What'sNEW January - March 2016
Design and synthesis of a minimal bacterial genome, by Clyde A. Hutchison III, Ray-Yuan Chuang et al., doi:10.1126/science.aad6253; and commentary: Synthetic microbe has fewest genes, but many mysteries, by Robert F. Service, v 351, Science, 25 Mar 2016.
Astoundingly, Venter says that his team could not identify the function of 149 of the genes in syn3.0's genome, many of which are found in other life forms, including humans.
Craig Venter's ...methods provide alternative ways to tinker with life's building blocks, by Ewen Callaway, v 531, Nature, 24 Mar 2016.
Microbe With Stripped-Down DNA may hint at secrets of life, by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science (+PhysOrg), 24 Mar 2015.
Thanks, Stan Franklin and Michael Paine.
What Is Life? is the main related local webage.
Thanks, Ronnie McGhee.
Life on Mars! has more about water there.
The distribution and impact of viral lineages in domains of life by Arshan Nasir, Patrick Forterre, Kyung Mo Kim, and Gustavo Caetano-Anollés:, doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00194, Frontiers in Microbiology, 30 Apr 2014.
The pie charts show the observed abundance and distribution of six different kinds of viruses (dashed box) in the three domains of life (top) and among five categories of eukaryotes (bottom).
Uneven Distribution of Viruses Suggests Surprising Evolutionary Power by Jennifer Frazer, Scientific American, 11 Mar 2016.
Thanks, Martin Langford.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is the main related local webage.
Chandra... is a related local webage.
I don't think anybody feels any more confident about how life got going in the first place than they did 30 years ago.
Sir Patrick Bateson, interviewed about evolution and the Royal Society on HuffPost Science, posted 11 Mar 2016.
The RNA World and Other Origin-of-Life Theories is the relevant local webpage..
email to interviewer Suzan Mazur mentions another Bateson and a possible paradigm shift, sent 12 Mar 2016.
Scientists Uncover History of Ancient Viruses as Far Back as 30 Million Years Ago, Newswise, 8 Mar 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is the main related local webage.
Human Genome Search and
New genetic programs... are related local webpages.
Viral 'fossils' in our DNA may help us fight infection, Monique Brouillette, Science; and:
...Evidence that concerted processes, involving endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which are remarkably abundant in mammalian genomes, have contributed to the evolution of the regulatory systems that control the mammalian immune system.
A copy-and-paste gene regulatory network, Vincent J. Lynch, Science; re:
Beg, Borrow and Steal: Three Aspects of Horizontal Gene Transfer in the Protozoan Parasite, Cryptosporidium parvum, Adam Sateriale and Boris Striepen, doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1005429, PLOS, 03 Mar 2016.
Survival of Antarctic Cryptoendolithic Fungi in Simulated Martian Conditions On Board the International Space Station, Silvano Onofri et al., doi:10.1089/ast.2015.1324, Astrobiology, 18 Dec 2015.
Thanks, Ronnie McGhee and PAW.
Life on Mars! is a related local webpage.
A homogeneous nucleus for comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from its gravity field by M. Pätzold et al., doi:10.1038/nature16535, p 63-65 v 530, Nature, 4 Feb 2016.
A carbonaceous meteorite that fell in Sri Lanka..., our first posting about Polonnaruwa, 11 Jan 2013.
A normal eukaryotic gene contains introns, irrelevant interruptions analogous to TV commercials. After the gene is transcribed into RNA, the introns are spliced out: no commercials. Then it gets translated through a ribosome into a functioning polypeptide. However, instead, occasionally, the intronless mRNA is reverse-transcribed back into DNA, making a processed pseudogene. You could say that the software that manages eukaryotic genomes has a way to defragment and streamline genes. Why this happens is a puzzle for darwinism, and all pseudogenes used to be classified as "junk". In fact, the human genome contains more than 10,000 of them, and some are active. A new book based on interviews with leading genomicists considers this and other current enigmas, in plain, welcome language.
Herding Hemingway's Cats: Understanding how our genes work by Kat Arney, ISBN:9781472910066, Bloomsbury Sigma, 14 Jan 2016.
Introns: A Mystery is a related CA webpage.
...What's clear to me is that we do not have a good understanding of evolutionary novelty and evolutionary change. There are many things that we know have the potential to provide sources for evolutionary change. To me one of the most exciting areas there is a better understanding of the role of microbes and viruses in providing novelty....
Interview with Suzan Mazur, HuffPost Science, online 08 Feb 2016.
New trends in evolutionary biology, the Royal Society meeting in London, 7-9 Nov 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms are a primary subject of the interview.
Reply to Mazur, 9 Feb.
Scientists map genome of common bed bug, University of Rochester (+Newswise), 2 Feb 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is the main related local webpage.
But runaway positive feedback loops, either greenhouse heating or glaciation-albedo freezing, soon render most planets uninhabitable. "...If life emerges on a planet, it only rarely evolves quickly enough to regulate greenhouse gases and albedo...."
Venus is a likely example of the greenhouse catastrophe, finally losing its water to dissociation by UV radiation in the upper atmosphere. And Mars may exemplify the freezing scenario, eventually losing most of its water, too.
They call lethal outcomes like these, collectively, the "Gaian bottleneck." It is a new way to explain why "the Universe does not seem to be teeming with life." (Actually, we think the universe may be teeming with microbial life, but SETI, at least, has not found any advanced life.)
The two scientists never mention panspermia, but it would make the emergence of life elsewhere even more likely than they suppose. And we think that the genetic programming for life with Gaian stabilizing feedback loops is readily available and need not wait until strictly darwinian evolution may compose it. So, logically, Fermi's paradox is an even bigger puzzle for cosmic ancestry. The barriers to long-lasting, highly evolved life must be formidable.
We think the two Australians deserve an audience. We like their firm predictions, unfettered speculations, and noteworthy observations, like, "The existence of liquid water on the surface of a planet may be a better biosignature than oxygen...." Their article is thought-provoking, well-referenced and currently available on the Internet.
The aliens are silent because they are extinct, the Australian National University (+Newswise), 21 Jan 2016.
Gaia and Introduction... are related CA webpages.
Sacha Wageringel comments on Fermi's paradox, 11 Feb 2016.
Chandra Wickramasinghe is a related CA webpage.
How giant viruses could rewrite the story of life on Earth by Garry Hamilton, New Scientist, 20 Jan 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is the main related CA webpage.
Thanks, Suzan Mazur.
New trends in evolutionary biology...: the meeting announcement.
Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II, A Brief History of Creation Science and the Search for the Origin of Life, ISBN-13: 978-0393083552, W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 2016.
The RNA World... discusses origin-of-life research.
Evolution vs Creationism is a related local webpage.
The researchers observe that silent DNA is unconstrained and therefore free to explore the entire available sequence space. But these de novo genes "had a median size of 595 nucleotides." That length of DNA has c. 10^358 possible sequences. Not one quintillionth, 10^340, of that sequence space could have been explored within the consensus big-bang universe. Darwinism cannot account for these genes.
Cosmic ancestry, however, expects genetic programming to precede its own expression, as de novo genes demonstrate. These programs may be delivered by various means of horizontal gene transfer (HGT), switched on with new regulatory sequences also coming from HGT, tested, and eventually retained-or-not by natural selection. From the report:
"...In every genome there are sets of genes which are unique to that particular species i.e. lacking homologues in any other species. How have these genes originated?"
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is the main CA webpage about Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT).
New genetic programs in Darwinism and strong panspermia,
Conserved Non-Genic Sequences and
A Wordcount for Comparison are related webpages.
Three New Human Genes has an example and updates about de novo genes.
New genetic programs in Darwinism and strong panspermia (2002) asked where human genes come from.
4 Sep 2015: We discuss an earlier version of this report.
Thanks again, Ken Jopp.
21 Aug 2016: Can antagonistic evolution compose de novo genes?