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What'sNEW Archives, January - March 1998

1998, March 26: The importance of horizontal gene transfer in evolution is becoming apparent to mainstream biologists. Gerard Deckert et al. have published in Nature yet another complete genome sequence, and the additional data "show no consistent picture of the organism's phylogeny," contrary to the sequencers' expectations. In commentary Russell F. Doolittle writes, "The evidence for [horizontal gene] transfer between distantly related bacteria is strong, however." Meanwhile, geneticists Margaret C. Smith et al. observe that collagen, which accounts for over 30% of the total body protein in animals, is also encoded in the genomic sequences of bacteriophages. They wonder if collagen was "passed horizontally to animals" from phages.
Subsequent commentary about the latest sequence has been interesting. "In the course of evolution whole suites of genes have apparently been transferred sideways...," writes Nicholas Wade in The New York Times. And in Science Elizabeth Pennisi writes, "Not too long ago, attributing an unusual result to lateral transfer would have raised quite a few eyebrows. ...But the microbial genomes have made the idea respectable." Cosmic Ancestry requires the horizontal transfer of genes. Evidence for such transfer confirms a prediction of the theory.

Deckert, Gerard et al. (14 others). "The complete genome of the hyperthermic bacterium Aquifex aeolicus" [summary], p 353-358 v 392 Nature. 26 March 1998.
Doolittle, Russell F. "Microbial genomes opened up" p 339-342 v 392 Nature. 26 March 1998.
Pennisi, Elizabeth. "Genome Data Shake Tree of Life" p 672-674 v 280 Science. 1 May 1998.
Smith, Margaret C.; Neil Burns; Jon R. Sayers; Julian A. Sorrell; Sherwood R. Casjens and Roger W. Hendrix. "Bacteriophage Collagen" [article], doi:10.1126/science.279.5358.1831g, p 1831 v 279 Science. 20 March 1998.
Wade, Nicholas. "Tree of Life Turns Out to Have Complex Roots" The New York Times. 14 April 1998.
Viruses... is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]

1998, March 21: There appear to be two distinct classes of Kuiper-belt objects, as distinguished by color. "...One consists of objects whose surface colours are only slightly redder than the colour of the Sun, while the other consists of the reddest objects known in the Solar System" (Tegler and Romanishin). "The classes of red and grey Kuiper-belt objects... could thus mark out a simple distinction between objects that are biologically active and those that are not" (Wickramasinghe and Hoyle).

Tegler, S. C. and W. Romanishin. "Two distinct populations of Kuiper-belt objects" p 49-51 v 392 Nature. 5 March 1998.
Wickramasinghe, N. C. and F. Hoyle. "The Astonishing Redness of Kuiper-belt Objects" p 369-372 v 268, Astrophysics and Space Science, 1999. (Cosmic Ancestry has a preprint.)
Chapman, Clark R. "Two shades beyond Neptune" p 16-17 v 392 Nature. 5 March 1998.
Comets: The Delivery System is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
The Astonishing Redness of Kuiper-Belt Objects, 21 March 1998, is the CA preprint.

1998, March 20: The 29th Lunar and Planetary Conference (LPSC), March 16-20 1998, features many talks, posters, and abstracts related to the martian meteorite ALH 84001 and its possible evidence for ancient martian life. Among other reports, one by Kathie Thomas-Keprta et al. reports at least a hundred examples of magnetite in the meteorite in a six-sided columnar shape that, on Earth, is made only by bacteria. At least 41 presentations of research on (or related to) ALH 84001 will be given at the conference in Houston. Abstracts of these works are available at the conference website, with links to full text in PDF format.

29th LPSC Abstracts of Interest
Chandler, David L. "Mars life theory gains momentum" The Boston Globe, 21 March 1998.
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

strange bacterium 1998, March 13: Two scientists exploring a microworld locked in ancient ice have found a wide range of lifeforms from fungi, algae, and bacteria to a few diatoms - and a few items with strange shapes. "We've found some really bizarre things - things that we've never seen before," said Richard Hoover of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Hoover and Dr. S.S. Abyzov of the Russian Academy of Sciences have been examining deep ice core samples from the Vostok Station about 1,000 km (620 miles) from the South Pole.

Unusual lifeforms found in Antarctic ice samples
Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
Fossilized Life Forms in the Murchison Meteorite has more about Hoover's research.

Europa examined 1998, March 2: New images taken by NASA's Galileo's spacecraft during its closest-ever flyby of Jupiter's moon Europa were unveiled on Mon., March 2, at a briefing at Brown University, Providence, RI. The new pictures, taken during the spacecraft's Dec. 16, 1997 flyby are available on the Internet. Europa holds great fascination for scientists because of the prospects that a liquid ocean might lie underneath its icy crust. The presence of water would increase the odds that life may have existed at some point in Europa's history. The new pictures include high-resolution views of rough, broadly scalloped icy cliffs on Europa as high as Mt. Rushmore. Other images show an impact crater named Pwyll and the so-called Conamara Chaos region, where icy plates on the surface have broken apart and moved around. One large, icy fracture is big enough to be spanned by the Brooklyn Bridge. New Galileo animation presents a high-resolution look at "wedged terrain" on Europa where new material has risen from below the surface, causing crustal plates to spread and be replaced by newer material. This plate tectonic activity resembles crusts formed in some areas of Earth's sea floor. The new images will be released on the Internet at the following URLs:
Life on Europa... has links to WhatsNEW on Jupiter's and other moons.

Gaia 1998, March 1: A group of distinguished scientists in London launched a new society promoting Gaia science. The society, to be based at the University of East London, includes Gaia's cofounders James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, Harvard sociobiologist E. O. Wilson, environmental researcher Peter Liss, and the director of the British Antarctic Survey, Charles Rapley.

Gaia: The Society for Research and Education in Earth System Science
Kaiser, Jocelyn. "Gaia Hypothesis to Get Some Respect?" doi:10.1126/science.279.5353.973b, p 973 v 279 Science, 13 February 1998.
Gaia is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

1998, February 14: "Earth-based and orbital spectroscopy and Viking Lander data strongly suggest that rocks on Mars are coated with indurated dust deposits," according to a recent report in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets. This phenomenon, better known as "desert varnish," is a thin, dark, black or reddish-brown coating acquired by rocks on deserts everywhere on Earth. Here, desert varnish is created by bacteria — no non-biological creation method is known. It is reasonable to wonder if similar bacteria created the coating on Mars. Thanks to Barry DiGregorio for alerting us about this development. Barry first noted the possibility that martian rocks carried desert varnish in his 1997 book, Mars: The Living Planet.

Israel, E. J.; R. E. Arvidson; A. Wang; J. D. Pasteris and B. L. Jolliff. "Laser Raman spectroscopy of varnished basalt and implications for in situ measurements of Martian rocks" Vol. 102, No. E12, p. 28,705, Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets [abstract], 25 December, 1997.
1997, October 5: A new book by Barry DiGregorio... is a related, archived What'sNEW item.
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

1998, January 29: NASA must spend 13 million dollars per year to upgrade equipment for analyzing returned samples from Mars in 2008, according to Michael Drake, Director of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. NASA's existing equipment will be 20 to 25 years old by then. Analyses of interstellar and cometary dust, and material from an asteroid, scheduled to return in 2006, would also benefit from the improvements. Potential contamination of the samples, or by the samples is also a primary concern. A panel headed by Michael Carr of the US Geological Survey will plan the safe handling of the Mars samples; a separate panel will handle that task for the samples from comets and asteroids.

Reichardt, Tony. "NASA 'needs better analytical equipment'" p 425 v 391 Nature. 29 January 1998.
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

1998, January 15: France is considering taking part in a proposed US spacecraft expedition to collect samples of Martian rock and return them to Earth. The mission has been schedlued for launch in 2005, with the samples returning to Earth in 2008. Under the new proposal, France would launch the mission on its Ariane 5 rocket, with almost twice the payload capacity of the medium sized Atlas or Delta rockets NASA intended to use. A larger returned sample and additional experiments on Mars are among the potential benefits. Collaboration on other "mini missions" is also under discussion.

Reichardt, Tony. "France eyes role in US mission to retrieve rocks from Mars" p 213-214 v 391 Nature. 15 January 1998.
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.

COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | What'sNEW - Later - Earlier - Index | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved