What'sNEW August - December 2016
Vera Rubin Forced the Cosmological Theorists to Think Again, by James R. Hagerty, The Wall Street Journal, 30 Dec 2016.
George Nickas comments, 05 Jan 2017. Jack Ritter sends a late rejoinder, 04 Aug 2017.
The End and the Big Bang is a related local webpage.
...New Questions mentions pseudo-panspermia.
Long Window for Life on Mars: Hundreds of Millions of Years? by Mike Wall, Space.com, 14 Dec 2016.
Life on Mars! has more. Thanks, Ronne McGhee.
03 Jun 2017: ...an ancient, habitable lake environment ...for tens of thousands to tens of millions of years....
Meta Musings on the Origins of Life, by Johnny Bontemps, Astrobiology (+SpaceDaily), 29 Nov 2016.
Thanks, Ronne McGhee. What Is Life? and The RNA World are related local webpages.
Birth of a W sex chromosome by horizontal transfer of Wolbachia bacterial symbiont genome, Sébastien Leclercq, Julien Thézé et al., doi:10.1073/pnas.1608979113, PNAS, 27 Dec 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is the main related local webpage.
If You're Looking For Alien Life, How Will You Know If You've Found it? by Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR Morning Edition, 05 Dec 2016.
Silica deposits on Mars with features resembling hot spring biosignatures at El Tatio in Chile, by Steven W. Ruff and Jack D. Farmer, doi:10.1038/ncomms13554, Nature Communications, online 17 Nov 2016. Thanks, Stan Franklin.
On Mars, Looks Can Be Deceiving [opposing view], by Dirk Schulze-Makuch, airspacemag.com, 16 Dec 2016.
Life on Mars! has other evidence, including ALH84001 and the Viking LR experiments.
We think an even more compelling fossil was photographed in 2004 in Mars' Meridiani Planum:
A fossil on Mars resembles one on Earth, posted 28 Oct 2015.
The End and the Big Bang is a related local webpage.
Shaking up the Tree of Life by Elizabeth Pennisi, Science, 18 Nov 2016.
The Tree of Life is a related local webpage.
Life, John Brockman, ed., Harper Perennial, 2016. (p 140)
Evolutionary Progress? The Evolution Prize and Testing Darwinism... are related local webpages.
He Knew He Was Right: The Irrepressible Life of James Lovelock, by John and Mary Gribbin, Penguin Books, 17 Nov 2009. Gaia has more about James Lovelock.
The Secret of How Life Began, by Michael Marshall, BBC, 31 Oct 2016. Thanks, Bob Sweeney.
The RNA World and Other Origin-of-Life Theories has additional history and links.
NASA is currently considering eight candidate landing sites for the 2020 rover....
NASA's Bold Plan to Hunt for Fossils on Mars, by Mark Strauss, National Geographic, 20 Oct 2016.
A fossil on Mars resembles one on Earth, posted 28 Oct 2015. Life on Mars! is related webpage.
Life on Mars! is a related local webpage.
Lisa Jennings, the founder of CirQuest Labs and Director of the UTHSC Vascular Biology Center of Excellence at the University of Tennessee resigns after 14 years of generous, selfless service. Thank you, Lisa!
Astrobiology research that is not already well funded by other sources, and
Research in real or artificial life that may ascertain the range of macroevolutionary progress in quarantined systems.
High-Throughput Proteomics Reveals the Unicellular Roots of Animal Phosphosignaling and Cell Differentiation, by Arnau Sebé-Pedrós et al., doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2016.09.019, Developmental Cell, 13 Oct 2016.
Single-Celled Life Primed to Go Multicellular, by Bob Grant, The Scientist, 17 Oct 2016. Thanks, Ken Jopp.
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa? and Genes Older Than Earth? are related webpages.
Eukaryotic association module in phage WO genomes from Wolbachia, by Sarah R. Bordenstein and Seth R. Bordenstein, doi:10.1038/ncomms13155, Nature Communications, 11 Oct 2016.
Image legend: (a) The eukaryotic cell can harbour multiple microbes capable of horizontal gene transfer. Genetic transfers between eukaryotes and bacteriophages can, in theory, occur (b) directly between eukaryotic chromosomes and phage genomes; (c) indirectly between eukaryotic and Wolbachia chromosomes; or (d) indirectly between eukaryotic chromosomes and intermediary entities, such as eukaryotic viruses and other intracellular bacteria. Viruses... has more about HGT. Thanks, Stan Franklin.
This Little Amoeba Committed Grand Theft, Rutgers University (+Newswise), 10 Oct 2016; re:
Gene transfers from diverse bacteria compensate for reductive genome evolution in the chromatophore of Paulinella chromatophora, by Eva C. M. Nowack et al., doi:10.1073/pnas.1608016113, PNAS, online 10 Oct 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms has more about HGT.
(The immediate appearance of cellular life on Earth surprises standard darwinism and supports cosmic ancestry.)
Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures, by Allen P. Nutman et al., doi:10.1038/nature19355, Nature, 22 Sep 2016; and commentary:
...Evidence of life in Earth's oldest rocks, by Abigail C. Allwood, Nature, online 31 Aug 2016.
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa? and Life Before 3850 Million Years Ago? are related local webpages.
Bacteria and Humans Have Been Swapping DNA for Millennia, by Kelly Robinson and Julie Dunning Hotopp, The Scientist, 01 Oct 2016. Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms has more about LGT, aka HGT.
Mission Complete: Rosetta's journey ends in a daring descent to the comet, ESA, 30 Sep 2016. Rosetta Mission, homepage, ESA.
What'sNEW under Comet Rendezvous has links to Rosetta updates.
Comets... is a related local webpage.
In a fanciful exercise twenty years ago, we suggested that a possible motivation to undertake directed panspermia would be the continuation of life elsewhere, if Earth were about to become uninhabitable. But we concluded that directed panspermia using rockets would be impractical, and that cometary panspermia, probably happening anyway, makes more sense. The Genesis Project differs in philosophy, emphasis and motivation. The writeup analyzes gaian processes in some detail. Of course, the proposal is controversial and ...unlikely to be funded soon.Developing ecospheres on transiently habitable planets: the genesis project, by Claudius Gros, doi:10.1007/s10509-016-2911-0, Astrophysics and Space Science (+arXiv PDF), Oct (online 05 Sep) 2016.
A radical proposal..., by Neel V. Patel, Inverse.com, 26 Sep 2016. Thanks, Google Alerts.
How is it Possible? — our musings about directed panspermia and more. Gaia is a related webpage.
Claudius Gros comments, 27 Sep 2016. Comment: One Scientist Has a Plan to Send the Building Blocks of Life to Distant Exoplanets, by Kristin Houser and Brad Bergan, Futurism.com, 27 Nov 2017.
...The researchers found that horizontal gene transfer, not point mutation, was the primary diversification driver.
MIT researchers prove fast microbial evolutionary bursts exist, by Marilyn Siderwicz, MIT News, 23 Sep 2016.
Thanks, Google Alerts. Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms lists many examples of HGT.
The Case for Extant Life on Mars and Its Possible Detection by the Viking Labeled Release Experiment, by Gilbert V. Levin and Patricia Ann Straat, doi:10.1089/ast.2015.1464, Astrobiology, online 14 Sep 2016.
Graph: LR response to first and second nutrient injection in VL1 cycle 1 (active) and VL1 cycle 2 (160°C control).
Life on Mars! has lots more about the Viking LR experiment.
Microbial Martians might well look like what lives in the rocks here at a deep underground mine.
Visions of Life on Mars in Earth's Depths by Kenneth Chang, The New York Times, 12 Sep 2016.
Thanks, Patsy Welch and Bob Sweeney. Life on Mars! and Bacteria... have related info.
High-molecular-weight organic matter in the particles of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko by Nicolas Fray, Anaïs Bardyn et al., doi:10.1038/nature19320, Nature, online 07 Sep 2016; and commentary: Rosetta Finds Solid Organic Matter in Dust Particles from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Sci-News.com, 08 Sep 2016.
Thanks, Kevin Keough. What'sNEW under "Comet Rendezvous" has all our links about Rosetta.
We think humans are almost as special as Wolfe does, and we think the evolution of language is certainly intriguing. But Wolfe, in spite of himself, has not escaped the strictly Darwinian paradigm: "No one now knows...and there is no reason why anyone is likely to ever know...when it occurred to Homo sapiens to use words as mnemonics" (p 163, Wolfe's ellipses. He uses...lots of 'em.)
One may also wonder how, say, spider-web-weaving evolved, but we don't think one lucky spider stumbled onto it. It looks like an emergent property of the programming in spider genomes. Similarly, the size and complexity of the human genome would be sufficient to contain programming of which language is an emergent property. (And we notice that toddlers acquire language very readily.)
Still, the relatively abrupt appearances of speech, spider webs, and hundreds of evolutionary inventions need explaining. Of course, if pre-existing genetic programming is delivered to species in large chunks by horizontal gene transfer (HGT), as in cosmic ancestry, abrupt evolutionary advances make perfect sense. Examples supporting this scenario are rapidly accumulating. (Tom, can we interest you?)
Occasionally, it is fun to read a robust counter-opinion to orthodox darwinism. Especially if the writer is Tom Wolfe.The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe, ISBN-13: 9780316404624, Little, Brown and Company, 30 Aug 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms and Neo-Darwinism... are related local webpages.
A SETI Signal? by Seth Shostak, SETI Institute, 30 Aug 2016. — False Alarm. Thanks for an alert Richard Hoover.
How de novo genes are composed is a disturbing problem for darwinists, because the genes apparently were not subject to natural selection prior to deployment. Yet many of them contain lengthy programming for new features or capabilities. Where does that come from?
McLysaght and Hurst suggest that, prior to deployment, de novo genes actually were subject to natural selection — by antagonistic evolution. This phenomenon is best exemplified by the rapid evolution of immune-related genes in a host defending against a parasite whose antigens also change rapidly. The process is analogous to frequently changing passwords to prevent unauthorized computer access.
Is antagonistic evolution a viable composer of new genes? We think not. In the immune-system and computer-password examples of it, the changing sequences have no programmatic content or purpose beyond simply matching, or not matching, the opponents' sequences. One can imagine illiterates at keyboards furiously competing against each other to compose and guess passwords. They may, incidentally, make a short, linguistically valid phrase, but not more. (Besides, who would notice or care? (This is analogous to asking why de novo genes persist.))
Typical genes have around a thousand exonic nucleotides. In a recent analysis of de novo ones in humans and chimps, the median size was 595 nucleotides. McLysaght and Hurst do not consider the unlikelihood of meaningful random sequences so long. For ORF length, they mention lower recognition limits of only 99, or even only 30, nucleotides. And they write, "In the case of a de novo gene performing a novel function, a rare mutation that confers some fitness advantage may be relatively commonplace, as it only has to be better than nothing...." Seriously? Anyway, if antagonistic evolution could invent new programs, we think computer modelers would have demonstrated it by now.
McLysaght and Hurst give a darwinian response to a darwinian puzzle, and a good job at that. Antagonistic evolution is their main, but not their only, suggestion for de novo gene composing. The list of 126 references is a useful resource by itself. There's a lot to learn from the review. Still, we think the problem of "new" genes is severe enough to warrant consideration of a major amendment to the theory of evolution, such as cosmic ancestry.Open questions in the study of de novo genes: what, how and why by Aoife McLysaght and Laurence D. Hurst, doi:10.1038/nrg.2016.78, p 567-578 v 17, Nature Reviews Genetics, corrected version online 27 Jul 2016.
Conserved Non-Genic Sequences and Three New Human Genes have updates about de novo genes.
A Wordcount for Comparison surveys a volume of abstracts about de novo genes and other new genes.
Thousands of human and/or chimpanzee-specific genes are derived from previously silent DNA, What'sNEW, 4 Jan 2016: cites the above-mentioned recent analysis in humans and chimps, also referenced by McLysaght and Hurst.
Computer Models of Evolution and The Evolution Prize... are two of several pages about computer models.
Discussion about "meaning" in sequences providing immunity follows Example 8 on our page Macroevolutionary Progress Redefined...."
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets? has links about possible life elsewhere in the solar system.
The Venus Hypothesis: link to a paper by Dr Annabel Cartwright of Cardiff University, received 11 Aug 2016.
Relative Likelihood for Life as a Function of Cosmic Time by Abraham Loeb, Rafael A. Batista and David Sloan, arxiv.org, version 2 pdf, revised 26 Jul 2016; and commentary:
Is Earthly Life Premature From a Cosmic Perspective? from CfA, Harvard (+Newswise), 1 Aug 2016. Panspermia — not mentioned in the article or commentaries — would improve our chances!
Thanks, Stan Franklin, for pointing to related commentary:
Why are we now? by Stuart Gillespie, University of Oxford (+PhysOrg.com), 23 Aug 2016.
The Astrobiology Primer v2.0 by Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman, Katherine E. Wright et al., doi:10.1089/ast.2015.1460, p 561-653 v 16, Astrobiology, 01 Aug 2016.
25 min. lecture with slides and 7 min. Q&A session, videos on Youtube.
Fossilized bacteria... and ...Indigenous Microfossils... have more from Hoover.