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Minerals Can Fool Astrobiologists

Look at this picture on National Geographic News.  Looks alive, doesn’t it?  It’s only a mineral.  The article contains a gallery of five micrographs of minerals that form curvy crystals.  They’re called biomorphs (a word simply meaning life-like shapes).     “Until now scientists had thought rounded crystals, such as those found in seashells and […]

Time for Mars Life Again

Methane detection around Mars is giving new life to claims there is life on Mars.  Space.com #1 and Space.com #2 explain why NASA scientists are looking to see if the methane can be explained geologically or biologically.  Some news sites, like The Sun, go over the top with claims life has been discovered.  Only the […]

Darwin Blogs on Origin of Life

He may not blog himself, but Darwin has disciples who blog for him.  There’s bound to be a lot of blogging this year with Darwin’s 200th birthday next month and the 150th anniversary of the Origin of Species this November.  Science began a blog called Origins with some entries from their Jan 8 issue.  Two […]

Darwin in the Air

Darwin Day euphoria must be in the air.  There have been several news stories with Darwin or Evolution in the title, but little to his credit in the substance of the article. Evolution inaction:  The human immune system is, by any account, Science Daily, however not only called it a case of “Evolution in Action,” […]

Dream On, Astrobiology

An astrobiologist at Open University (UK) has classified habitable worlds into four types, even though only one of them is known to have life.  Astrobiology Magazine reported the list by Jan Hendrik Bredeh?ft: earth-like, Mars-like, Venus-like and water-worlds.  After considering all the facts, Bredeh?ft says our best bet to find extraterrestrial ecosystems is to hunt […]

Which Evolution Should Be Taught?

Two articles in Scientific American’s cover feature on evolution in preparation for Darwin Day (12/15/2008, 12/16/2008) quoted a favorite line by Dobzhansky, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  Assuming a teacher or textbook writer wants to illustrate how true this proverb is, which evolutionary proposal should be presented?  Recent articles […]

Another Attempt to Explain Life’s Handedness

Life uses only single-handed (homochiral) molecules for proteins and DNA.  How that came about when mixtures of life’s building blocks contain equal amounts of both hands is a puzzle that confounds origin-of-life research.  Science Daily reported on new studies at the Argonne National Laboratory that show that molecules in space on a magnetic substrate exposed […]

Poison Planet Was Life’s Training Ground

Navy Seals go through “Hell Week” in their training to become warriors.  The radical hardships they endure help prepare them for missions that will call on their deepest resources of courage and determination.  These men of the elite special forces also become experts in dealing with explosives.  Can molecules do the same, with a little […]

Scientists Marvel at Enzyme Efficiency

Many chemical reactions occur from simple collisions.  One atom may have spare electrons, another may need them.  Attracted by each other’s valences, the atoms collide and bonds form.  Not so with biological enzymes: these molecular machines owe their efficiency to their three-dimensional shapes.  Made up of hundreds of amino acids, enzymes have “active sites” where […]

Serving Up Life on the Rocks with a Twist

We’ve heard theories life arose in a primeval soup, around hot deep-sea vents, around volcanoes and other hot spots; why would anyone consider the origin of life in ice?  A scientist in Spain has suggested life may have started in ice.  The title to the Science Daily write-up finds this to be the ultimate divination: […]

FrankenTitan Comes to Life

There’s electricity at Titan, the large moon of Saturn.  That can only mean one thing: life!  “Electricity Found on Saturn Moon–Could It Spark Life?” asked a headline on National Geographic News by Rebecca Carroll.  Visions of spark discharge tubes in a mad scientist’s lab arise in the imagination.  “Recently identified electrical activity on Saturn’s largest […]

The Life and Death of Oxygen

The oxygen in our atmosphere has the energy equivalent of 20 thousand billion billion hydrogen bombs.  To maintain the oxygen level in our atmosphere, that amount of energy would have to be spent in manufacturing molecular oxygen every 4 million years (a thousandth the assumed age of the earth).     Now that we have […]

Deep Life Is Right at Home in Total Darkness

It seems every year scientists find organisms thriving in environments thought too inhospitable for life.  A new word was coined for these organisms: extremophiles – lovers of the extreme.  Two recent discoveries push the envelope of extreme environments almost to the deep limit. Pressurized fish:  The bottoms of the deep ocean trenches of the Pacific […]

The Prevolution of Evolution: Life Marches In

There’s a new word preceding the E word evolution.  Two Harvard scientists have made up a new word, prevolution, to describe a supposed stage before replication when natural selection was helping evolution evolve.  What does prevolution act on?  Simple, silly: prelife.     Martin Nowak and Hisashi Ohtsuki titled their paper in PNAS, “Prevolutionary dynamics […]

Are You Too Dumb to Understand Evolution?

Astrobiologist David Deamer believes that life can spontaneously emerge without design, but he thinks lay people are too uneducated to understand how this is possible, so he gives them the watered-down version of Darwin’s natural selection instead, which he knows is inadequate to explain the complexity of life.  That’s what he seemed to be telling […]
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