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What'sNEW

03 Apr 2020
...the communities ...in subseafloor basalt on Earth provide a clear model for extant life and/or biosignatures from past life in the subsurface of Mars and other planets.
Deep microbial proliferation at the basalt interface in 33.5-104 million-year-old oceanic crust by Yohey Suzuki et al., doi:10.1038/s42003-020-0860-1 (Open Access), Communications Biology, 02 Apr 2020.

...researchers have discovered living cells inside exceedingly old, cold oceanic crust in the middle of the South Pacific. It isn't yet clear how these new microbes are managing to survive–and yet, there seem to more than a million times more of them, for the same volume of rock, than in the younger crust.
Bizarre life-forms found thriving in ancient rocks beneath the seafloor by Robin George Andrews, National Geographic, 02 Apr 2020.
Bacteria in rock deep under sea inspire new search for life on Mars, MarsDaily, 03 Apr 2020.
Life on Mars! has history and updates. Bacteria... has more about their hardiness. Thanks Thanks, Ronnie McGhee.

18 Mar 2020
Extraterrestrial ribose and other sugars in primitive meteorites by Yoshihiro Furukawa et al., doi:10.1073/pnas.1907169116, PNAS, 03 Dec 2019. The detection of ribose and other bioessential sugars in NWA 801 and Murchison that are isotopically distinct from terrestrial sugars provides clear evidence of an extraterrestrial origin for these sugars in primitive meteorites. Comets: The Delivery System has background.

13 Mar 2020
SSoCIA 2020, a conference planned for 26-29 March, in Oxford MS, is cancelled because of the Corona virus. We were going to present there a poster about evidence for past metazoan life on Mars. We now offer it online in two formats:
Sea Lilies on Ancient Mars pdf | docx (close to return). For pointing arrows see:
NASA Microscopic Imager photo, Mars, 27 Feb 2004 (close to return).
28 Oct 2015: our local entry with discussion and links about this fossil evidence.
SSoCIA 2020: conference webpage, The Society for Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology.

05 Mar 2020
...organic molecules discovered by Curiosity Rover consistent with early life on Mars by Sara Zaske, Washington State University (+PhysOrg.com), 05 Mar 2020. Thanks Thanks, Rob Cooper. Life on Mars! has lots more.

03 Mar 2020
...the first report of a protein from any extra-terrestrial source. It's not just disconnected amino acids or short polymers, but a longer protein-like polymer that incorporates iron and lithium. The iron oxide grouping at the tips of the molecule is of a type studied in other contexts for the photo-splitting of water. We suggest that the protein could be a remnant of cellular life.
Hemolithin: a Meteoritic Protein containing Iron and Lithium by Malcolm. W. McGeoch, Sergei Dikler, Julie E. M. McGeoch, arXiv, 22 Feb 2020.
Hemolithin in Acfer 086 Protein discovered inside a meteorite by Bob Yirka, Phys.org, 03 Mar 2020. ...alien protein inside a meteorite? by Leah Crane, NewScientist, 03 Mar 2020.
Comets: The Delivery System has a primer and updates.
James Powers has reservations about this report, 07 Mar 2020.
Thanks Thanks, Martin Langford, Jerry Chancellor and Stan Franklin.

03 Mar 2020
Earth may have been a 'water world' 3bn years ago... by Ian Sample, The Guardian, 02 Mar 2020; re:
Limited Archaean continental emergence reflected in an early Archaean 18O-enriched ocean by Benjamin W. Johnson and Boswell A. Wing, Nature Geoscience, 02 Mar 2020. Gaia is related.

27 Feb 2020
How has Coronavirus spread? There is reason to doubt that person-to-person contagion sufficiently explains it. Some recent cases followed no apparent exposure to a human carrier. Passengers on a cruise ship, confined to quarters, caught the virus at an unaccountably high rate. The worldwide spread seems too rapid. To advocates of panspermia, another unproven theory should not be automatically dismissed. Perhaps the virus is originally airborne, having arrived from space with cometary dust. If so, perhaps the cruise passengers were exposed to a heavy concentration of airborne viruses at sea, before lockdown. If the incubation period can be as long as 14 days, the high number stricken after lockdown makes more sense.
NYT map of Coronavirus in China Interestingly, the flu often seems to come from China — Hong Kong Flu, Asian Flu, and now COVID-19. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe had an intriguing hypothesis to explain this. Viral particles landing as cometary dust from above the atmosphere could take a year or more to drift down to Earth's surface. Wind turbulence can speed this up. The jetstream is obligated to bounce high in the stratosphere over the Himalayas, Earth's tallest mountain range. Downwind, the jetstream would descend onto the plain of China. There viral particles from space would likely first make landfall.

Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Diseases from Space [
5Mb local PDF], J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1979.
Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe and John Watkins, Viruses from Space [5Mb local PDF], University College Cardiff Press, 1986. Viruses... is related.
07 Feb 2018: Every day, more than 800 million viruses...
04 Feb 2020: more from Wickramasinghe, Steele et al.
Greg Irwin comments; discussion ensues, 29 Feb 2019.
Coronavirus tracking website with data, maps, updated several times per day, by Avi Schiffmann. NEW

25 Feb 2020
Trace Fossils on Mars? Did NASA's Curiosity rover photograph trace fossils on Mars? Barry DiGregorio thinks so. In a new book, he analyzes enigmatic dark-toned features seen in Gale crater, comparing them to fossilized worm burrows on Earth. He also sees more evidence on Mars for "desert varnish," a biofilm that he has studied for years. He tells the story first-person, sometimes frustrated that NASA ignores promising leads. But his close attention to these forms on Mars and to Earthly trace fossils that look similar, is, to our knowledge, unmatched.
Discovery on Vera Rubin Ridge - Trace Fossils on Mars? [
Kindle version at Amazon], by Barry E. DiGregorio, 07 Feb 2020. Life on Mars! has background and more.

20 Feb 2020 What'sNEW about HGT|
Orphan genes do not often emerge from the divergence of predecessor genes. Instead, they must be found de novo (ready for action, in previously silent DNA) or be delivered by horizontal transfer (HGT). This conclusion comes in a lengthy new analysis by three distinguished geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Pittsburgh. The persistent presence of orphans and TRGs [taxonomically restricted genes] in almost every genome studied to date despite the growing number of available sequence databases demands an explanation. Studies in the past 20 years have mainly pointed to two mechanisms: de novo gene emergence and sequence divergence of a pre-existing gene, either an ancestrally present or one acquired by horizontal transfer. ...[W]e conclude that the origin of most genes without similarity cannot be attributed to divergence beyond recognition. This implies a substantial role for other evolutionary mechanisms such as de novo emergence and horizontal gene transfer....
Synteny-based analyses indicate that sequence divergence is not the main source of orphan genes by Nikolaos Vakirlis, Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis and Aoife McLysaght, eLife, 18 Feb 2020.

We have long advocated HGT for supplying all "new" genes. If these remain dormant for many generations and an HGT source is not apparent, instead they will be designated de novo, provenance unknown. But if, as supposed, such genes are ancestrally present without HGT, in DNA that was never-deployed in the new role, yet is now somehow ready for optimizing selection, we have a question: Where does the programming come from? Regarding the few orphans that these geneticists think may have gradually, completely diverged from dissimilar predecessors ...same question.

De novo emergence of adaptive membrane proteins from thymine-rich genomic sequences

An attempt to answer our question also comes from these researchers and their affiliates. Overall, our results support an experiential model for de novo gene birth whereby a fraction of incipient proto-genes can subsequently mature and, as adaptive changes engender novel selected effects, progressively become established in genomes in a species-specific manner (see illustration). However, ...while emerging sequences show no evidence of encoding a useful protein product in the present state of the organism, they have the potential to do so in the future. ...We are standing by.
De novo emergence of adaptive membrane proteins from thymine-rich genomic sequences, doi:10.1038/s41467-020-14500-z, by Nikolaos Vakirlis et al., Nature Communications, 07 Feb 2020.

We are pleased that orphan genes are increasingly recognized for their ubiquity and importance. And we welcome the close scrutiny of gradual divergence. We think its power is limited to microevolution.

Genes from scratch - far more common and important than we thought, Trinity College Dublin (+PhysOrg.com), 17 Feb 2020, and New and Maybe Important, Genome Web, 19 Feb 2020.
Viruses... is all about HGT. 04 Jan 2016 and 21 Aug 2016 are postings about de novo genes.
Three New Human Genes... cites McLysaght on de novo genes, with updates since 2009.

09 Feb 2020
Astrobiology is as cool as it sounds. We've already found the hallmarks of life in many corners of our solar system.
...Finding Life Is Space's Final Frontier by Brad King, The Wall Street Journal, 07 Feb 2020.

04 Feb 2020
Comments on the origin and Spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, (+viXra), by N Chandra Wickramasinghe, Edward J Steele et al., doi:10.37421/Virol Curr Res.2020.4.109, Virol Curr Res, 06 Mar 2020.
The Coronavirus May Have Come From Space by N.C. Wickramasinghe and E.J. Steele, viXra, 06 Feb 2020.
Coronavirus latest: infections in China pass 20,000, Nature News, 04 Feb 2020: with updates
Influenza from Space?, first posted Jan 2000, has related discussion and updates.

26 Jan 2020
Phylogenetic investigations suggest ...the presence of [antioxident] enzymes in the last universal common ancestor, far predating the great oxygenation event (GOE) sometime between 2.3 and 2.7 billion years ago. These enzymes are found in all domains of life, even in obligate anaerobes.... The researchers noticing this puzzle suppose that the enzymes evolved long before GOE because reactive oxygen already came from strictly chemical sources. Or other chemistry mimicked oxygen. Or the enzymes also worked against sulfur. Whatever the reason, by darwinan logic there had to be one.
Sulfur Chemistry May Have Paved the Way for Evolution of Antioxidants by Anna Neubeck and Friedemann Freund, doi:10.1089/ast.2019.2156, Astrobiology, 27 Dec 2019.
Antioxident genes before oxygen are consistent with cosmic ancestry, in which genes always come first.
Metazoan Genes Older Than Metazoa? and Genes Older Than Earth? have many more examples.

21 Jan 2020
The Big Bang is widely accepted as being the beginning ...but other theories ...are suggesting otherwise.
What if the Universe has no end? by Patchen Barss, BBCNews, 19 Jan 2020.
The End and the Big Bang and The Beginning have related discussion and updated links.
The growing number of these competing theories suggests that it might now be time to let go of the idea that the Big Bang marked the beginning of space and time. ..."I always regarded inflation as a very artificial theory," says Roger Penrose. ...With a period of insane expansion stretching out the Universe so rapidly that almost the entire thing ended up far beyond the region we can observe and interact with. ...One idea put forward by proponents of inflation is that theoretical particles made up something called an "inflation field".... Paul Steinhardt, who was one of the original architects of inflationary theory, ultimately got fed up with the lack of predictiveness and untestability. "We have to look for a better idea." ...In fact, it's possible that time has existed forever. — BBCNews

Our Cosmic Ancestry in the Stars
15 Jan 2020
The newest book from Chandra Wickramasinghe et al. begins with the assurance that panspermia is how we humans came to be here on Earth. Now it is time to explore the implications of this paradigm. These include new possible causes for extinctions, diseases, evolutionary innovations and the rise and fall of empires. Indeed, the histories of science, philosophy and religion are all seen anew, with hopes that this awakening will make us more compassionate toward each other and more careful with our fragile planet. Overall, it is an impassioned plea for a fresh vision. Provocative, unorthodox and stimulating. We especially like the chosen title.

Our Cosmic Ancestry in the Stars: The Panspermia Revolution and the Origins of Humanity, by Chandra Wickramasinghe, Kamala Wickramasinghe and Gensuke Tokoro, Bear & Company, 14 May 2019.
Chandra Wickramasinghe has a background essay and updated links.

10 Jan 2020
A Biological Solution to the Mystery of Methane on Mars by Dirk Schulze-Makuch, AirSpaceMag.com, 09 Jan 2020.
Methanogenic Archaea Can Produce Methane in Deliquescence-Driven Mars by Deborah Maus et al., Scientific Reports, 08 Jan 2020. Life on Mars! has links about methane there. Thanks Thanks, Theodore Rigley.

01 Jan 2020
By 2020, in real or artificial life, sustainable evolutionary progress in a genetically closed system will not have been demonstrated. This was our online prediction of eighteen years ago. It has been upheld. This provides strong affirmation for cosmic ancestry.
Bet 44: our original posting at Long Bets, now part of The Long Now Foundation.
09 May 2002: our local notice of the prediction. The Evolution Prize, 2006, has elaboration for this issue.
...I only want to draw attention to an important test that the standard theory [of evolution] has not yet met.
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