COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | What'sNEW - Later - Earlier - Index | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved

What'sNEW Archives, January - March 1999

fossilized bacteria? March 19: Other meteorites may show life on Mars. A NASA team including David S. McKay believes that "round and ovoid units" seen in the Nakhla meteorite "represent the mineralized remains of bacterial cell bodies." They note that the size range of the bodies is narrow and appropriate for bacteria (in this respect they are better than the smaller "nanobacteria" bodies in ALH 84001). Furthermore, some of the cells are attached in pairs like dividing bacteria, the surface texture resembles analogous earthly fossils, and a fossilized filament in the sample looks like a bacterial fibril. They admit that some contamination of Nakhla has occurred, but the shapes at interest are integrated with the meteorite in ways that earthly contaminants wouldn't be. This report was made at a session entitled "Astrobiology: Precursors, Origins, and Martians," on March 18, at the 30th Lunar Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas. McKay's group sees similar evidence for fossilized bacteria in yet another Mars meteorite, Shergotty. The new evidence places life on Mars much more recently than 3.6 billion years ago (indicated by ALH 84001), as the fossils in Nakhla and Shergotty are 1.3 billion and 165 million years old, respectively. "If this proves out, we will have shown that life spanned almost the entire history of Mars, and presumably today," McKay says.

McKay, D. S.; S. W. Wentworth; K. Thomas-Keprta; F. Westall and E. K. Gibson, Jr. "Possible Bacteria in Nakhla [#1816]": 0.21 micrometer-size spheres embedded in secondary deposits of martian origin in martian meteorite Nakhla show strong bacterial characteristics. March 18, 1999. [Abstract: scroll down to #1816.][FTP Download Instructions: part of "sess46.pdf"]
Wilford, John Noble, "Another Meteorite May Show Life on Mars, Scientists Report" The New York Times, 19 March 1999.
Chandler, David L., "Life on Mars debate reborn" p E01 Boston Globe, 22 March 1999.
NASA team says other meteorites contain fossils of bacteria, Nando Media, 1999.
Signs of Life in Mars Rocks, ABCNEWS.com, 19 March 1999.
Other Meteorites Show Evidence of Mars Life, Scientists Claim, SpaceViews, 19 March 1999.
Bacteria Said in Mars Meteorites, Yahoo!News, 19 March 1999, 4:59 AM ET.
30th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX, March 15-19, 1999.
Life on Mars - new claims, BBCNews 27 August 1999.
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


exon movement March 5: Three geneticists, examining evolution at the molecular level, observe, "Long interspersed nuclear elements (LINE-1s or L1s) insert into transcribed genes and retrotranspose sequences derived from their 3' flanks to new genomic locations. Thus, retrotransposition-competent L1s provide a vehicle to mobilize non-L1 sequences, such as exons or promoters, into existing genes and may represent a general mechanism for the evolution of new genes." In commentary Tom Eickbush notes, "Nuclear splicesomal introns..., retroviruses..., and even telomerase... may all have once been retrotransposons. Thirty percent of the human genome results from this sort of reverse transcription..., and it is likely that another significant fraction comprises older elements that have mutated into obscurity." Obviously, our understanding of evolution is changing rapidly. The retrotransposon mechanism could well be a way for fragmented genes that are inactive or newly inserted to become properly assembled and activated. Thus the new data provide strong support for the evolutionary system Cosmic Ancestry requires.

Moran, John V.; Ralph J. DeBerardinis and Haig H. Kazazian Jr. "Exon Shuffling by L1 Retrotransposition," p 1530-1534 v 283 Science, 5 March 1999. Abstract
Eickbush, Tom. "Exon Shuffling in Retrospect," p 1465-1467 v 283 Science, 5 March 1999.
Boeke, Jef D. and Oxana K. Pickeral. "Retroshuffling the genomic deck," p 108-111v 398 Nature, 11 March 1999.
Evolutionary Molecular Mechanism In Mammals Found UniSci, 5 March 1999.
Genetic Stowaways May Contribute To Evolutionary Change: Adjacent Sequences Tag Along With Mobile DNA Elements, Study Shows EurekAlert, 4 March 1999.
Viruses... and the two pages following it are related Cosmic Ancestry webpages. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]


Ad Astra March 4: Ad Astra Astrobiology Issue now online. Ad Astra, the magazine of the National Space Society, has devoted its current issue to astrobiology, with Keith Cowing as guest editor. The ten articles include a humorous piece by Arthur Clarke, an update on the meteorite from Mars, a story on extremophiles, and "Astrobiology 101."
Ad Astra Magazine: Astrobiology [Expanded Edition], January/February 1999.


FEBS March 3: Up to 1% of the human genome is represented by human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) and their fragments that are likely footprints of ancient primate germ-cell infections that occurred 10-60 million years ago. So begins the abstract of a recent "Minireview" article by Eugene Sverdlov of the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences. The article further notes, "The number of described cases in which retroelement sequences confer useful traits is growing." Sverdlov concludes with a startling thought: "Perhaps we will learn about the tragic viral epidemics that struck our ancestors and forever changed their destinies having given rise to Homo sapiens lineage in evolution."

A Review in Trends in Genetics opens with equally stunning words: "Darwin could not have foretold that we are descended from viruses as well as from apes." Interestingly, in the interval between the publication of this review (March 1997) and Sverdlov's (May 1998), the estimated proportion of the human genome derived from ERV's has become ten times larger.

Sverdlov, Eugene D. "Perpetually mobile footprints of ancient infections in human genome" [Abstract] p 1-6 v 428 Federation of European Biochemical Societies - Letters, 22 May 1998.
Patience, Clive; David A. Wilkinson and Robin A. Weiss, "Our retroviral heritage" [Abstract] p 116-120 v 13 n 3, Trends in Genetics, March 1997.
Viruses... is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]
John Wilkins, 8 March 1999, thinks "up to 40% of the average mammalian genome is ERV derived."


missing fossils? March 1: The problem is not missing fossils. We must find another way to account for the molecular clocks that disagree with the fossil record, says a report in Science. This careful statistical analysis shows that we could hardly overlook the older fossils. "We find that the quality of the fossil record is something like 10 to 100 times greater than the quality that would be required by this hypothesis of missing species diversity."

Foote, Mike; John P. Hunter; Christine M. Janis and J. John Sepkoski Jr. "Evolutionary and Preservational Constraints on Origins of Biologic Groups: Divergence Times of Eutherian Mammals" p 1310-1314 v 283 Science, 26 Feb 1999. Abstract.
Foote, Mike and J. John Sepkoski Jr. "Absolute measures of the completeness of the fossil record" p 415-417 v 398 Nature, 1 April 1999. "We find that completeness is rather high for many animal groups."
Scientists Devise Method To Address Conflict Between Molecular Clock, Fossil Record Of Mammalian Evolution from ScienceDaily, 1 March 1999.
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


PAH's in space February 19: NASA says astrobiologists find clues to origin of life. A team of scientists from NASA and Stanford University announced today that they have created some of the chemicals essential for life in an environment similar to that found in deep space. This finding could shed light on the origin of life itself. In this modern Miller-Urey experiment the prebiotic soup is now prepared in a spacelike environment. Some very distinguished scientists have done some interesting chemistry, and we are glad to know that quinones, aromatic ketones, alcohols and ethers might be produced from precursors in deep space. But we fear that the public may be misled, by the importance NASA is giving the experiment, into thinking that organic chemistry in space nearly solves the origin-of-life problem. Even these scientists don't make that claim. Nevertheless, we are glad that the work points to space as a source for aspects, at least, of life.
We wish that a similar amount of research were done to answer these questions: How do the genetic programs for life originate? How do we know that they can originate? Without relying on the big bang theory, how do we know that life ever originated? If these were considered, some of the abundant organic compounds in space might look post-biotic instead of prebiotic.

Burton, Kathleen. "Astrobiologists Find Clues to Origin of Life," NASA press release 99-11AR, 18 February 1999.
Bernstein, Max P.; Scott A. Sandford; Louis J. Allamandola; J. Seb Gillette; Simon J. Clemett and Richard N. Zare. "UV Irradiation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Ices: Production of Alcohols, Quinones, and Ethers" p 1135-1138 v 283 Science, 19 Feb 1999. Abstract
Ehrenfreund, Pascale. "Molecules on a Space Odyssey" p 1123 - 1124 v 283 Science, 19 Feb 1999. Abstract
The Astrochemistry Lab at Ames Research Center, NASA.
Scientists say aromatic molecules may have led to life on Earth from Nando Times, 18 February 1999.
Carbons from Heaven, by Kenneth Chang, ABCNEWS.com, 19 February 1999.
Comets, Like Cars, Leave Carbon Monoxide In Their Wake from Arizona State University, by EurekAlert, 18 February 1999.
The RNA World is the main Cosmic Ancestry webpage about origin-of-life theories.
Analysis of Interstellar Dust is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


TLC February 12: "It Came from Outer Space" airs again February 14 at 5:00PM Eastern on The Learning Channel. A new theory of evolution is forcing it's way into modern thinking—that life as we know it originated in outer space. Various ideas, including colonization from Mars and life-forming chemical combinations from space, are explored. The hour-long show, including appearances by Chris McKay, Chris Chyba, Chandra Wickramasinghe and Dave Deamer was broadcast twice on February 8.
Videocassette available around March 21, for $19.95 + shipping at 800-475-6636.


Sediment February 10: New evidence for old life — a Danish geologist finds isotopic and structural evidence for life on Earth over 3.7 billion years ago. The study corroborates an earlier one indicating that life on Earth must have begun surprisingly quickly. The rock strata with graphite globules that Rosing examined, from Greenland, resemble familiar layers of sediment deposited on the sea floor by plankton.

Rosing, Minik T. "13C-Depleted Carbon Mictroparticles in >3700-Ma Sea-Floor Sedimentary Rocks from West Greenland" p 674-676 v 283 Science. 29 January 1999. Abstract.
Life Before 3850 Million Years Ago? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


Stardust launch February 7: NASA launches probe bound for comet.
Delta Launches Stardust Comet Mission SpaceViews 7 February 1999.
NASA's Stardust spacecraft successfully shot... NASA, JPL, 7 February 1999.

February 6: Radar snafu scrubs Stardust launch. A few minutes before the scheduled launch at 4:06 EST, a dip in electric current in a necessary radar system triggered an alarm and caused the launch to be scrubbed.
Radar snafu scrubs Stardust launch Nando Times 4:34 PM EST.
Stardust launch delayed to Sunday Nando Times 5:28 PM EST.
Stardust launch tentatively rescheduled for Sunday, February 7, NASA, JPL.

February 6: Stardust to be launched today. NASA's Stardust Mission will send a spacecraft flying through the cloud of dust that surrounds the nucleus of a comet. For the first time ever, a space mission will collect and retrieve cometary material. The target comet, comet Wild-2 ("vilt-2") became a short-period comet only in 1974, after passing close by Jupiter, so it is relatively "fresh." Stardust will come within 150 miles of it on January 2, 2004, at a flyby speed of 13,650 mph (6.1 kilometers per second). During a ten-hour passage through the comet's "coma," the craft will capture particles in a soft "aerogel," and perform other tests. The captured particles will return in a sealed container by parachute to the Utah desert on January 15, 2006. The mission will be launched from Earth on a relatively small vehicle, a Delta II rocket, at an overall cost of 166 million dollars. Dr. Donald C. Brownlee of the University of Washington, the principal mission investigator, does not expect the aerogel to catch any actual biological cells and none of the equipment was designed to seek cells specifically. But Cosmic Ancestry holds that comets do carry cells. If they are present in the coma of Wild-2, we should find recognizable remnants of them, "mashed and partly melted," in the gel.

Stardust Stardust Homepage from NASA, JPL.
Stardust from NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center.
Stardust from the University of Washington.
Chicago Instrument To Get Close Look At Comet from UniSci 4 February 1999.
Stardust Mission Set to Bring Back a Piece of a Comet NASA JPL press release, 3 February 1999.
NASA seeking dust from outer space by Marcia Dunn, Nando Times.
Going Comet Wild from NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center, 5 February 1999.
Comet Chaser: Looking for Clues of Lifes Origins, by Kenneth Chang, ABCNEWS.com 3 February 1999.
Aerogel Rides Again from NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center, 5 February 1999.
Broad, William J. "In Search of Star Dust and Clues to Life" The New York Times. 2 February 1999.
Stardust Press Kit
Comets: The Delivery System is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
Can The Theory Be Tested? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


February 3: An experiment will look for germs in the high atmosphere over India. A series of low-cost balloon experiments using the most modern microbiological techniques is being planned by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Inter-Universities Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune (IUCAA), with collaborative UK links in Cardiff. The principal investigator is Professor J.V. Narlikar, Director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune. The sample collections are to be made using a balloon-borne cryogenic pump comprised of many sterilised chambers fitted with valves and cooled to liquid neon temperatures. Isotope ratios will help determine if the captured particles are from space or Earth. Flights are expected to be launched in late 1999.

Hawkes, Nigel. "Capturing the comet's tail" The Times (London). 3 February 1999.
Narlikar, J. V.; S Ramadurai; Pushpa Bhargava; S. V. Damle; N. C. Wickramasinghe; David Lloyd; F. Hoyle and D. H. Wallis "The Search for living cells in stratospheric samples" in Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology, Richard B. Hoover, Editor, Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 3441, p 301-305 (1998).
An Atmospheric Test of Cometary Panspermia, by Wickramasinghe, Hoyle and Narlikar.
Can the Theory Be Tested? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


January 20: Molecular clocks indicate species are more than three times as old as their oldest fossils. Three biologists at Penn State used 75 nuclear genes in this study. If the results of his team's genetic study are correct... the scientific question must change from "How did all these species evolve so suddenly early in the Cambrian period?" to "Why don't we see any fossils of these species long before the Cambrian period?" Cosmic Ancestry sees no dilemma here, because genes must be installed and may begin to diverge before they are expressed.

Large Gene Study Questions Cambrian Explosion, newsrelease from Penn State Eberly College of Science, 19 January 1999.
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


Bioastronomy 99 January 19: The 6th Bioastronomy Conference will be in Hawaii August 2-6, 1999. The 1999 meetings will be an opportunity to develop the promise of expanding interests for a new multidisciplinary science branch known as astrobiology. The topics proposed for this meeting are: Organic molecules in interstellar and interplanetary space; Stellar birth; Origin and evolution of planetary systems; Comets, asteroids, and other small bodies and their role in the origin and evolution of life; Planetary evolution; Earth as a living planet; Extreme environments on the Earth; Catastrophic Impacts; Origin of life; Transport of life between planets; Evolution of life and intelligence; Detection and characterization of extrasolar planets; Search for extraterrestrial technology and life; Future missions; Public acceptance and support of scientific studies of life in the universe. The meeting chairs are John Rummel of the Marine Biological Laboratory, and David Morrison of NASA. Sponsors include SETI and NASA.

Bioastronomy 99: A New Era in Bioastronomy, Kohala Coast Hawaii, August 2-6, 1999.
Can The Theory Be Tested? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


Origin of life? January 12: NASA has published its Astrobiology Roadmap. The NASA Astrobiology Roadmap is the product of efforts by more than 150 scientists and technologists, spanning a broad range of disciplines. More than 100 of these participated in a three-day Roadmap Workshop held in July 1998 at NASA Ames Research Center. The report was published on the Internet, January 4, 1999. NASA announces ten goals that include How Life Evolves, Coevolution of the Biosphere and the Earth, Limits for Life, and Life on Mars and Europa. The first goal, How Life Arose on Earth is introduced with the mandate to perform historical, observational, and experimental investigations to understand the origin of life on our planet, including the possibility that it arrived at Earth from elsewhere.

NASA's Astrobiology Roadmap Workshop, Ames Research Center, July 20-22, 1998.
Evolution and Ecology Beyond the Planet of Origin Workshop, Ames Research Center, June 25-26, 1998.
NASA Astrobiology Institute
Ames Research Center, Astrobiology Office
Can The Theory Be Tested? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.


Polar Launch January 9: A mission to study the Martian climate and look for water in the south polar regions of the Red Planet lifted off successfully Sunday afternoon, January 3. In 11 months, the craft should begin a search that will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars.
Sawyer, Kathy. "NASA Probe to Dig Into Mars's Past for Clues to Life" p A03 The Washington Post . 28 December 1998.
Broad, William J. "Spacecraft Speed to Mars, High Hopes on Board" The New York Times. 5 January 1999.
Mars Polar Lander from MVACS (payload) Control Center at UCLA.
Mars Polar Lander Launched from SpaceViews, 3 January 1999 .
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

Meanwhile, scientists continue to see circumsantial evidence of life on Mars; and researcher Barry DiGregorio is organizing a group of scientists concerned that samples of Martian soil returned to Earth might contaminate our planet with unfamiliar germs.
Clark, Benton C. "Surviving the limits to life at the surface of Mars", p 28,545-28,555, v 103, n E12, Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, (entire issue devoted to exobiology), 25 November 1998.
A Reply to Cosmic Ancestry from Barry Digregorio, on January 11, contains his comments.

COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | What'sNEW - Later - Earlier - Index | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved