­­What'sNEW in Cosmic Ancestry, beginning Oct 2021

What'sNEW Oct - Dec 2021

31 Dec 2021
MBE medal Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, pioneer of the theory that life originated in space, has been awarded an MBE in tomorrow's UK New Year's Honours list for his contributions to Science, Astronomy and Astrobiology.
Thanks Thanks,
Chandra, for 40 years of friendship and wisdom. Thanks for your lifelong contributions to science. You deserve this recognition and more. Congratulations!
Press release docx, 10:30 AM GMT, 31 Dec 2021.
Honorees list: iNews, London | The Herald, Scotland | Wales Online.
Buckingham astrophysicist awarded MBE, by Hannah Richardson, The Bucks Herald, 04 Jan 2022.
interview with George Howard, 70-min. YouTube video, 31 Dec 2021.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's Analysis of Interstellar Dust describes some of Chandra's pioneering work. (Fifty years ago, 01 Jan 1972, the Knighthood of Fred Hoyle, Chandra's scientific collaborator, was announced.)
10 Feb 2023: King Carles III pins the medal on Chandra.

eDNA sampling
28 Dec 2021
Environmental DNA (eDNA) as a tool in biomonitoring is a rapidly developing and expanding field. Now biochemists, biophysicists and molecular biologists in London have collected and sequenced DNA right out of the air. We notice that free DNA in air (and water, soil, etc.) is at least available for acquisition by other genomes.
eDNAir: proof of concept that animal DNA can be collected from air sampling, by Clare EL, Economou CK, Faulkes CG, Gilbert JD, Bennett F, Drinkwater R, Littlefair JE,
PeerJ 9:e11030, 31 Mar 2021; with YouTube video, 3.5 min.
"Scientists ID Dozens of Plants, Animals from Free-Floating DNA," by Dan Robitzski, The Scientist, 06 Jan 2022.
Plant diversity is blowing in the wind, by Elizabeth Pennisi, Science, 06 Jan 2002.

20 Dec 2021
...chimeric RNAs could act as functional precursors of genes. ...the appearance of chimeric RNAs at the transcriptional level could provide a mechanism that allows the testing of functionality before such chimera-encoding sequences are fixed into the genome.
In cosmic ancestry, new genetic programs are acquired in exon-size or larger pieces. These must be assembled and tested before they may become permanently installed and deployed in the genome. Chimeric RNAs may be a newly-observed, surprising way for that to happen, even in humans. Medical geneticists in Israel have studied the process.
Trans-splicing Evolutionary impact of chimeric RNAs on generating phenotypic plasticity in human cells, by Sumit Mukherjee and Milana Frenkel-Morgenstern, doi:10.1016/j.tig.2021.08.015,
Trends in Genetics, 01 Jan 2022.
Introns... has discussion of more familiar RNA splicing.
A Wordcount... compares alternative sources for new genes.

17 Dec 2021 What'sNEW about HGT |
An endogenous retroviral gene apparently has an essential role in human development. It was acquired recently and is human-specific. How it works is still under study by geneticists in Las Vegas.
The essential but enigmatic regulatory role of HERVH in pluripotency by Corinne E. Sexton, Richard L. Tillett and Mira V. Han, doi:10.1016/j.tig.2021.07.007, Trends in Genetics, 01 Jan 2022.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms has more.
Human Genome Search describes a related, unsuccessful research project.

Tanpopo logo
13 Dec 2021
A Japanese astrobiology research program, whose name means Dandelion, has been underway for a decade now. In the high atmosphere they have collected two new species of bacteria that can resist UV radiation at least as well as D. radiorudans. Bacteria exposed outside the ISS have survived for three years. Results from Tanpopo's major objectives are reported in six Open Access articles, beginning with:
Scientific Targets of Tanpopo... by Akihiko Yamagishi, Shin-ichi Yokobori, Kensei Kobayashi, Hajime Mita, Hikaru Yabuta, Makoto Tabata, Masumi Higashide, and Hajime Yano, Astrobiology, 09 Dec 2021 [ToC with links].
11 Mar 2010: introducing Tanpopo.

Are Water Plumes Spraying from Europa? by Lonnie Shekhtman, NASA, Goddard, 30 Nov 2021.
Thanks Thanks, Centauri Dreams. Life on Europa, Other Moons...? has related links.
George Nickas comments, 13 Dec 2021.

Peacock detail
04 Dec 2021
The extravagant splendor of the animal kingdom can't be explained by natural selection alone — so how did it come to be? In an illustrated review article, Yale ornithologist Richard Prum acknowledges that many spectacular features in life confer no survival benefit at all. Other experts weigh in on sexual selection and alternative theories. The history of the problem is reviewed, but still there's no consensus, nor even promising leads. I think we are saddled with the wrong paradigm.
How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution by Ferris Jabr, NY Times Magazine, 09 Jan 2019.
Thanks Thanks, Mark Alan Hewitt, ArchDaily.

Professor Brian Cox introduces panspermia in ∼6-min. video by Pomona Pictures and The Open University, 29 Nov 2021. Short, informative, with cartoon animation. Thanks Thanks, Jacob Navia.

01 Dec 2021
The largest known comet is active very far from the sun. An Oort cloud comet with an orbital period of 6.7 million years and perihelion beyond Saturn's orbit, its discovery is already an interesting story. But I want to know what is providing the energy that causes its coma to grow and brighten out there. If comets have an internal source of heat, such as long-lived radioactivity, could life make use of it even in deep space?
Early Activity in Comet C/2014 UN271 Bernardinelli–Bernstein as Observed by TESS, by Tony L. Farnham et al. (Open Access), The Planetary Science Journal, 29 Nov 2021.
New Study Shows Largest-Known Comet Was Active at Near-Record Distance by Kimbra Cutlip, University of Maryland, 29 Nov 2021.
Comets: The Delivery System has discussion and updates.
09 Jan 2021: Evidence for long-lived radioactivity in comets?

30 Nov 2021
Titan has a dense nitrogen atmosphere and lakes of methane. This is unusual. In the solar system, only Earth is similar by having a nitrogen-dominated atmosphere and surface lakes or oceans. Methane and buried oil on Earth are biological byproducts. Could Titan's environment also have been shaped by life? Now Japanese astrobiologists have observed life - worms - that can flourish in oil. Could they live in liquid methane? Even if not, Titan's methane lakes are intriguing.
A lab-maintained life in oil - an implication for a life on Titan by Takeshi Naganuma and Akiko Koi, Academia Letters, 2021.
30 June 2012: Titan has a liquid [likely saltwater] ocean 100 kilometers below its surface.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets? includes links about Titan.
Gaia suggests how life can shape the environment.

27 Nov 2021
Fossils of the Tennessee Valley by Richard Keyes is likely the definitive pictorial guide to Paleozoic Era fossils in this region. Keyes (b. 1957) began collecting them when he was only a schoolboy. Now retired, he still lectures and gives papers in this field. His specialty is Crinoids and other Echinoderms. He would know how to recognize them.
Fossils of the Tennessee Valley
Fossils of the Tennessee Valley by Richard Keyes, 130 pages, ∼2,500 illustrations, ∼100 references, ISBN:978-0-9970031, RGEO, Dec 2015.

NASA did not follow a scientific investigative approach is Keyes' comment about the crinoid-like fossil photographed by NASA on Mars in 2004. The 3-dimensional pieces, arranged in a logical structure, obviously needed further scrutiny. NASA should have looked at this one from various angles, and at the surroundings for other possible examples. Instead, NASA immediately obliterated the fossil and drove away. Why?! Keyes agrees that many features in the photo resemble crinoid remains:
NASA photo with Keyes' green annotation (over our red ones).

Last question: What non-biological process could, plausibly, make these forms?
26 Jul 2013: our first notice, followup and
a poster about the Mars fossil.
Evidence for Extinct Life on Mars by Richard B. Hoover, 2015. Scroll to section 3.3, p 10.
30 Nov 2021: George Nickas comments.

26 Nov 2021
On biosignatures for Mars by Francis Westall et al., International Journal of Astrobiology, 18 Nov 2021.
Open-access enumeration of NASA's criteria for recognizing extraterrestrial life or its fossils, including a rebuttal to the evidence in ALH84001 from David S. McKay et al., NASA, 1996.
28 Oct 2021: More criteria. Life on Mars! includes ALH84001.

25 Nov 2021
Richard Hoover interviewed by Lee Speigel on Open Minds, 23.5 min YouTube video, 19 Feb 2014.
Hoover discusses the evidence for fossilized microbial life in meteorites, and the crinoid-like fossil seen on Mars. We just became aware of this video.
...Microfossils in a Carbonaceous Meteorite and
A fossil on Mars... have more with related links.

23 Nov 2021
The evolution of the metazoan Toll receptor family and its expression during protostome development by Andrea Orús-Alcalde et al., doi:10.1186/s12862-021-01927-1, BMC Ecology and Evolution, 22 Nov 2021.
Molecular biologists have studied the "evolution" of an important family of genes. The educated public expects the analysis to probe how the genes may have originated. But it's actually a phylogenetic analysis. It tells us only how they descended and varied after the earliest time they are identified. Our findings suggest that [versions of all 3 types] were already present in the cnidarian-bilaterian common ancestor. In fact, genes without discernable origins are the usual finding. And mainstream science seems comfortable with the ambiguous meaning of "evolution".
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa? and
Genes Older Than Earth? are relevant.

20 Nov 2021
As research continues and its methods improve, the complexity of life becomes ever more apparent. Now, biochemists and molecular geneticists in Colorado have used cryo-electron microscopy to see how "RNA viruses use dynamic, multifunctional folded elements to hijack host cellular machinery." It's amazing, and there's not even a guess as to how the "tricky mimicry" might have evolved. The more we learn about life's complexity, the more glaring becomes mainstream science's lack of plausible, testable explanations for its evolution. A major paradigm shift is overdue.
RNA virus and tRNA enzymes
A viral RNA hijacks host machinery using dynamic conformational changes of a tRNA-like structure by Steve L. Bonilla et al., doi:10.1126/science.abe8526, Science, 18 Nov 2021.
10 Feb 2013: Thomas Nagel affirms our observation (see italicised quotation there.)
Robust Software Management... (incomplete) has comments and examples of life's complexity.

11 Nov 2021
Chickpea genomes An international team including systems biologists, genomicists, and agronomists compared the genomes of chickpeas to learn how they evolved and to better inform breeders. As more varieties were compared, the number of unique genes, the "pan-genome" (red) grew, and the number of genes shared by all, the "core genome" (yellow) declined. This pattern is the same as that for prokaryotes, which evolve by the gain and loss of genes. In cosmic ancestry, all of life evolves that way.

A chickpea genetic variation map based on the sequencing of 3,366 genomes, by Varshney, R.K., Roorkiwal, M., Sun, S. et al., Nature (Open Access), doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04066, 10 Nov 2021.
Thanks Thanks for kind words, Rajeev Varshney.
10 Mar 2021: Example of prokaryotic core genome and pan-genome, or "singletons."
23 Jan 2013: According to standard neo-darwinism, more and more sequencing should find homologs for genes that first look unique — the red line above should bend downward.

11 Nov 2021
Citrullination was introduced into animals by horizontal gene transfer from cyanobacteria
by Thomas F M Cummings et al., doi:10.1093/molbev/msab317 [OA abstract], Molecular Biology and Evolution, 03 Nov 2021.
Thanks Thanks, Google Alerts. Viruses... has more about HGT.

02 Nov 2021
The Curiosity rover has previously detected organic molecules buried in Martian sediments, but the new findings add to the list of organic molecules on Mars, further bolstering the case for past habitability — NASA, Nov 2021. Curiosity rover
NASA should think anew. In 1976, the Viking life-detection experiments got positive results, but NASA ignored that because no organics were detected.
Organic molecules revealed in Mars's Bagnold Dunes by Curiosity's derivatization experiment by Millan, M., Teinturier, S., Malespin, C.A. et al., Nature Astronomy, 01 Nov 2021.
NASA just found these organic molecules on Mars for the first time by Passant Rabie, Inverse.com, 01 Nov 2021.
Organic molecules revealed on Mars by Curiosity's new kind of experiment by Bob Yirka , Phys.org, 03 Nov 2021.
Thanks Thanks, Stan Franklin and Kenneth Augustyn. Life on Mars! has updates.

28 Oct 2021
Two papers suggest criteria and procedures for recognizing extraterestrial life. The projects look to be parallel but separate. And NASA's search for past or present life, on Mars certainly, seems ...lifeless.
Call for a framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth by James Green et al., Nature, 28 Oct 2021.
These NASA scientists restate (understate) the case for life contained in ALH84001 from Mars. They don't mention the Viking LR experiment. In Comments, I point to the crinoid-like fosslls seen by the Opportunity rover in 2004.
"White Paper Report from the Biosignatures Standards of Evidence Community Workshop" by of the Biosignature Standards of Evidence Workshop Participants, accessed 28 Oct 2021 [Draft].
This 77-page draft on the same themes follows a July joint conference with Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) and the Network for Life Detection (NfoLD). Viking gets discussed, but discounted. In invited feedback I again mention Opportunity.
Thanks Thanks, Richard Hoover, for alerts about Opportunity, sol 34.
Life on Mars! has history and related links, including Sea Lilies on Ancient Mars?

Cryo-electron tomography
26 Oct 2021
Cutting-edge microscopy techniques are allowing researchers to spy on the innards of cells in all their crowded glory. The complexity of cells, especially eukaryotic ones, is becoming ever more apparent. The programming behind this complexity is poorly explained by mainstream neo-darwinian theory.
Nanometre-scale imaging and AI reveal the interior of whole cells by Jason R. Swedlow and Lucy Collinson, Nature, 25 Oct 2021.
...cells – as never seen before by Diana Kwon, Nature, 26 Oct 2021.
Life Is Cells is our answer to the question, What Is Life?
Computer Models of Evolution discusses our skepticism.

Bolders in Jezero crater
25 Oct 2021
....billions of years ago, Jezero's fan-shaped river delta experienced late-stage flooding events that carried rocks and debris into it from the highlands well outside the crater. NASA's Perseverance rover is exploring a crater on Mars that could have hosted life.

NASA's Perseverance Sheds More Light on Jezero Crater's Watery Past, Nasa.gov, 07 Oct 2021.
26 Jul 2013: Did NASA's Opportunity rover find evidence for life on Mars in 2004? 28 Oct 2015: More.
Life on Mars! has history and related links.

05 Oct 2021 What'sNEW about HGT |
Cyanobacteria acquired photosynthesis genes by horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Now, a team at MIT analyzes 34 transfer events to estimate when photosynthesis actually began on Earth. They conclude that it began 400 million years before the sudden accumulation of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere. Is this more evidence for genes genes older than they should be?
The Archean origin of oxygenic photosynthesis and extant cyanobacterial lineages by G. P. Fournier et al., doi:10.1098/rspb.2021.0675, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 29 Sep 2021.
Zeroing in on the origins of Earth's "single most important evolutionary innovation" by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office, 28 Sep 2021.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms has more. Search for "photosynthesis".
Genes Older Than Earth? mentions genes for oxygen metabolism that were "born" too early.

05 Oct 2021
Comet 29P erupts frequently, but why? Its orbit is nearly circular, between those of Jupiter and Saturn, yet it brightens dramatically half-a-dozen times a year. Recent outbursts were especially bright. Comet specialists are proposing physical mechanisms. If comets harbor microbial life, could bacterial metabolism be involved?
A Strange Comet Erupted 4 Times in a 'Super Outburst' by Robin George Andrews, The New York Times, 30 Sep 2021.
Comet 29P Undergoes Brightest Outburst in Recent Years by Bob King, Sky & Telescope, 29 Sep 2021.
Comets: The Delivery System has history and related links.
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