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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 […]

OOL Study Substitutes Computer for Chemistry

Upon reading a recent origin-of-life paper in PNAS,1 you might think the authors ran experiments with real chemicals and real deep-sea rocks.  A more careful look, however, reveals that their model only worked in cyberspace.  This raises interesting questions about the ability of simulations to substitute for empirical evidence.     Their claims were dramatic […]

Can the Miller Experiment Be Revived?

Jeffrey Bada at the Scripps Institute is finding more interesting stuff in Stanley Miller’s spark-discharge tubes – with a little tweaking of ingredients.  Scientific American acknowledges that the famous experiment fell into disrepute when scientists used a more realistic atmosphere: “It seemed to refute a long-cherished icon of evolution—and creationists quickly seized on it as […]

Is Hardy Life Evidence of an Evolutionary Origin?

Salt-tolerate species of unicellular organisms are found in all three kingdoms of life, says an article on Space.com.  “Astrobiologists, those cross disciplinary scientists dedicated to investigating the broad question of life in the universe,” writes Lisa Chu-Theilbar of the SETI Institute, “often study extremophiles, organisms that live at the edges of what life is known […]

Can the Interior Design Itself?

Calling all interior designers: has Darwinism rendered you superfluous?  J. Scott Turner thinks so.  He wrote a book called The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself (Harvard, 2007).  It was reviewed by Claus Wedekind in last week’s Nature with the title, “The interior designer.”  This does not imply that interiors need an exterior […]

Extrasolar Gas Giants Turn Up Dry

A “dramatic step” led to a “big surprise”, said a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was able to capture the first spectral information from two planets orbiting other stars.  HD 209458b and HD 189733b are so-called “hot Jupiters” – similar in size to our gas giants, they orbit much closer […]

OOL on the Rocks

An important survey of the origin-of-life (OOL) field has been published in Scientific American.  Robert Shapiro, a senior prize-winning chemist, cancer researcher, emeritus professor and author of books in the field, debunks the Miller experiment, the RNA World and other popular experiments as unrealistic dead ends.  Describing the wishful thinking of some researchers, he said, […]

The Space Race: Just Staying Alive

“Ad astra!” the sci-fi slogan announces with eternal optimism: “To the stars!”  Medical doctors and astrobiologists are not sure you would want to stay there long, though.  Some recent findings give a dismal picture of the prospects for life – human or bacterial – at least in our solar system, if that can be assumed […]

Dreams of Planetary Oceans Dry Up

Astrobiologists like oceans.  The vision of life evolving on Earth in a primordial soup drives the quest to find liquid on other worlds.  It doesn’t have to be liquid water: just liquid that stimulates the imagination with visions of exotic life.  Two solar system bodies once considered prime candidates for ocean front property, though, have […]

Mars Life With Bleached Hair

Mars has hydrogen peroxide.  Bombardier beetles use peroxide.  So maybe the Viking landers in 1976 didn’t find life, because they didn’t look for peroxide-based life.  That’s the essence of the reasoning in an Associated Press story circulating on the net (see Breitbart.com).     Reporter Seth Borenstein earns Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for […]
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