Minimal Cell More Complex Than Expected
January 3, 2006
Craig Venter’s lab has been working on an interesting project in theoretical biology: what is the minimum set of genes needed for life? They have taken one of the simplest organisms, Mycoplasma genitalium, and knocked out genes to see which ones are essential and which are nonessential for viability. (This is part of the “top […]
Astronomers See Poison Around Star, Think Life
December 29, 2005
The Spitzer Space Telescope discovered acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, two deadly gases, around a star. Some astronomers got all excited and thought of the birth of life. The title of a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory read, “Partial ingredients for DNA and protein found around star.” The two carbon-containing substances were found in the […]
Don’t PNA in our OOL
December 17, 2005
Theories for the origin of life (OOL) are in a crisis, unable to imagine how something as complex as a replicating cell could come into existence. Could PNA do it?
SETI: Search for Educational Targets Inc.
November 18, 2005
SETI may be the laughingstock of Congress, refused funding since William Proxmire gave it his Golden Fleece Award in the 1980s, but privately it is moving apace. The Science Channel gave it prominence in its weekly report Friday, visiting with pioneering signaler and listener Frank Drake. It surveyed everything from the first humble attempts to […]
Extraterrestrials Likely to Be Unicellular
October 25, 2005
An AP story printed at HeraldNet jokes that extraterrestrial life probably won’t look like “the negligee-clad Number 6 from [Battlestar] Galactica, the television series that features a genocidal war between humans and their robot creations.” Instead, according to the authors of a new book about extraterrestrial life, you would need a microscope to see it. […]
Can a Robot Build Itself?
September 30, 2005
The news media got a load of Joseph Jacobson’s toy robots that could make copies of themselves. Ker Than on LiveScience, for instance, called these “biological” robots: Inspired by biological systems, scientists have developed miniature robots that can self-assemble using parts that float randomly in their environments. The robots also know when something is amiss […]
How Much Can the Origin of Life Be Simplified?
September 15, 2005
“No problem,” a report from Spain’s Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona seems to say: “Life’s origins were easier than was thought.” (See also EurekAlert.) The problem they claim to have solved is described in their press release: In the primordial soup that produced life on earth, there were organic molecules that combined to produce the first […]
Next Generation Microchips Inspired by
September 14, 2005
An article in ComputerWorld1 reports that Hewlett Packard, IBM, Fujitsu, and Texas Instruments are putting effort into developing nanotechnologies for chip manufacturing based on a principle found in nature: the tendency of matter to fall into predictable patterns as molecules assume low energy states. There aren’t many structures that can be built today, but researchers are […]
Mars and Moons Shed Cocoons
September 13, 2005
With so many spacecraft touring our solar system, there’s almost too much news to process. Here are a few highlights, starting with Mars, then comets, asteroids, a Titanic puzzle, and what Cassini found mini moons ago. Mars Ice Age: Mars Express may have found evidence for deep ice deposits on Mars around the equator in […]
Comet Theories Vanish in Puff of Powder
September 7, 2005
They were supposed to be dirty snowballs, those comets, pristine relics from the primordial solar system. They were supposed to be blasting volatile ices from their interiors as they approached the sun. What are they doing with aromatic hydrocarbons, olivine, iron, clays and carbonates? When the Deep Impact probe hit its target July 4, it […]
Origin of Life: How Dry I Am?
August 23, 2005
Stephen Benner (U of Florida) has stopped looking for life in water. A researcher into the evolutionary origin of life, he understands that “water is a terrible solvent for life” – not life as we know it today, he means, but life at the beginning. This sounds strange, considering most astrobiologists believe in a “follow […]
Origin of Life Studies: Motion or Emotion?
August 15, 2005
Harvard is going to fund origin-of-life research to the tune of a million dollars a year, according to an AP release reported by LiveScience.com, MSNBC News and the Washington Post. The goal is to reduce life’s origin to a “series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention,” according to Harvard […]
Origin of Life: Can A Liability Be Turned Into an Asset?
August 5, 2005
Most of us know the Second Law of Thermodynamics (2TD) as the law of decay and disorder, and would tend to assume it would constitute a major obstacle to theories of the origin of life by chemical evolution (see online book); certainly creationists Duane Gish and Henry Morris frequently employed the 2TD skilfully in their […]
Tailpipe Soot: Can It Live?
July 28, 2005
Better stay clear of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). They come out of your tailpipe and furnace, line your chimney, and generally are products of unhealthy processes like industrial waste and cigarette smoke. According to Environment Canada, “PAHs are a concern because some of them can cause cancers in humans and are harmful to fish and […]
Life on Mars and Titan?
July 26, 2005
Life has not been found on Mars, but some scientists, according to National Geographic News, are worried that we are contaminating the planet with Earth germs that will make the search for Martians more difficult. Speaking of Mars, a report in Science Now claims that Mars rarely got above freezing in its entire history. […]