered in particular chemicals crashed into the earth three billion years ago, and through a process of self-replication and environmental pressure, these chemicals produced more complex molecular structures, leading to life as we know it."

Yeah, Christianity is so much more plausible.

Re:God vs. ...that. (0)

bagboy (630125) | about 6 years ago | (#22985626)

>>Yeah, Christianity is so much more plausible.

For not being plausible, there sure are a lot of people calling on God to save them during moments of suffering and death.

Re:God vs. ...that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985726)

Agreed. I call on the Flying Spaghetti Monster personally. I'm hoping my afterlife is the Olive Garden personally.

Re:God vs. ...that. (5, Funny)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 6 years ago | (#22985770)

For not being plausible, there sure are a lot of people calling on God to save them during moments of suffering and death.

Of course they do, God made them to suffer, so only God can make it stop. We're all victims, pleading with a serial killer before He finishes His grisly work.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

Plutonite (999141) | about 6 years ago | (#22986578)

Yes, humans have actually evolved instincts for this, closely related to emotional relation to parents. It helps get past the grim nature of life and hence allows sentient beings who would otherwise have killed themselves in earlier, less interesting ages, to go on. Read the GP post again and try to see the absurdity of what this supreme being we invented wants us to "believe".

Re:God vs. ...that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985640)

Sir, your cleverly unoriginal ridicule of ideas you don't agree with has convinced me to abandon everything I ever knew and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Don't pick on one religion. (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 6 years ago | (#22985768)

Christianity is a minority belief on this planet, a large minority, but still...

Personally, I think it is turtles. Yup, all the way down [wikipedia.org].

Re:Don't pick on one religion. (1)

mcvos (645701) | about 6 years ago | (#22986334)

Christianity is a minority belief on this planet, a large minority, but still...

Since there are so many of them, all belief systems (including atheism and agnosticism) are minority beliefs, but if I'm not mistaken, Christianity is the biggest minority.

I thought I once read that Hinduism or Buddhism had close to a billion followers, and considering the populations of India and China, you'd expect them to be pretty big, but according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], they're a lot smaller than Islam.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

jbsooter (1222994) | about 6 years ago | (#22985860)

I'd be willing to concede your rock hit the planet if you'll agree that the Zombie Jew self-dad might have thrown it.

"I reject your reality and substitute my own!"

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

pkphilip (6861) | about 6 years ago | (#22985902)

Let the scientists come up with a *single* unicellular life form using any/all these amino acids by *deliberate* and *guided* methods in a *controlled environment* within a *lab* using all the scientific resources currently available, and I will start believing that it is indeed possible for life to form from a sea of amino acids and other organic material.

Anything that can be created by evolution can be created by deliberate engineering. If not, I would like to hear why not?

Till then if I choose to believe in FSM or anything else, you have no grounds to mock me.. because your beliefs aren't grounded on any *proven* evidence.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

pkphilip (6861) | about 6 years ago | (#22985920)

To continue - taking any organism and replacing its DNA or changing its DNA is NOT the same as creating an organism in the first place.

Re:God vs. ...that. (2, Insightful)

dookiesan (600840) | about 6 years ago | (#22986036)

You may as well not believe in plate techtonics because we can't yet move a mountain. We will accomplish that goal of artificial life in a lot less than a billion years if we don't go extinct before then.

Even hard proof that we were derived from random evolution should not shake anyone's faith in God.

A person may claim to see colors and hear sounds and have other subjective experiences. The more we learn about the brain the less need there is for any of these subjective things to exist. Science is explaining away all of your behaviors and someday may explain everything you do based on predictable simulations of the neurons in your brain. It may even predict that you will claim to experience the world and "see" colors and other things that don't exist. This doesn't shake my faith that you still experience the world though!

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

dmitriy88 (1096195) | about 6 years ago | (#22986058)

Maybe because we don't have billions of years to conduct such an experiment?

Re:God vs. ...that. (1, Interesting)

pkphilip (6861) | about 6 years ago | (#22986560)

I didn't ask for scientists to prove evolution. I only asked for them to create a unicellular life form using deliberate methods based on their understanding of what it would take to create life.

Anything that can happen as a consequence of circumstance, chance etc, can be deliberately engineered in the lab.

Example: If a stone takes on a particular shape because of constant flow of water over it over thousands of years, it should be possible to create a stone with the same shape by taking another stone and just grinding it into shape without requiring thousands of years to do it.

To know how evolution works, one will necessarily need to arrive at how it works in the following two stages:

Stage 1 - Create a unicellular organism in the lab using deliberate steps (that is, the scientists need not replicate the conditions that existed on the earth, there is no need to mimic the different stages of evolution etc). They can directly manipulate the creation of the amino acids, the cellular structure etc. They can form the different chemicals, proteins etc using whatever methods.

Stage 2 - Once stage 1 is complete and we know the exact set of steps required to deliberately create a unicellular organism, determine how this could have come about by evolution. Stage 2 will be difficult to prove because any experiment could take millions of years to complete.

However, if we cannot successfully complete stage 1, that is, if we don't know the exact set of steps required to create a unicellular life form in the lab from ground up, then we cannot really know what steps are required in stage 2.

This doesn't seem to have prevented the scientific community from vociferously claiming that they have a good understanding of stage 2 despite not coming anywhere near completing stage 1.

People like Dawkins need not spend so much time and energy trying to prove creationist wrong. All they have to do is complete stage 1 - that is, they need only come up with a way of creating a unicellular life form in the lab using deliberate methods and then start work on stage 2.

Re:God vs. ...that. (5, Funny)

dibblda (882455) | about 6 years ago | (#22986068)

WEll..... try here: http://objectiveministries.org/creation/sciencefair.html [objectiveministries.org] 1st Place: "Life Doesn't Come From Non-Life" Patricia Lewis (grade 8) did an experiment to see if life can evolve from non-life. Patricia placed all the non-living ingredients of life - carbon (a charcoal briquet), purified water, and assorted minerals (a multi-vitamin) - into a sealed glass jar. The jar was left undisturbed, being exposed only to sunlight, for three weeks. (Patricia also prayed to God not to do anything miraculous during the course of the experiment, so as not to disqualify the findings.) No life evolved. This shows that life cannot come from non-life through natural processes. 2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking" Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.

Re:God vs. ...that. (4, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | about 6 years ago | (#22986528)

(Patricia also prayed to God not to do anything miraculous during the course of the experiment, so as not to disqualify the findings.

Oh man... I *so* want to be the one grading the projects and to sit down and talk with sweet little Patricia about her science experiment. I would be abundantly enthusiastic and impressed with all of her scientific work as I went over the various aspects of her project. I would be particularly impressed and particularly commend her on her thoroughness in considering that God could potentially interfere with the experiment and specifically praying to God not to do so...

then I would get a thoughtful look on my face, and say "hmmmmmmm......"

Hmmmmm, Patricia, your excellent work just made me think of something. I'm impressed by how you scientifically accounted for possible supernatural influence in the experiment, but are you certain you accounted for all such possible effects? You accounted for God, but is God the only potential influence? What about Satan? Did you scientifically account for Satan? What if a charcoal briquet, purified water, and a multi-vitamin *do* spontaneously create life when left in the sun, but what if Satan interfered and kept killing any such new life just because he wanted to invalidate your findings?

You've done some excellent science work so far Patricia, and I don't want to score you badly for the oversight and inconsistent treatment of supernatural influences, so I'm going to let you take your project back so you can fix it. Do a new write up addressing the problem, and possibly re-do the experiment if necessary, and then bring it back to me when the problem is solved.

Okay, I'm a cruel bastard with a twisted sense of humor. Chuckle.


Re:God vs. ...that. (2, Informative)

Peaker (72084) | about 6 years ago | (#22986368)

Anything that can be created by evolution
Evolution is not the origin of life, it is the origin of species.

The origin of life is thought to be some event whereby a self-copying structure was formed. Many believe this event is extremely rare. Perhaps it happens so rarely, that on one out of trillions of planets, in one of trillions of seconds, it happened by chance.

It is possible that this event cannot reasonably be catalyzed in a non-intrusive way. For example, maybe you can increase the odds by a factor of many millions, by putting forth the correct chemicals, but you might still be a factor of billions behind if some rare reaction is necessary. If you try to catalyze it by causing the chemical reaction then the experiment may lose credibility.

Hey! Creationist! (1)

Dr. Hellno (1159307) | about 6 years ago | (#22986506)

Don't you know that ITT people who aren't creationists disprove creationism to other people who aren't creationists?

Re:God vs. ...that. (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | about 6 years ago | (#22986556)

as usual, an epic fail in the understanding of science and evolution.

evolution is what happened AFTER self replicating molecules happened. a rock doesn't just turn into a tin can as some massive retards try put forth, trillions of chemical reactions per second would have to happen for a billion years before you MIGHT run across a combination which has the ability to recreate itself.

the difference between the scientists trying to explain this and religous people doing the same, is the scientists openly admit they don't know, where the religous factions can't stand the idea they don't.

Re:God vs. ...that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985848)

"So y'know, take it easy on the creationists. They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?"

Science has never proven, and can never disprove that there is a god. Only specific gods of ancient holy texts.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

the_raptor (652941) | about 6 years ago | (#22985974)

Why is the creationism debate on Slashdot always posed as "Idiots who think God magiced the Earth into existence last tuesday*" vs "Reasonable people"? Outside the American South there are plenty of Christians whose belief as to the origins of life is compatible with the current science. I'm Christian and I believe Evolution is perfectly compatible, as do most other mainstream denominations. If God controls a complex system like the weather, then why would He have a problem with bringing about life through the mechanisms of the universe He created?

* And dicked around with the fossil record/geology etc because God is apparently the original troll. If these people are right I hope they get rickrolled after entering the pearly gates.

Re:God vs. ...that. (0, Flamebait)

theendlessnow (516149) | about 6 years ago | (#22986048)

As a believer in Christ, I have long believed that the next step in anti-Christ science would be a "space seed theory". This is no surprise to me. However, I think that ultimately pseudo-scientists will adopt a "theory" that man was placed here by beings from another world. But we may be a few years away from that... we'll have to wait and see.

So far in my lifetime I have watched as science is sullied by self-proclaimed experts who make hypothesis into theory by virtue of their position in the community. And ultimately, those same self-promoted theories into fact, by the same rule. Experimentation and observation have died. I think today's scientists watch too much of the Sci-Fi Channel. It's easier to make things up than try to have meaningful discussion (or do actual work). Creation scientists are automatically discarded simply because of prejudice... not because of evidence. It's a shame. True scientists, whether they be anti-Christ or not, use experimentation and observation to support hypothesis... and not necessarily to define exact truth, but so that the pursuit of truth isn't marred by self-promotion or sensationalism.

I know, I know... "He's a creationist... shoot him and let his god sort him out." Sure... I expect nothing less from the majority of the "open minded" participants here. But perhaps there are still some that are truly open minded here.

Re:God vs. ...that. (2, Insightful)

witherstaff (713820) | about 6 years ago | (#22986248)

Just thought I'd point out that the 'space seed theory' is nothing new. Panspermia [wikipedia.org] has been around a long while. In the modern form since the 1800s.

I agree that many times it does seem that observation based science is lacking. However 'creation scientists' strikes me as as misnomer, unless there's a branch of creationists that believes the world is older than 6000 years old. Christian scientists, or religious scientists sure, no problem.

For those with faith the hypothesis that life might not have originated on Earth shouldn't be a big deal. The origin of the space life, or the origin of the big bang can still be handled very well within the realm of most religions. If you're a Scientologist it's a given life didn't start here!

Sure life from space shoots the story of Genesis but if the entire bible is to be taken word for word literally, I'm dissapointed that the museum of natural history has no displays for the unicorns and dragons mentioned in it. Let alone the species of whale that would make very eco-friendly human water transport systems ALA Jonah - provided you can stand the smell of whale gut for 3 days.

Faith and science, unless they hit the extreme spectrums, do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 6 years ago | (#22986258)

They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?
Everything looks hard when we don't understand it completely and it's barely out the doors of the universities.

We teach basic theories on atomic nuclei where I live to 15 year olds, and most don't have too big trouble comprehending it. We have all those text books with pretty drawings, all explained in a concise way with a reasonably easy to understand language. All this would have been unthinkable the day papers on the atomic nucleus were starting to be published.

I'd say -- just give it time. While what you say now may be true, religion is at a standstill (pretty much per definition; it is about relying on ancient religious texts), while science is constantly in movement.

I've seen the history on religious believers (I forget the website now though), and in modern countries, it was following a similar trend where I can recall, even in USA. That non-theistic belief systems are gaining on the theistic ones. I can really only see that trend continuing unless something dramatic happens, for example, a major religious conflict with christianity vs islam, where people feel a need to reinforce their faith in the old religions. But otherwise, in a general sense, I think the progress is pretty much irreversible. That's why some groups are now supporting "new" ideas with "intelligent design" and all this. It's new ways they struggle to maintain their grip on people and not have non-theistic ideas threaten them. Earlier, these tactics weren't even necessary.

Re:God vs. ...that. (1)

nguy (1207026) | about 6 years ago | (#22986564)

1) A supreme being did it, or 2) blah blah amino acids blah blah meteorites blah blah neutron star light rays blah blah?

The "supreme being" also comes with plenty of incomprehensible, meaningless jibberish: the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, etc.

old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985074)

The idea of panspermia and exogenesis has been around since 1743. Scientists have only found circumstantial evidence rather than empirical proof that life does get spread throughout the universe by tenaciously clinging to rocks which may or may not survive re-entry.

Space sperm (4, Funny)

Nimey (114278) | about 6 years ago | (#22985132)

Makes sense in a way: the meteors are sperm, the Earth the egg, the orbital bombardment the BDSM.

Re:Space sperm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985374)

Excuse me, but I think you meant FreeBDSM.

Re:Space sperm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22986044)

But this still does not answer the question: is there a director?

Amino Delivery: Under 30 Eons or your money back (3, Interesting)

teebob21 (947095) | about 6 years ago | (#22985140)

Interesting read. It has been one of the more pressing questions of the theory of biogenesis: where did the first organic matter come from? I have always found chirality and the left-handed nature of Earth's proteins to be more than mere coincidence.

It is strange that our location in the galaxy led to a slight imbalance in the amount of gravitationally polarized light striking chunks of rock and metal floating in a cosmic dance 4 billion years before I was born....yet that combination of factors resulted in the alanine in my body to contain only the left-handed chiral.

Studies like this are the cause of my personal religious dilemma. Most of the major religions came about 1500-5000 years ago...and at the time they were conceived, they convincingly explained every natural occurrence well enough to placate the masses. I wonder what the Pope would have to say about this study...was God a southpaw??

Re:Amino Delivery: Under 30 Eons or your money bac (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | about 6 years ago | (#22985202)

On a chemical level, life is mostly a whole mass of chemical chain reactions that form closed loops of events that (directly or indirectly) spread into multiple copies like glider-replicators in a game of life. A right-handed compound and a left-handed compound won't interact the same way ... so as the chain reaction "replicates", only one form gets passed on. That there would be a chirality bias is not surprising. On the contrary, I would say that it is the expected situation.

Re:Amino Delivery: Under 30 Eons or your money bac (1)

sir fer (1232128) | about 6 years ago | (#22985308)

Gravity polarized light? You need to shut up and do some research.

Re:Amino Delivery: Under 30 Eons or your money bac (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 6 years ago | (#22985476)

This is only "evidence," of course, and evidence can be brought on both sides of any case.

On the other hand (perhaps I should read the article, correct me if I'm wrong), it does not appear to mention the huge step between having amino acid chains laying around and having them actually form a living cell organism. There's a huge difference between a pile of blocks and an actual functioning structure. Which is why, in old times, if your city got conquered, they "leveled" it. They knocked everything over. A pile of amino acids is like a pile of rocks...

Re:Amino Delivery: Under 30 Eons or your money bac (1)

teebob21 (947095) | about 6 years ago | (#22985552)

Agreed - delivery of aminos is not delivery of life. I was going to make that point, but I gave the Slashdot crowd the benefit of the doubt that they would see it that way too. +1 to you, good sir.

Re:Amino Delivery: Under 30 Eons or your money bac (1)

scotch (102596) | about 6 years ago | (#22985876)

Most of the major religions came about 1500-5000 years ago.

Coincidently, written records go back to ~5000-6000 years ago, and the world is a red state.

Re:Amino Delivery: Under 30 Eons or your money bac (1)

the honger (992005) | about 6 years ago | (#22985954)

something Mr. Roddenberry should consider polishing/updating in his original "star trek" series...the title sequence narration......from "Space the final frontier" to "Space hello honey I'm home"

The Farmers who sowed the seeds... (1)

prajjwal (965508) | about 6 years ago | (#22985176)

Wow, the farmers must have had a gala time back then, trying to figure out how to sow the new seeds :D

This is totally retarded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985188)

This is what happens when you push your Ph.D so far into one direction that you lack basic understanding of other fields. Symmetry-breaking happens all the time in non-linear systems, it doesn't require an external mechanism.

So this is news? (5, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 6 years ago | (#22985194)

The fact that meterorite showers brought life to our planet is no mystery to me. See, I lived in Smallville for a while and I've seen things you wouldn't believe.

- Chloe Sullivan

Nearby Neutron Stars? (2, Insightful)

Fifth Earth (1172333) | about 6 years ago | (#22985260)

"All earthbound meteors catch an excess of one of the two polarized rays." [which are generated by neutron stars]

Doesn't this imply that there is a neutron star somewhere in the immediate vicinity of Earth that's zapping all our incoming meteors? Wouldn't we, um, notice?

I mean, neutron stars are pretty rare things (~2000 known in our galaxy, nearest known is 280 lt/yrs away). I find it improbable that a significant majority of the incoming material has passed by one at some point in its life.

Re:Nearby Neutron Stars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985386)

Yeah - they must have used both hands with their neutron to come up with this theory :-D

Re:Nearby Neutron Stars? (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | about 6 years ago | (#22986386)

Presumably this happened around the time the Earth formed, or at least before life developed here. The neutron star has presumably long since drifted away.

This sounds like it is another candidate solution to Fermi's paradox. If the genesis of life requires chiral chemicals (as suggested in the article), and if this only feasible through polarized neutron star radiation, and if such radiation events are rare then this could vastly reduce the number of planets in our galaxy expected to develop life. A lot of 'ifs' in this argument, so it's probably best not to take it too seriously at this point, but this type of condition (the young Earth being in a very unusual interstellar environment) may well be what kept life from overrunning the Universe.

Re:Nearby Neutron Stars? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 6 years ago | (#22986404)

That's the problem with these theories

Life started on a Meteor that has passed through special conditions not found in our solar system now or at any time, unlike the vast majority of rocks in our solar system which began here, crashes through the atmosphere, some of that life survives find favourable conditions and starts life....


    Life started on Earth ....

Occam's razor says the latter ...

life had to start somewhere (1)

Jeff1946 (944062) | about 6 years ago | (#22985264)

How did life start is the key question, not where. The earth is an ideal place, lots of water and a long-lived sun. Why left-handed, maybe the just one first "living thing", molecule, whatever started it all. In a similar vein, why matter not anti-matter universe I believe is still up in the air.

Re:life had to start somewhere (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 years ago | (#22985576)

How did life start is the key question, not where. The earth is an ideal place, lots of water and a long-lived sun.

Yes, but it was not an ideal place early in its history. Some of Jupiter's moons or even Mars may have been a better place once because they cooled faster. Asteroids could have then blasted off chunks that later landed on Earth when it was cooler.

Why left-handed, maybe the just one first "living thing", molecule, whatever started it all.

Or maybe there was a *slight* lead in lefties over righties, and that lead eventually became the "standard" out of a kind of "voting" competition: the first democracy.

Preventing Unwanted Earths (3, Funny)

mbstone (457308) | about 6 years ago | (#22985266)

Now that we know that life as we know it sprang from meteorite-sperm, we owe it to the rest of the Universe to immediately deploy Dyson condoms.

Thought it had already been explained (4, Informative)

MrKevvy (85565) | about 6 years ago | (#22985286)

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that the left-handed chirality bias had already been explained by the non-conservation of parity in the electroweak force. The L enantiomers have a slightly lower binding energy, so in any mole of racemic amino acids you'll have about a million excess on the L side, which is enough to tip the balance.

Re:Thought it had already been explained (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985692)


God said "and let there be left-handed chirality" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985788)

and it was so.

Now shut up or I will kill you and declare jihad on your family for a thousand years!

Re:Thought it had already been explained (1)

tinkerton (199273) | about 6 years ago | (#22986530)

I don't keep up and I can't access the references but this theory has been around for a while. Has it really been established that this factor will indeed tip the balance?

What the... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985306)

Is this science or fantasy? Am I to believe that amino acids somehow formed on an asteroid (magic must happen) then, within the vastness of space, managed to soar passed some neutron stars without getting sucked in, and then, found its way to Earth, survived entry into the atmosphere and produced life?

Re:What the... (1)

calcapt (975466) | about 6 years ago | (#22985542)


Is this science or fantasy? Am I to believe that amino acids somehow formed on an asteroid (magic must happen)
I doubt that there's anything indicating that you're to believe that amino acids magically came into existence on an asteroid. I do think you're to assume that free floating atomic elements in space underwent chemical reactions forming amino acids when exposed to radiation. Couple this with the formation of a solar system and subsequent condensation of interstellar dust into planetoids and other objects, you end up with asteroids with amino acids on them.

then, within the vastness of space, managed to soar passed some neutron stars without getting sucked in,
Shit happens. I'd tell you to ask the dinosaurs, but... oh yeah. Shit happened. And not all neutron stars are black holes that suck things in. FURTHERMORE, pulsars are special types of neutron stars beaming radiation. This radiation traverses great distances and can feasibly nuke an asteroid, light years away, with radiation. I believe there was a "Death Star" article recently about such a pulsar, notable because the Earth was within range of it's radiation blasts.

and then, found its way to Earth, survived entry into the atmosphere and produced life?
Are you assuming that there are living things on this meteorite? And notice, I specifically say "meteorite", the term for an object originating in space that has survived reentry and impacted the earth's surface. Living things surviving reentry on an asteroid might be sketchy, but complex molecules are another story. To be honest, I don't understand your incredulous attitude. Putting together what I know from astronomy and my biology background, what's suggested in the article seems very feasible. I'd think anyone who took high school seriously would be able to come up with the same conclusion.

Re:What the... (1)

dino303 (876573) | about 6 years ago | (#22986278)

Maybe you should read up on the Miller-Urey experiment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller-Urey_experiment [wikipedia.org] . It simulated an atmosphere as it might have existed on the primitive earth (or any other object in space for that matter). Indeed, magic happened and simple amino acids formed 'out of nothing'. The big question though is, how did higher structures (e.g. proteins, which are far more complex) evolve from those amino acids?

Re:What the... (2, Interesting)

calcapt (975466) | about 6 years ago | (#22986398)

Well, proteins are simply chains of amino acids. It's really cool if you think about it; amino acids have amino and carboxy terminuses. The carbon in between these 2 are hooked up to a variable side chain with varying chemical structure/properties depending on the amino acid.

But, moving along, the carboxy and amino terminuses are perfectly capable of linking up via chemical reactions. It wouldn't be a stretch, taking into account the conditions of ancient Earth, that amino acids in the "primordial soup" just kept linking up and polymerized under favorable conditions, generating complex proteins.

Personally, this is why the evolution of early life is so interesting to me. The modular structure of DNA, RNA, and proteins, coupled with phospholipids (which spontaneously form cell like compartments in water), if all these are thrown into early earth conditions, spontaneous creation of life seems very, very possible.

Out of this world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22985370)

This gives the expression "You're out of this world" a new meaning.

Let's be realistic (1)

networkzombie (921324) | about 6 years ago | (#22985524)

If any organic matter, much less amino acids, could survive the ravages of cosmic rays and temperature changes of space, it would be more likely that any "seeds" spreading life probably came from earth. If earth were to dry up, it would be trivial for a rover to find signs of ancient life. We can't find shit (literally) on Mars, yet many some scientists believe life began there.

Try this: age of universe - age of earth / chances of amino acids surviving cosmic rays X when life began on earth = earth is probably the one spreading amino acids.

Re:Let's be realistic (1)

calcapt (975466) | about 6 years ago | (#22985590)

That's an interesting thought.

Earth didn't have any oxygen in the atmosphere until several billion years ago (approximately). This meant no ozone and excessive radiation hammering primordial Earth, providing energy necessary for chemical reactions that could generate organic matter necessary for life.

There's also been evidence suggesting that the Earth suffered a catastrophic collision with a Mars sized object (this resulted in the formation of the moon); if organic molecules had already been created prior to this event, and the collision sent pieces of Earth with , say, amino acids, out into space, could this account for the celestial objects carrying left handed amino acids?

Re:Let's be realistic (1)

networkzombie (921324) | about 6 years ago | (#22985808)

That's the chicken and the egg. Lack of oxygen doesn't mean there was no atmosphere to stop enough cosmic rays for amino acids and proteins to form, especially in the ocean where cosmic rays are filtered. I've never seen an ocean on an asteroid and a more inhospitable place to form amino acids I cannot imagine.

The catastrophic collision earth suffered is the event that sent seeds into space (I saw it in the cinema) and they were all right handed, not left. Are you left handed? More seriously, yes, that would combine both hypotheses, but I still feel it is highly unlikely for anything to survive cosmic rays with no protection save the lip of a rock hurling through space.

Re:Let's be realistic (1)

calcapt (975466) | about 6 years ago | (#22986010)

I'm not sure if the ocean would filter cosmic rays that well; light does penetrate to a certain degree (higher energy wavelengths, blue, for example), and UV certainly does penetrate (much higher energy than blue light), illustrated by swimmers getting sunburned while underwater. Second, I don't think any of the gases comprising the early Earth atmosphere have the unique UV absorbing property O2 and ozone have.

I think you missed my point, though (Apologies, I probably wasn't very clear); I'm pretty sure radiation is necessary for the formation of organic molecules such as amino acids. Even if a chemical reaction is favorable, the length of time required for it to complete could be unreasonably long. I mentioned early Earth without it's ozone shield because it illustrated the conditions under which organic molecules could form; cosmic radiation is present to provide the catalytic energy required for quick organic synthesis. This is why I don't believe amino acid formation on an asteroid is farfetched; while conditions there aren't exactly the same as those on early earth, they should be similar (provided ingredients for organic molecules are in place), and asteroids have the added advantage of being in space, where radiation to provide energy for chemical reactions is ample.

But, I guess your quarrel with that theory is that the amino acids would be damaged by cosmic rays? That is something to consider, as after amino acids formed on ancient earth there were likely tangible objects to shield them from destructive radiation. But, I imagine accumulation of a dust coating on the asteroid/meteor, or perhaps forming in a crevice could provide ample protection? Interesting topic.

Re:Let's be realistic (1)

networkzombie (921324) | about 6 years ago | (#22986124)

Quite plausible and I do see your point in support of the article. I always imagined only chemical, electrical, and temperature environmental attributes would be involved in the creation of amino acids/proteins and the remaining (left and right handed) would duke it out for dominance. The article mentions light rays destructive force resulting in the left handed, but I can't help but think that these light rays would happen on earth, especially if we had a limited atmosphere. So why only asteroids? What is the distance limitation for neutron star light rays to destroy right handed amino acids to the point the left handed amino acids have dominance in creating proteins? I still think the article is reaching too far. Great reply, thanks. I still think you must be left handed.

Re:Let's be realistic (1)

calcapt (975466) | about 6 years ago | (#22986362)

I think "Why asteroids?" could be answered by the fact that there aren't any neutron stars sufficiently close to Earth; this is a good thing.Pulsar variants of neutron stars are actually destructive in the sense that they spew high energy radiation (including gamma radiation, 'cept we don't Hulk out if hit, rather we... well bad things happen) from their poles. Certain neutron stars also become black holes (which apparently also spew out high energy cosmic radiation). I'm guessing the consequence of this is that Earth is nowhere within "firing range" of a neutron star. Great for us, as the planet would've been exposed to so much cosmic radiation that life would never have gotten started.

Asteroids, on the other hand, can travel through the cosmos and be exposed to these neutron stars. Eventually they end up in a solar system and can seed planets with organic material such as amino acids. Furthermore, distance shouldn't be a problem for amino acid exposure to polarized light; as long as nothing is in the path of an electromagnetic wave (such as light), the wave should propagate infinitely (I'm no physicist, so take this with a grain of salt).

The main problem with the argument made in the article is probably the statistical improbability of an extra solar object carrying the L amino acids wandering into our solar system.

Meh. I don't enough about asteroids wandering inter-solar expanses or neutron stars and the state of the galaxy ~4-5 billion years ago. Unless I decide to study some more astronomy, I probably couldn't say much more about this topic. It's too bad; not enough hours in a day and not enough time in our lives to master enough subjects to gain a good understanding of things. Not even multiple subjects, just ONE.

But I agree with your final assessment; the article seems to be making wild assumptions (or seems to be because we don't know the subject well enough). Right handed, btw =P Being left handed would be cool though. I'd have an advantage in some sports :D

Questions... (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | about 6 years ago | (#22985594)

OK, gotta bare my soul on this one (and luckily that's all I'm baring...).

The thought that some meteorite from a distant star seeded life on earth just kicks me. A few days ago the Discover channel aired a documentary about black holes and supernovas. At some point it mentioned that our Sun too would eventually go boom and swallow the earth as some guy sips a drink at a Restaurant at the End of.. no never mind... OK, maybe it will go dark and the earth freezes over. Robert Frost is somewhere chuckling I'd guess...

Now maybe it's all been misinterpreted. Maybe life began here as the product of some freak lightning striking the just-so-right soup of chemicals. Among billions of worlds, maybe life is not the exception but the rule.

But I can't get over the idea of this lone meteor crossing these IMMENSE GULFS OF TIME AND SPACE (said in the best Marlon Brando rumble I could command)... Maybe some alien civilization realized that their world was doomed and they sent this rock across the galaxy to find Picard and whisper to him secrets of a lost world.

Maybe it's a code from some godlike programmer... the Great Woz in the Sky.. The unchanging midichlorians.. sorry.. mitochondria actually some code to unlocking the secrets of the 'Verse.

Or Verse.. like in some Holy Book verse.. Could be a secret code... oh wait sorry, about 4.6 billion years too late...

Sh*t. All I really wanted to say was that I wish I had a space ship.

A space ship with laser cannons.

And photon torpedoes.

And a holodeck. Yeah, can't forget the holodeck.

sounds like a non-issue (2, Insightful)

nguy (1207026) | about 6 years ago | (#22986568)

I'm not sure left handedness needs such a far fetched explanation. It makes sense for cells to pick one handedness or another, otherwise they need twice the machinery. And there are plenty of pathways that connect different amino acids and other compounds, so if one of them is left handed, chances are most of the rest are as well. And which handedness it ended up being may just have been chance.
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