What'sNEW April - June 2017
Life on Europa...? has related links. Thanks, Ronnie McGhee.
Xenon came from comets, Nature News, 08 Jun 2017. Comets: The Delivery System has related information.
Redox stratification of an ancient lake in Gale crater, Mars by J. A. Hurowitz et al., doi:10.1126/science.aah6849, v 356 p 922, Science, 02 Jun 2017.
Diagenetic silica enrichment and late-stage groundwater activity in Gale crater, Mars by J. Frydenvang et al., doi:10.1002/2017GL073323, Geophysical Research Letters, 30 May 2017.
'Halos' on Mars Suggest Conditions for Life Lasted Longer Than Thought, by Mike Wall, Space.com, 30 May 2017.
A fossil on Mars resembles one on Earth, posted 28 Oct 2015: This claim deserves another look, because the strongest argument against it — conditions were never right — has been overturned.
Life on Mars! is the main related local webpage. Thanks, Ronnie McGhee for a link and a witty reply!
Russia thinks microorganisms may be living outside the space station, by Brooks Hays, UPI.com, 26 May 2017.
Russia looks for traces of extra-terrestrial life forms on ISS surface, TAAS, 26 May 2017.
Russian Scientists Say Alien Life May Exist on the Surface of the ISS , JohnThomas Didymus, Inquisitr, 10 Jun 2017.
Thanks, Chandra Wickramasinghe. Bacteria... and Comets... are related webpages.
Evolution versus Creationism has related discussion and links. The understanding of genetics reveals issues neither anticipated nor explained by the mainstream theory of evolution.
Young genes are highly disordered as predicted by the preadaptation hypothesis of de novo gene birth by B. A. Wilson, S. G. Foy, R. Neme & J. Masel, doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0146, Nat. Ecol. Evol., online 24 Apr 2017.
Three New Human Genes has become our main page about de novo genes. We have added some references there.
Long terminal repeats power evolution of genes and gene expression programs in mammalian oocytes and zygotes, by Vedran Frankeet al., doi:10.1101/gr.216150.116, Genome Res., online 17 May 2017.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms cites more examples of retrotransposons affecting evolution.
Neo-Darwinism: The Current Paradigm describes several major problems with standard darwinism, with links to updates.
Thanks, Ronnie McGhee and Google Alerts. How Is It Possible includes related speculation.
Comet 67P is making its own oxygen gas, by Alison Klesman, Astronomy Magazine, 09 May 2017.
Thanks, Richard Hoover, for commenting: microbial life is a likelier explanation for the oxygen.
Comet Rendezvous has links to all our news about the Rosetta mission.
False Negatives for Remote Life Detection on Ocean-Bearing Planets: Lessons from the Early Earth [PDF], by Christopher T Reinhard et al., doi:10.1089/ast.2016.1598, Astrobiology, 01 Apr 2017.
Gaia is a related local webpage.
Microbes could survive thin air of Mars, by Charles Q. Choi, Astrobiology Magazine (+PhysOrg.com), 16 Jan 2017.
Low Pressure Tolerance by Methanogens in an Aqueous Environment: Implications for Subsurface Life on Mars, by Rebecca Mickol and Timothy Kral, doi:10.1007/s11084-016-9519-9, Orig Life Evol Biosph, online 23 Sep 2016.
Life on Mars! has more. Search for "methane". Thanks, Ronnie McGhee. Related links, 2-6 Mar 2017.
Morning glory seeds are tough enough for an interplanetary trip, Katherine Kornei, doi:10.1126/science.aal1137, Science, online 01 May 2017. Thanks, Chandra Wickramasinghe.
Active Cryovolcanism on Europa? W. B. Sparks et al., n2, v839, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 13 Apr 2017.
Europa Water Vapor Plumes - More Hubble Evidence, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, 13 Apr 2017.
Hubble Spots Possible Venting Activity on Europa, HubbleSite, 13 Apr 2017.
Life on Europa...? has related links. The abundance of H2... introduces related news about Enceladus, 13 Apr 2017. George Nickas wonders when we will actually look for life itself, 21 Apr 2017.
Massive horizontal transfer of transposable elements in insects, Jean Peccoud et al., doi:10.1073/pnas.1621178114, PNAS, online 17 Apr 2017.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms cites many more examples of HGT affecting eukaryotes.
Cassini finds molecular hydrogen in the Enceladus plume: Evidence for hydrothermal processes, by J. Hunter Waite et al., doi:10.1126/science.aai8703; and commentary: Detecting molecular hydrogen on Enceladus by Jeffrey S. Seewald, Science, 14 Apr 2017.
Saturn moon 'able to support life' by Jonathan Amos, BBC, 13 Apr 2017.
NASA Missions Provide New Insights into 'Ocean Worlds' in Our Solar System, NASA, 13 Apr 2017.
This is the closest we've come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment.
Thanks, Ellen Klyce, NPR, Bob Sweeney and John Bilon.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets?... has related links.
George Nickas wonders when we will actually look for life itself, 21 Apr 2017.
Life on Enceladus, Chandra Wickramasinghe's letter to The Times, London, 17 Apr 2017.
Viruses cannot conduct cellular metabolism and have no apparent use for the translation genes that all cells contain. In the standard theory of evolution, the presence of translation genes in viruses is a challenge to explain. In cosmic ancestry, viruses are a principle means of horizontal gene transfer (HGT), so we expect them often to carry genes that only cells can use.
The illustration shows genome bins of the Klosneuviruses. From outside to inside: solid circles indicate genes exclusively shared with nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs) (blue), genes specific for Klosneuviruses (white), genes shared with eukaryotes (red), genes shared with Bacteria (green), genes represented in all three domains of cellular life (yellow), and singletons (gray). The second ring displays positions of genes (gray) either on the minus or the plus strand. ...Links connect paralogs.... (excerpted from Schulz et al.)Giant viruses with an expanded complement of translation system components, by Frederik Schulz et al., doi:10.1126/science.aal4657, Science, 07 Apr 2017.
Cell-like giant viruses found, by Mitch Leslie, Science, 07 Apr 2017.
Discovered: Novel Group of Giant Viruses, DOE Joint Genome Institute (+Newswise), 06 Apr 2017.
...giant viruses present an astonishing arsenal of genes...., 17 Feb 2017.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms points to many more examples of cellular genes in viruses.
Widespread of horizontal gene transfer in the human genome, by Wenze Huang et al., doi:10.1186/s12864-017-3649-y, BMC Genomics, 04 Apr 2017. Thanks, Google Alerts.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is our main related webpage.
During question-and-answer, I polled the (150 or so?) attendees: does anyone think the just-described chiral organic molecules in meteorites might be, not pre-, but post-biotic? Two hands went up. One was Gary Ruvkin of SETG. He favors panspermia, but believes the RNA World might succeed if the warm little pond includes the whole big-bang universe. He sat by RNA World pioneer Walter Gilbert, whom I was honored to meet.
Over lunch I showed a NASA photo of the crinoid-like fossil on Mars (taken by the Opportunity rover in 2004) to a few at my table. They reluctantly glanced at it. I also showed them one SEM image of fossilized germs from the Orgueil meteorite (published by Richard Hoover in 2011). Benner, a biochemist, rejects these images because Hoover has never revealed all of his other, less interesting ones. Huh?
Biochemist Ann Pearson and astronomer David Charbonneau had the most exciting news of the afternoon, the ballooning knowledge of extra-solar Earthlike planets orbiting within the "Goldilocks" zones of long-lived red M-dwarf stars. About 250 such planets are known to lie within 10 parsecs of Earth, close enough to examine in detail with powerful new instruments including the orbiting James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018.
More than one speaker commented that the astrobiology community is a fractious one. Right. And they are smart, dedicated, and committed to their principles. I regret having to miss the second half of the conference, which will consider "The Future of the Field".Understanding life, here, there, and everywhere, by Alvin Powell, Harvard Gazette, 05 Apr 2017.
Harvard's Origins of Life program held its inaugural symposium in Cambridge MA, 08 Nov 2006.
A notice about the crinoid-like fossil on Mars, posted 28 Oct 2015.
Fossilized germs from the Orgueil meteorite are shown here, with links, posted 03 Mar 2011.
The RNA World, our webpage about origin-of-life theories, includes more about Walter Gilbert.
SETG and Gary Ruvkin are glimpsed here, 06 Jan 2017.