COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | 2001 - Replies Index - Prev | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved

Nature may shout no, but human ingenuity... may always be able to shout louder — Imre Lakatos

Replies to Cosmic Ancestry, 2000

Subject: Some questions
Thu, 28 Dec 2000 05:52:27 -0700
From: Zhahai Stewart

Hi... A fascinating web site. Wish I had time to read all of it now.

I am somewhat confused about what your full hypothesis is, however. One piece seems to be that there is an ongoing rain of DNA (in bacteria, bacterial spores, or viruses) dropping from space onto the earth, and that this DNA (in particular intact gene sequences) gets incorporated into earthly cells to provide "new" genes. Since you do not believe that neoDarwinian evolution is capable of producing new genes, essentially all current genes in the biosphere must originate in this manner, right?

The weak version of this is a "high level tinkertoy" version, with relatively complex components (intact genes) available in the environment to be incorporated as species undergo macroevolution. A population under selective pressure could in this scenario present "mutations" not only by miscopying genes already in their genome, but by splicing in whole genes from this genetic rain. Of course, the vast majority of these imports would be of no use for the current problem, like increased salinity in a body of water. But eventually some environmental gene might turn out to be useful, and a species of fish might suddenly incorporate a new gene which would make it more fit for its environment. Neo-Darwinian evolution is modified only in terms of having higher level spare parts dropped like manna from the heavens, rather than being required to produce all new genes via an improbably large number of nucleotide errors and sequence transpositions. Fascinating hypothesis, which could be tested. This would mean that not only should there be lots of this "spare parts" DNA in our environment in the forms of bacteria and viruses, but those bacteria and viruses should contain all genes ever incorporated into terrestrial life plus most likely a huge complement of viable and functional but as yet unincorporated ones (for continued evolution, unless we just happen to have today incorporated the last useful bit of space DNA, which is unlikely). As should bacteria or viruses collected from space (eg: comets).

This requires more than there being a handful of eukaryotic genes in a given species of bacteria. ALL genes must be found in bacteria or viruses, silent or otherwise - no?

The basic point of your argument is that the number of "useful" genes is far smaller than the number of possible nucleotide sequences which would compose a "legal" gene; and that rather than having to find the useful genes from this enormous search space via piecemeal mutation and permutation, Earthly life is able to select its new genes from the (still huge but smaller) population of useful genes dropped from space. So a population of fishes in an increasingly salty marsh has to be wildly incorporating samples from "all possible genes" as introduced into said marsh from space, until one happens to create the macroevolutionary new hormone or whatever which increases the survival of the derived species. There is no mathematical gain over probability unless this "space rain" is preselected to be "useful" genes; if it were random nucleotide sequences they might as well be produced by earthly mutation and transposition. Nevertheless, it's a lot of genes to sort through.

One of the fascinating questions would be "how many genes are in the pool which drops from space"? And what ratio of them have been incorporated into all terrestrial lifeforms in total?

One possibility in this version is to broaden neoDarwinnian evolution to assume that the "playing ground" is larger than just the Earth. Some evolutionary mechanism somewhere in the physical universe would still be creating genes and selecting for the useful ones, which would then via bacteria and viruses be spread through space. Perhaps microevolution and rare macroevolution of new genes on Earth would even somehow turn out to be part of this web as well. That gene which helps fish deal with increased salinity (or pick any example) might have proven useful for a froglike critter in another star system; and the antifreeze gene painfully assembled by mutation and transposition on Earth might be useful to another critter a million years from now on another planet.

OK, that's the scientifically falsifiable weak version of "Cosmic Ancestry" - with embellishments. We should be able to detect a very rich set of genes in space, as well as in our environment, and to find sufficient mechanisms for their introduction into the genomes of all Earthly organisms. The embellishments (where did other genes comes from, did they evolve via neoDarwinist means on multiple planets, etc) would come later.

It looks as if your strong version has "Cosmic Ancestors" who have designed these genes and planted them selectively, at least from articles in your philosophy section and some hints elsewhere. We get past the mathematics of improbability by design from outside. Want great music? Design the right genes and seed 'em from space.

Unfortunately, your strong hypothesis hurts the chances of taking the weak one seriously (ie: considering it worthwhile enough to divert finite fund into appropriate research budgets for examining same).

One other note. It *appears* that while you make an effort to note some cases where questions are raised about given research, other times you seem to present a given (favorable) conclusion as fact. Life in the Martian meteorites would be a good example. From your website, I would conclude that it was scientific fact or consensus that life had been demonstrated in same, rather than that it's a very controversial and unresolved question. You *appear* to be manifesting the human tendency to apply very different standards of evidence for things which would support versus discredit your theories.

I am not well versed in all the fields you cite, but a sample of a few bits of research about which I do know a little seems to suggest this biased evaluation, which makes me doubt the objectivity of your summaries of research I am not familiar enough with to know one way or another. If I had encountered more caution and qualification on the "pro" research cited (in line with current consensus and controversy), I would tend to have more trust in the examples with which I am less familiar.

Best wishes, and I hope you continue to flesh out your hypotheses!

Zhahai Stewart

From: Brig Klyce at 8:41

Dear Zhahai --

Thanks for your penetrating comments. I think they are accurate. A couple of rejoinders, please.

The number of possible different nucleotide sequences of length 1000 is 4^1000 or about 10^600. If 80% of them allow neutral substitutions, the number of different possibilities is still 10^120. By contrast, the number of different genes actually employed in all of biology has been estimated at 10^12 (Olomucki). So a supply of useful genes does reduce the search problem. There are already examples of eukaryotic genes in archaea and in bacteriophage.

[Zhahai] The weakness, it seems to me, is the need to find plausible support for all 10^12 genes in bacteria and viruses - plus more eukaryotic genes that have not yet had a survival value to cause them to be incorporated and retained in earthly life (again, assuming we don't happen to be at the "just integrated the last one" stage).

The second stage, showing active mechanisms for sufficient transport into genomes, is an area I personally (as a non-expert) expect to see happen. I suspect that, Cosmic Ancestry or not, biology is going to discover that lateral transport of genes plays a bigger role in eukaryotes than has been expected - among terrestrial species. Fairly rarely, but compared to the mathematics of mutation and permutation, perhaps more often than expected. Some examples of "convergence" and occassional anomolies to the strict heritary tree may derive from this mechanism alone. Even a rare gene transport (eg: hemoglobin in mammals and yeast) might be more plausible than bridging that 10^12 vs 10^120 gap.

If this inter-eukaryote gene transport were verified, your rain of DNA would become one notch more feasible, but also one notch less required. That is, some anomolies might be explained by non-heritary transport from other terrestrial sources. Obviously, that's not going to satisfy all of your concerns, if you believe that development of useful new genes within the whole of the terrestrial biosphere is far too rare to account for progressive evolution in our timeframes. That is, I take one of your implicit tenets to be that neoDarwinnian evolution (including gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, and emergent criticality) would have been incapable of evolving those 10^12 genes in the known timeframes, so there must have been highly organized genes imported from elsewhere to aid the evolutionary process. In fact, you seem to believe that the vast majority of genes were imported to our biosphere and that local development has been rare at best.

[Klyce] I do present the case for cosmic ancestry as an advocate. This requires me to be totally honest, but I emphasize different points from the ones usually emphasized.

[Zhahai] I want to acknowledge and appreciate the times you recognize that a given piece of research may be controversial or has been seriously questioned.

I suspect that you may feel somewhat uncomfortable with the companionship of the Intelligent Design crowd who are sniping at neoDarwinism from a different set of hillocks, but using much of the same ammunition. Or you may feel very comfortable with them.

(Or you could be envious of the Fellowship support that Creationists have granted the formally-not-Creationist Intelligent Design advocates. I didn't see your name in the 5 year plan to overturn materialist science in favor of theistic science. )

I had a great time following links starting from your web page, until my wife arose at 5:30 this morning and I realized how late it was .

You don't appear to have any hidden agenda, beyond intellectual exploration.

[Klyce] Sometimes I hear, "there isn't a shred of evidence for panspermia." This is simply wrong. If panspermia is the prevailing theory 100 years from now, history will point to lots of evidence that we already have.

[Zhahai] Heh, heh. As almost always happens after a paradigm shift, the signs were already there but interpreted otherwise by the mainstream. Altho more often, deviant theories don't pan out and become minor footnotes. (So the average street corner tinfoil hat fellow who claims that they laughed at too is bucking the odds that they'll reach the same company) (By the way, I'm NOT trying to suggest that you are in that category! Please don't take that as my point. I think you have an interesting case which might turn out more right than wrong, and be Big.)

At the least, your advocacy should be a fun ride! At the most, it may be revolutionary. I like that you are not becoming vitriolic; keep enough detachment to enjoy the ride and have a good incarnation win or lose on the intellectual front. How well you play the game is also important.

Suggestion: Back up your web pages occassionally on Gold or Silver/Gold (Kodak Ultima) CD-Rs and store them somewhere safe, along with paper copies. Future historians are going to have a devil of a time sorting out digital data from our era, with most it on media with low lifetimes; it's a real looming crisis for archivists. You might include copies of some of the documents you link to (especially those not also published on paper), in case those have disappeared into the bit bucket. If panspermia or some derivative makes it big someday, this could be a treasure trove for the science historians. You'll have to someday copy it to another medium, but I currently judge long lifetime CD-R as the best common digital medium for preservation, considering both the media stability and likely backward compatibility lifetimes for the formats.

Zhahai Stewart

Zhahai Stewart
A Meme Gardener
Standard Disclaimer YMMV - Your Maya May Vary

Subject: Cosmic Ancestry
Tuesday, December 26, 2000 11:29 AM
From: Brig Klyce
To: Massimo Pigliucci

Dear Massimo, ...I hope this will clarify my position on Darwinism --

The Darwinian mechanism can select among choices. Coupled with mutation and recombination in genes, Darwinism is fine for variation, adaptation, speciation and microevolution. The evidence for this is overwhelming.

If new genetic programs are properly installed and activated, Darwinian selection can produce macroevolutionary progress like the immune system of the jawed vertebrates. Examples of the beneficial installation of whole genes are accumulating rapidly. And the concept is not in dispute.

But Darwinian selection cannot induce mutation and recombination to compose the new genetic programs needed for macroevolutionary progress. If a new program differs from any previous one by, say, 20 nucleotide substitutions or recombination events, the probability that it will be found by chance alone is entirely negligible.

The likelihood can be increased if a chain of functional intermediates, each requiring only one or two mutations, exists. But such pathways have not been demonstrated nor even proposed for any but a handful of weak examples from biology. Nor have such pathways been demonstrated in computer models, where rapid testing is possible.

Without these pathways, in a system closed to the input of new genetic programs, macroevolutionary progress will not occur. But if the system is open, one would expect the history of life to look a lot like ours -- a rapid start, punctuated equilibria, etc.

Of course, the case for strong panspermia needs additional support, and this is being sought.

Similarly, the case that Darwinism in a closed system can account for evolutionary progress needs support. But very few Darwinists acknowledge this need. Your willingness to dialog with creationists is unusual and I commend you for it.

Why not include a fully scientific alternative in the discussion?

Best regards, ...Brig

Tue, 26 Dec 2000 19:08:23 -0500

Brig, ...I simply don't see panspermia as a viable scientific theory and what I read by you has not convinced me that there is more to it than I thought there was.

All the best, ...Massimo

Neo-Darwinism... is the related CA webpage.

Fossils found in Victorian meteor.
By Vanessa Williams
Sun-Herald, Victoria, Australia
18 December 2000

ALIEN life has been found in a meteorite that plummeted to Victoria, according to a top NASA scientist. The tiny fossilised organisms were found inside the meteorite that fell on Murchison, 30km south of Shepparton, 31 years ago. The possible evidence of extraterrestrial life in Victoria has just been discovered because of new technology.

Scientists believe the 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite may have broken from a comet or asteroid 800,000 years ago, before plunging into the central Victorian town. The discovery could give clues to the origin of life in the solar system. It follows the 1996 worldwide announcement of microfossils in a Mars meteorite.

Professor Richard Hoover, head of NASA's astrobiology unit at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in the US, told the Herald Sun he had strong evidence of bacterial cells. Prof. Hoover said they looked very similar to those found in Antarctica, other extreme Earth environments and other rare meteorites.

The Museum of Victoria has donated eight more samples of the Murchison meteorite to NASA for research. NASA is studying about six meteorites Prof. Hoover believes also hold microfossils. He showed an audience at Melbourne University's Summer School of Science photographs of structures he says are organisms "indigenous" to the meteorite. Prof. Hoover said the remarkable similarities between Earth micro- organisms and the alien forms could be because:

PRIMITIVE life began somewhere else in the solar system and this planet was seeded by a comet or asteroid.

LIFE began on Earth but a huge impact early on sent up fragments of ice and sedimentary rock into space where it was collected by comets.

The meteorite rained down in pieces over the Victorian town of Murchison about 10:58 on a Sunday morning, September 18, 1969.

Not all the findings have been published in a scientific journal, apart from a paper in the Journal of Palaentology.

Murchison resident for 28 years, Anne Finlay said she was excited evidence of alien life may have been found in the meteorite. Mrs Finlay, a member of the local historical society, said the meteorite was a vital part of the town's history. "It's hard to believe that when you stand outside and look at the universe at night that we are the only planet that is occupied," Mrs Finlay said.

Dr Hoover said his claim was controversial and many scientists would disagree. He said electron microscope pictures of structures inside the Murchison meteorite were similar to Earth extremophiles. Extremophiles are micro-organisms that live in extreme environments such as deep ice under Antarctica, hot geysers, hydrothermal vents, and even spent nuclear fuel rods.

Prof. Hoover has ruled out contamination despite fungus being found on the outer surface of the sample. He said the Murchison meteorite was quickly picked up in chunks by scientists and placed in a curated collection to reduce contamination. "I have found doing the research a whole sweep of large structures that I am convinced are biological structures within carbonaceous chondrites," he said. Carbonaceous chondrites are meteorites with a lot of carbon in them.

"There is a whole sweep of very, very incredible microfossils in Murchison," he said. "There is, in my opinion, strong evidence of biogenecity in meteorite cores. We have evidence of cell walls, things that look like cyanobacteria and purple sulphur bacteria," Dr Hoover said. "We see evidence of structures similar to organisms that live in Antarctica."

The astrobiologist left Melbourne yesterday for home, carrying with him eight more samples of the meteorite donated by the Museum of Victoria in sealed vials.

Fossilized Life Forms in the Murchison Meteorite is the related CA webpage.

Subject: Cosmic Ancestry/Optical SETI Conference
Fri, 15 Dec 2000 04:42:00 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert E.Cobb

Dear Brig:

It is trite and wholly inadequate to say that your website is serving with distinction a uniquely pivotal role in the evolution of human consciousness on our planet. Your commitment to share and to encourage others to become part of an emerging paradigm recognizing Nature/Life as an infinite process (in Which we ourselves are a part) is truly a singular contribution. I am particularly impressed by your election, made prior to my awareness of your website, to touch on the philosophical import of Cosmic Ancestry at the upcoming Optical SETI Conference, i.e., "Can panspermia lead to a reconciliation between science and fundamentalist opponents?" Hopefully, the conference (January 200l in San Jose, California) will reflect a genuine spirit of Golden Rule Stewardship, and will be broadly attended by leaders from religion and education as well as from within the science community.

In forelawsship on board,

Robert E. Cobb
Forelaws -- The Forelaws on Board website.

Subject: Panspermia and Norman Lockyer Observatory
Thu, 30 Nov 2000 17:09:07 +0000
From: Roy Davies

Brig,...I came across your website for the first time today and found it fascinating. I was wondering if you are familiar with the claims by Donald R. Barber that evidence for bacteria from outer space had been discovered by the Norman Lockyer Observatory in Sidmouth in Devon in southwest England as long ago as 1936?

If you haven't heard of Barber's claims I thought they might be of interest to you. His observations were published in the paper, "Invasion by Washing Water," by Donald R. Barber, in Perspective [Focal Press - London, 1963] Volume 5, pp 201-208. A shorter version is available on the web -- Living Micro­Organisms From Space ­ Real or Apparent?

There is some additional information about Barber's claims in the article below, but as that is part of a website devoted to the Velikovsky's theories of cosmic catastrophes I suspect that Barber wouldn't want to be associated with some parts of it! See Influenza 1918, A Venus Connection?

Anyway, good luck with your efforts to publicise work on panspermia.... Regards,

Roy Davies | University Library | University of Exeter | Stocker Road | Exeter EX4 4PT | UK

Subject: RE: Gaia + panspermia
c. 1 Nov 2000
From: Ken Jopp

Hello Brig, thank you for putting me on the distribution list for the head's-up on the lunar micro-organisms. I followed the link back to your site and hopped around a bit. A comment from you to a correspondent caught my eye, about linking panspermia and Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis. I'm interested in that linkage too, and even in extending it to other fields, such as sociobiology. You want controversy -- try arguing for that connection. You'll be called not only a scientific heretic, but a racist one! At some point the implied genetic determinism gets frightening. Did genes invent the hula hoop?

You may notice that I link panspermia and Gaia on my Introduction page. In a way I do think genes invented the hula hoop! Also, for example, why have sperm counts declined?

Which indirectly gets to my point of interest: Once you link panspermia and Gaia, you in effect beg the question, "Why?" Why would nature bother to condition planets for higher (I use the term advisedly) life forms to emerge? As near as I can tell, the only role for multicellular life in the panspermia scheme is to host unicellular parasites and symbionts. Do you have any other thoughts on this?

In Cosmic Ancestry, its not "nature" that's bothering to condition planets, but prior life elsewhere -- cosmic ancestors. The only purpose of bacteria, I could maintain, is to get the place ready for us!

Do you have any interest in Roger Penrose's theory of consciousness arising from peculiar quantum states in neural microtubules?

None at all (although I have read _The Emperor's New Mind_). I am interested in quantum theory, in fact it was my scientific hobby from about 1972 - 1980. But QT gets badly misused in all sorts of unrelated fields. Besides which, I do not really understand what the problem of consciousness is. If regular (biological) chemistry and physics enable me to think and feel and communicate, fine.

Do you detect any sensible thread between that question and the previous one?

Not one that we could fruitfully pursue in this or the next few decades.

Thanks again for your dedication to getting the word out and for all your painstaking work on the site....Best regards, Ken Jopp

PS, just an interesting aside on thermodynamics: In his book The Fifth Miracle, Paul Davies notes that nature provides a clear example of a thermal gradient arising spontaneously in a system at thermal equilibrium. When a large enough cloud of hydrogen condenses in space, it ignites into a star. Thermal energy is no longer distributed evenly through that volume of space. No influence from outside the system has intervened.

This is an interesting point that has been raised by others as well. My reaction is this ... in stream of consciousness form. A meteorite may strike the moon and create heat. Gravitational potential energy has been converted to heat. Same with a cloud of gas in space. When we use the example of heat equilibrium to explain entropy, we are holding all other forms of energy constant. When they are not constant, the production of heat is not surprising. But as I say on the website, I do not like entropy as an explanatory concept -- it even confused James Clerk Maxwell. -- Brig Klyce

Monday, November 20, 2000 10:55 AM

If you have the energy for more dialog, I would like to try to pin you down on some of the more philosophical implications of Panspermia + Gaia. For example, at some point the whole system of cosmic-biospheric relationships seems so well integrated that it starts to smell teleological. It starts to resuscitate the venerable "argument from design" of the theologians. A new book, "Rare Earth," (I don't recall if you've mentioned this on the site) argues that planetary life elsewhere in the galaxy is unlikely, because our development has relied on so many fortuitous coincidences. For example, Jupiter, being where it is and as big as it is, seems to be an ideal vacuum cleaner for catching comets and, so the author argues, probably has saved Earth from many otherwise devastating collisions. How many planets in other solar systems would happen to benefit from such coincidental protection? Or, in other words, how many planets in other solar systems would happen to benefit from such a propitiously, remotely, positioned limb/organ of Gaia? Indeed, if the Oort Cloud and Kuyper Belt (not sure about those spellings) are essential to Cosmic Ancestry, then the notion of "biosphere" becomes problematic. The solar system as a whole might have to be taken into the definition of Gaia to make the concept complete.

[...] Regarding one of your comments to my original message: If you aren't sure what the problem of consciousness is, you might want to visit

[...] The physics of consciousness is a topic tangential to the core of the Cosmic Ancestry hypothesis (or has it graduated to being a theory?), but I think you will eventually seem to be disingenuous if you present an increasingly integrated grand system without an appeal to a teleology of some sort. Unfortunately, science has conceded teleology to religion, and so notions of anything resembling a "Cosmic Life Force" (Hoyle's term) are always imagined along the lines of conventional religious doctrines. But I think that somewhere between the unassailable credentials of Roger Penrose and the wooly "quantum consciousness" of New Age-ism that grew out of "The Tao of Physics" there is an anthropic teleological system that could cohabit under one roof with science.

Best, Ken Jopp

If our planet was colonized by pre-existing, highly evolved life using Gaian processes, what's teleological? We don't say it's teleological when weeds take over a parking lot. The suggstion that nonliving chemicals somehow want to become alive, yes that seems teleological. But I am not suggesting that.

PS, I'm not sure what you're getting at with the comment about declining sperm counts, but there have been quite a number of articles pointing to industrial chemicals that mimic estrogen as possible culprits behind the declining counts.

It is conceivable to me that as the human population begins to crowd itself, some psychosomatic mechanism might reduce human fertility. If so, it would be another stabilizing feedback loop. ...Brig

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000 07:04:38 US/Pacific
From: Tom Welch

Thank you for putting together a great, well researched web site dedicated to what I see as the most significant discovery in our lifetime, we are not alone. It's reassuring to see that you have not only listed the pros, but also the cons of panspermia.As the evidence builds, it is just a matter of years before it becomes accepted and written in school textbooks.

The implications of the new look on the origins of life have helped me to achieve a much better understanding of my world both intelectually and spiritually. I'm having my first child in March, and as he grows to understand his world, I will be sure to present to him my understanding of where he really came from.

Thanks again for the enlightenment.

Tom Welch

Subject: Re: Mars Rock never got above 105 F
Sat, 28 Oct 2000 12:22:37 -0700
From: Kevin Keogh

Dear Kevin -- Thanks for staying in touch. Will run the lunar microfossils story? -- Brig

I doubt it, Brig. To be honest, I wouldn't run it if I were them. Firstly, there is the problem of Russian scientists who have unknown reputations. Secondly, this type of claim will have folks screaming "contamination." If not that, then "nonbiological artifact."

The questions I have are:

  1. Were the collection containers and tools sterile? Remember that Earthly microbes can survive the trip to the Moon.
  2. How was the sample handled every step of the way once it got back to Earth?
  3. How long was the sample exposed to nonsterile conditions at any point of handling?
  4. Was the lab used to view the slides also sterile?
  5. Do the microfossils contain any organic matter? Have the results been checked by experts familiar with common nonbiological geological artifacts?

I don't dispute the evidence. But considering the way some scientists reacted to the incredibly strict procedures used in the case of the 250 million year old bacteria, I doubt that this evidence will make a dent in the reigning paradigm. It is just too easy to question.

What is needed is evidence from a meteorite like Taglish Lake. Unfortunately, scientists current beliefs create a "chicken/egg" problem, so I am not even certain that any pristine samples of this meteorite have been kept in 100% sterile conditions since it was discovered. Also, who knows how many years will pass before someone gets around to checking it for microfossils. Given this state of affairs, once microfossils are found, the naysayers already have a built in defense of Earthly contamination. The very ubiquity of microbes on Earth serves to shield scientists from coming to terms with their existence elsewhere.

On the other hand, it has been quite an eventful week for microbial galactic domination, regardless of the doubters.

The Panspermia feature will be posted Monday or Tuesday, according to the author, Rob Britt. -- Kevin

Kevin, thanks. Some thoughts --

The spiral shaped fossil was left by an organism that grows in stromatoliths in shallow ocean water, so it would be unlikely to be among the contaminants that careless workers might carry. It couldn't have grown in the lunar sample on Earth, recently, because the sample contains insufficient nutrients and was never soaked with salt water. Furthermore, rapid fossilization can happen only if the fossilizing minerals are supplied in liquid at the right concentration. Such fossilization might conceivably take place while a meteorite sits exposed to weather, but these samples never did.

The reputation of the Russian scientists might be unknown to most westerners, but they are well-respected among the scientists who do know them. Check with NASA's Richard Hoover. Their electron microscope photos are equal to any from the US. -- Brig

I agree about the spiral fossil, but couldn't it be a micro-crater?

...I find your site fascinating. It is one of my favorites, and I want to commend you for keeping up with the seemingly endless stream of new discoveries and experiments that directly or indirectly support the idea of an extra-Earthly genesis of life.

To me, saying that the most parsimonious explanation of Earthly life is that is originated on Earth is like saying that the most parsimonious explanation for a hermit's influenza is that the virus spontaneously generated itself from the components of his body. To me, the infinite mystery is how life ever began in the first place, and I'd sure like to see a "parsimonious" explanation for this. However, once this immortal, exponential process appears -- however, whenever and wherever--we must expect a steady contamination of the cosmos. For those that don't, I have a simple question--how do you propose that you will sterilize the Earth to keep it from contaminating other terran bodies in the future? Even after the sun turns Red Giant, even after the sun goes out completely, the subsurface Earthly microbes will still be patiently waiting for the next catastrophe to send them to a new, more vital host. As far as the gene pool of these subsurface chemotrophic microbes is concerned, if Mars crashed into the Earth and broke it into pieces, it would be one of the best things that could ever happen. -- Kevin Keogh

Microorganisms from the Moon is the related CA webpage.

Subject: cool site
Wed, 25 Oct 2000 11:11:05 -0700
From: Jim Galasyn

Greetings, just dropped into your site ( again 'cause of the 250 million year-old bacteria spores. Lots of good thought and resources, need to spend more time checking it out. One thing did stand out, though: in your nice review of the history thermodynamics, I thought the ideas of Prigogine were perhaps given short shrift. Dr. Hohenberg's opinion from the SciAm article on SFI surprised me greatly -- it's well established that nonlinear dynamics ("chaos theory") has been a spectacular success in a broad range of fields, from acoustics to zoology. I have two file cabinets stuffed with papers from an array scientific disciplines, and many of these papers are "groundbreaking" in the best sense of the word. Indeed, the oddly pessimistic SciAm piece ( was out of step with brilliant research that was occurring even in '95, esp. the displacement of Per Bak's concept of "self-organized criticality" with the precise and highly predictive theory of "extremal dynamics".

Having done a few years of study in nonlinear dynamics, this confusion over the "meaning" of the 2nd Law baffles me a bit. Classical interpretations of equilibrium thermo certainly don't permit the spontaneous formation of complex systems; this is because the interesting aspects of the system under consideration are simplified away. If we allow the higher-order terms in our various Taylor-series (or whichever) expansions to remain, and if we choose more realistic boundary conditions, then we see the really intriguing behaviors characteristic of the observed world: self-organization, non-locality, dissolution of the boundary between cause and effect. It's merely our definitions that have confused us for so long. Once the rather artificial simplifying assumptions are relaxed, the confusion goes away.

It's my dilettantish opinion that the "problem" of abiogenesis has largely been solved. It is a fundamental property of matter to self-organize in the presence of energy. If this axiom holds, then we should expect to find complex, autocatalyzing chemistry wherever there are solutes, solvents, and energy to drive them far from equilibrium. Life should emerge independently everywhere in the cosmos, wherever there's liquid water and rock (and perhaps in even more exotic conditions, like those on Titan). This hardly seems debatable any more, in the wake of Prigogine and the other greats of nonlinear dynamics.

Which isn't to say that life doesn't get around. It seems highly plausible to me that life hitches rides all over the galaxies, bringing genetic diversity to new places and generally shaking things up. We know of bacteria that are immensely radiation-resistant and now we know bacteria spores can be revived after millions of years. Those are the necessary conditions for widespread diffusion of life; perhaps they're also sufficient.

For another discussion of classical thermo, you might want to check out economist (!) Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's _The Entropy Law and the Economic Process_, which has a well-thought-out critique of the concept of entropy.

In any case, thanks for the cool site,
Jim Galasyn

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the mentioned CA webpage.

Subject: re: comments on your article in nature
Tue, 24 Oct 2000 17:38:17 -0700
From: Susan Lindquist

Actually we weren't allowed much space to comment on possible ways in which readthrough can change forms and functions.

The first thing to note is that although we don't understand any of them at a molecular level yet, it is clear that an enormous number of new traits WERE produced. Whether you like it or not, whether it seems reasonable that it should happen or not, the fact is, it does. The prion produces an ENORMOUS amount of variation AND many of these traits are beneficial -- ie growth on new carbon sources, growth in the presence of antibiotics, etc.

How? Well for one thing the yeast genome contains a large number of open reading frames with single stop codons --many, for example, arise from duplicated genes that have been turned off because they aren't needed and then allowed to mutate. Others arise from the recombination of other genes that have been turned off, juxtaposing new domains So it isn't just "random" sequence that would be finding a new function. Rather, a ligand binding domain, for example could simply acquire a couple of amino acid changes while it is silent, that reduce specificity for one ligand and enhance it for another so that it has new properties when it is turned back on.

Other possibilities include: adding a few amino acids to the end of a kinase that block its normally rapid turnover, or block its interaction with a repressor, or gives it affinity for a membrane.

That is, the scenarios really are quite plausible. I actually think it is likely to be a major force in the evolution of fungi. Even if it isn't, it points to the fact that there is likely to be a great many other surprises waiting for us out there in terms of how organisms might acquire phenotypic variation. The hype I objected to was the attempt to suggest that this might mean that the human prion does something similar. I tried to squelch that whenever I could!

Susan Lindquist, Ph.D. | Howard Hughes Medical Institute | Dept Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology | The University of Chicago

Dear Susan -- Thanks for your response. We may even agree! The examples you give... involving one or two amino acid changes would count as microevolution, which clearly happens. Also, when readthrough opens a lengthy domain that is already composed, a benefit may well result. But I do not see how prion readthrough could help compose precise lengthy sequences that would initiate macroevolutionary progress. Thanks again for your thoughtful reply. And thanks for doing good research! -- Brig Klyce...

Prions can turn on genetic programs, a 27 September What'sNEW item, introduces this topic.

Subject: Rupert Sheldrake
Tue, 26 Sep 2000 20:02:37 EDT
From: John D. Goodman

Hi. I am John Goodman, PhD zoology U of Michigan, 1952. I am a lifelong searcher for the truth about life and especially the Creation vs Evolution controversy. Your material came to my attention recently. I have read some of the work of Rupert Sheldrake, a British biochemist- physicist- embryologist- botanist- mystic with a lot of respect. Yet, all of my erudite friends say it is a waste of time and that Rupert is too flaky to waste time reading. I find his theory fascinating. He has several but I am referring especially to Morphic Resonance. He thinks things influence other things, in fact that everything influences everything else. It would explain almost everything in the Universe including the tempo and mode of Evolution. We think it took a long time and I think it did, billions of years for all of it, or longer, and certainly a few million for life to appear and flourich to its present state. This would be reduced by factors of many times were it possible to conceive that when an atom did something such as split or fuse, all atoms very quiickly split or fused, and when a molecule did something to become a cell, and cells to become cells, all did it together, more or less, and in the same fashion all up the line things evolved more or less at the same rate. It did not take a single mutation to produce some structure that became permanent through Natural Selection simply because it was better suited for the environment of that moment. All animals produced it more or less simultaneously...HOW no one knows, but just the bare theory seems worthy of comment in your material and I did not find it looking through your material. You are not expected to reply, just to take note of my inquiry and perhaps at some future date make reference to Sheldrake's theories. John D. Goodman (age 80).

Robert E. Cobb, Alton Missouri:

In all matters relating to the stewardship of life on every planet with evolving intelligent life (including that stewardship which is addressed either in part, or whole, by existing statutes and conventions), the quality of such stewardship is directly proportional to the degree to which The Golden Rule is extended (the reverence for life standard as scientific maxim) to all forms of life and to the continuum of life itself.

Other than that which may be surmised through extrapolation, knowledge of the Universe beyond the boundaries of the observable universe of any communicationg planet ("observable universe" as circumscribed by state-of-the-art technology of evolving intelligent life) is directly proportional to the degree to which an exchange/relay of knowledge exists (The Golden Rule as scientific maxim) between communicating planets with overlapping "observable universes."

"The Golden Rule is a natural consequence of the recognition of the unity of being" -- Esme Wynne-Tyson, The Philosophy of Compassion, 1970.

Robert E. Cobb publishes a newsletter, "Forelaws on Board," that promotes Golden Rule Stewardship and The North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc. These paragraphs are from the newsletter. He responded to Cosmic Ancestry by personally visiting our office in Memphis, TN, 22 September 2000. He also operates a website, "Forelaws on Board," at

Subject: your evolutionary simulations
Wed, 26 Jul 2000 23:01:58 -0500
From: Brig Klyce
To: Richard Lenski

Dear Richard --

Last July and August [1999], I posted news items about your experiments on my website -- 990715txt 990812btxt

I promised my clients to "watch closely for future developments." Are there any?

While I would like to make good on my promise, I would like even more to discuss with you the issue driving me. Given that bacterial life could survive space travel, and that horizontal gene transfer works, I do not think that the evidence supporting neo-Darwinism as the mechanism behind evolutionary progress is sufficiently compelling. The real test would be closed system experiments like yours. I haven't heard that they setttle the matter. I would enjoy hearing your side.

I will be in Alaska for the next 9 days, so I'll be out of contact, but I would like to contact you when I get back. Could we even meet?

Thanks.... Brig Klyce

Two weeks later, I recontacted Lenski and he replied that he was too busy to meet with me. He did respond to several of the points in CA's What'sNEW articles about his experiments. I asked permission to post that response here, but he declined. I renewed my request and suggested ways to alleviate his concerns, but so far he has not replied. I wrote to him:

...There may be some critics of Darwinism who will not believe it no matter what evidence is presented. I am not among them. I can easily imagine experiments in biology or computers that would firmly demonstrate sustained macroevolutionary progress in a closed system. If any of yours ever does, or if you know of one that does, I would be grateful to learn about it.

Sincerely,... Brig Klyce

A recent issue... describes Lenski's experiments, 15 July 1999.
...Is Evolutionary Progress in a Closed System Possible? is a related CA webpage with a separate What'sNEW section, Lenski et al..
E. coli Long-term Experimental Evolution Project Site -- Lenski's website.

Subject: cosmic ancestry
Mon, 7 Aug 2000
From: Stephen J Sowerby

Dear Brig,

you certainly have an interesting web site in cosmic ancestry, particularly your discussion on the 2nd law and the RNA world. Seeing this, I can't help but suggest you look at my web site (URL below) on molecular self-assembly and the origin of life. The web site is dominated by experimental data, but the message is simple and clear.

[Klyce] ...My misgiving is that the programming for life is not accounted for by any chemical process....

[Tue, 8 Aug 2000] I ...thought that your understanding of the field re: thermodynamics and information was sufficiently well developed that you would understand some of the ramifications of our observations. Sadly, the origin of life field is dominated by old sheep wearing blinkers so your synthesis on the relevance of the 2nd law and information was refreshing. I have had quite some communication with Hubert Yockey and although I don't entirely agree with some of his conclusions it was good to see someone else citing his book. Your reply encapsulates exactly the essence of our hypothesis -that a chemical process does exist with in the laws of chemistry to self-program an informational mechanism with sufficient complexity to act as a primitive genetic system. That it uses the coding components of nucleic acids is a completely novel observation and seems too coincidental to be ignored.

[Klyce] ...there could be ways for an information-carrying mechanism to come into being by natural chemical means. But there is no demonstrated way for *meaning* to spontaneously become encoded into the mechanism. My position is very radical and hard to grasp at first. It's like saying, "There's nothing new under the sun." I could be defeated by closed-system experiments in either real biology or in (computer) models. By my careful reading, no such experiment has successfully shown new meaning to emerge....

[Fri, 11 Aug 2000] thanks for your interest. I think that we are discussing the same point. No experiment has shown meaning to emerge. By meaning, my interpretation is a mechanism that creates purposeful information and the implementation of that information into physical matter with function. In the case of the origin of life, purposeful information, being the construction of catalysts that contribute to biological function and form ultimately allowing self-reproduction.

The chemistry for making protein catalysts is far more convincing than for making nucleic acids. The point that your web site supports is that the RNA world is not a feasible first step. I agree and prefer Dyson's hypothesis, that the RNA world arose as a parasite in a protein metabolism where the machinery for RNA construction may have been available as a by-product of the metabolism. Dyson likens it to a bacteriophage infecting a bacterium and using the host machinery to replicate. However, given the possibility that amino acids were available, how do we construct a metabolism. The informational problem is to randomly synthesise the protein catalysts which provide a bootstrapped proto-metabolism. I think that if a random assembly of proteins could do this, there would be some experimental hint of it since many are generating combinatorial peptide libraries. It may well be possible and Kauffman certainly supports this, but Joyce does not. My feeling is that it IS an informational problem.

Monolayer Formation on the Surface of Mineral Solids One way to overcome the numerical improbabilities is to invoke a deterministic origin -- natural laws which favor the formation of life. It is well known that some biological molecules are the products of simple non-biological processes. The physical characteristics of the universe seem finely tuned to bio-organic chemistry and there is no a priori argument that life did not have a deterministic origin [Denton]. I will take this to an extreme conclusion and postulate that the conditions that precipitated life did so by specifying the amino acid sequences of the primordial protein polymers. But is there a self-programmable informational mechanism available? We have observed that the bases self-assemble into aperiodic structures on mineral surfaces, we have studied them on graphite and MoS2, but they have been observed on metals, metal oxides and clays. We have recently published a paper showing the aperiodic structures and I would be happy to send a reprint if you wish: (Sowerby, S.J., et al., "Self-programmable, self-assembling two-dimensional genetic matter," Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 2000. 30(1): p. 81-99.).

The dominant view of the origin of life presupposes that the first living system was composed of catalytic RNA molecules, or similar, capable of self-replication, that subsequently evolved the ability to encode more versatile peptide catalysts. Self-replication of information bearing polymers is a persuasive hypothesis because of the role nucleic acids play in modern biology. However, there exists no compelling evidence that a replicator was involved at the very beginning[1]. The ab initio appearance of nucleic acid-like polymers is chemically unrealistic and even in the most optimistic scenario, an information bearing molecule capable of self-replication must have first formed fortuitously from an astronomical range of possibilities. No such polymer is known and the putative ability of such molecules to replicate unaided is unproven[1]. Dyson's double-origin hypothesis[2] envisages the spontaneous origin of a protein catalysed metabolism capable of self-reproduction. By-products of the metabolism enabled a second origin giving rise to self-replicating RNA that paratisised the metabolism. This seems chemically less demanding because the problems with RNA synthesis and replication can be overcome by utilising the machinery of the metabolism. The difference between self-reproduction and self-replication is made distinct. Self-replication implies direct copying from a parent structure. Self-reproduction, on the other hand does not require heredity. The chemistry of prebiotic protein formation is far more convincing than that of nucleic acids and assemblies of proteins can technically provide the architecture for complex connected metabolisms[3]. However, the formation of self-reproducing assemblies mat well be besieged by the same numerical improbabilities as self-replicaton. This manuscript deals with a deterministic route to Dyson's first origin. Dyson was influenced by the work of von Neuman on computation and self-replication[4] and reasoned that protein could be likened to computer hardware and nucleic acid to software. By his reasoning, self-reproducing hardware must have preceded software. Of course a computer is not constructed randomly, but by man, so the analogy between prebiotic protein and hardware has its limitations. The chances of random polypeptide formation generating biological proteins are dimishingly small[5] and the chances of forming a self-sustaining metabolism are over-optimistic[6]. One way to overcome the numerical improbabilities is to invoke a deterministic origin-natural laws which favor the formation of life. It is well known that some biological molecules are the products of simple non-biological processes. The physical characteristics of the universe seem finely tuned to bio-organic chemistry and there is no a priori argument that life did not have a deterministic origin[7]. I will take this to an extreme conclusion and postulate that the conditions that precipitated life did so by specifying the amino acid sequences of the primordial protein polymers. Suppose that pre-protein hardware existed, that wrote software to specify the order of amino acids and then functioned to join them together into proteins. Hardware is not necessarily complex but, composed of particles, requires a mechanism for its own construction. If no template is available then the instructions could exist within the unit particles of the hardware and the way they interact with each other and their surroundings-self-programmability. The inter-particle interactions are important because such self-programmability[8] is a way of recruiting information that exists within the rules of the interactions. In this extension of Dyson's hypothesis, the primary hardware is purine and pyrimidine bases of nucleic acids, which form aperiodic tesselated patterns on the surfaces of crystals. The software is their information bearing arrangements which obey strict interaction rules. The idea that proteins were first synthesised on a primitive coding template[9], is radical, but rests on 7 solid experimental observations:

  1. Simulation of the chemistry of the early Earth and extra-terrestrial environments, reveal that purine and pyrimidine bases and amino acids are contemporary products of non-biological cyano chemistry[10-12].
  2. Spontaneous peptide formation is facilitated between amino acids at the surfaces of minerals during evaporation of aqueous solutions under plausibly prebiotic conditions[13-20].
  3. Purine and pyrimidine bases spontaneously adsorb, during evaporation of aqueous solutions, into monolayers that self-assemble on the surfaces of crystalline minerals. The bases are planar-arranged like jigsaw puzzle pieces and are stabilised laterally by hydrogen bonds between adjacent molecules[9, 21-34].
  4. On certain minerals, the monolayers are enantiomorphic even though they are composed of achiral molecules which suggests a mechanism for prebiological chiral symmetry breaking[22, 25].
  5. The spacing of the proton acceptors in the monolayers is consistent with peptide bond dimensions. Molecular modelling indicates that amino acids can hydrogen bond to the proton acceptors in the monolayers and are in the correct arrangement for subsequent peptide formation[27].
  6. The monolayers formed from pure solutions of bases are crystalline, however, those formed from mixtures are aperiodic structures and thus, are capable of storing information. The information content is constrained by a discrete set of hydrogen bonding rules which include those of Watson-Crick pairing found in nucleic acids[9].
  7. [withheld for pending publication]

Cheers, Stephen.
Dr. Stephen J. Sowerby | Dept. Geology and Geochemistry | University of Stockholm | SE-106 91 | Stockholm | Sweden

[Klyce] You and I are focussed on different aspects of the origin of life problem. Your primary interest is in (what I call) the hardware aspect of the problem. Harware scenarios can be proposed, but I am much more concerned about the software aspect of the problem.

Even if a system of symbols and a translation mechanism exists, nothing will make it "self-programmable" in the sense necessary to produce evolutionary progress, IMHO. If I am right, not only is the origin of life "in the first place" impossible, but also, evolutionary progress afterwards is impossible, and life only "descends."

I say this not because I expect to convince you, but to explain why my interest in the hardware problem is overwhelmed by my concerns about the software problem. I admire your efforts... -- Sowerby's website.
The RNA World
The Second Law of Thermodynamics

1. Shapiro, R., A replicator was not involved in the origin of life. Iubmb Life, 2000. 49(3): p. 173-176.
2. Dyson, F., Origins of Life. 1985: Cambridge University Press.
3. Kauffman, S.A., The Origins of Order: Self-organisation and Selection in Evolution. 1993, New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
4. von Neumann, J., Theory of self-reproducing automata, ed. A.W. Burks. 1966, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
5. Yockey, H.P., Information theory and molecular biology. 1992, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
6. Joyce, G.F., RNA Evolution and the Origins of Life. Nature, 1989. 338(6212): p. 217-224.
7. Denton, M.J., Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Univers. 1998: The Free Press.
8. Rasmussen, S., C. Knudsen, and R. Fieldberg, Dynamics of programmable matter, in Artificial Life II, SFI Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, C.G. Langton, et al., Editors. 1991, Addison-Wesley: Redwood City, CA. p. 211-254.
9. Sowerby, S.J., et al., Self-programmable, self-assembling two-dimensional genetic matter. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 2000. 30(1): p. 81-99.
10. Ferris, J.P. and J.W.J. Hagan, HCN and chemical evolution: The possible role of cyano compounds in prebiotic synthesis. Tetrahedron, 1984. 40(7): p. 1093-1120.
11. Minard, R.D., et al., Structural investigations of hydrogen cyanide polymers: New insights using TMAH thermochemolysis/GC-MS. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 1998. 28: p. 461-473.
12. Levy, M., et al., Prebiotic synthesis of adenine and amino acids under Europa- like conditions. Icarus, 2000. 145(2): p. 609-613.
13. Brack, A., From amino acids to prebiotic active peptides: A chemical reconstitution. Pure and Applied Chemistry, 1993. 65(6): p. 1143-1151.
14. Bujdak, J., et al., Peptide-Chain Elongation - a Possible Role of Montmorillonite in Prebiotic Synthesis of Protein Precursors. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 1995. 25(5): p. 431-441.
15. Bujdak, J. and B.M. Rode, The effect of smectite composition on the catalysis of peptide bond formation. J Mol Evol, 1996. 43(4): p. 326-33.
16. Bujdak, J., H. LeSon, and B.M. Rode, Montmorillonite catalyzed peptide bond formation: The effect of exchangeable cations. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, 1996. 63(2): p. 119-124.
17. Bujdak, J. and B.M. Rode, Silica, alumina, and clay-catalyzed alanine peptide bond formation. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 1997. 45(5): p. 457-466.
18. Bujdak, J. and B.M. Rode, Silica, alumina and clay catalyzed peptide bond formation: Enhanced efficiency of alumina catalyst. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 1999. 29(5): p. 451-461.
19. Orgel, L.E., Polymerization on the rocks: Theoretical introduction. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 1998. 28(3): p. 227-234.
20. Rode, B.M., et al., The combination of salt induced peptide formation reaction and clay catalysis: A way to higher peptides under primitive earth conditions. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 1999. 29(3): p. 273-286.
21. Heckl, W.M., et al., Two-dimensional ordering of the DNA base guanine observed by scanning tunneling microscopy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1991. 88: p. 8003-8005.
22. Sowerby, S.J., W.M. Heckl, and G.B. Petersen, Chiral symmetry breaking during the self-assembly of monolayers from achiral purine molecules. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 1996. 43(5): p. 419-424.
23. Sowerby, S.J. and G.B. Petersen, Scanning tunneling microscopy of uracil monolayers self- assembled at the solid/liquid interface. Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, 1997. 433(1-2): p. 85-90.
24. Sowerby, S.J., M. Edelwirth, and W.M. Heckl, Molecular mechanics simulation of uracil adlayers on molybdenum disulfide and graphite surfaces. Applied Physics a-Materials Science & Processing, 1998. 66: p. S649-S653.
25. Sowerby, S.J., et al., Scanning tunneling microscopy image contrast as a function of scan angle in hydrogen-bonded self-assembled monolayers. Langmuir, 1998. 14(18): p. 5195-5202.
26. Sowerby, S.J., M. Edelwirth, and W.M. Heckl, Self-assembly at the prebiotic solid-liquid interface: Structures of self-assembled monolayers of adenine and guanine bases formed on inorganic surfaces. Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 1998. 102(30): p. 5914-5922.
27. Sowerby, S.J. and W.M. Heckl, The role of self-assembled monolayers of the purine and pyrimidine bases in the emergence of life. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 1998. 28(3): p. 283-310.
28. Sowerby, S.J. and G.B. Petersen, Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy and Molecular Modelling of Xanthine Monolayers Self-assembled at the Solid-Liquid Interface: Relevance to the Origin of Life. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 1999. 29(6).
29. Srinivasan, R., et al., Electrochemical STM of condensed guanine on graphite. Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, 1991. 312: p. 293-300.
30. Srinivasan, R. and J.C. Murphy, STM observations of two-dimensional condensed layers on solid electrodes. Ultramicroscopy, 1992. 42-44: p. 453-459.
31. Tao, N.J. and Z. Shi, Kinetics of Oxidation of Guanine Monolayers At the Graphite- Water Interface Studied By AFM/STM. Journal of Physical Chemistry, 1994. 98(31): p. 7422-7426.
32. Tao, N.J., J.A. DeRose, and S.M. Lindsay, Self-assembly of molecular superstructures studied by in situ scanning tunneling microscopy: DNA bases on Au(111). Journal of Physical Chemistry, 1993. 97: p. 910-919.
33. Tao, N.J. and Z. Shi, Monolayer Guanine and Adenine On Graphite in NaCl Solution - a Comparative Stm and Afm Study. Journal of Physical Chemistry, 1994. 98(5): p. 1464-1471.
34. Tao, N.J. and Z. Shi, Potential Induced Changes in the Electronic States of Monolayer Guanine On Graphite in NaCl Solution. Surface Science, 1994. 301(1-3): p. L217-L223.

Subject: Neo-Darwinsim
Thu, 20 Jul 2000 18:00:49 +1000
From: Geordie Torr

Dear Mr Klyce,

I recently visited your website, but I confess, I didn't read any of the information about Cosmic Ancestry. As a fervent "neo-Darwinist", I headed straight for the NEO-DARWINISM: THE CURRENT PARADIGM section. I realise that you are pushing an unpopular theory, but I think that it's a shame that you feel that you have to denigrate the theory of evolution in order to do so.

I'm always saddened (not to mention a little annoyed) when I see attacks on evolution, just as I'm saddened by the continued presence of astrology sections in our magazines and newspapers. Often these attacks are dressed up, as yours is, in a cloak of respectability. The arguments are often persuasive, but this is generally because they are liberal with or misrepresent the facts. And because these arguments are so persuasive, I'm sure that many people who read them are swayed by them.

I'm sure that greater minds than mine have pointed out errors in your attack before, and I'm sure that many have argued more clearly and eloquently than I will, but I'm in the mood for an argument, so I'll give you my 2 cents worth. And I have to wonder why you've failed to be swayed by the arguments thrown at you in the past - do you still believe what you've written or are you deliberately misleading the people who visit your site?

I'm only going to tackle one of your arguments. I quote: "One problem with this story is that it is implausible. It is analogous to saying that a great work of literature such as Moby Dick could emerge from lesser preexisting books, if there were enough typos and swapping of paragraphs along the way. The trouble is, when this process is actually attempted with text, it never succeeds. Only with guidance can random processes lead to meaningful sentences or paragraphs."

This of course is the old "a million monkeys typing for a million years" argument. Anti-evolutionists pull this one out time and time again, proving little more than that they fail to understand the theory of natural selection. You are quite right that it's incredibly unlikely that "a great work of literature such as Moby Dick could emerge from lesser preexisting books, if there were enough typos and swapping of paragraphs along the way". As you say, "Only with guidance can random processes lead to meaningful sentences or paragraphs." And this is where the problem lies. Under the theory of evolution, there is indeed a force of guidance - it'scalled natural selection. The operative word being "selection".

Of course, most neo-Darwinists shy away from a term like "guidance", because it implies some sort of divine intervention - an intelligence behind it all - but if you're driving a car, the road guides you to where you want to go. That doesn't mean that the road is intelligent. And so, the environment, acting through the process of natural selection, guides evolution.

If you were to take a "lesser preexisting book" and make 10 000 copies of it, each with a random selection of typos and paragraph swaps. Then take the copy that was most similar to Moby Dick and make another 10 000 copies, again, with typos etc., repeating the process over say, a couple of hundred thousand years, surely you would agree that there's a very good chance that somewhere along the way, you would end up with something that very closely resembled Moby Dick (even with modern spellcheckers and proofreaders, I'm sure you could find some typos in most editions of Moby Dick out there).

So, organisms reproduce, churning out numerous copies of themselves, each with a few typos and swapped paragraphs. Many die because the typos render them unfit. But those that best suit their environment reproduce, passing on the meaningful words and sentences that their parents had, and any useful typos that cropped up during genetic recombination. And so on.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I'll leave it there. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this matter.... All the best,

Geordie Torr | Australian Geographic | 321 Mona Vale Road (PO Box 321) | Terrey Hills NSW 2084 | AUSTRALIA | Ph: 61 2 9450 2344 | Fax: 61 2 9450 2990 |

Neo-Darwinism: The Current Paradigm is the referenced CA webpage.
...Is Evolutionary Progress... Possible? is also a related CA webpage.

Subject: The page has motivated me...
Fri, 21 Jul 2000 14:40:13 -0700
From: Scott Long
Organization: SwiftView, Inc.


I am a computer science student. After reading the material on this page, I've been strongly motivated to consider a change of focus, to biology. I've always had an interest in evolutionary theory -- and I've also always felt strong misgivings about it. The major questions that have been in my mind all along are the same questions raised by your site. To be specific about it:

1) If life came from non-living matter, why do we see no evidence of this and why is it so hard to reproduce it under laboratory conditions? In the lab we have exquisite control over the process and yet still no life evolves. If we cannot make it happen with intelligence, how could CHANCE have caused it?

2) How is it possible that life evolves through consecutive genetic mutations, when we observe complex and almost foolproof error-checking and error-correction mechanisms in living cells? It seems that living cells stamp out mutations, not encourage and benefit by them. For a mutation to survive, it would have to occur simultaneously with some other event that disables this error-correction mechanism. One would think that if evolution were driven by mutation, there would be opposite mechanisms in place: mechanisms that ENCOURAGE mutation. No such mechanisms exist.

3) If evolution is supposedly pushed in a "forward" direction through natural selection, how do we explain the continuing existence of bacteria and other "primitive" forms of life? If natural selection is correct, then the force driving the evolution of more complex life was competition with these bacteria. And since we obviously have succeeded in evolving, we must have out-performed the bacteria. So why do they still exist? If they still exist, that means they are not a competitor, and without a competitor how were we driven to evolve?

Thank you very much for collecting all this information in one place. It is difficult to perform research on such topics since they are kept in the basement of science (which decidedly is NOT where they should be).

I hope that in the future I might be able to combine my extensive experience in computer science with a study of biology to aid in research in these directions. Something about it "feels" right to me.

Once again thank you.

Scott Long

Subject: Re: Interview for Astrobiology Website
Thu, 13 Jul 2000 09:21:13 -0500
From: Brig Klyce
To: Katie Harris

Dear Brig Klyce,

Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed! Here are the questions:

Q: How did you become interested in science and the theory of panspermia?

I always had doubts about the ability of Darwinian evolution to produce the evolutionary progress that leads from prokaryotes to people. In 1981 I read a book by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that suggested a new solution to the problem. -- That's about panspermia. I've been interested in science since I was a child. To me, science is simply wonder that gets pursued with some kind of discipline.

Q: On your website,, your stress that cosmic ancestry is "more than panspermia". What is the distinction between the two?

The term "panspermia" seems to have been invented by Arrhenius. To him it meant germs spread through the galaxy by light pressure. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe proposed comets as the vehicles -- that's modern panspermia. And they suggested that not only the origin of life, but evolutionary progress also requires genetic input from elsewhere -- that's "strong" panspermia. My own addition is to marry panspermia with Gaia (which match holds little interest for Hoyle and Wickramasinghe or Lovelock.) That is, germs from space colonize a planet and engineer it to be suitable for higher life forms. If the genetic instructions are present, higher life forms emerge when the environment permits -- that's Cosmic Ancestry.

Q: Theories of cosmic ancestry propose that life on Earth originated from bacterial spores carried here on meteorites and asteroids. Is it likely that any life, even hardy bacterial life, could have survived the many hazards (with freezing temperatures, deadly cosmic rays and ultraviolet radiation being a few examples) that would have been encountered on such a journey?

People used to think those hazards would doom life in space, but no longer. Bacteria are far hardier that was believed only a decade ago. Also, comets can protect germs from radiation damage.

Q: In your opinion, does the theory of panspermia hold more credibility than Darwinism and the theory of evolution? Why or why not?

It does because it does not depend on chance to compose the genetic programs for life. This process is implausible. And it's undemonstrated, not in biology nor in computer models. The creationists are right to harp on this point, but their alternative is unscientific. Science cannot analyze the supernatural.

Q: Should the theory of panspermia be taught in classrooms along with the theory of evolution?

Yes! A few colleges and universities are already doing this, and most have Internet links to my site.

Q: What do you feel is the strongest evidence supporting the theory of panspermia (and Cosmic Ancestry)?

Several of the predictions of panspermia have been upheld in the past 25 years such as complex organic compounds in space, life's rapid start on Earth, punctuated equilibrium in evolution, and the importance of horizontal gene transfer in evolution. But the best reason to pay atention to the theory, in my opinion, is that the existing theory is unsatisfactory. Its account of evolutionary progress hasn't been shown to work.... Thanks.

Astrobiology: The Living Universe has this and other interviews, and more.

Subject: Whooping cough
Sun, 2 Jul 2000 17:37:21 +0100
From: Stephen Senn

Dear Brig,
You asked me some time ago about information on the periodicity of whooping cough and whether it has changed. A recent article from the Lancet,
Mass vaccination has led to a large decrease in reported cases of whooping cough in England and Wales [registration required], may be of interest:

Whooping cough in London

"Although the mass vaccination programmes against Bordetella pertussis infection that started in the 1950s have led to a decrease in disease frequency, they have not been thought to reduce transmission. Instances of symtomless pertussis reinfection indicate that the disease may persist despite vaccination. Pejman Rohani and colleagues therefore sought to debunk this assumption by assessing the duration of the period between epidemics from a large dataset. They argue that the significant increase in this period, from 2-3 years to nearly 4 years, shows that a substantial drop in pertussis transmission has occurred in the ten largest cities in England and Wales.

"The investigators also studied the pattern of fade-outs (the frequency and duration of reports of no cases in particular locations), which they found to have increased in number and duration since the start of vaccination."
Stephen Senn
An exchange with Stephen Senn, 26 April 1998, introduces this topic.

Subject: I like your website
Sun, 25 Jun 2000 13:02:17 -0700
From: Larry Rudd

Mr. Klyce,

I enjoy your thorough treatment of your position at your website. I especially appreciate the links you have provided in your articles as well as the numerous citations. I am a Christian and believe that the earth (and the universe) are very old. This is a somewhat controversial position within current evangelical circles, however, that is another topic all together. What I'm interested in is your opinion of the work of Dr. Hugh Ross in the area of creation research. Are you familiar with it? This last weekend he unveiled a testable creation model and offered it for scrutiny from anyone willing to do so. Some of the theories you bring up in your material are addressed in this new model. I feel you should be at least aware of this because it differs quite a bit from what is looked at today as "science" about creation from Christian circles. [Mars: Evidence for E.T. or Confirmation of Design?]

Thank you again for putting the effort in your website, it is laid out nicely and documented very well.

Larry Rudd

Subject: Great Site
Wed, 14 Jun 2000 13:14:00 -0600
From: David A. Cook

What a great site you have. Extremely well organized, thorough, and up to date. Congratulations.

I have an undergraduate degree in Biology and was, of course, "raised" on the orthodox Darwinian evolutionary dogma. It always seemed to me that there had to be much more to the story. In medical school, the more I learned about human anatomy, physiology, etc., the more I was impressed by the complex inter-related systems necessary for us to function, and the more impossible it seemed to me that Darwinian evolution could explain it. Several years ago I ran across some of Hoyle's writings on cosmic dust spectra, viral transduction as a mechanism for evolution etc. and I have been fascinated ever since. I don't know if it's correct or not but to me it has the great attraction of fitting the facts better than the orthodox theories. I have a hard time understanding why it hasn't been better accepted or received more attention. Perhaps because it opens the door for a "creationist" interpretation: viral transduction makes a great tool for intelligent design. We're doing it ourselves, after all, in medical research today. We can realistically anticipate the day when we may be able to introduce to another planet (Mars, Ganymede, Europa etc.) simple, hardy bacteria, algeas, lichens, etc., then over time as change in the environment was gradually produced to introduce (or induce) more complex organsims, gradually up to include something resembling us. I wouldn't argue if someone labeled a race of beings who could do that sort of creation gods. Be that as it may, thanks for the great site. Honest scientists should support the hypotheses and theories that best fit the facts. In my opinion yours has supplanted orthodox Darwinism for now. I hope soon most scientists will be honest and open minded enough to recognize it.

David A. Cook, MD

Subject: Panspermia Website
Tue, 23 May 2000 21:50:25 +0100
From: Mr Roger Downham

For me, this is the best site on the web - it targets one of my interests in depth, provides a huge range of references, and doesn't waste the viewer's time with fancy graphics or adverts. Keep up the good work!

I run a much more modest website on behalf of my local astronomical society, and we don't get many hits; still, I may add a link to your site next time I update! Let me know if I can help in any other way - apart from a couple of Open University maths courses I don't have much else to do at present.

best wishes
Roger Downham

Subject: SETI bioastro: Panspermia
Mon, 8 May 2000 14:23:07 -0700
From: R. P. Olowin

Dear Colleagues,

Might it be interesting to broadcast our genome on one of the congnants of the electromagnetic spectrum and have the ET's, on reception, build one of us themselves? Nuturing and memory bank instructions along the beam as well, of course. It would be the ultimate in interstellar "travel."

With best wishes,
-- Ron

R. P. Olowin | Professor and Chair, Department of Physics & Astronomy | Saint Mary's College | 1928 Saint Mary's Road | Moraga, California 94575 |

Subject: wonderful site
Thu, 27 Apr 2000 14:05:22 -0500
From: Robyn Broyden

I found your site to be a wonderful resource for a term paper I am writing on Panspermia in an Origins of Life seminar for this semester. The extended documentation and responsibility towards scientific proof in your site let me use your information with confidence of validity. I also appreciated the daily updates and links to current scientific releases of related topics, not only did it allow me to further my research with the most current information, but it also expanded my thinking and discussion of possible ramifications and interests of this theory.

I congratulate you on your diligence and sense of responsibility of this site as a scientific endeavor. Good luck on any future projects, and I will keep this site bookmarked in anticipation of further developments.

Thank you,... ro

Subject: Thanks for your website!
Fri, 21 Apr 2000 00:03:33 +1200
From: Nate Cull

Hi... As a complete layman (computer system administrator, though with a growing fascination for genetics, as a kind of hobby) I've found your site to be the most concise, informative and stimulating of its kind on the entire Web.

Being a computer programmer, I've always had difficulty with the standard Darwinian model for development of the genome - I'm familiar with projects like Tierra (and before that, A K Dewdley's "Core Wars", which I believe had similar problems in that selection pressures drove simpler, not more complex, programs/organisms to survive), and I agree that systems like these look like the best models we have available to see evolution in action. And the results we're getting look at best discouraging for the Darwinian paradigm, and at worst - well, I have a feeling the next couple of decades could be very interesting.

Reading your exchange with Jon Richfield, I had to laugh out loud. It seemed obvious that he, while obviously skilled in his particular field, is not a practicing software developer. The analogies and definitions you used, equating genetic information with software modules, seemed to me to be precise, exact and insightful. The argument that "progress" is an essentially undefinable term wouldn't count for much in a modern software company - even an Open Source project. As would the idea that any random modification to a living genome is as likely to be harmless as it is to improve the organism.

We've had fifty years of experience in the software industry to teach us that in computing systems, at least, it just Don't Work That Way. Generally, the more complex a coding system, the more fragile it is and the more susceptible it is to complete system failure if any part of the whole is damaged. Regression errors are the bane of all large software development projects, as any experienced coder (or even interested industry observer) will tell you. Aggressive modularity (as in Object Oriented design or component architectures) will help somewhat, but these systems introduce vast complexities of their own, and thus can tend to (at least initially) increase overall fragility rather than reduce it.

Okay, it's possible that the DNA encoding mechanism itself has somehow stumbled on an amazingly efficient, self-correcting algorithm for transmuting random noise into signal. That there's some inherent magic in the cellular coding system which we aren't seeing in our computer systems. This is entirely possible, and if it is, we should be able to crack this secret just like we cracked the codon assignments themselves. But from what I understand, now that we know roughly how the mechanism works, this just isn't the case. A gene, from all appearances, codes for a complex string of amino acids which folds into a protein. Any point errors in the copying process are likely to produce a non-functional (or hazardous) protein. There might be something weird going on with the introns, but it's not clear what that might be. By all surface appearances a cell is simply a machine for preserving, executing, and replicating the instruction codes it already has - not for generating new codes.

The main problem I have, as you also describe, is this: Darwinian evolution is supposed to be driven by random point mutations (mixed with transpositions) of existing genes. However, it seems that genes are _complete functional units comprised of very low-level sequence-dependent code_, which simply do not operate meaningfully when reduced to their component parts and remixed. Everything we know from computing tells us that codes like these (microcode, machine language, even high-level algorithmic languages) when exposed to even small point mutations will suffer catastrophic systemwide errors. This is intuitive to a software engineer, but not to an evolutionary biologist. Presumably there is some deep Zen mystery to Darwinism, or to carbon-chain chemistry as a computing system, which I'm just not getting.

I admit I'm not particularly well-trained in genetics, though I would like to further my education so I can at least converse intelligently about the things I don't understand. And I'm willing to change my (admittedly predjudiced) opinion if I can be shown a plausible simulation of Darwinian evolution, executing in real-time or near enough, which can be demonstrated to add new useful information to a genome. (Such a system would change the face of programming overnight. It would probably be the single most important discovery in computing and information theory in general).

But the Darwinian position - if people like Richfield are representative spokesmen - still appears to me to be, summed up: "We know that random point mutations produced the millions of complete, functional, genetic software units we see executing around us in the biosphere, because there is no other conceivable mechanism by which these might have been produced." That to me is not a persuasive argument, and I'm amazed at the hostility which results from anyone pointing this out.

I'd like to thank you once again for your site. Whether or not the Cosmic Ancestry theory is viable (it does seem to require an infinite universe, which is not currently a popular position in astrophysics), you've gathered and presented some extremely compelling, and rarely-mentioned, material. Thank you for having the courage to swim against the tide, and the intelligence to make it look easy.

Regards... Nate
nate cull / ...

Jon Richfield's essay, "Plausibility..." introduces the referenced exchange.

Subject: ?
Wed, 12 Apr 2000 18:17:13 -0400
From: Leejay Rudenjak

Hunting for answers to some questions pertaining to numerical ancestry so as to have some facts behind poetic ideas for a song or two, I stumbled onto your panspermia site.

My friends and I do like to think in the ways you do in your articles How Is It Possible and What Difference Does It Make, and it was fun to read some of your ideas and your pulling together of existing science and making extrapolations.

However, through my recent thinking--as cosmic, but directed more or less backwards to life origins, and under the general heading of "how strongly we are still like the most primitive of our ancestors in important ways" (to me, most all of human culture comes directly from the basic two or three instincts of living things and from one or two primitive fears we have as thinking beings)--I have come to feel more and more nihilistic.Fortunately, there is comfort in that, ultimately, when you follow Nietszche and Schopenhauer et al. and subjectively embrace life out of the ashes of what's left after stripping away fiction.

I couldn't help but think, in reading all your excited ideas about just how we are to survive things like the sun's death (which I too have always worried about; as have countless others [Woody Allen, famously, in, I think, Take the Money and Run or one of those, where his younger self can't get up for doing homework because of the futility of it vis a vis the sun's ultimate fate) just how strongly I sensed that you were motivated in your thinking by the most primitive of instincts: to reproduce, to survive.Sort of driven by the sex drive.And, as usual for all of us, without knowing it.That bothers me, in myself, etc.; as if we are puppets of instinct.

My question these days (especially in light of how bad our species has been for the world we live on, and how likely it is that our big brains are merely an impediment not just to"happiness" but to species survival etc. (have you read "Galapagos" by Vonnegut?), is why in the world we NEED to survive at all.Wouldn't it be better for the world/universe for us to stop reproducing, etc.... Does it need to be a bad thing that we die as individuals or as a species; or a solar system or a galaxy?... I think not.... And beyond that, what's the value of our genes being on another world in some future distant place, when it is our ideas that matter, and personalities.... Must we infest the universe with our traits?

Just a thought... Leejay Rudenjak

Dear Leejay... A short answer.... Thanks for the recommendations.... It seems to me that we want to survive because we are programmed to. I puzzled a lot about this early on in my research. Atoms survive anyway, so why is it better for cells to reproduce and survive in the manner of life, when the survivor is mostly different atoms? But what's surviving is the meaning in the instructions (genes) and their consequences -- the phenotype. In this way (but not others) I think Dawkins is right.

We want to survive for the same puzzling reason that bacteria "want" to -- we're programmed. Even after we are aware of the situation, it seems reasonable to accept the mission to keep the ball rolling.... A future culture on Earth will surely (?) agree with you that in the 20th century people made a mess of things. But perhaps we will evolve and undertake to beautify things. Hey, cool. Have faith.... I feel liberated and relaxed by my new philosophy.

Subject: introns/exons...multiplex/demultiplex/etc.
Wed, 12 Apr 2000 00:00:56 -0500
From: Melody Cloud

Dear Brig:

Introns...Exons...whatever. Here's a thought for you. Introns/exons are the genetic equivalent of carrier waves. The signal--in this case, the particular protein to be coded via the RNA sequence--is modulated and sent (from what transmitter?) and then received demodulated (is this a word?) at the destination (to what receiver?).

Just a thought.... Keep up the good work.... Sincerely, Melody Akins
"Take The Shoes Off Your Mind!"(c)

P. S. The Mormon theology (if we even have one:) has interesting things to say about the interstellar origins of life.

Subject: Possiblity?
Tue, 11 Apr 2000 23:06:35 +0530
From: M F Adajania

Dear Brig,... I have been following your site of late, the points you touch are of profound implications, possible, and certainly deserves more attention than has been given to date. Of all the follies of human nature the most glaring especially in scientific circles is to differentiate between a possible solution and agree to it as being a possible solution against a solution which you take it to be too personal.

Let me present to you a different point of view, which I am sure you will give patient hearing. How much do we know about the universe, how much can we see what's going on in the universe (that includes all the telescopes we have made till date), how much can we hear about what is going on in the universe, how much space do we occupy in the universe, how much can we affect the going on in the universe. If the answer to any of this above questions is greater than 0.01% I will be surprised.

Now of all the other things unknown, can you not say at least theoretically that out of the so many things we do not know there could be a possibility of god? Not god as superman, not god as an overseer, no but absolute god, the creator, the maintainer and the destroyer.

Now for the "mahiyar's paradox". Suppose there were no god there is nothing to prove that there is god, we have enough confidence in our abilities to find the unknown, to find the remaining 99.99%, even if it takes eons. Now I ask if this was possible then after eons after knowing that 99.99% what would happen, we would know all. The past, The present, The future. And what would we become --- "Gods". Which we have refuted in the first place, we cannot accept anybody like "God". The conclusion -- we can never know 100% of everything.

The above arguments troubles me greatly, please advise me about it (find some flaws, so that I am satisfied), or at least somebody who will advise me about it.... THANKS

Mahiyar F Adajania

Subject: the pope's comment on evolution
Sat, 29 Jan 2000 01:13:16 -0500
From: Cj

  • The Pope's original statement was in French and the translation error (into English) was made by L'Osservatore Romano when it first published the text.
  • The original text read: " nouvelles connaissances conduisent a reconnaitre dans la theorie de l'evolution plus qu'une hypothese."
  • The incorrect translation by L'Osservatore read: "... new knowledge has led to the recognition of more than one theory of evolution."
  • The correct translation read: "... new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis."


    Evolution vs Creationism is the related CA webpage.

    Subject: Viruses as "condensates" in the upper atmosphere?
    Fri, 28 Jan 2000 01:49:38 -0500
    From: Bill Gardiner

    Dear Brig,... Your work in particular, all the discussion and data regarding Lou Frank's "atmospheric holes (or more ambitiously, "water comets"), certain mythic elements of cultural anthropology and Eric J. Lerner's amplification of Hannes Alfven's "plasma cosmology", correlations of flu and encephalitis outbreaks with major weather events (e.g., occurrence of an "Egyptian" variety of encephalitis on the east coast of the U.S. following hurricane Floyd last year), ice falls from fair skies in Spain recently, the recent discovery of exposed "dinosaur egg fossils" in Patagonia reputedly some 80 million years old, plus a plethora of Hubble Space Telescope images, have lead me to independently hypothesize with you that viruses and other life forms have a direct, current and active "cosmic origin." (I discussed this in broad terms with Prof. Hoyle in the early 70's when he made a visit to Indiana University where I was an undergraduate in biology doing some thermodynamic research on microbial endosymbiosis with Prof. Arthur Koch). However, I believe the focus on meteorite analysis alone is a response to some of the "Master Magician's" sleight-of-hand and misdirection.

    I suspect there is a hitherto undescribed bio-chemico-physical process by which both energy and genetic information is transferred directly from incident "space plasma" to the earth's magneto-biosphere where both water, viral and mineral material is directly condensing at various heights in the earth's upper atmosphere, including the exosphere where Lou Frank's localized hydroxyl absorption phenomena have been observed. This could be a process analogous to industrial electroplating but at a higher level of complexity and energy and involving biomass in addition to mineralogical outfall ( i.e., classic "meteoritic material"). An extreme version of this would be that many, if not all meteorites, are not present in "streams" in space at all, but are principally condensation phenomena of near space.

    If this hypothesis in some form is correct, then we would expect the following:

  • a mis-match between measured frequencies of extra atmospheric meteoritic activity and the observed influx of atmospheric meteors;
  • extreme endergonic and exergonic reactions taking place in the upper atmosphere as a result of the condensation process, possibly mediated by hitherto undiscovered forms of bacteria or protobacteria ("energetic coacervates"?) and perhaps accompanied by other energetic phenomena such as gamma ray bursts;
  • a finding of odd mixtures of amino acids, perhaps even proteins in the vicinity of infalls;.

    Follow-up Questions: What biochemical-viral evidence, if any has been collected at celebrated sites such as Tunguska? Do you know of any epidemiologist(s) stationed at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control here in the Atlanta, Georgia area who may be attentive if not sympathetic to your ideas whom I may attempt to contact with further questions?

    Keep up the excellent investigative work! Thanks so much for your splendid effort.... Best regards,... William W. ("Bill") Gardiner, President and Laboratory Director, Analytech, a Division of Laboratory Consulting Sources, Inc.

    Subject: panspermia fish
    Paul A Parkanzky
    Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 16:01:55 -0500 (EST)

    Hello, I really enjoy your website, and I have one question: Is there such a thing as a panspermia fish? I'm talking about a fish you can put on your car. First there was the Jesus-fish, then the darwin-fish (with legs) and then the Jesus-fish eating the darwin fish and now there's a whole plethora of fish for people to display in order to let everyone know exactly how they feel. However, I have yet to see any kind of panspermia fish! Does one exist? If so, where can I pick one up? If not, there definately should be one.... --Paul

    Dear Paul -- Thanks. We'll think about this!

    Subject: Useful info from a pro
    Date: Sun, 09 Jan 2000 18:35:34 -0800
    From: Frank L. Lambert

    Dear Mr. Klyce:... As an old chemistry prof, I've spent some time in the last year+ working on tutorials in the second law of thermodynamics, and

    Your site on the second law has been described by some search engines as "puzzling". Nonsense.

    Perhaps it is to non-technical people, but I think it is a _remarkably_ good job, especially considering that neither chemistry nor physics (nor math) are your specialties. You have an excellent list of references -- a couple of which I thought only a few of us "insiders" knew about!

    Admittedly, a complexity to many in and out of science and a source of confusion, is that abominable adoption of 'entropy' by Shannon to name his H function. This is why I always use quotes around the word when I am also discussing physical thermodynamic entropy.

    The Journal of Chemical Education just published an article of mine (that, in an unusual move they have made available on line: )

    It deals with an old textbook (and lecture) error of identifying a shuffled deck of cards as having a higher physical thermodynamic entropy than a new deck. This is nonsense because it equates the states of dynamic, spontaneously mobile molecules with the non-mobile pieces of cardboard. But some chemists have said that, "Oh, the inclusion of information "entropy" will change that situation." My article explicitly supports your (and many others') statement that the two kinds of entropy are totally different -- info "entropy" adds nothing to thermo entropy -- UNLESS the "k" involving temperature is explicitly inserted in info "entropy", in which case one is specifically doing a radical transform -- changing info "entropy" into thermo entropy. (The latter in ALL its equations has T explicitly in them.)

    You can use or quote the article in any way. J.Chem.Educ. might require an acknowledgement for any lengthy quote but you can use my statements as you wish.

    Though your Web page on the Second Law of Thermo is fine for mature individuals, for youngsters in college, desperate for a little help in their first course or courses, it is too broad. I wish that you could append a reference and a link to That 25 pages of typewritten material was specifically written for the beginner as a motivator and 'encourager' -- no equations, no math. (They'll get plenty of that in their courses!)

    Alternatively, for an easy entree to the meaning and molecular implications of entropy, I'd greatly appreciate your including a link to Still informal and conversational, it is a bit more technical and tied to current high-end first-year chem texts to encourage youngsters in this difficult area.

    You might be specifically interested in one section of (accessible via a click on the Home Page): The second law and evolution. In it, I bring out a fact obvious to chemists but unknown to most: that most complex compounds are energetically FAVORED by thermodynamics as compared to the elements. Thus, the presence of complex substances in space is a given -- (as an amusing illustration of the type of multicyclic substances known to be in space, even, remotely, St. John's Wort's anti-depressive ingredient!!)

    Congratulations on a great site. Hope these comments on thermo entropy vs. info "entropy" are of interest to you.... Best wishes,... Frank Lambert / Professor Emeritus, Chemistry / Occidental College / Los Angeles, CA 90041

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the related CA webpage.

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