Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Genetic Building Blocks Found In Meteorite 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the rock-garden-of-eden dept.
FiReaNGeL writes to tell us scientists have confirmed that the components of genetic material could have originated in a place other than Earth. A recently published report explains how uracil and xanthine, two basic biological compounds, were found within a meteorite that landed in Australia. From Imperial College London: "They tested the meteorite material to determine whether the molecules came from the solar system or were a result of contamination when the meteorite landed on Earth. The analysis shows that the nucleobases contain a heavy form of carbon which could only have been formed in space. Materials formed on Earth consist of a lighter variety of carbon."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Genetic Building Blocks Found In Meteorite

Comments Filter:
  • I always thought of the idea of life arriving on the planet, rather unlikely. It seems counter intuitive. But, I suppose, with quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the whole earth is not flat thing, then I guess given enough evidence anything could be true, regardless of its ridiculousness.
    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:32AM (#23788857) Homepage Journal
      IANAB (I am not a biologist), but I think that when scientists talk about "life coming from space" they mean "complex carbon compounds that could, given the circumstances, combine into self-replicating structures that would, some time later, become living organisms". In other words, the secret ingredient needed for life to appear on Earth.

      But thinking "ZOMG there were living cells in the meteorite!" is just crossing the line.
      • Well, yeah thats what I meant. It would come as a surprise to me to learn that even the building blocks of life came here, rather than being home grown. And thats what this seems new evidence seems to support.

        If i ever say,write or use any form of communication to use similar language like you used in your last sentence, please for the love of God kill me.
        • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 14, 2008 @01:45AM (#23789297)

          Well, yeah thats what I meant. It would come as a surprise to me to learn that even the building blocks of life came here, rather than being home grown. And thats what this seems new evidence seems to support.
          There is no support for that idea at all. Nothing has eliminated the options that the building blocks of life formed here in isolation or that some of the building blocks of life formed here and were supplemented with meteorite material. In fact, I think it is highly likely that the building blocks formed here in isolation just due to the volume comparison problem. The early Earth after the ends of the bombardment phase was more than capable of forming carbohydrates, nucleobases, and amino acids, especially with free water and shitloads of carbon and nitrogen in a very electrically active atmosphere. It also had orders of magnitude more volume to perform these actions and didn't have to worry about atmospheric entry. Compared with the ideal conditions of the early Earth, it is pretty unreasonable to say that this evidence supports extraterrestrial formation of these critical chemicals. For every carbohydrate, nucleobase, or amino acid that survived entry to the atmosphere, there were probably billions formed naturally in Earth's chemical reactor.
          • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Saturday June 14, 2008 @05:12AM (#23790137) Homepage

            In fact, I think it is highly likely that the building blocks formed here in isolation just due to the volume comparison problem.


            Yeah, I tend to think that evidence like this of organic compounds in meteorites is looked at more as proof that they are formed (and distributed) routinely throughout the universe, rather than trying to say that this was the mechanism by which they arose on Earth. This has pretty serious implications for things like the Drake Equation, or at least the likelihood of planets with habitable climates having access to the materials necessary for life to come about.
          • by nut (19435)
            You're overstating the lack of support for the idea. It isn't necessary to eliminate evidence for local sources of such compounds to increase the support for extra-terrestrial sources.

            This evidence shows that such compounds exist beyond earth. Furthermore, it shows that they can survive the journey to the surface of the earth within a meteorite. Meteorites fall to earth all the time.

            Therefore there is a possibility that these, or similar, compounds could have come to earth from outer space and been invol
            • by khallow (566160)
              I have to agree with the other poster. It's a big universe out there. Sure life could have started somewhere else and come here. We need evidence though, say an archaic organism living in space. Otherwise, you're talking orders of magnitude. Lots of orders of magnitude. At least a trillion times more mass, several orders of magnitude more chemical activity. Absolutely irrelevant looks good to me.
      • by symbolset (646467) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:59AM (#23789027) Journal

        But thinking "ZOMG there were living cells in the meteorite!" is just crossing the line.

        Of course that would be silly. The living cells trapped inside the meteorite would have been baked into the material these researchers found. It's the light fluffy life forms on the exterior of the meteorite that would have been brushed off the surface of the meteorite on first contact with the atmosphere and drift gently down to the nutrient rich sea that covers most of our planet. There these hypothetic organisms would breed and diversify until they filled every sea, covered every continent and dwelled deep within the crust.

        Eventually a form would evolve, such as a lichen or mold, that bred with colonies so small and potentially electrostatically charged by sunlight that they might rise to the highest reaches of the atmosphere - to be scooped up by passing meteors on their way to the unknown depths of space. Perhaps they might by a fluke of trajectory be thrown clear of the solar system altogether. Frozen in the cold of space these breeding colonies might last millions of years. The vast majority of these would wander 'twixt the stars eternally, finding no place they might rest or fall on a hostile environment and die. Given enough of them, though -- perhaps millions an hour for a billion years -- some few might land someplace they can start anew.

        It's called panspermia [wikipedia.org]

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday June 14, 2008 @01:51AM (#23789331) Homepage Journal
          I don't think that it's necessarily a given that any life within a rock entering the atmosphere will be baked to a crisp, depending on the ablative properties of the body in question. Given that we've already seen evidence that fungus, mold spores, and bacteria can all survive prolonged exposure to vacuum, it would not be especially surprising if actual life came here... or, for that matter, has already left here. Numerous scenarios have been envisioned for Earth's past which involve a serious encounter with a major impactor.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by symbolset (646467)

            We were talking about a particular rock, not rocks in general. A ELE object would of course throw off objects of sufficient mass for embedded life to survive reentry. Our planet is known to have been hit by these objects several times while life was present. This happens considerably less frequently than the passing meteor scenario - perhaps frequently enough to be a vector within our solar system but not frequently enough for reliable interstellar diaspora.

            Quit modding yourself up. It's creepy.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            I don't think that it's necessarily a given that any life within a rock entering the atmosphere will be baked to a crisp, depending on the ablative properties of the body in question.

            Most meteorites that land intact and recognisable are cold when they land. Yes, the outer surface gets hot and ablated on entry to the atmosphere, but the poor thermal conductivity of silicate minerals and the short duration of atmospheric flight means that most of that heat stays on the surface of the meteorite and the interio

        • by Thing 1 (178996)
          I have mod points but you're already at +5 so I won't mod this thread. Your post is incredibly eloquent.
      • IANAB (I am not a biologist), but I think that when scientists talk about "life coming from space" they mean "complex carbon compounds that could, given the circumstances, combine into self-replicating structures that would, some time later, become living organisms". In other words, the secret ingredient needed for life to appear on Earth.

        Except that "life" is shorter. Only 4 letter long.

        More seriously :
        - lots of research has reached the result that, given the circumstances, these compounds combine *rather easily* (oligo nucleotide can appear spontaneously).
        - the self-replication is a *built-in function* of nucleotide (you don't need to wait that to appear). once you manage to have a string of them, you basically have enough to kickstart life.
        - the living organism then are only dependent of what evolutionary paths the basic replication mach

    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:59AM (#23789039) Homepage Journal
      Organic material coming here on comets and meteorites is perfectly plausible. But life coming from outside the solar system seems to be quite unlikely.

      There was some paper released last year showing that gene degradation when exposed to cosmic rays happens at an astonishing rate. When compared to how long it would take a piece of rock to travel from even the nearest star, it just looks to be implausible at best. Not only that, it would assume that the life would be able to survive the impact and either be compatible, or adapt from the rock/ice quickly to the earth.

      Even if panspermia was a viable idea, it would only say something about where life arose. It doesn't answer the question of how life arose. But if it arose here, then it would be easier to find the how. If life arose elsewhere, then we wouldn't know
      • Organic material coming here on comets and meteorites is perfectly plausible. But life coming from outside the solar system seems to be quite unlikely.

        I once read about rocks in Antarctia which, when cut open to get a cross section, have a line about a centimetre under the surface which is how far bacteria have penetrated into the rock.

        It could be that bacteria are commonly associated with rocks pretty much everywhere, and that new planets could be seeded by meteorites.

      • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Pvt. Cthulhu (990218) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @02:46AM (#23789587)
        Whole microbes surviving in an airless, nutrientless, radiation-saturated enviornment is not unprecedented. The Apollo 12 crew found scores of living streptococcus mitus doing just fine on the Surveyor probes on the moon, which had been there for three years. While its doubtful whole cells came here and populated the planet, it also seems unlikely that the Earth alone provided all the ingredients.
      • Fermi Paradox (Score:3, Insightful)

        by itsdapead (734413)

        Even if panspermia was a viable idea, it would only say something about where life arose. It doesn't answer the question of how life arose.

        Well, it would offer a solution to the Fermi Paradox, i.e. if even one civilization set out to colonize the galaxy they could do so in a surprisingly few millions of years - so where are they?

        Answer: Aaahh-chooh!!! There's Waldo!

        Unless someone finds an end-run around Relativity, interstellar travel is going to be slow, so the main motive behind colonization would be to spread your genome - and if you want self-replicating machines, why re-invent the wheel? (See Titan by Stephen Baxter).

        Of course, the c

        • by evilviper (135110)

          Unless someone finds an end-run around Relativity, interstellar travel is going to be slow,

          Umm... Not really.

          Interstellar colonization could be extremely fast. What would be "slow" is the current model of a few people getting in a ship, and traveling to distant solar systems.

          If, instead, you work out a short-hop model, you can have exponentially increasing rates of colonization.

          You just need to send a small city's population on a big ship, travel for 5 years to the nearest solar system, colonize, and then

          • by itsdapead (734413)

            You just need to send a small city's population on a big ship, travel for 5 years to the nearest solar system

            Small problem - you need a solar system with habitable planets which you can get to in 5 years... Nearest stars (AFAIK not yet known to have planets) are over 4 light years away - so that's an average speed of 0.8c. Tricky - even without FTL you're still gonna need that unobtainium-powered wehaven'tthoughtofityet engine.

            Of course, at that speed you have to ask "5 years for who?".

            Plus, if your civilization can build spaceships that can sustain large crews for years in interstellar space, it would be a

          • by Omestes (471991)
            A couple problems with this...

            What if there aren't habitable planets in the neighborhood? While planets seem ubiquitous, I doubt "earth like" planets are, meaning having liquid water, a breathable atmosphere etc... Unless we're only going for "living in a dome" colonization, but even then there are constraints, such as acceptable mass/gravity, raw materials, safe-ish levels of solar radiation, etc...

            Also I find the 5 year idea rather too quick. What speed is this accounting for? I doubt that we're even
            • by evilviper (135110)

              What if there aren't habitable planets in the neighborhood?

              Once you've got the technology to hop to the next solar system, terraforming isn't going to be a major problem for you...

              I don't understand why we'd ever value such a huge push. I would rather think that we would hit the colonize phase, then upon establishing a colony we'd expand it, until we hit a resource cap, and them further colonize.

              This was just a theoretical example of how quickly life-forms can spread through the universe without Hollywood-m

    • by Joebert (946227)
      I really don't think the idea is any more ridiculous than the thought of humans introducing non-native species to a contenient.
      Oceans, space, once you look past the material differences between the two they're really the same concept.
    • Why not? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @02:18AM (#23789455) Journal
      Actually, I'd argue that it's both rather expectable _and_ at the same time meaningless.

      The basic nucleotides and aminoacids can be formed rather quickly even in a retort in the lab, given the right conditions (similar to those of primal Earth). But even that is somewhat misleading: really they just need a lot of energy. Carbon and nitrogen just tend to do that, and we're talking simple building blocks, not a whole ribosome.

      What took an awfully long time is those actually becoming _life_. I.e., those assembling, by sheer chance, in a self-replicating configuration.

      Really, there's nothing special about finding isolated aminoacids or nucleotides. They're not yet life, they're the Lego blocks that actual life is made of. Aminoacids are not a miracle by themselves, but in the fact that they can be assembled in proteins that can react with any chemical you wish. Or produce another chemical that reacts with it. Including assemble other proteins. Nucleotides are even more meaningless by themselves. They can form a RNA strand, which is what the first and simplest life used. But the RNA strand does nothing whatsoever by itself. It needs some proteins that (A) replicate it, and (B) translate it to other proteins, before it can count as life.

      The "miracle" isn't when you have aminoacids and nucleotides. It's when you have at least some kind of RNA replicase and some kind of a ribosome.

      So basically "ZOMG, we found a nucleotide on a meteorite" is simultaneously:

      1. not that surprising, since really they form anywhere.

      2. rather meaningless for life on Earth, in that we have plenty of proof that they formed withing minutes on Earth too, with the conditions back then. So a couple of those molecules maybe came on a meteorite too. Big deal, compared to the whole billions of tons of them forming right here.

      3. rather unlikely as a source of life on Earth. Sooner or later those molecules break down. They don't last for ever. And we're not talking self-replicating life, but some building blocks which still needed to combine into a configuration that can be called "life", by sheer chance. That means lots and lots of them, and lots and lots of time. It's kinda absurd to assume that meteorites kept bringing billions of tons of them, for billions of years, until they finally recombined into some kind of ribosome.

      4. it at best brings some extra insight into it all. If they're as easy to form as to even exist in meteorites, well, it just makes it easier to believe that we had a lot here too. In fact, maybe we had them earlier than we thought, as Earth itself formed out of dust which coalesced into meteorite, which coalesced into a planet. The last one captured was the one that ejected a chunk of Earth and created the Moon. So maybe we had some building blocks before Earth even formed. It also means we can expect almost any planet anywhere to have _some_ of the building blocks, and evolve life, if the conditions and timing are right.

      But again, not an awful lot of insight that we didn't already have anyway.
      • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Eternauta3k (680157) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @11:56AM (#23791969) Homepage Journal

        Nucleotides are even more meaningless by themselves. They can form a RNA strand, which is what the first and simplest life used. But the RNA strand does nothing whatsoever by itself.
        Oh really? [wikipedia.org]
  • What does that mean? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster (602015)
    The analysis shows that the nucleobases contain a heavy form of carbon which could only have been formed in space. Materials formed on Earth consist of a lighter variety of carbon.

    What are they talking about? Heavy carbon? Is that just a non-technical way of referring to an isotope? No, I didn't RTFA.
    • by gwythaint (35509) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:25AM (#23788807)
      I think they mean the carbon 13 to carbon 12 ratio is not "earth normal".
      • which is pretty hefty evidence, but watch sceptics find a way to discard it along with the overwhelming mountain of evidence extra terrestrial life has come here.
        • which is pretty hefty evidence, but watch sceptics find a way to discard it along with the overwhelming mountain of evidence extra terrestrial life has come here.
          What evidence?
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by plasmacutter (901737)
            let's see. there's:

            -the unidentified artificial objects found inside numerous people who claim to have been abducted, which are not only not rejected by the body, but are integrated into the nervous system (apparently powered by bio-electricity, emitting unidentified signals until disconnected). Material they consist of is unknown

            -the subset of UFO related events which, though small, represent a considerable number, and are completely unexplainable.

            -the fact that so called "greys" are represented similarly
            • let's see. there's:

              -the unidentified artificial objects found inside numerous people who claim to have been abducted, which are not only not rejected by the body, but are integrated into the nervous system (apparently powered by bio-electricity, emitting unidentified signals until disconnected). Material they consist of is unknown

              -the subset of UFO related events which, though small, represent a considerable number, and are completely unexplainable.

              -the fact that so called "greys" are represented similarly in sketches worldwide, including those made by people in areas so remote and undeveloped they had no feasible exposure to modern media or pop culture.

              -the fact that modern ufo's show up in paintings from the renaissance, and earlier.

              the list goes on and on.

              Setting aside the validity or otherwise of the evidence you quote, how does it constitute evidence for extra terrestrial life?

              Even if the "greys" you describe exist, why do you think they are not native to Earth?

              • Because if they had the technology to live on this planet hidden from us in viable populations to conduct a society more advanced than ours, then they would have the technology not to be detected in aircraft/spacecraft either.

                If they didn't have the technology, there's no way a fundamentalist republican would allow that to stand when they can't even tolerate a human who likes another human of the same sex.
                • by Smauler (915644)

                  Because if they had the technology to live on this planet hidden from us in viable populations to conduct a society more advanced than ours, then they would have the technology not to be detected in aircraft/spacecraft either.

                  Wait.... what? You're claiming that a race of aliens with the technology capable of travelling interstellar distances could not remain hidden on earth because their technology isn't good enough. Seriously?

                • by Omestes (471991)
                  This seems like the Sagan invisible dragon example.

                  So they are completely undetectable, therefore they MUST exist?

                  Am I the only one that smells a fallacy here?
            • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward
              I suggest very strongly you read Sagan's 'The Demon Haunted World'. This 'evidence' is easily explained without resorting to 'ET' intelligence.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by giorgist (1208992)
          You don't mean skeptics here. They are the good guys and they should challenge the findings.

          You mean fundamentalist nut jobs that ignore evidence and argue out of their nether regions
          • I agree with you and have an appropriate respect for sicence, but when there are issues like bigfoot, where there are:

            -massive tracks forensically analyzed and shown to be impossible to duplicate with a human's weight

            -hairs recovered which don't match any current anthropoid species

            -full minutes of 8 mm film which have also been forensically analyzed, proving they were not altered, and that a man in a suit would be unable to mimic the gait recorded on the creature.

            I have a hard time respecting people who dis
          • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Saturday June 14, 2008 @01:59AM (#23789377) Journal
            To many people the term 'skeptic' has come to mean someone who disagrees, logic and training don't come into it. However skepticisim is an integral part of science and every scientist worth their salt practices skepticisim on their OWN ideas before using it to attack the ideas of others. The term the GP was looking for is 'psuedo-skeptics', ie: a person who fails to be skeptical of what they themselves 'know' and does not entertain criticisim. The worst kind of 'skeptic' is a denier, ie: someone who is willfully ignorant.

            Personally I am skeptical that any individual fits neatly into one category althogh I do agree fundamentalist nut jobs are an 'edge case'.

            Carl Sagan's book [wikipedia.org] on the subject is a great read and can speak for itself...

            "Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grand children's time ... when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstitions and darkness."

            OTOH, a skeptic might argue that Sagan's forboding is, and always has been, the status-quo.
      • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:35AM (#23788885) Homepage Journal
        Exactly. The popular writeup was terrible, but the actual paper explains that the ratio of C-13 to C-12 was 44.5% higher than earth-normal for the uracil and 37.7% higher for the xanthine.
    • by Psychotria (953670) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:31AM (#23788849)
      Reading TA would not have helped... it is still a mystery. It can only mean an isotope. The funny thing is that this [nature.com] article in Nature refers to heavy carbon as well. Heavy carbon that occured on earth. So, TFA this slashdot story is talking about is very vague and raises more questions than it answers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Blue Shifted (1078715)

      What are they talking about? Heavy carbon? Is that just a non-technical way of referring to an isotope? No, I didn't RTFA.


      i know i sound like a jerk, but what else do you think they would be talking about?
  • How much would that bee in Al Gore Carbon Credits? like double right?

    /looks in wallet
    • Who produces the most carbon dioxide exhaling? Fat vs thin, man vs woman, active vs lazy? I wanna know if I have any personal production carbon credits available to sell.
      • Talking, which incidentally produces more CO2 than not talking, is contributing to climate change. Therefore, talking should be taxed. Politicians and lawyers getting taxed when they talk would solve so many of the worlds' problems...
        • by Dunbal (464142)
          Politicians and lawyers getting taxed when they talk would solve so many of the worlds' problems...

                Of course a distinction will have to be drawn between actual, useful and constructive talking, and just spouting bullshit. Politicians especially produce a lot more of the latter, and should be charged an extra special rate.
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by plasmacutter (901737)
        Fat americans who consume majority fast food.

        this is the real reason why americans buy so many SUV's.
        compacts just don't have the capacity to tow all that extra weight around, and it's not exactly viable to leave that extra 200 lbs of weight behind.

        (I live in one of the fattest states in the union. I have to wear welding goggles to avoid being permanently damaged by the sight of honda sized blobs stuffed into those electric carts originally meant for actual paraplegics)
  • not a crash (Score:5, Funny)

    by deep_creek (1001191) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @12:49AM (#23788977)
    a meteorite that landed in Australia...
    landed you say? fascinating indeed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      a meteorite that landed in Australia... landed you say? fascinating indeed.
      It was a heavy landing.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by nawcom (941663)
      It landed the same way a monster black poo ball landed in the toilet 2 hours ago, loud, fast, and violent, leaving its obvious evidence - brown flash-back water on my ass-cheeks.
  • was the title of a book by British astronomer Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe and when it made this same sort of claim it was laughed off as a crackpot theory.
    Guess they're being proven to have been right all those years ago... imjussayinisall
    • was the title of a book by British astronomer Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe and when it made this same sort of claim it was laughed off as a crackpot theory.

      Guess they're being proven to have been right all those years ago... imjussayinisall
      The other day there was an article about the universe before the Big Bang and I thought that was heading towards Hoyle's Steady State theory.
    • by glitch23 (557124)

      [Evolution from Space] was the title of a book by British astronomer Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe and when it made this same sort of claim it was laughed off as a crackpot theory.

      Fred Hoyle also adamantly believed in the steady-state model of the universe which was proven wrong by evidence of a beginning with Hubble's discovery of the universe's expansion. Hoyle went to his grave believing in the stead-state model of the universre. He believed that due to the fact that having a beginning would imply some evidence of a Creator. I have a feeling that his book would also contain some (a lot of?) bias if only to avoid any "need" to invoke a Creator in scientific theories. Anyone care

  • Since we have not been able to spontaneously synthesis life from components after decades of research. This event seems highly improbable on the Earth (not impossible). However, in the huge solar system sized hydrocarbon Nebula found in Space, it's seems more probable that somewhere, sometime, a hydrocarbon molecule developed and once it was able to reproduce, it spread throughout the gas cloud. A passing comet would pick up and carry the molecule . The rest is history. Ultimately, I think it is statistical
    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @02:21AM (#23789469)
      the so called hostile temperatures on earth are nothing compared to the hostility of the environment in space.

      massive radiation, shockwaves, coronal mass ejections, MASSIVE extremes of heat and cold, and very importantly, the tendency for water to remain in a vaporous or solid form rather than liquid because of the lack of pressure.

      Not to say the first dna fragments, amino acids, or single celled life forms could not have come from space, but they had to develop on some body with enough gravity and atmospheric pressure to host some liquid water water.

      This characteristic need for liquid water is too fundamental to have simply arisen after this life came to earth.
    • Since we have not been able to spontaneously synthesis life from components after decades of research. This event seems highly improbable on the Earth

      A hundred jars in a lab for 30 years is hardly comparable to the entire surface of the planet for hundreds of millions of years. I'm not disputing panspermia here, but just pointing out that the lab tests are completely lacking in comparable scaling.
                 
    • > we have not been able to spontaneously synthesis life from components ... seems highly improbable on the Earth
      Not sure what "spontaneously" means, but man-made/synthetic life probably has been done [wired.com] already. If not, it'll be here soon.

      The first phase of Venter's three-step process, which he published last year, involved transplanting and "booting up" the genome of one species of bacterium into another. The remaining step is to combine the first two steps, then insert the new synthetic genome into a standard bacterium. Scientists said they expect the announcement of man-made life this year. [from Wired, 1/24/08]

      • Inserting a new genome into a bacterium is a far cry from mixing up some chemicals then watching as life spontaneously generates.
  • Carbon is the atom of choice to 90% of all electrons polled. The double helix has the ability to glide thu the fabric of space-time with the least amount of decay. Carbon wraps itself around consciousness.PHFFFFTTTTT
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Carbon is the atom of choice to 90% of all electrons polled.

            I'd suggest more chemistry classes. Fluorine is actually the most likely choice for all electrons - in fact, it's not even a choice if fluorine is around... you're GETTING it. Gimme my damned electron! :-)
  • An admittedly crude statement I've made on occasion indicating we may someday be surprised to learn our entire Universe is someone else's Petri dish.

    And if you considered the Universe as a biological system, it would make sense that genetic material could travel, to us, vast distances on a meteorite.

    Life on other worlds could be remotely or closely related to life on Earth.

    "Honey....your 9th x 10e47 cousin from Rigel is here! He brought the wives and kids. You know they don't like my cooking, so bring home
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142)
      "Honey....your 9th x 10e47 cousin from Rigel is here! He brought the wives and kids. You know they don't like my cooking, so bring home some KFC"

      Blegh, can you imagine the politics?

      "Remember not to get Taco Bell because Rigellians worship a taco-shaped diety and it would be highly offensive to them... and do remember they have the technology to vaporize this continent with their wristwatches "
  • Ever the optimistic (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tarlus (1000874)

    ...scientists have confirmed that the components of genetic material could have originated in a place other than Earth.
    Let me fix that.

    ...scientists have confirmed that the components of genetic material could have existed in a place other than Earth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by eclectic4 (665330)
      No, it was right the first time. That is, unless, you are suggesting that this meteorite is made of Earth material, which would be a pretty neat trick considering "the nucleobases contain a heavy form of carbon which could only have been formed in space". Not to mention the whole "meteors usually not "originating" from Earth" thing...

      Seriously, if you have further evidence, please expound. Otherwise your post makes no sense.
      • I question the logic behind the nucleobases only being formed in space. Why can't the nucleobases have incorporated that heavy form of carbon before or after its trip through space? What says they can only form together in the same place?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_impact_hypothesis [wikipedia.org]
        This is an example of a scenario which could easily can result in some meteorites of Earth-made-origin coming back to eventually fall on Earth.

        You're just not being imaginative enough.
        • by eclectic4 (665330)
          Nucleobases do not "incorporate" carbon in the way that you think. And the "problems" with the giant impact theory are too numerous to go into detail here. See "Difficulties" section from the Wikipedia page you posted for some of the "problems". Good luck.
          • And the "problems" with the giant impact theory are too numerous to go into detail here.

            First, it is Giant Impact hypothesis, not theory. Yes, I know the wikipedia article uses the word "theory" in the body of the article a couple times, which is likely a mistake. (That or maybe they wanted to stress that it is currently the dominant lunar origin explanation, as noted elsewhere).

            Secondly, I wasn't advocating it, in general, or even in the context of the original article. (I would think it doesn't fit into the chronology properly for the article anyway). I'm was merely pointing out that th

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @04:04AM (#23789893)
    I find it really, really disturbing that people labeled "scientist" continue to have a go at the outer space theories. Out of all PhD:s in science I have met and the topic has been brought up I have never met anyone who believed in actual life coming from outer space, or that extraterrestrial material in fact would have been needed on a primordial Earth in order to create life. That a US president was blatantly fooled into promoting that childish Mars rock theory from a decade ago still hurts my mind. Think Occam's Razor. Dig where you stand. Don't overdo it, son.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nfk (570056)
      If you dig where you stand, and you don't find anything, you have to dig elsewhere. As Sherlock Holmes said, "whenever all other possibilities have been ruled out, the improbable, however unlikely, must be the truth". I'm not saying this is the case with panspermia, but you have to keep an open mind. I, for one, find it disturbing that people labeled "scientist" do not believe in actual life coming from outer space (as far as I know, spores can whitstand pressures equivalent to meteor hits, and can survive
      • by khallow (566160)
        Well, we have plenty of evidence of life on Earth. We don't have evidence of life elsewhere in the Solar System. We've also uncovered a number of ways of creating complex organics on Earth. Hell, I bet a meteorite would create more organic compounds from the shock of its reentry than what it carries. Panspermia needs better evidence before it should be taken seriously.
        • by amorsen (7485)

          Panspermia needs better evidence before it should be taken seriously.

          Panspermia is science though, which is nice. I.e. it makes testable predictions -- we should find organic compounds and even simple life on other planets and meteorites, if panspermia is true. Currently testing those predictions is a bit beyond our means, but hopefully that will change.

          So should anyone take panspermia seriously? Only if they are interested in pursuing a possibly (maybe even probably) fruitless search. Some will do that. In a hundred years we should know the answer with almost certainty, if

    • Reminds me of Geoffrey Hoyle (astronomer brother of SF author Fred Hoyle) and some Indian guy suggested that the flu virus could come from comets and we get a different dose each year as we go through the tails of countless comets. It was seriously debunked at the time (1980s?) but it seems a bit rash to exclude that idea out of hand, or at least the possibility of some parts of life ie significant organic molecules (if not a whole chunk of DNA) coming from outside Earth. Recent discoveries like the one thi
  • From http://www.snpp.com/episodes/BABF03 [snpp.com]

    -----

    The Simpsons make a shopping excursion to ShÃp, the place to go for modern Swedish furniture and accessories. A green end table catches Marge's eye, and she's impressed that those crazy Swedish furniture designers could invent such a far-out concept. Homer tests a bean-bag chair -- and it immediately swallows him up. He joins Captain McAllister, who fell victim to the same chair.

    Luckily, Homer rejoins his family in time to look at assemble-it-yourself wal
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Saturday June 14, 2008 @05:07AM (#23790123) Journal
    I wonder how simple molecules these would be treated as by a chemist. That's the big question to me. Are they so simple that it's quite likely they'll both have appeared on Earth and in space? Because, in that case, this isn't really as impressive as it may seem. Just because they're used in DNA/RNA doesn't imply they're complex alone.

    Uracil: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uracil [wikipedia.org]
    Xanthine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthine [wikipedia.org]

    As an amateur, they don't look too complex to me, but hey, what do I know... :)
    • by Dread_ed (260158)
      Forget DNA and RNA. Here is difinitive proof that this came from intelligent life somehwere out there...

      "Methylated xanthine derivatives include caffeine..."

      Who cares about "complex" when you can have stimulants!
    • Simple and complex is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. I'm a biochemist and have primarily worked on protein structure and enzymology. To me, anything under 1,000 Da is small (and I suppose it follows, simple). My brother however has an extensive background in physical chemistry and modeling compounds in excruciating detail like how a "big" (complex) molecule like say ethanol (46 Da) interacts with a catalytic substrate. His concept of big and my concept of small as far as chemistry goes don't even
  • For really intelligent life, you'd need trimethylxanthine [wikipedia.org].
  • Kinda gives a new "ewww" factor to concepts like a "primordial ooze".
  • the stereochem [wikipedia.com] of the amino acids found in meteorites is important. Nearly all biological amino acids (except glycine) have a chiral component to them. for those who didn't have the wonderful pleasure of taking organic chemistry, stereochemistry refers to a molecule's physical orientation in space. given a sufficiently complex molecule, you can have different "versions" (enantiomers) of the exact same molecule that have the same physical properties, but are in fact distinct.

    all amino acids made by biologi
  • The analysis shows that the nucleobases contain a heavy form of carbon which could only have been formed in space.

    FAIL

    There is plenty of 13C on earth, along with the much more abundant 12C and the occasional and unstable 14C.

    What they found was that the ratio of 12C to 13C was not that which would be found if the bases had been formed on earth from the available carbon pool.

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

Working...