What'sNEW Archives, October - November 1999November 29: Tunguska explosion probably caused by a comet — Kaare Lund Rasmussen's team at the National Museum and Geological Survey of Denmark in Copenhagen analysed carbon isotope ratios and iridium abundances to conclude that the object that exploded over the Tunguska forest, in 1908, was a block of ice from a comet. They even think they can identify the comet.
Comet Chunk Marred Siberian Forest, by Michael de Laine, Discovery News Brief, 29 November 1999.
Exploring century's greatest explosion, by David Whitehouse, BBC News Online, 26 July 1999.
Comets: The Delivery System is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO-2000).
...Is Evolutionary Progress ...Possible? is a related CA webpage.
NASA Center for Computational Astrobiology.
NASA Ames to Host Computational Astrobiology Symposium, NASA pressrelease 99-73AR by Kathleen Burton, 17 November 1999.
Computational Astrobiology for the 21st Century from SpaceRef.com, 10 November 1999.
...Is Evolutionary Progress ...Possible? is a question suited for this new mission.
November 12:Genetic Engineers use genes installed by a virus to benefit future generations of mammals. "The advance represents the first time researchers have been able to protect future generations through gene therapy for any condition, said University of Florida molecular physiologist Mohan K. Raizada."
Gene Therapy Seems To Protect Rats' Offspring, by Melanie Fridl Ross, UniSci, 12 November 1999.
Viruses... is a related CA webpage. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]
November 10:Your Ancestors May Be Martian — A short Internet story about the paradigm shift now under way.
Your Ancestors May Be Martian, by Michael Paine, space.com, 8 November 1999.
November 9:Human Genome Bears a Virus Related to HIV. Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Duke University found multiple copies of an HIV-like gene in the human genome; some of the copies appear to be active at a low level. A member of the team commented, "The gene has been sitting in our genome all these millions of years, and it's in perfect working order." This news provides another demonstration that viral genes can become permanently installed into their hosts' genomes with possible long-term evolutionary consequences that are not disease-related. Indeed, HHMI states, "Because of these viral gene insertion events, genetic material from inactive viruses accounts for roughly 3 percent of the human genome." That's as much as the percentage that encodes proteins.
Human Genome Bears a Virus Related to HIV, HHMI news from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 9 November 1999.
Yang, Jin; Hal P. Bogerd; Sheila Peng; Heather Wiegand; Ray Truant and Bryan R. Cullen, "An ancient family of human endogenous retroviruses encodes a functional homolog of the HIV-1 Rev protein" p 13404-13408 v 96 n 23, PNAS, 9 November 1999. Abstract.
Viruses... is a related CA webpage. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]
Taylor, Michael Ray, Dark Life: Martian Nanobacteria, Rock-Eating Cave Bugs, and Other Extreme Organisms of Inner and Outer Space, Scribner, 1999.
Life on Mars! is a related CA webpage.
November 5:What Does It Take for a Moon to Support Life? Andrew J. LePage gives this question deep and informative consideration.
Habitable Moons, by Andrew J. LePage, Sky & Telescope, December 1998.
Life on Europa... has links to WhatsNEW on Jupiter's and other moons.
November 4:Horizontal Gene Transfer, a new book — "Movement of genes from one species to another has until recently been considered merely an oddity of the life of some micro-organisms or a series of tricks that research geneticists have played on unsuspecting laboratory animals. Today, however, horizontal gene transfer is a rapidly growing area of research.... Ultimately, the phenomenon has the potential to profoundly affect fundamental concepts of evolutionary theory." This 500 page collection of 34 articles by eminent researchers at a 1996 conference will be eye-opening even to advocates of Cosmic Ancestry. Among the interesting findings and comments we noted:
Syvanen, Michael and Clarence I. Kado, eds., Horizontal Gene Transfer, Kluwer Academic Publishers, May 1999.
Shu, D-G.; H-L. Luo; S. Conway Morris; X-L. Zhang; S-X. Hu; L. Chen; J. Han; M. Zhu; Y. Li and L-Z. Chen, "Lower Cambrian vertebrates from south China," p 42-46 v 402 Nature, 4 November 1999. Abstract.
November 2:Does Microevolution Explain Macroevolution? has been added to the CA webpage "Neo-Darwinism: The Current Paradigm." It includes a recently discovered example of undisputable microevolutinary progress — the evolution of trichromatic vision.
Does Microevolution Explain Macroevolution?
Creating the Model Comet, by Andrew Bridges, space.com, 1 November 1999.
Spacecraft fails to keep eye on job, BBC News Online, 30 July 1999.
Comets: The Delivery System is a related CA webpage.
Life Beyond Earth, PBS enhanced website (with video purchase link).
October 26:A deep Internet resource on panspermia is available. This carefully categorized website lists plenty of printed references and some Internet links. It is part of "The Net Advance of Physics" at MIT.
Panspermia Theories: Annotated Bibliography, by Norman Redington and Karen R Keck.
There are too few examples like this one. Cheng and Chen themselves call it "a rare view". Genes without identifiable predecessors are the rule.
Blood antifreeze does not constitute a complex new organ nor even a component of one. (The active part of the antifreeze protein consists of over a hundred copies of a sequence of only nine nucleotides from the predecessor gene.)
The example would also support the molecular mechanism behind evolution that Cosmic Ancestry advocates — the insertion of new genetic programs and recombination that is to some extent scripted.
Cheng, Chi-Hing C. and Lingbiao Chen, "Evolution of an antifreeze glycoprotein" [text] p 443-444 v 401 Nature, 30 September 1999.
October 20:Can life last forever? In a speculative article two physicists at Case Western Reserve University ponder the ultimate fate of life in the universe. They incorporate the latest research, including the surprising evidence that the expansion of the universe may be accelerating. "No meaningful form of consciousness could exist forever...," they suppose. The question matters to us, because life that is eternal in the past seems unlikely, if it can't persist indefinitely into the future. But the physicists conclude with an idea — if universes can spawn other universes as Andrei Linde [and Alan Guth] believe, "life-forms might... send themselves, or at least a set of instructions to reconstitute themselves, through to the baby universe." We welcome this modest endorsement of a way for life to outlast even the universe. And we realize that the subject needs more data.
Krauss, Lawrence M. and Glen D. Starkman, "The Fate of Life in the Universe," p 58-65 v 281 n 5 Scientific American, November 1999.
The End and the Big Bang is a related CA webpage.
October 18:Is anyone out there? Florida Today discusses the full spectrum of ideas about life in space in a special Sunday section. There are eleven stories and a bibliography with illustrations, sidebars and Internet links — available online and in hard copy.
Is anyone out there? by John J. Glisch, Melinda Meers, Todd Halvorson, Robyn Suriano, Billy Cox, Nate Owens and Alice Garwood, Florida Today, 17 October 1999.
Bowen, Nathan J. and John F. McDonald, "Genomic Analysis of Caenorhabditis elegans Reveals Ancient Families of Retroviral-like Elements" [abstract], p 924-935 v 9 n 10, Genome Research, October 1999.
No Water Detected from Lunar Prospector Impact, by Becky Rische, NASA News Release 99-63AR, 13 October 1999.
"Bid to Uncover Water on Moon Finds Nothing," The New York Times, 14 October 1999.
October 7:More microbes survive in space. Samples from the genus Haloarcula (archaea) and the genus Synechococcus (bacteria) returned alive, September 24, from a European Space Agency "Biopan" mission. This was the third space mission in a program begun in 1994, by microbiologist Rocco Mancinelli. Additional experiments on the ground that exposed the microbes to radiation and other hazards of space confirmed their survivability. Mancinelli's experiments extend results obtained in the late 1980s, by experiments aboard NASA's Long Duration Exposure Facility. Back then, Bacillus subtilis spores were shown to remain viable after six years in space, provided they were shielded from UV radiation by only a single layer of dead cells or other naturally available protectants. Mancinelli's Biopan experiments go farther because they use microbes that do not form spores. He plans to conduct additional experiments aboard the International Space Station. Thanks, Emily Holton, for alerting us to this news story.
Sawyer, Kathy, "Hardy Microbes Appear Able to Survive in Space" pA11 Washington Post, 4 October 1999.
FOTON-12 capsule with BIOPAN back on Earth, by Peter Sickinger, Kaiser-Threde, 28 September 1999.
Life on Mars: Will It Survive First Contact, by Bruce Moomaw, SpaceDaily, 7 October 1999.
Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
NASA's interest in the microbes' survivability apparently stems primarily from its concern for "forward contamination" — sending germs from Earth to other planets or contaminating samples returned from space. Barry DiGregorio continues to be concerned about "back contamination," especially the chance that germs from Mars could be lethal on Earth. Thanks, Larry Klaes, for alerting us to this web story.