ญญWhat'sNEW in Cosmic Ancestry, beginning Oct 2021


27 Nov 2021
Fossils of the Tennessee Valley Fossils of the Tennessee Valley by Richard Keyes is likely the definitive fossil-hunters' guide to this region's Paleozoic Era fossils. 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 knows how to recognize them.
Fossils of the Tennessee Valley by Richard Keyes, 130 pages, ∼2,500 illustrations, ∼100 references, ISBN:978-0-9970031, RGEO, Dec 2015 [amazon listing].

Keyes is well aware of the crinoid-like fossil photographed with the Microscopic Imager of NASA's Opportunity rover, 27 Feb 2004, at Mars' Meridiani Planum:
Source image from NASA, field of view: 3cm x 3cm.

Richard Keyes agrees, in conversation today, that the structure in the Mars photo bears a very strong resemblance to a fossilized crinoid. The 3-dimensional pieces, arranged in a logical structure, obviously merit further study. He finds it puzzling that NASA did not continue to look at this one from various angles, and at the surroundings for other possible examples. Instead, without time to think carefully, NASA obliterated the fossil and moved on. Why?!
A fossil on Mars... is our main entry for the fossil seen by Opportunity.

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 David S. McKay et al., NASA, 1996: Life on Mars!

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.)
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 again, Richard Hoover, for alerting me about Opportunity.
Life on Mars! has history and related links, including Sea Lilies on Ancient Mars?

28 Oct 2021
Viruses are the unending front of evolution. ...They continue to shape the trajectory of life on the planet, including that of humans.
Luis Villarreal: A Life in Viruses, Rita Allen Foundation, 13 May 2016.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms has many relevant examples.

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. That would require a long slow accumulation not indicated in the geological record. Is this, instead, 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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