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Author Topic:   Has there been life for 1/4 of the age of the Universe?
JavaMan
Member (Idle past 870 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 16 of 114 (337159)
08-01-2006 7:30 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Modulous
07-31-2006 8:44 AM


Re: 10 billion years is a long time
Nobody knows what the odds are. The odds that life has existed for 25% of the age of the universe are very very close to one, but that's about all we can say. It may be inevitable that life forms under certain circumstance, or it may be 1% per ten years of certain circumstances. Who can honestly say?

I know. But I can speculate :).


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang

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Parasomnium
Member (Idle past 1247 days)
Posts: 2191
Joined: 07-15-2003


Message 17 of 114 (337651)
08-03-2006 9:27 AM
Reply to: Message 15 by RickJB
08-01-2006 7:23 AM


Re: The odds of life are unknown
RickJB writes:

It's all out there for us to learn...

Indeed it is. "Animo" acids?

Sorry for the pedantry...


"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." - Charles Darwin.

Did you know that most of the time your computer is doing nothing? What if you could make it do something really useful? Like helping scientists understand diseases? Your computer could even be instrumental in finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. Wouldn't that be something? If you agree, then join World Community Grid now and download a simple, free tool that lets you and your computer do your share in helping humanity. After all, you are part of it, so why not take part in it?

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JavaMan
Member (Idle past 870 days)
Posts: 475
From: York, England
Joined: 08-05-2005


Message 18 of 114 (337870)
08-04-2006 6:47 AM
Reply to: Message 17 by Parasomnium
08-03-2006 9:27 AM


Re: The odds of life are unknown
Indeed it is. "Animo" acids?

Sorry for the pedantry...

Are you sure it was a mistake? In the context of this topic that looks like a deliberate conflation of the words 'anima' and 'amino'. (You smart-ass, RickJB).


'I can't even fit all my wife's clothes into a suitcase for travelling. So you want me to believe we're going to put all of the planets and stars and everything into a sandwich bag?' - q3psycho on the Big Bang

This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by Parasomnium, posted 08-03-2006 9:27 AM Parasomnium has responded

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Parasomnium
Member (Idle past 1247 days)
Posts: 2191
Joined: 07-15-2003


Message 19 of 114 (337871)
08-04-2006 6:56 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by JavaMan
08-04-2006 6:47 AM


Re: The odds of life are unknown
JavaMan writes:

In the context of this topic that looks like a deliberate conflation of the words 'anima' and 'amino'.

I've toyed with that thought myself before I wrote my comment. But I wrote it anyway. I guess it takes a smart-ass to trigger a pedant.


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obvious Child
Member (Idle past 2667 days)
Posts: 661
Joined: 08-17-2006


Message 20 of 114 (341259)
08-19-2006 1:31 AM


I hate to beg the obvious, but why must live arise terrestrially?

As I recall, many species on Earth produce their food through consumption of raw chemicals. White and black deep sea smokers have large amounts of organisms that consume chemicals normally deadly to survive. Why couldn't this happen in space in some form? Life could have arisen only a few billion years after _____. Others have mentioned that amino acids have been found in space. This would seem to indicate that the foundation for life is not necessarily terrestrial.


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kuresu
Member (Idle past 1064 days)
Posts: 2544
From: boulder, colorado
Joined: 03-24-2006


Message 21 of 114 (341400)
08-19-2006 1:54 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by obvious Child
08-19-2006 1:31 AM


well, I do recall that the enterprise met at least two forms of interspace life in the next generation. one around a sun and another in an asteroid belt. both almost destroyed the ship. :)


All a man's knowledge comes from his experiences

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Butcer 
Inactive Suspended Member


Message 22 of 114 (352024)
09-25-2006 7:32 AM


spam removed

Edited by AdminJar, : No reason given.


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iano
Member (Idle past 492 days)
Posts: 6165
From: Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
Joined: 07-27-2005


Message 23 of 114 (352026)
09-25-2006 7:39 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Butcer
09-25-2006 7:32 AM


Ever read Romans 1 Butcar? If not do so whenever you get the chance. All men have Gods wrath poured out on them in one form or another. But your own case underlines Pauls argument in striking fashion.

I'm not judging you - but you provide perfect example for those inclined to miss what he is saying.

Edited by iano, : No reason given.


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Butcer 
Inactive Suspended Member


Message 24 of 114 (352027)
09-25-2006 7:43 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by iano
09-25-2006 7:39 AM


removed spam garbage

Edited by AdminAsgara, : No reason given.


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Butcer 
Inactive Suspended Member


Message 25 of 114 (352028)
09-25-2006 7:43 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by iano
09-25-2006 7:39 AM


removed spam garbage

Edited by AdminAsgara, : No reason given.


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42
Inactive Member


Message 26 of 114 (369223)
12-12-2006 2:21 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by JavaMan
07-27-2006 12:31 PM


Yes I was surprised at the large chunk of cosmic time life has occupied, although 10 billion years is clearly long enough for the appearance of complex molecules.

But it actually looks like we're in at the beginning (relatively speaking, of course).

Well I'm glad - it would be a shame if life on earth today was still just bacteria, for example.

All the best.


Human Evolution in 42 Steps

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Fosdick 
Suspended Member (Idle past 4051 days)
Posts: 1793
From: Upper Slobovia
Joined: 12-11-2006


Message 27 of 114 (369306)
12-12-2006 1:58 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by RickJB
08-01-2006 4:44 AM


Re: The odds of life are unknown
quote:

RickJB writes:

Well, last I read, animo acids had been detected in the gaseous remains of supernovae...

At the least, perhaps. For all we know it might be a common consequence of the formation of heavy elements.



If I may jump in here...

Heavy elements, amino acids, and macromolecules certainly are necessary for life to exist, but so are many other physical props and conditions. And they are ubiquitous. Indeed NASA has reported finding polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on remote space dust, suggesting that fairly complex organic molecules are universally available. This leads many biologists to conclude that life is inevitable wherever friendly conditions prevail. Either it generates spontaneously in the "warm ponds" of friendly planets or it is imported as vital seeds from space by way of panspermia.

These, to me, are awfully brave assumptions. They are embedded in a master assumption that life can be explained as a phenomenon of physical analogs (i.e., chemicals, heat, electromagnitism). Furthermore, they often assume that life sprung up originally on planet Earth. I see this as a measure "pre-Copernican" thinking in biology—geocentrism again.

If the universe actually is pregnant with biological life, or at least carrying around its seeds, then why are new life forms not springing up all the time on a planet like Earth, with its many ponds so fertile and warm? Wouldn't you expect to see fresh life spontaneously occurring all over the place? And why only ONE kind of life? We know of only DNA/RNA life—there is no evidence of a single "Betamax" competitor that ever lost its bid for biological hosting.

All of this leads me to conclude that something more than physical analogs is essential (vital?) to a living enterprise. That is why I am bothered by the role of the gene, which is not a physical analog but instead a digital code. Richard Dawkins calls a gene "pure digital information." Genes obey rules of language—a "symbolic" language, it appears, because DNA configurations are not stereochemical with the proteins they build. Thus the digital genetic code comes with a "dictionary" of symbols. And genes are much more durable than the analogous organisms they occupy. If I regard durability as a measure of biological significance, then I have to conclude that genes relegate their organisms to ephemeral ships of opportunity. Some of the genes we carry around are >500 million years old!

So, my POV allows genes their superior roles in this unexplained enterprise called life. When we understand how such a non-analogous structure in nature—the digital genetic code—came into existence we will discover the secret of life. Then I think we can go make it from scratch in the laboratory.

—Hoot Mon


The most incomprehensible thing about nature is that it is comprehensible. —A. Einstein

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Replies to this message:
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Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 28 of 114 (369319)
12-12-2006 2:44 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Fosdick
12-12-2006 1:58 PM


Re: The odds of life are unknown
Hi, Hoot. Welcome to EvC. I hope that you enjoy your participation here.

quote:
This leads many biologists to conclude that life is inevitable wherever friendly conditions prevail.

Actually, the reason that many biologists conclude that life is inevitable is that it seems to easy to come about. Looking at geology, the Late Bombardment came to an end about three and a half billion years ago. Before that time, life would have been impossible: if it did come about, it would have been wiped out very quickly during the frequent impacts with bodaceously large impactors. And, in the geologic record, once the Late Bombardment came to an end, we immediately see signs of life. So it appears that once the conditions allow it, life will come about very quickly.

Of course, it is very dangerous to do statistics with only one data point. Perhaps there is something unusual about the earth, and conditions were unusually favorable to life on the early earth. Or perhaps life is unusual, but the quick emergence of life on the early earth was one of those things that are improbable, but improbably events do occur.

-

quote:
Wouldn't you expect to see fresh life spontaneously occurring all over the place?

No. The conditions on the current earth are very different from the early earth. We won't necessarily see the precursors of life being able to form in today's chemical environment. Oxygen, especially, will destroy most of the suspected precursors of life very quickly. Also, there is already life all over the place; they, too, would quickly eat up the energy-rich percursors.

-

quote:
And why only ONE kind of life?

Maybe there were several kinds of life, but our kind was more successful and drove the other kinds to extinction. Or maybe our kind arose first and dominated before any other kind could get a chance to form. Or maybe there were many kinds, but through exchange of metabolic and hereditary mechanisms (like lateral gene transfer), many of the different kinds kind of ended up homogenizing, so that we are the descendents of several different, independent kinds.

-

quote:
Genes obey rules of language—a "symbolic" language, it appears, because DNA configurations are not stereochemical with the proteins they build.

This, I think, is the wrong way to look at it precisely because it does seem to cause some kind of confusion. Despite the use of the usual analogies to explain how heredity works, DNA is not a language, it is not a code. It is simply a chemical that takes part in chemical reactions. In the right chemical environment (like in our cells) it can catalyze its own reproduction. It can also, in the right chemical environment, catalyze the production of proteins.

I have never really understood the "DNA is a code" or "DNA is a language", except as a metaphor that kind of, sort of explains how heredity and embryonic development work. I think the best thing to do, if you really want to understand genetics, is to rid yourself of those conceptions. But I'll let the actual geneticists and biochemists weigh in on how useful the metaphor is.


Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied. -- Otto von Bismarck

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Fosdick 
Suspended Member (Idle past 4051 days)
Posts: 1793
From: Upper Slobovia
Joined: 12-11-2006


Message 29 of 114 (369374)
12-12-2006 6:22 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by Chiroptera
12-12-2006 2:44 PM


Re: The odds of life are unknown
Thanks for the welcome, Chiroptera. You wrote:

The conditions on the current earth are very different from the early earth. We won't necessarily see the precursors of life being able to form in today's chemical environment. Oxygen, especially, will destroy most of the suspected precursors of life very quickly. Also, there is already life all over the place; they, too, would quickly eat up the energy-rich percursors.

If making artificial life were a relatively simple matter of duplicating the right physical conditions, I suggest that we would have done it by now. Why should it be so difficult to duplicate that bio-sparking admixture of heat, radiation, and chemicals? Shouldn't it be only a little more trouble than Miller-Urey experiment? Is it just the right admixture that makes all the difference? For me, too much is left to raw chance by using this concept. It requires me to make a leap of faith so brave that I call it the "Bingo! hypothesis"

Maybe there were several kinds of life, but our kind was more successful and drove the other kinds to extinction. Or maybe our kind arose first and dominated before any other kind could get a chance to form. Or maybe there were many kinds, but through exchange of metabolic and hereditary mechanisms (like lateral gene transfer), many of the different kinds kind of ended up homogenizing, so that we are the descendents of several different, independent kinds.

From my POV these are big maybes. Metabolic networks are one thing and hereditary mechanisms are another. And I'm not sure at all what hereditary "mechanisms" mean. Doesn't that invoke a machine metaphor? There go those analogs again.

This, I think, is the wrong way to look at it precisely because it does seem to cause some kind of confusion. Despite the use of the usual analogies to explain how heredity works, DNA is not a language, it is not a code. It is simply a chemical that takes part in chemical reactions. in This, I think, is the wrong way to look at it precisely because it does seem to cause some kind of confusion. Despite the use of the usual analogies to explain how heredity works, DNA is not a language, it is not a code. It is simply a chemical that takes part in chemical reactions. In the right chemical environment (like in our cells) it can catalyze its own reproduction. It can also, in the right chemical environment, catalyze the production of proteins.

DNA of course is a chemical, but the genes themselves amount to quaternary digital code with a geometrically "symbolic" (i.e., non-stereochemical) language . If this view is wrong then I need a radical re-education in genetics.

I have never really understood the "DNA is a code" or "DNA is a language", except as a metaphor that kind of, sort of explains how heredity and embryonic development work. I think the best thing to do, if you really want to understand genetics, is to rid yourself of those conceptions. But I'll let the actual geneticists and biochemists weigh in on how useful the metaphor is.

I do agree that metaphors are risky. Machine metaphors were all the rage in the Industrial Age; now we have computer metaphors in the Information Age. I don't think science can operate without metaphors. I wish it were different. I'm even bothered by the common suggestion that natural selection is a "force," which could be interpreted by some as mass times acceleration. What? Why couldn't evolution be a stochastic gambit of alleles that allows them to outlive their organisms and selfishly strive for immortality. Opps, now I have digital codes "striving selfishly" in nature, which seems more like something an analogous organism would do. I just don't know what to do about those metaphors.

—Hoot Mon


The most incomprehensible thing about nature is that it is comprehensible. —A. Einstein

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Replies to this message:
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Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 30 of 114 (369394)
12-12-2006 8:06 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Fosdick
12-12-2006 6:22 PM


Re: The odds of life are unknown
Hi, Hoot.

quote:
If making artificial life were a relatively simple matter of duplicating the right physical conditions, I suggest that we would have done it by now.

Why do you think that? Although very quick by geologic timescales, the first origin of life on earth was an experiment that took place within a planetful of oceans and perhaps over several million years. Why do you think it should be easy to do within a few months in a laboratory beaker? We're talking about events that happened in rapid succession on planetary scales and in geologic time but would be improbably to ordinary humans working with a tankful of materials over a few months.

-

quote:
From my POV these are big maybes.

What other possibilities are there? Life definitely began several billion years ago, and as you pointed out there is currently only one known phylogenic tree. Certainly these hypotheses are testable and are being investigated as we write. I don't know of any alternatives that are testable.

-

quote:
If this view is wrong then I need a radical re-education in genetics.

That is a possibility. I'll leave it to the actual geneticists (or those more knowledgeable in genetics than I) to correct whatever errors there are in your view.

-

quote:
I just don't know what to do about those metaphors.

That's easy. Don't take them literally.


Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied. -- Otto von Bismarck

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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