Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech

Liquid Crystal Phases of DNA, Beginning of Life? 150

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the lot-better-than-my-theory-of-gum-and-scotch-tape dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team led by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Milan has discovered some unexpected forms of liquid crystals of ultrashort DNA molecules immersed in water, providing a new scenario for a key step in the emergence of life on Earth. CU-Boulder physics Professor Noel Clark said the team found that surprisingly short segments of DNA, life's molecular carrier of genetic information, could assemble into several distinct liquid crystal phases that "self-orient" parallel to one another and stack into columns when placed in a water solution. Life is widely believed to have emerged as segments of DNA- or RNA-like molecules in a prebiotic "soup" solution of ancient organic molecules.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Liquid Crystal Phases of DNA, Beginning of Life?

Comments Filter:
  • Life? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @01:04PM (#21463391) Homepage Journal
    Life was started when the Great Green Arkleseizure sneezed it across the universe to this location. Stop shattering my worldview with these so-called "discoveries."
    • Re:Life? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @01:28PM (#21463623) Homepage
      Obviously off on the religious mockery tangent, but this isn't really offtopic. If (I'd say when) we discover how to make life from inanimate matter, there's bound to be yet another clash between Genesis [wikipedia.org] and Abiogenesis [wikipedia.org]. And some people will yet again claim that the Book is right and science is wrong. Obviously religion gets a lot less personal if God is someone that once snapped his fingers and there was a Big Bang - and that everything that follows can be replicated in a test tube. But I think that we in the not too distant future will make the connection from inanimate molecules into primitive replicating beings. And if God doesn't smite us down at that point for invading his turf he never will.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by sigzero (914876)
        Where did the stuff that made up the "Big Bang" come from? If it was inert what was the "catalyst"? I don't think there ever will be a connection from the inanimate to the animate.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by brainnolo (688900)
          The fact that you do not get it, or nobody gets it does not mean that there is no explanation. Our brain is amazing but I doubt that it is the top intelligence ever achievable by a living creature, so it is plausible that we are just not intelligent enough to understand some things.
          • Re:Life? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by foniksonik (573572) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @01:59PM (#21463825) Homepage Journal
            We're plenty intelligent enough... we just don't have enough data and probably never will, but we can make guesses - more educated guesses than those made by early philosophers (religious academics and natural academics). Personally I don't see the disconnect between early science/religion and modern science. They sought answers with what information they had available.. we do the same. Just because some cult of people want to believe that we were at the pinnacle of understanding some 2 - 3 thousand years ago, doesn't discount the efforts made at the time.

            Those Rabbis, Greeks and monks were very smart people - they also had to deal with politics and ignorance however and sometimes the best way to deal with that is to dumb it down to a lowest common denominator. "That's right, God made that happen. Don't go to war over it... it was a miracle. Now give us money so we can keep teaching your kids how to read/write and count to ten."
            • If only I had mod points (and then, having not posted, of course). Very well put, I doubt I could've said it any better.
          • by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @02:02PM (#21463849) Journal
            ...Or don't have the proper perspective. For example, consider one of those huge walk-through mazes. Those things are dog-simple when seen from above, but when you're inside of it, it can take an hour to get out. You do eventually get out, but it takes a lot longer to solve that way than the seconds it would take when seen from a better point of view.

            I'm personally of the opinion that nothing science concludes will ever be able to prove or disprove the existence of (a) God(s), so I'm not sure why this discussion keeps coming up. Yeah, science never "proves", only "shows to be likely", whatever. The point is that you either believe in God or you don't. There's no scientifically veritable "correct" answer that can ever be had until some day in the future when it's too late to do anything about it anyway. You're either worm food or in your final eternal resting place... wherever that may be.

            Honestly, the religion bashing is completely pointless and is getting really, really old hat.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by brainnolo (688900)
              Religion bashing may be pointless but, like governments, the main religious organizations are very influent, powerful and rich (and unlike governments they do not offer any tangible service). I'm all for free thinking but for example the Roman Church has been involved in many scandals and crimes against humanity (crusades comes to mind obviously) and they are never punished for their actions. If my opinion was worth something religious organization wouldn't be allowed or would be controlled as tightly (or e
              • by lbbros (900904)
                Now that you mention the Crusades, I advise you to read up some history books before saying "it was all the Church's fault" or "it was a war of religion".
                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by Pax681 (1002592)
                  erm... pope boniface orderd the first crusade... against ther muslims.... to get jerusalem and the "holy land" into charistian hands....... there fore the church of rome ordered the crusades ad backed ALL of the crusades. to say this wasn't a war of religion..which it BLATANTLY was , AND to then say read books on it is quite frankly amazing. you see when the poster reads up on it he will see that it was a war of religion. i give talk on a semi regular basis about the Templars, their history, the crusade
                  • by lbbros (900904)
                    Bonifacius? Are you sure? It was a proclamation by Pope Urbanus (of which there are multiple transcribed versions, so there is uncertainty on what had been actually said) and it was just a "call to arms", but he himself did not expect the reaction.

                    Talking about a war of religion is an understatement of the Crusades (but nice for people trying to push ideologies), a mixture of many different factors, and which represent part of the medieval mentality (a strange, complex one, but not certainly the one of a "D
                • by ardle (523599)
                  Here's a really good story from European history [209.85.135.104] that could be characterised as a war of religion :-)
              • by arminw (717974)
                ........and they are never punished for their actions.......

                You hypocrite! Have you ever been punished for your bad actions? How many lies you have told so far in your life, or stuff you have "appropriated" that wasn't yours? How about the other eight commandments? Notice they are called commandments not optional choices. How many times have you broken traffic laws and not been punished. Ever wonder what kind of a world it would be if EVERYBODY got punished instantly, EVERY time we broke some law? Because w
            • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @02:27PM (#21464051) Homepage Journal
              I'm personally of the opinion that nothing science concludes will ever be able to prove or disprove the existence of (a) God(s), so I'm not sure why this discussion keeps coming up.

              It keeps coming up because religious ideologues keep insisting that science is wrong because it contradicts their beliefs. And they want to base public policy and education on those beliefs. The beliefs themselves are a personal matter, of course, and they've got every right to believe that Rapture is imminent or that life was created in its current form 6000 years ago; the conflict occurs when they try to base things like environmental management or what's taught in high-school science classes on it.

              Honestly, the religion bashing is completely pointless and is getting really, really old hat.

              The science bashing isn't pointless at all -- it's a means of gaining political power -- but it's definitely old hat, which doesn't keep fanatics from doing it. Scientists who bash religion, e.g. Dawkins, do so out of disgust with religion's continual insistence on trying to replace knowledge with ignorance, and the consequences thereof.
              • by lbbros (900904)
                However, religion bashing has come to a point where even admitting of being religious is a cause of ridicule or arrogance. Don't forget that tolerance works both ways - from "less open" to "more open" and from "more open" to "less open". I've only seen the former, which in turn causes a lot of people to behave rather arrogantly.

                Religion by itself is not a curse, nor a tainting mark. I do science and I am religious. Is there something wrong in that?
                • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @03:17PM (#21464441) Homepage Journal
                  However, religion bashing has come to a point where even admitting of being religious is a cause of ridicule or arrogance.

                  [shrug] I haven't seen that; I have seen a lot of religious believers being hypersensitive and interpreting fanatic-bashing as religion-bashing generally. E.g., when someone attempts to jump in on a discussion of the origins of DNA in the early terrestrial environment with, "That can't be true because Genesis says ..." then mockery is the only reasonable response. That's not religion-bashing, that's fanatic-bashing. If you are willing to accomodate your religious beliefs to scientific observations, as many religious scientists have done, then hardly anyone is going to attack you for it. (And those who do can be ignored; there are cranks and professional malcontents on both sides of every argument.)

                  I do science and I am religious. Is there something wrong in that?

                  Of course not. Motivation is irrelevant when science is done right. You can study a problem because you have a personal interest in solving it, because you want to unravel the mysteries of God's creation, because someone is paying you a whole lot of money to do so, or just out of simple curiosity -- all of these motivations can produce good science, and will no doubt continue to do so. But it's important to acknowledge that some motivations are more likely to lead to bias than others; and it is absurd to deny that religion has introduced considerable bias into the study of the origins of life.
                  • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

                    by Eli Gottlieb (917758)

                    [shrug] I haven't seen that;
                    Welcome to the internet. Population: every smug, religion-hating atheist on the planet.
                    • Welcome to the internet. Population: every smug, religion-hating atheist on the planet.

                      And every hypersensitive religionist who will find every excuse to make personal attacks based on out-of-context snippets of /. posts, apparently.
                    • by RockDoctor (15477)

                      Welcome to the internet. Population: every smug, religion-hating atheist on the planet.

                      I know at least three religion-hating atheists who're not on the Internet. Which implies that you're a pathetic god-squaddie who doesn't realise that you're even more outnumbered and wrong than you already think you are.

                      Perhaps I should try to persuade them to get onto the internet, but they have so much fun taking the piss out of god-squaddies as they go in and out of the few remaining churches in town.

                • If you're a theistic fanatic acquiring knowledge partly to aid you in spreading your personal brand of lunacy by whatever means, then yes.

                  If you are a deist ala Einstein and Thomas Jefferson then fine.

                  Somewhere in between? Then it depends on where exactly.
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Anonymous Coward

                  However, religion bashing has come to a point where even admitting of being religious is a cause of ridicule or arrogance.

                  Gee I wonder why? Oh that's right, it's because most often "your religion" has some pretty nasty things to say about the rest of us. Such as suffering in eternal agony unless we reciprocate the love of your god or prophet. When was the last anti-Buddhist rant you've heard or read? Ever? Stop trying to pass off being spiritual as having an organized set of beliefs that you must adhere to and coerce others to adhere to as well. I consider myself a very spiritual person but I'm still an atheist and an agnosti

                • ---Religion by itself is not a curse, nor a tainting mark. I do science and I am religious. Is there something wrong in that?

                  Absolutely not.

                  Well.. I have grown away from religion (Catholicism) because of linguists, historians, and anthropologists... scientists.

                  When I hear the reports of an archaeology dig about how the Bible wasn't quite true, I lose some faith.
                  When I see the reports and academic writings indicating how a different peoples history doesn't coincide with the Bible, I lose faith.
                  When I witness
                  • by lbbros (900904)
                    In that case, you realize that the scriptures, like everything else, are product of their times. Even if Catholicism believes they're "inspired", a good theologist will tell you that even so, they must be interpreted with regards of the historical and social context of the time. I've seen a Jesuit theologist talk about that in the context of Noah's Ark, and he made perfectly valid arguments without being "blasphemous".

                    Unlike other variants of Christians, Catholicism does not really promote a literal interpr
                  • by arminw (717974)
                    .....When I hear the reports of an archaeology dig about how the Bible wasn't quite true.........

                    Can you give an example of that and not just somebody's opinion or interpretation of the data?

                    (.....What do you believe when at least 25% of your faith is proved false by science and alternate histories and anthropological studies?.....)

                    Are you taking about actual scientific facts and data, the raw data that is, or someone's interpretation of that data? Both scientists and religionists tend to interpret data thr
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by moz25 (262020)
                  Don't forget that tolerance works both ways - from "less open" to "more open" and from "more open" to "less open".

                  I have no issue whatsoever with people who keep their religion to themselves or who behave in ways that I would expect, i.e. modest, kind and forgiving. I know people who are like that and I have no troubles with them.

                  Instead, we are confronted almost daily with "proud Christians" who are so intensely narrowminded that they cannot even comprehend that we do not secretly believe in God and by ext
                  • by lbbros (900904)
                    I hope this doesn't sound like an ad hominem, but your post incarnates the attitude I was writing about in my other message. Calling it "rubbish" does not make you any better of the religion you despise, even though you may have all the logic behind you.
                    Pride in a religion is nothing wrong unless you start killing people in its name. And yet, it would be the person's fault, or fault of the people who indoctrinate... but not of religion itself.
                    • by moz25 (262020)
                      I agree the word "rubbish" was ill-chosen, but I do not despise religion itself. There are lots of belief systems that a majority of people consider to be false, yet can still appreciate. It's not like I'm going to despise kids for believing in Santa.

                      The difference is that with religion, it's actual adults with power and money pushing flawed logic with energy and fanaticism. It is difficult to remain modest while those who assault logic on every level shout the loudest.

                      It complicates matters that those who
                    • Pride in a religion is nothing wrong unless you start killing people in its name.

                      I mostly agree with your formulation, though I'll extend it a little bit (and I think you'll agree with it): Pride in a religion is OK as long as you don't hurt people due to it.

                      This do, though, increase the scope quite a bit, as it means people can't use religion as a basis for a kind of action that end up hurting people, even when the damage is non-intentional. With that constraint, I feel religion as OK, and a solace and inspiration for people (even though I am an atheist myself.)

                      Eivind.

                • by arminw (717974)
                  .......I do science and I am religious. Is there something wrong in that?....

                  Nothing at all. They ask and try to answer different questions that have puzzled the minds of man since the dawn of history.

                  Science attempts to answer "how" questions. Religion is tries to answer "why" questions. Neither has cornered the market answering "when" things happened or when they might happen.

                  All information comes to us either by first hand experience or by communication from some witness. Nobody can PROVE if a witness is
                • by morcego (260031)

                  I do science and I am religious. Is there something wrong in that?


                  I studied for many years on a catholic school. We had our religion classes. We had our masses. And we would have hour biology classes. The teacher, btw, was a priest. He would even say "science is the tool god gave us to understand his creation". I find that a very enlightened way to look at things.

                  A scientist who is also religious is something very natural for me.
              • It keeps coming up because religious ideologues keep insisting that science is wrong because it contradicts their beliefs.

                I was with you until you said "wrong". Too often I see religious ideologues insisting that science is the only rational basis for a worldview, because other worldviews contradict their beliefs. Religious zealots, regardless of flavor, tend to be distressingly similar when arguing their points of view.

            • Religion *is* very old, and it sucks all ass. The reason why we religion bash is very simple. Religion attempts to brainwash mankind into thinking we already have all the answers to the ultimate questions. Science is the only way to find out what exists externally from ourselves. This being the case, religion is bullshit and must be trampled on whenever possible. The reason why science doesn't care about gods is because we made up gods. Science doesn't care about the things we make up - just like Unicorn
              • Then I would call you ignorant.

                If you were as wise as you indirectly claim, then you would realise that there are so many more questions about everything than answers.

                Not so amazingly, science cannot explain many things. For example, look at the Fermi Paradox. For another, investigate why quantum mechanics does what it does. Whatever we dig into, we open more questions and unexplainable phenomena.

                The wisest I know are agnostic and are open to interesting interpretation. And they certainly don't religion-bas
                • by Mushukyou (739593)

                  Then I would call you ignorant.

                  You can call a well educated man ignorant if you'd like, that's fine, but you'll look like a fool in the process.

                  If you were as wise as you indirectly claim, then you would realise that there are so many more questions about everything than answers.

                  What the hell does this have to do with the conversation?

                  Not so amazingly, science cannot explain many things.

                  Correction, science hasn't as of YET explained everything.

                  Whatever we dig into, we open more questions and unexplainable phenomena.

                  To use the word "unexplainable" makes you the ignorant one.

                  The wisest I know are agnostic and are open to interesting interpretation.

                  You must not know very many wise people, then, because agnosticism means you believe something to be unknown or unknowable. You must still be either theist or atheist. Agnosticism has to do with knowledge, theism/atheism

              • by arminw (717974)
                .....The alternative is to sacrifice logic, common sense,......

                What you are really doing is elevating your logic and common sense into the position of God. Do you know everything that could be known? Is there any human that does? If not, you cannot know there is no God any more than a religious person can know that there is. They don't have all knowledge either. Both can only BELIEVE. Who are you to say that your belief is truer or better than someone else's? Are you God or something? Does your belief give
            • by ceoyoyo (59147)
              Science can't prove or disprove there's a god or gods, but it can turn up an awful lot of evidence that a particular idea of what a god is like is unlikely to be correct.

              Scientists creating life from inanimate matter in the lab has absolutely nothing to say about whether god exists, but it pretty much blows out of the water the idea that creating life is the exclusive province of the divine.
              • Science can't prove or disprove there's a god or gods, but it can turn up an awful lot of evidence that a particular idea of what a god is like is unlikely to be correct.

                Scientists creating life from inanimate matter in the lab has absolutely nothing to say about whether god exists, but it pretty much blows out of the water the idea that creating life is the exclusive province of the divine.

                [italics mine]

                Actually, *scientists* creating life from inanimate matter in the lab is an example of intelligent design (in this case the designer being the scientists). Historically, many proponents of Judaism and Christianity have proposed intermediates in their interpretation of creation (e.g. angels). A major point of just about all flavors of Jewish and Christian theology is that God prefers to use human (and sometimes angelic) agents as opposed to directly working miracles.

                For that matter, we

                • by ceoyoyo (59147)
                  I didn't say intelligent, I said divine.

                  Certainly all religions, or even all adherents of particular religions wouldn't find scientists creating life a threat. There are some though, and they seem to be particularly vocal about the origins and basic mechanics of life creating being off limits to humans.

                  So when the first scientist creates life that gives us three options (by my in-the-moment count): 1) there's nothing divine about creating life, 2) those scientists are the hand of God at work or 3) humanity
                  • So when the first scientist creates life that gives us three options (by my in-the-moment count): 1) there's nothing divine about creating life, 2) those scientists are the hand of God at work or 3) humanity has elevated itself to the point where it possesses at least some divine powers.

                    Humanity has always been considered to already possess some divine powers by Jews and Christians (and other religions for different concepts of "god"). "Ye are gods." "We are made in the image of God." Classically, literary and mathematical works were pointed to as examples of "sub-creation". Humans creating self-consistent worlds that exist apart from their creator. In the computer age, we create dynamic virtual worlds as a matter of course, and people these virtual worlds with self-replicating agent

            • This seems off topic but it's still a subject we have to come to terms with as we see reality behaving in a vastly different way then we once thought it had. I think the problem with religion is not god, but that most religions think they have the definitive answers to why we are here and discredit new information that does not conform to a certain belief system. It's not the idea of god but the thought of behaving, thinking, acting, or ignoring facts in certain ways to appease what largely is an idea. Just
            • Science will never disprove god, and it ain't the job of science. But as science explain more and more, even up to the point we are nearing a reproduction of the apparition of life, domain once reserved to the "sacred & religious", the god of the gap back down to the shadow. I guess that there will be a point where only the primal move/big bang/or whatever could be assigned to such a god of the gap. And nothing afterward. This is what i think most of those attacking science want to fight against. The re
            • by Kjella (173770)
              There are a lot of claims in religion that are beyond what we can ever prove by science, and those will never be answered. However, most religious texts make claims about earth, life and our origins that are testable. Quite many of these turn out to be wrong, as in "the earth is flat" wrong in every sense but the philosophical discussion on whether knowledge can be gained through observation or exists at all. Under any other circumstance you'd call those undisputable facts, as solid as the chair I'm sitting
              • by arminw (717974)
                ......That these answers, which are directly contradicted by observation, are none the less true.......

                The question whether the answers contradict the observations themselves or someone's interpretations of the observations. When scientists "measure" the age of rocks, for example, they use radioactive decay as their clock. The assume (believe) that this clock is both accurate and CONSTANT over the time period in question. This assumption is never questioned and on the surface seems to make sense. However, t
                • by BetaJim (140649)

                  This assumption is never questioned and on the surface seems to make sense. However, there is no way to PROVE that this radioactivity clock, upon which the immense ages theorized, are based, is in fact invariant over the large spans of time.

                  That is not true. Every time radio-isotope dating is done, it matches the constant constant decay rate assumption. What we don't have is any evidence that would cause this assumption to be questioned. Do you have any?

                  One very good piece of evidence that the deca

                  • by arminw (717974)
                    .....This supernova occurred at a distance of ~160,000 light-years......

                    Whenever distance and time are equated, there again is an assumption (belief) made. It is assumed that whatever is moving, light in this case, travels at a constant rate. So all that was really done was to shift assumptions. There is NO known law of physics that mandates that the speed of light be constant. We KNOW, by experiment, that the speed of light is greatly affected by the medium it traverses. Space itself is not an empty nothin
                    • by BetaJim (140649)

                      Your skepticism is completely unwarranted; do you think that your brain is in a vat? The sensation of your body is just an assumption. Ooohh...

                      There is NO known law of physics that mandates that the speed of light be constant.

                      Yes there is: General Relativity

                      There is evidence that the speed of light must have been 300 million times faster than today, shortly after the "big bang".

                      There is no such evidence.

                • by scotch (102596)
                  There is a certain fallacy that has become fashionable in the last decade. I don't know if this fallacy has a name, but the basic ideas is that "if there are two sides to an issue, each side has equal merit". Of course, not all ideas have equal merit, and the fact that you can find some nut to argue that the earth is flat does not justify "equal time" or equal consideration for the idea in education, the media, science books, or a honest debate on slashdot.

                  The ideas you question, the constancy of radioa

        • by Colin Smith (2679)
          So. Who created god?

          Answer me that and I'll get down on my knees and worship him. The bigger one that is... Our god would obviously just be a little godling in comparison... I like to think of him as a Mini-Me god.
           
        • How did you draw the latter conclusion from the former questions?
        • Why do you even think your questions make sense?
        • As in the zen-koan: "Mu".

          That means your questions includes assumptions that makes them wrong. Please learn more about the issues, and you will get better questions. The process of educating you about these areas is longer than I can do in a single, simple post - I'll just say that there are a ton of information out there that will make you get better questions :) It is also very much fun to learn.

          Eivind.

      • by CODiNE (27417)
        Its interesting to me the idea that only God can create life. I dont know if there's a scriptural basis for it or if its something people just assume is true. Perhaps those that believe in immortal souls would view it differently than those who believe a person or animal IS a soul like Jehovah's Witnesses and 7th Day Adventists. If life requires some spiritual soul then yes it would make sense to say only God could make life. However if we really are just our bodies then I see no reason that man couldnt eve
        • Even if your conjecture is true, why not the Giant Invisible Green Panda or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Three Infinite Donuts of Doom?
      • by Tatarize (682683)
        I'm always scoffing at IDiots and nutter creationists who think God poofed the universe into existence having themselves poofed God into existence for this specific purpose.

        However, such experiences have given me the ability to spot arguments waiting to be made. A lot of the research into abiogenesis actually involves clay. It turns out to be a fantastic material for early abiotic evolving molecules. There's a shoe here just waiting to be dropped. Genesis says that God made man out of clay... abiogenesis su
  • neat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @01:12PM (#21463473) Journal
    "The key observation with respect to early life is that this aggregation of nano DNA strands is possible only if they form duplexes," Clark said. "In a sample of chains in which the bases don't match and the chains can't form helical duplexes, we did not observe liquid crystal ordering."

    The CU-Boulder and University of Milan team began a series of experiments to see how short the DNA segments could be and still show liquid crystal ordering, said Clark. The team found that even a DNA segment as short as six bases, when paired with a complementary segment that together measured just two nanometers long and two nanometers in diameter, could still assemble itself into the liquid crystal phases, in spite of having almost no elongation in shape. Subsequent tests by the team involved mixed solutions of complementary and noncomplementary DNA segments, said Clark. The results indicated that essentially all of the complementary DNA bits condensed out in the form of liquid crystal droplets, physically separating them from the noncomplementary DNA segments. "We found this to be a remarkable result," Clark said. "It means that small molecules with the ability to pair up the right way can seek each other out and collect together into drops that are internally self-organized to facilitate the growth of larger pairable molecules. "In essence, the liquid crystal phase condensation selects the appropriate molecular components, and with the right chemistry would evolve larger molecules tuned to stabilize the liquid crystal phase. If this is correct, the linear polymer shape of DNA itself is a vestige of formation by liquid crystal order."
    one of the requirements for life is that you have an environment that supports molecular self assembly and recognition, this experiment seems to show that this is the case with DNA and RNA strands as short as 6 bases and can select for more stable configurations over time. It's the beginnings of evolutionary natural selection- base pairs assemble into structures that have certain desireable characteristics.
    • Which brings up an interesting question. If intelligence is some kind of naturally occurring, self perpetuating thing when certain conditions are met. Does it not appear humans are furthering it along with silicon? Sounds to me like we are creating an environment for the next stage of life.
  • Supposing that life started with random DNA strands that somehow self-organized, how did the DNA strands form? Randomly, all by themselves? How likely is that? Anyone knows?
    • How did the DNA strands form? Randomly, all by themselves? How likely is that? Anyone knows?

      I'm sure the likelihood is a factor of time. While I could use the 1000 monkeys analogy, I prefer Steven Wright: "Anywhere is walking distance if you have the time."

      • by arminw (717974)
        ....if you have the time.......

        Indeed, time is the magic that turns rocks, never mind frogs, into princes. No maiden kisses required, just enough time. Boy, what a fairy tale masquerading as science!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by harrv (627638)
      In "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, he makes the point that there are approximately a billion billion planets in the universe within the so-called "goldilocks zone", that is, capable of sustaining life because they probably have liquid water. So, even if the likelihood of DNA or RNA randomly forming was a billion-to-one, that would still mean that it has happened on a billion planets.
      • by MOBE2001 (263700)
        So, even if the likelihood of DNA or RNA randomly forming was a billion-to-one, that would still mean that it has happened on a billion planets.

        Sor far, nobody has ventured a probability figure based on observation. I take it that nobody knows since the random formation of DNA/RNA strands has never been observed. However, it should be possible for a bio-chemist to figure out the likelihood of the right molecules getting together in some primordial soup. What if the probability is zero? Has anybody here thou
        • 1) DNA and RNA exist today.
          2) They can decompose into simpler chemicals.
          3) Each of the decomposition reactions are reversible.

          Therefore the probability of simpler chemicals coming together and forming nucleic acids is not zero.

          Of course, that *is* like saying that since your room is clean, it can become messy, and that each of the actions that caused it to become messy are reversible, therefore your room could spontaneously clean itself... But see my post below about how those odds can be cut down.
    • On the Wikipedia article on 'RNA world hypothesis,' it says Joan Oro demonstrated that (at least some) nucleotides could be synthesized abiotically. It does say in the next section that process that Oro used to synthesize nucleotides is incompatible with the synthesis of sugars, but that's not referenced, so who knows if that's right or not. (I certainly don't.)

      If there was some prebiotic mechanism for pumping out sugars and nucleotides, then the chances of 6-base strands forming go up a lot. Oro demonstrat
  • This discovery is interesting if one sees genesis, as well as life, from the perspective of a process. The implications of the underlying affinity for replication are left for theologists to elaborate.

    please see:
    A. Graham Cairns-Smith of Glasgow
    Genetic takeover and the mineral origins of life
    Cambridge University Press 1982
    LoC cat # 81-17070
    ISBN 0 521 23312 7
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Cairns-Smith [wikipedia.org]

    Media is nice, just not all that important - unless you are it.
    Was it you that had the good day, or was
    • by SpeedyDX (1014595)
      Sorry, I'm a little (read: a lot) hungover, so I don't know what the rest of your post says. But there's one thing I take issue with:

      Media is nice, just not all that important

      Do you really think so? Maybe you should ask those dictators who use government-controlled media streams to send out their propoganda if they think media is important. Maybe you should look up the relationship between the prevalency of free press in a country and its government's human rights violations. Media, and to a greater extent free press, is INTEGRAL for any democrati

  • God of the Gaps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Liquidrage (640463) on Saturday November 24, 2007 @02:37PM (#21464131)
    It's shrinking. One day they'll be no place to hide.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Doubtful, if the universe never existed at one point, therefore an the potential for it's existence must have always existed or we wouldn't exist, so something exists. Whether that something is a god, or something else know one can know.

      You can't draw an existent from an absolute-never-existance. Science must submit to logic in the end, else science falls apart since:

      Definition Logic:
      1. A method of human thought that involves thinking in a linear, step-by-step manner about how a problem can be solved. Log
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by arminw (717974)
        ....that involves thinking in a linear, step-by-step manner about how a problem can be solved........

        The problem with establishing a series of steps is that the first step has to be put somewhere. Nobody KNOWS where that first step needs to go. We can believe where it might have been, but once you start to believe, who is to say one belief is more true than any other?

        The Bible tells us the first step began with God because God is the eternally self existent One. Modern science cannot really place the first
        • Why is it absurd? Or rather why is it's absurdity relevant to it's truth or falsity.
          Most of quantum physics is pretty 'absurd' and much of relativity seems so as well, but they're holding up pretty good so far.
              The real problem is trying to fathom what happened before time or what's outside of outside. Both nonsense questions, but if the universe (everything and all of time) has a finite duration prior to now those are the questions being asked.

          Mycroft
          • by arminw (717974)
            ......Why is it absurd?.....

            Because if the Universe created itself, without a cause, then the law of cause and effect has been violated. AFAIK every effect has a cause. We may not alway know the cause, but it is nevertheless there. There is plenty of objective evidence that the universe did not always exist, but had a beginning. The cosmic background radiation is one of these evidences. Science, among other things is the methodical study of causes and effects. It is at the heart of the scientific method.

            Qua
        • by griblik (237163)

          The Bible tells us the first step began with God because God is the eternally self existent One. Modern science cannot really place the first step. Logic tells us the Universe either created itself, which is absurd, or it was caused by a cause outside of itself or it always existed.

          Of course, the natural response to that would be that if 'God' can be eternally self existant, why can't the universe? It can't have taken an act of will for god to come into existance because before existance there's no will. And if it didn't take an act of will, then what works for god works for the universe.

          So if a god can exist, we don't need it to explain the universe. Which kind of makes the question of its existance moot.

          The writers of the Bible claim they were personally told by God, that He is that one who made everything from nothing. This does fit within the framework of logic.

          It also fits within the framework of dementia - I mean no offense, but if you'

          • by arminw (717974)
            ......if 'God' can be eternally self existant, why can't the universe?......

            Because we have measured, observed evidence that the universe had a beginning. This beginning requires a cause. We have no scientific evidence for the cause, that is God. All science can tell us that there was a beginning and that like everything else has a cause. Therefore, by faith only we can attribute the cause to whatever someone tells us. We then have to decide the credibility of that someone. If you don't think that Moses an
      • What are you rambling about? You have no right to claim that what came before the Big Bang is not knowable.

        You are a classic case of God of the Gaps. Your gap is before the inflationary period of the Big Bang, and you're shoving God in there. That it isn't knowable now (and there are current theories being worked on to fill in this gap fyi) doesn't mean it always will be, and doesn't give you the right to claim it's unknowable.

        Sadly, I didn't get back to this topic so no one will probably read this. B
    • Who's they?
      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by DigiShaman (671371)
        Ever study a godless society or those in power that don't believe in God (or "higher power" more specifically)? You get a nasty form of hubris and arrogance hell bent on power and selfishness.

        On the flip side of the coin, I wouldn't want to live in the days of the crusades or modern radical Islam either. But don't wish for a Godless society. It's just as bad.
        • Ever study a godless society or those in power that don't believe in God

          Yeah, those secular societies are the most backward in the world!

        • I haven't just studied one - I live in one (Norway). And I see much less of those hubris problems than in, for instance, the US, where just about everybody seems to be crazy religious, both from what statistics I see and what I saw by being there. Like, most people go to church and stuff? WEIRD. We don't do that. And our leaders end up humanist and nice, not anywhere near as power-crazy as it seems to be in the US.

          Eivind.

  • I bet Daniel Dennett is happier now
  • The article had too many confusing words in it, but I'm pretty sure I saw the FSM in the pretty slide. What will he think of next...
  • After why the big bang, the origin of the first DNA to reproduce is greatest mysteries in science. Even with all we know, I have not encountered a plausible explanation about the first DNA was produced. Without invoking an intelligent designer, I would speculate the first life arose near ocean volcanic vents which provide an energy source and significant temperature variations. The temperature variations would cause double strand DNA to split at higher temps. then recombine when it moved to cooler temps
    • by arminw (717974)
      .....which provide an energy source and significant temperature variations....

      That is not enough. DNA is only a carrier of code, akin to a computer memory or disk. The information on a disk and the structure and material of the disk itself are entirely separate. The chemistry of ink on paper tells you nothing about the musical score or other material written thereon.

      Nobody has ever demonstrated the creation of *any* code or language by anything other than a mind. DNA carries the language of life as authored
  • I hate seeing question marks on story titles. Throw in the word "speculation" if you must but leave out the question mark because you're not asking a question, you're speculating on questionable content. It's happening way to much at Slashdot, Digg, et al. Mod me down to oblivion but I had to get it off my chest because it's been bothering me for a long time. Thanks for listening.
    • by thebjorn (530874)
      It's hard to come up with intelligent titles in the very limited number of characters that you're allowed. Throwing in the word "speculation" would have made it too long. In this case the article suggests the question, so I'm not sure I see your point.

      -- bjorn
  • The sample came from Hugh Hefner's hot tub, so there was all kinds of DNA in it.
  • Not excited yet (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sammysheep (537812)
    First, we need the spontaneous formation of a membrane that can selectively remove calcium. Calcium at higher concentrations is cytotoxic and will aggregate proteins/nucleic acids. Calcium regulation is therefore tight and ubiquitous in living things. See article. [sciencedirect.com]

    Given such a membrane and some short DNA polymers, we also need to translate this random "information" into something meaningful. The current mechanism is: DNA -> RNA -> PROTEIN. This requires RNA polymerase or, at least, some ribosom
  • This reminds me of that scary crystal thing that almost destroyed the Starship Enterprise one time. On a side note, CU Boulder is an amazing school. It seems like they do some great nucleic acids work everytime I open a journal.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.

Working...