VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

Origin of Life: Food for Queazy Thought

New theories of the origin of life seem to come and go like fashion trends.  A biochemist at University of California at Santa Barbara (Helen Hansma) put out a new plot line about biomolecules forming between the protective flakes of mica.  This was all Dave Mosher at Live Science (see reprint on MSNBC) needed to […]

Magicians through the Looking Glass

A leading origin-of-life researcher passed away last month: Leslie Orgel.  Gerald Joyce paid him tribute in Nature.1  Orgel worked closely with other famous origin-of-life people like Stanley Miller, and was a leader in the “RNA world” scenario for the origin of life.  Joyce appreciated his rigid empiricism: Although Orgel was a theoretician, he always demanded […]

No Salt, Please: Europa Life Needs It Bland

Salt may taste good on human food, but for life trying to emerge in the sea, it is toxic.  Astrobiologists have long wondered if life could exist at Jupiter’s moon Europa, where an ocean is believed to exist miles deep under the icy crust.  They must have been presuming the water is pure, but an […]

SETI Researcher Writes Children’s Poem

For a feature called “SETI Thursday” at Space.com, Dr. Laurence Doyle has written a childish poem about how life brought itself up from nothing to galactic explorers.  It begins, “When the Earth was young, and the Moon nearby, in a cometary sea, prokaryotic thoughts arose, what fun it is to be!”  The idea of evolving […]

Crystal Power Is Not Evolution

What would Max Planck think?  The Institute named after him put out a press release, “Evolution in the Nanoworld,” that claims that synthetic molecules can organize themselves by an evolutionary principle of selection: The automatic molecular assembly and selection steps exhibited by the molecules, which start as random mixtures, demonstrates a fundamental step in the […]

Is Adenine Additive?

A paper in PNAS argues that adenine can form in plausible prebiotic conditions.1  Does this add to the story of chemical evolution leading to life on Earth?     Some chemists at the University of Georgia explored the chemical steps necessary to form adenine (one of the bases used in DNA).  Adenine has been found […]

Dust Became Knowledge

The Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week award goes to an Associated Press article reporting on a finding from the Spitzer Space Telescope.  It began in a very matter-of-fact manner, claiming that the one of the biggest questions of philosophy is being answered by dust.   Astronomers have taken a baby step in trying to […]

Mars Was and Is Dry

The cover story of Science this week has bad news for those hoping for Martian lakefront property.  A series of articles by planetary scientists who studied images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter casts strong doubt on the presence of water on Mars, even in the planet’s early days.  The overview article by Richard Kerr in […]

Dust to Dust, or Dust to Life?

National Geographic gave prominent press to last month’s theory of living dust (see 08/10/2007, bullet 1).  Criticisms were mild; scientists were quoted who thought this claim raises interesting questions about the definition of life.  Tsytovich’s ideas were described by Mihaly Horanyi (U of Colorado) as “amazing.”  He said, “This is a very original, very intelligent […]

Solar System News

A flurry of discoveries about the Sun’s family has some scientists smiling and others furrowing their brows.  Astrobiologists, as usual, are wielding their divining rods, looking for water.  Some of these reports surfaced at the European Planetary Science Congress last week at Potsdam, Germany; see agenda and press releases at Europlanet. Basalt assault:  How did […]

SETI Camp Promotes Make Believe

“Every kid loves to play make believe,” wrote Lisa Grossman for Space.com’s “SETI Thursday” feature.  How did Lisa spend her summer?  Playing make believe with 16 undergraduates at a NSF- and NASA-funded SETI camp.  “For many of us, the experience was nothing short of fantasy fulfillment,” she cheerfully said in her report entitled, “How I […]

Weird-Science Origin-of-Life Theories

Two news articles on the origin of life seem bizarre at best.  One even used the word “bizarrely” in its own self-evaluation. Living dust:  Zap the dust in your living room and it may come alive.  Is that the gist of this story in PhysOrg?  A team of international scientists thinks that cosmic dust in […]

Deep Sea Vents Tantalize Evolutionists

A team of Chinese and American scientists pulled up fragments of deep-sea vents and analyzed their contents, reported Science Daily.  They said the creatures inhabiting these vents are the “most primitive life forms on Earth,” and so thought that the fragments might provide clues to the origin of life.  Timothy Kusky of Saint Louis University […]

Origin of Life: Speculation vs. Evidence

The European Astrobiology Magazine reviewed a book1 that tries to give “detailed scrutiny” the problem of “the transition from small, simple molecules to large, complex cells.”  The initial reaction by reviewer Toby Murcott points out glaring problems in origin of life research: uncertainty, lack of consensus, and lack of evidence: What hits you immediately about […]

Origin of Life Made Simple: Stochastic Innovation Answers I.D.

A press release from UC San Francisco teases, Before life emerged on earth, either a primitive kind of metabolism or an RNA-like duplicating machinery must have set the stage – so experts believe.  But what preceded these pre-life steps?     A pair of UCSF scientists has developed a model explaining how simple chemical and […]
All Posts by Date