What'sNEW July - August 2015

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
29 Aug 2015
A dramatic outburst from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta Blog, photographed 22 Aug 2015.
> What'sNEW under Comet Rendezvous has links to Rosetta updates.
Thanks Thanks, Bill Smith, for this alert and for email from Polonnaruwa.

16 Aug 2015 What'sNEW about HGT |
The Mysterious World of the Human Genome by Frank Ryan ...The virus inserted itself some 650 times or so into the genome.... Today we can list at least twelve different viral loci that contribute in one way or another to human reproduction (p 166). Frank Ryan's newest book has lots of current information about endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) in the human genome, including some that are peculiar to certain populations. (These recently acquired ERVs can help us reconstruct the history of the earliest humans.) A physician and evolutionary biologist, Ryan also investigates the history of 20th century biology, especially the discovery and exploration of DNA with which the book begins. Lots about James Watson, Francis Crick, Linus Pauling, many others, and Oswald Avery, to whom the book is dedicated. Recommended.

Frank Ryan, The Mysterious World of the Human Genome, ISBN:9780007549061, 352 pages, Harper Collins, 18 Jun 2015.
> Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is a related local webpage.

Viruses are the dynamo of change that we see in the modern genome....
Eibi Nevo, interviewed by Suzan Mazur, Huffington Post, 14 Aug 2015.

15 Aug 2015
The man who tries to find life on Enceladus, Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, 18.5-minute YouTube video, published 20 Jul 2015.
> Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets?... has related links.
Thanks Thanks, Lawrence Klaes via facebook.

14 Aug 2015
The organic comet, 3-minute video from ESA on YouTube, published 11 Aug 2015.
> What'sNEW under Comet Rendezvous has links to Rosetta updates.
Thanks Thanks, Bill Smith.

Astrobiology Research Conference, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 21-23 Aug 2015. > First notice.

Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XVII, San Diego, 9-11 Aug 2015. > First notice.

Viruses are so abundant on this planet, in each ecological niche, that there is no organism independent of the influence of viruses and their genetic content.... Günther Witzany, interviewed by Suzan Mazur, Huffington Post, 6 Aug 2015.

7 Aug 2015
A wide-ranging panel discussion at Arizona State University on Darwin's birthday, 2011, is posted online (42-minute video) and worth a look. "Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss, and The Science Network's Roger Bingham discuss the origins of life, the possibility of finding life elsewhere, and the latest development in synthetic biology."
The Great Debate - What is Life?, The Science Foundation, 12 Feb 2011; posted on YouTube 7 Mar 2013.
> 22 Feb 2011, our first notice of this conference. > What Is Life? is a related webpage.
Thanks Thanks, Bill Smith.

Estimated landing points of Philae as it bounced onto comet 67
4 Aug 2015
Comet evidence supports theory of cosmic life by Chandra Wickramasinghe, The Independent, 3 Aug 2015.
We Found the Building Blocks of Life on a Comet by Maddie Stone, Gizmodo, 4 Aug 2015.

31 Jul 2015
Philae poses comet chemistry conundrum by Andy Extance, Royal Society of Chemistry (posted the ESA photo with estimated landing points), 31 Jul 2015.
Comet yields 'rich array' of organics by David Shukman, BBC News, 31 Jul 2015.
I. P. Wright et al., "CHO-bearing organic compounds at the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko revealed by Ptolemy" [abstract], doi:10.1126/science.aab0673, Science, 31 Jul 2015.
Fred Goesmann et al., "Organic compounds on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko revealed by COSAC mass spectrometry" [abstract], doi:10.1126/science.aab0689, Science, 31 Jul 2015.
> What'sNEW under Comet Rendezvous has links to Rosetta updates.
Thanks Thanks, Bill Smith, for comments and links.

30 Jul 2015 What'sNEW about HGT |
...Dramatic changes such as the complete gain and loss (collectively turnover) of functional promoters are common. ...Our results suggest that promoter gain and loss is an important process in the evolutionary rewiring of gene regulation and may be a significant source of phenotypic diversification.
Robert S Young et al., "The frequent evolutionary birth and death of functional promoters in mouse and human" [
abstract], doi:10.1101/gr.190546.115, Genome Res., online 30 Jul 2015.
> Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is a related local webpage.

29 Jul 2015
...Life which arose via spreading will exhibit more clustering than life which arose spontaneously.
Henry W. Lin, Abraham Loeb, "Statistical Signatures of Panspermia in Exoplanet Surveys" [
abstract], arXiv.org > astro-ph > arXiv:1507.05614, 29 Jul 2015.
Clusters of living worlds would hint life came from outer space, New Scientist, 29 Jul 2015.
Life May Have Spread Through the Galaxy Like a Plague by Jesse Emspak, Smithsonian.com, 27 Aug 2015.
Interstellar Seeds Could Create Oases of Life, Astrobiology Magazine, 27 Aug 2015.
Testing Panspermia: Searching for 'Bubbles of Life' in the Galaxy by Paul Scott Anderson, AmericaSpace, 29 Aug 2015.
> Introduction: More Than Panspermia is a related local webpage.
Thanks Thanks, Google Alerts, Jacob Navia, Ronnie McGhee, Tom Mazanec, Bill Smith and Stan Franklin.
+ Our prediction: Life emerges virtually everywhere there is liquid water.

24 Jul 2015
Planets like Earth do appear to be quite common — Jeff Coughlin, SETI Institute
New Earth-Like Planet Discovered by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope by Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal, 23 Jul 2015.
NASA Says Data Reveals an Earth-Like Planet, Kepler 452b by Dennis Overbye, The New York Times, 23 Jul 2015.
SETI NASA spots most Earth-like planet yet by Daniel Clery, Science, 23 Jul 2015.
...Terrestrial Sized World Orbiting Cousin of the Sun, SETI Institute, 23 Jul 2015.
NASA finds 'Earth's bigger, older cousin' by Michael Pearson, CNN, 24 Jul 2015.
> Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets?... is a related local webpage.

23 Jul 2015
...Evidence for the existence of microbial communities ...at ~1.5 to 2.5 km below the seafloor in the Pacific Ocean....
F. Inagaki, K.-U. Hinrichs et al., "Exploring deep microbial life in coal-bearing sediment down to ~2.5 km below the ocean floor" [
abstract], doi:10.1126/science.aaa6882; and commentary by Julie A. Huber, "Making methane down deep" [summary], Science, 24 Jul 2015. Science
'It's like going to Pluto and seeing McDonald's' by Mitch Leslie, Science, 23 Jul 2015.
> Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related local webpage.

I'd bet my house that [somewhere] in the nearest 100 star systems there are single-celled life forms flourishing — Yuri Milner
Daniel Clery, "Web billionaire bankrolls search for alien signals" [
summary], Science, 24 Jul 2015.

22 Jul 2015 What'sNEW about HGT |
"All cellular organisms persist and evolve under a perennial onslaught of mobile genetic elements (MGEs), such as transpo­sons, viral sequences and plasmids. Many, if not most, of these diverse, 'selfish' elements insert into the chromosomes of the cellular hosts, either as an obligate part of their life cycles or at least sporadically. In multicellular eukaryotes, MGEs constitute a substantial proportion of the host genome, for example, >50% of the genome in mammals and >70% of the genome in some plants."
Eugene V. Koonin and Mart Krupovic, "Evolution of adaptive immunity from transposable elements combined with innate immune systems" [
NRG abstract | PubMed abstract], doi:10.1038/nrg3859, p 184-192 v 16, Nature Reviews Genetics, Mar 2015.
A Movable Defense by Koonin and Krupovic, The Scientist, 1 Jan 2015.
> Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is a related webpage.

21 Jul 2015 What'sNEW about HGT |
...The sur­prising density of the web of life woven through genetic exchange is becoming visible.
Shannon M. Soucy, Jinling Huang and Johann Peter Gogarten, "Horizontal gene transfer: building the web of life" [
abstract | Figure 5 pdf], doi:10.1038/nrg3962, p 472-482 v 16, Nature Reviews Genetics, 17 Jul 2015.
> Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is a related webpage.

Vibrant Pluto stuns scientists by Alexandra Witze, Nature News, 21 Jul 2015.
Potential geysers spotted on Pluto by Eric Hand, Science Daily News, 17 Jul 2015.

19 Jul 2015
Melted basalt disc from Russian experiment Microorganisms within meteorites could survive hypervelocity entry from space through the Earth's atmosphere, according to a Russian experiment reported last week. Thermophilic anaerobic bacteria were placed within 1.4-cm thick basalt discs fixed on the exterior of the Foton M-4 satellite and sent into orbit for 45 days. The heat of re-entry melted surface of the basalt (see photo). Nevertheless, a substantial percentage of the bacteria survived.

Alexander Slobodkin et al., "Spore-Forming Thermophilic Bacterium within Artificial Meteorite Survives Entry into the Earth's Atmosphere on FOTON-M4 Satellite Landing Module" [html], doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132611, PLoS, 7 Jul 2015.
A new study reveals bacteria can survive atmospheric entry by Jason Tetro, PopSci.com, 16 Jul 2015.
> Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related local webpage.

A skeptic is someone who can imagine a better answer — Mark Ptashne, interviewed by Jane Gitschier [link], PLoS Genetics, 16 Jul 2015.

16 Jul 2015
The Origin of Life Circus ...Neo-Darwinism isn't falsifiable.... But in all sorts of different ways, the paradigm is gradually losing its dominance.
Peter Saunders Sorts Out Confusion Over "Epigenetics" in an interview with Suzan Mazur, Huffington Post, 15 Jul 2015.
> Neo-Darwinism: The Current Paradigm is a related local webpage.
> Postscript: Pasteur and Popper is a related section of "Can The Theory Be Tested?".

9 Jul 2015
Richard Hoover reinforces the claim that life may exist on Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The story begins with Chandra Wickramasinghe and Max Wallis, whose paper at a recent conference of the UK's Royal Astronomical Society was reported by The Guardian and others. Some have bitterly criticised the reports, but, with little reason, as Hoover explains.
Could life exist on a comet?..., with video, posted by Josh Barrett, WAAY TV, 8 Jul 2015.
> 5 Jul 2015: our links to the original story. > What'sNEW under Comet Rendezvous has links to Rosetta updates.

9 Jul 2015 What'sNEW about HGT |
We find that the entire basic genome is continually exchanged.... [P]hages ...are likely mediators of most DNA transfers.... These words come from the Brookhaven National Laboratory authors' summary of an article about the genome of E. coli:

"A significant fraction of the length of Escherichia coli genomes comprises mobile elements integrated at various sites in a ~4-Mbp basic genome shared by the species. We find that the entire basic genome is continually exchanged by homologous recombination with genome fragments acquired from other genomes in the population. Evolutionary groups appear to exchange DNA preferentially within the same group but also with other groups to different extents. Entering DNA is often fragmented by restriction systems of the recipient cell, with surviving pieces replacing homologous parts of the recipient chromosome. Coevolving populations of phages that package genome fragments and deliver them to cells that have appropriate receptors are likely mediators of most DNA transfers, distributing variability throughout the species."
To us the article reconfirms a paradigm shift: evolution among prokaryotes is effected by horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Mainstream science ignores the significance of this shift. We believe a corresponding shift to HGT is pending for eukaryotes. That will be harder to ignore.

Purushottam D. Dixit, Tin Yau Pang et al., "Recombinant transfer in the basic genome of Escherichia coli" [abstract], doi:10.1073/pnas.1510839112, PNAS, online 7 Jul 2015.
> Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is a related webpage.

5 Jul 2015
Philae comet could be home to alien life, say top scientists by Rebecca Ratcliffe, The Guardian, 5 Jul 2015.
Rosetta mission comet's battered surface 'is more hospitable for life than polar regions' by Josh Barrie, The Independent, 6 Jul 2015.
Philae Lander Comet Could Hold Alien Life, Scientists Argue by Nitya Rajan, Huffington Post, 6 Jul 2015.
Alien Life On Philae Comet, Scientists Say, Sky News, 6 Jul 2015.
Thanks Thanks, Chandra Wickramasinghe.
> What'sNEW under Comet Rendezvous has links to Rosetta updates.
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