What'sNEW Archives, August - September 1999
September 30: Sulfuric acid is detected on Europa's surface. — Dr. Kenneth Nealson, head of JPL's astrobiology unit, said, "Although sulfur may seem like a harsh chemical, its presence on Europa doesn't in any way rule out the possibility of life. In fact, to make energy, which is essential to life, you need fuel and something with which to burn it. Sulfur and sulfuric acid are known oxidants, or energy sources, for living things on Earth."
Battery Acid Chemical Found on Jupiter's Moon Europa, by Jane Platt, NASA JPL, 30 September 1999.
Life on Europa... has links to WhatsNEW on Jupiter's and other moons.
September 29: A "nanorover" will fly aboard a Japanese mission to explore a near-Earth asteroid, in January 2002. If the mission succeeds, asteroid rock samples gathered by the probe will return to Earth.
Nanorover to Help Fetch Asteroid Material, by Glen Golightly, space.com, 29 September 1999.
September 26: Experimental Evolution with Microbes and Molecules — Experiments that follow the evolution of bacteria were the subject of a special colloquium held during the 99th American Society for Microbiology General Meeting in Chicago, May 30 - June 9. Following pedigreed strains of bacteria for thousands of generations, these experiments measure their fitness and analyze their genetic makeup along the way. Such experiments are getting ever more attention, and deservedly so. The bacteria adapt to changed environments and undergo genetic mutation as predicted by darwinism. They are widely seen as directly supporting the theory.
The experiments are not without surprises. When the bacteria are examined on a fine scale (every 100 generations), stepwise evolution is observed; only at a larger scale (every 500 generations) does the evolution appear smooth. Also, some lines undergo mutation three times as fast as others "with very little change in the cells' performance versus other lines." And lines that mutate especially fast, "hypermutators," do poorly.
Most interestingly, the experiments show, "After the initial burst of adaptations, the rate of change among the bacteria slows. After 10,000 generations in this constantly maintained growth medium, analysis indicates a 50% total increase in fitness; after 20,000 generations, the improvement over the ancestors is measured at 60%." This result could indicate that the bacteria approach a maximum fitness beyond which they cannot evolve in the closed experiments.
Moreover, the experiments have yet to report any evolutionary progress of the sort that would be needed for life to evolve from bacteria to humans. The observed adaptations tend to consist only of changed diets and the like. These adaptations are made possible by the enabling or disabling genes already contained in the bacterial genomes. Darwinism would interpret this lack to mean that the experiments need to run longer. But it may indicate that the darwinian mechanism by itself cannot produce sustained evolutionary progress. We will continue to watch for news from these experiments.
Evolutionary progress requires new genetic programs. New genes can be installed by lateral gene transfer (LGT), as we already know. Cosmic Ancestry holds that LGT is an essential mechanism behind evolutionary progress. If so, the fact that these experiments are closed to the input of new genes would account for their lack of evolutionary progress.
Experimental Evolution: the Medium Is (Part of) the Message, by Christine Mlot, ASM News, 8 September 1999.
...Is Evolutionary Progress in a Closed System Possible? is a related CA webpage with a separate What'sNEW section, Lenski et al..
September 23: The Mars Orbiter is presumed lost. NASA suspects that a navigational error aimed the orbiter too deep into Mars' atmosphere.
Mars craft possibly dead by Robin Lloyd, CNN Interactive, 12:45 p.m. EDT, 23 September 1999.
Mars orbiter presumed gone for good by Matthew Fordahl, Nando Times, 12:55 p.m. EDT, 23 September 1999.
What the loss of Mars Climate Orbiter means by David Whitehouse, BBCNews, 23 September 1999.
Metric mishap caused loss of NASA orbiter, CNN.com, 30 September 1999.
September 23: NASA loses contact with Mars Orbiter — "Following a 286-day journey, the Mars Climate Orbiter engine ignited as expected at 5:01 EDT." This burn was to put the craft into orbit around Mars. "A signal was expected about 25 minutes later when the satellite cruised out from behind the planet, but engineers heard nothing." NASA is working to reestablish contact.
NASA loses contact with Mars Orbiter by Robin Lloyd, CNN Interactive, 8:17 a.m. EDT, 23 September 1999.
Life on Mars! is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
September 21: ...Is Evolutionary Progress... Possible? is posted on the Cosmic Ancestry website.
In real or artificial life, Is Evolutionary Progress in a Closed System Possible?
September 17: Europa's Ocean: Could There Be Life?... is the cover story of October's Scientific American. The review article has excellent images including photos of the cycloid cracks whose analysis was just published in Science.
Pappalardo, Robert T.; James W. Head and Ronald Greeley, "The Hidden Ocean of Europa" p54-63 v 281 n 4, Sientific American, October 1999.
September 16: The strange curves on Europa — A team from University of Arizona, Tucson, has a reasonable account of the cycloidal lines stretching hundreds of miles across the southern polar region of Europa. They believe the bulge of a 100-foot tide cracks the ice in long curves as stress vectors rotate during the Europan day (about 3.5 Earth days.) New segments 40-120 miles long would form when the cycle repeats on successive days, making a chain of broken curves. The team estimates that the ocean on Europa is about 100 miles deep.
Formation of Cycloidal Features on Europa by Gregory V. Hoppa, B. Randall Tufts, Richard Greenberg, Paul E. Geissler, LPL, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
Cracks Best Evidence Yet for Europan Ocean, SpaceViews, 16 September 1999.
How the ice cracks on Europa by David Whitehouse, BBC News, 16 September 1999.
Astronomers pose theory about ice shapes on Jupiter's moon, Nando Media, 16 September 1999.
Jupiter Cracks its Moon, discovery.com, 17 September 1999.
Hoppa, Gregory V.; B. Randall Tufts; Richard Greenberg and Paul E. Geissler, "Formation of Cycloidal Features on Europa" [abstract] p 1899-1902 v 285, Sience, 17 September 1999.
Wilford, John Noble, "Scientist Point to New Evidence of Liquid Water on a Jupiter Moon" [text], The New York Times, 17 September 1999.
September 10: More about water on Europa — "Circumstantial evidence for water on Europa mounts as JPL scientists try an ingenious experiment to find hexagonal water-ice crystals on the frigid surface of Jupiter's iciest moon."
Divining Water on Europa by Tony Phillips, Space Science News from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, 9 September 1999.
Europa: Cold, Wet and Dark, SpaceDaily, Huntsville, 8 September 1999.
Life on Europa... has links to WhatsNEW on Jupiter's and other moons.
September 7: Liquid water in another meteorite —
NASA scientists have apparently found liquid water in another rock from space, suggesting that it may be common in meteorites, according to Michael Zolensky of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. This example was found in the "Zag meteorite," a 300-pound rock that broke into pieces when it struck a remote area of Morocco in August, 1998. The water in it was first reported at a conference in South Africa, in August, 1999.
It was also Zolensky's team that announced, less than two weeks ago, liquid water in the Mohanas meteorite. Examining the meteorites promptly is critical, NASA says, because the salt crystals containing the tiny water pockets could be dissolved by a single rain. Thanks again, Keith Cowing, for the alert.
Moroccan meteorite found to contain water by Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle, 6 September 1999.
Water found in 2nd meteorite, CNN.com, 7 September 1999
Space water discoveries enhance odds for early life by Robin Lloyd, CNN.com, 8 September 1999
Comets: The Delivery System is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
August 27: Liquid Water Found in a Meteorite is a related What'sNEW item.
September 2: Viruses have been found deep under the Greenland icepack. Biologists from Syracuse University and SUNY, Syracuse, found a common virus that infects plants in ice laid down from 500 to 140,000 years ago. The virus particles were carried there by air currents. Indeed, members of the research team have previously found whole particles of the same virus in clouds. The tomato mosaic tobamovirus was found when PCR tests looking specifically for it were positive. The researchers believe that tests for other common viruses would also be positive, and that viruses stored in the ice for centuries retain the capability to infect their usual hosts. Thanks, Keith Cowing, for bringing this story in New Scientist to our attention.
Back from the dead by Matt Walker, New Scientist, 4 September 1999.
Scientists fear epidemics from frozen viruses, ABCNews.com,1 September 1999.
Virus found in Arctic ice, by Alex Kirby, BBC News,1 September 1999.
Viruses... is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage. [Next-What'sNEW about HGT-Prev]
August 27: Liquid Water Found in a Meteorite — A meteorite that fell in Monahans, Texas, contains liquid water, according to Michael Zolensky's team at NASA's Johnson Space Center. The water was sealed in tiny cavities in salt crystals, some of which also held tiny bubbles of vapor. The water is believed to have been sealed there since before Earth was formed.
V= Vapor, L= Liquid
scale bar= 5 micrometers
Seven boys playing basketball had seen the meteorite as it fell, on 22 March, 1998. They picked it up while it was still warm and astutely called the police. NASA was examining it within 48 hours. That promptness and NASA's methods make the finding more credible than any similar previous claim — and there are some.
"Monahans" is an ordinary chondrite, a kind of meteorite previously thought to be dry. However, carbonaceous chondrites, perhaps remnants of icy comets, were already believed to have once contained flowing water. Now the formation of a carbonaceous chondrite, Allende, is also under review. A report by planetary scientist Adrian Brearley of the University of New Mexico suggests that Allende came from an asteroid that got wet after it was formed.
Life in space can be preserved and remain viable in a completely dry environment, but cells require liquid water for any metabolism or replication. Now we have even stronger evidence that it's available.
Zolensky, Michael E.; Robert J. Bodnar; Everett K. Gibson Jr.; Laurence E. Nyquist; Young Reese and Chi-Yu Shih, "Asteroidal Water Within Fluid Inclusion-Bearing Halite in an H5 Chondrite, Monahans (1998)" [abstract] p 1377-1379 v 285, Sience, 27 August 1999.
Clayton, Robert N., "Primordial Water" [summary] p 1364 v 285, Science, 27 August 1999.
Brearley, Adrian J., "Origin of Graphitic Carbon and Pentlandite in Matrix Olivines in the Allende Meteorite" [abstract] p 1380-1382 v 285, Science, 27 August 1999.
Fountain, Henry, "At Last, Liquid Water Is Discovered in Material From Space" [text], The New York Times, 27 August 1999.
Water Found in Space Rock, the Astronomy Picture of the Day, 7 September 1999.
Water of the Heavens by Greg Clark, Space.com, 13:12:39 ET 26 Aug 1999.
Meteorite Study Points to Complex History by Kenneth Siber, Space.com, 14:36:49 ET 26 Aug 1999.
Meteorite containing water offers chance for discovery, Nando Media, 11:24 p.m. EDT 26 August 1999.
Water from space found in Meteorite, CNN Interactive, 27 August 1999.
Water From the Dawn of the Solar System, by Govert Schilling, inScight, 27 August 1999.
Comets: The Delivery System is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
August 24: DNA protection by biocrystallization may be crucial and widespread in prokaryotes. A team from The Weizmann Institute and Harvard found that starvation and other stresses induce E. coli to produce a protein that quickly co-crystallizes with DNA, protecting it from damage. Crystallization might preserve DNA even after the original cell dies, we suspect. Thanks, Ken Jopp, for noticing this story.
Wolf, Sharon G.; Daphna Frenkiel; Talmon Arad; Steven E. Finkel; Roberto Kolter and Abraham Minsky, "DNA protection by stress-induced biocrystallization," [abstract] p 83-85 v 400, Nature, 1 July 1999.
Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
The history of science offers example after example of apparently inexplicable features for which perfectly rational explanations were found. In nearly all such cases, assumptions that were universally believed obscured the truth so effectively that progress toward a solution seemed impossible — Thomas Gold
August 23: The Deep Hot Biosphere is full of challenging new ideas that are well supported and plainly expressed, from "The Deep-Earth Gas Theory" to the end. Author Thomas Gold, a recognized expert in several fields, begins with geology. When he worked in the petroleum industry, he became convinced that petroleum could be found far deeper underground than it could if it is made from earthly vegetation, as the consensus theory holds. His evidence for deep petroleum is compelling and easy to follow. So, Gold believes oil and gas are "primordial," by which he means "older than the planet". But evidence that petroleum is biologically produced is also compelling. For example, petroleum contains amino acids that are predominantly left-handed, as in life. To resolve this "petroleum paradox," Gold proposes that there is microbial life thriving on the oil and gas in the pore spaces miles underground. Gold makes a good case for this deep life, and now many others are agreeing with him.
One universal assumption that Gold does not question is that "primordial" necessarily means "abiogenic." If those terms were disentangled, another resolution to the petroleum paradox would be possible — methane could be older than the planet but still biologically produced!
Gold also presents fascinating new ideas about diamonds, the formation of metal deposits, earthquakes, and glaciers (instead of rivers) on Mars. Finally, he proposes that the origin of life would be more likely to occur deep underground than on the surface of a planet. Even here Gold is persuasive. Of course, he does not explain how life's encoded instructions could have come into being — a missing element in all scientific accounts of the origin of life. Like almost everyone, Gold assumes that life must have an origin in the finite past.
Although our assumptions are different from Gold's in key respects, we liked the book quite a lot. Gold's plain, precise writing made it both edifying and fun to read. The Foreword by Freeman Dyson was good, too.
Gold, Thomas, The Deep Hot Biosphere, Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 1999. Fred Hoyle's Mathematics of Evolution follows the tradition of Haldane, Fisher, Wright, Kimura and Maynard Smith by using mathematics to probe darwinian evolution. Hoyle's writing is straightforward, accessible and engaging as ever, and his conclusions challenge the established view.
Gaia Gets New Life As Gas Station — a book review from SpaceDaily, 28 January 1999.
Life on other Planets, an essay that considers panspermia, by Thomas Gold, May 1997.
The Deep, Hot Biosphere, another essay considering panspermia, by Thomas Gold, July 1992.
Thomas Gold, personal page at Cornell.
Gaia is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
27 Nov 2006: Does science have blind spots? [book review].
1999, August 17:
Fred Hoyle, Mathematics of Evolution (160 p, $18, ISBN 0-9669934-0-3) Memphis: Acorn Enterprises LLC, 1999.
Greg Irwin, Walter ReMine and others review Mathematics of Evolution at amazon.com.
Jon Stene, n 2001k, Mathematical Reviews, September 2001. A reviewer capable of following the math says, "His arguments seem reasonably well founded and his results reliable."
John Maynard Smith, "Population genetics revisited" [link], p 594-595 v 403, Nature, 10 February 2000. A largely negative review that largely ignores the issues.
Brian Charlesworth, p 234 v 76 n 2, The Quarterly Review of Biology, June 2001. Another negative review. Charlesworth says the only thing new is in Chapter One. Do the issues confronting darwinism in the other eight chapters remain unresolved? Was Charlesworth even able to follow the math?
Stephen E. Jones comments, 23 Jan 2000.
A Knighted Astronomer's Fight Against Darwinism..., an Internet review by Gert Korthof, 10 October 1999. This favorable review has much more to say about panspermia than the book does.
Errata have their own webpage.
An Interview with Fred Hoyle is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's Analysis of Interstellar Dust has a list of Selected Resources.
A reply from Walter Remine to Arthur S. Lodge makes useful comments about the book. 29 Nov 2001.
A Russian Language edition is available, 2012.
Scientific Sense on Sex [scroll down to titled article], by Thomas Phillips, Ph.D, Harvard Magazine, Sep-Oct 2016.
Purchase this book for US$18.00 via PayPal by clicking on the "Buy Now" link. Standard shipping within the USA is free. Expedited and worldwide shipping are also offered. Published by Acorn Enterprises LLC | 168 Grove Park Circle | Memphis TN 38117-3134 | email.||
August 13: Stardust Update — The Stardust comet sample return mission is experiencing an electrical problem to which it responds by going into "safe" mode, as it is programmed to do. Today NASA has decided software is to blame, and "The Anomaly Investigation Team is developing responses to prevent recurrences of this situation."
Stardust Status Report by Ron Baalke, 6 August 1999.
Stardust Status Report by Ron Baalke, 13 August 1999.
Stardust Status Report by Ron Baalke, 20 August 1999.
Stardust Homepage and latest status report.
Comets: The Delivery System is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
Can the Theory Be Tested? has a section about Comet Rendezvous.
1999, May 29: Stardust... is a related What'sNEW item.
August 12: New computer model of evolution — Richard Lenski of Michigan State University and others have conducted a computer simulation of evolution that uses simple replicating organisms and complex programs that enhance their replication by issuing "metabolic rewards." Lenski, a biologist, has previously experimented with thousands of successive generations of evolving bacteria, and team members Charles Ofria and Christoph Adami are principal developers of the artificial life program, Avida. This collaborative experiment is just what we have asked for to demonstrate whether darwinian evolution in a closed system can produce the lengthy new genetic programs necessary for sustained evolutionary progress, in real or artificial life. No such progress has yet been claimed for this experiment. Rather, the group has focussed on the effects of "interactions of mutations." We will watch closely for future developments.
Lenski, Richard E.; Charles Ofria; Travis C. Collier and Christoph Adami, "Genome complexity, robustness and genetic interactions in digital organisms" [abstract], p 661-664; also comments by Inman Harvey, "Creatures from another world" [text], p 618-619, v 400, Nature, 12 August 1999.
Virtual natural selection, BBCNEWS, 12 August 1999.
Digital Organisms Evolve Within A Computer Universe, by Sue Nichols, UniSci, 13 August 1999.
Creation of computer `bugs' lends new meaning to digital evolution, by Guy Gugliotta (Washington Post), on Silicon Valley News, 16 August 1999.
Can Computers Mimic Neo-Darwinian Evolution? is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.
...Is Evolutionary Progress in a Closed System Possible? is a related CA webpage with updates about Lenski et al..
July 15: A recent issue of Science... is a What'sNEW item largely about Lenski's biology experiments.
Contacting Richard Lenski, in August 2000, was not fruitful.
August 12: Kansas drops evolution. "The Kansas Board of Education voted [yesterday] to delete virtually any mention of evolution from the state's science curriculum, in one of the most far-reaching efforts by creationists in recent years to challenge the teaching of evolution in schools." References to "microevolution" were not affected.
Belluck, Pam, "Kansas Votes to Delete Evolution From State's Science Curriculum," The New York Times, 12 August 1999.
Reuters, "Kansas School Board Says Evolution Is Not Science," Los Angeles Times, 12 August 1999.
Johnson, George, "It's a Fact: Faith and Theory Collide Over Evolution," The New York Times, 15 August 1999.
Should Evolution Be Taught in Schools?, correspondence between Philip Kitcher and Phillip E. Johnson in Slate, 18 August 1999.
Kansas Drops Study of Evolution, by David Miles, ABCNEWS.com, 12 August 1999.
Latest Evolution Battlefield, by Bill Brewster and Kenneth Chang, ABCNEWS.com, 12 August 1999.
Kansas rejects theory of evolution, BBCNEWS, 11 August 1999.
Kansas Makes Evolution Optional, Discovery News Brief, 12 August 1999.
Some Kansas schools plan not to change evolution teaching, by John Hannah, Nando Media, 12 August 1999.
Evolution versus Creationism is a related Cosmic Ancestry webpage.