Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Building Blocks of DNA Confirmed In Meteorites 145

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-are-all-made-of-stars dept.
MistrX writes "Researchers announced that the components of DNA have now been confirmed to exist in extraterrestrial meteorites. A different team of scientists also discovered a number of molecules linked with a vital ancient biological process, adding weight to the idea that the earliest forms of life on Earth may have been made up in part from materials delivered to Earth from space. Past research had revealed a range of building blocks of life in meteorites, such as the amino acids that make up proteins. Space rocks just like these may have been a vital source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Building Blocks of DNA Confirmed In Meteorites

Comments Filter:
  • by martas (1439879) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @07:55AM (#37031602)
    "made up in part from materials delivered to Earth the planet by from space". Seriously?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by vgbndkng (1806628)
      Those are the kind best though materials of.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by JBMcB (73720)

      I know, the author wrote of is understand to hard the submission to me.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by LordLimecat (1103839)

        Some of the article sentences are as bad.

        The analytical techniques probed the mass and other features of the molecules to identify the presence of extraterrestrial nucleobases and see that they apparently did not come from the surrounding area.

        Im not sure quite whats wrong with the middle of that sentence, but it seems wrong-- shouldnt it be "and saw"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      "made up in part from materials delivered to Earth the planet by from space". Seriously?

      Without those specific instructions the meteorite may have delivered the materials to 'Earth the constellation' or 'Earth the nebula' or even 'Earth the meteorite' and it would never have done it's job. BTW, it's a good thing "from space" was on the whitelist.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      Didn't all the atoms on Earth come by from space...?

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Yes, but most of them didn't come to earth, they are what formed the earth initially out of the dust cloud that birthed our solar system.

    • Of course the building blocks of life are in space. They are on earth.
      • by AP31R0N (723649)

        In space = not on Earth. Space is what is outside of Earth and it's atmosphere. Otherwise space (as in, in space) is a meaningless term, there would be no in or out of it. We have a word for stuff that covers both 'in space' and on/in Earth: Universe. The Earth is in the universe/solar system/galaxy, but it is not "in space".

    • made up in part from materials delivered to Earth the planet by from space

      - Posted via UDP

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      He's paraphrasing Carl Sagan, who famously said, "We are products of is the stars that are in of the sky."

    • by MistrX (1566617)

      Note to self: Less copy/pasting of articles. :D

  • Syntax error on line 2 - processing aborted

  • Maybe the aliens somewhere, were playing spore? :p
  • Significance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @07:57AM (#37031630) Homepage

    Can someone please explain the significance of this finding? I'm reading into a log of big assumptions here. So I have a few basic questions.

    A.) Does that mean that life here on Earth most likely have been boot-strapped from meteorites?
    B.) Such compounds are so common in the universe that finding them floating in space is trivial? Thus leading to the idea of life being more common than we think.

    • by equex (747231)
      You are correct in both instances, Sherlock.
    • by sunderland56 (621843) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @08:03AM (#37031686)
      C) God created Man by throwing rocks at the Earth.
      • C) God created Man by throwing rocks at the Earth.

        Is there a 'glass houses' joke in there somewhere?

        • by instagib (879544)

          God and the Devil, billions of years ago, the Universe is devoid of life. Says God: "Devil, you ugly sonofabitch, I'll show you the beauty of creation, learn something different than destroying!", and with that creates Man on Earth. 6000 years and several wars and genocides later says the Devil: "God, I wouldn't throw rocks while living in a glass house!" [Admits God: "Well yeah, it was of the wrong size anyway."] (Last part specially for parent. ;-)

      • by rbrausse (1319883)

        C) God created Man by throwing rocks at the Earth.

        hmm, so the objective of throwing stones in Populous [wikimedia.org] was not based on the scientific facts?

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          Everything I learned about creating worlds and being God I learned from Populous, Black and White, and Spore.

          Nothing screams God like picking up a flaming pieces of poop and hurling them at a village that does not worship me.

      • by Terrasque (796014)

        C) God created Man by throwing rocks at the Earth.

        Correction:
        C) God created Man by having Happy Fun Time with an asteroid.

      • by DesScorp (410532)

        C) God created Man by throwing rocks at the Earth.

        Well, we do call them "the Heavens". What if He did?

      • C) God destroyed Man by throwing rocks at the Earth.

      • C) God created Man by throwing rocks at the Earth.

        Boys are Stupid, Throw Rocks at Them [goodreads.com]

      • ...if the best paid pitchers are supposed to be the best pitchers, and if pitching is intelligent design, then we can deduce that CC Sabathia is, in fact, God.

        This makes sense, as we all know Alex Rodriguez is the devil, which confirms all of our suspicions that they're on the same team to begin with.

    • by fredrated (639554)

      "Such compounds are so common in the universe that finding them floating in space is trivial?"
      Correct. My theory is that this is the debris of countless space wars that have occured throughout the galaxy.

    • Re:Significance (Score:4, Informative)

      by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @08:13AM (#37031780)

      A.) Does that mean that life here on Earth most likely have been boot-strapped from meteorites?

      It could mean that life doesn't just magically sprout up on a planet just because it meets a few criteria about atmosphere, gravity, etc.

      B.) Such compounds are so common in the universe that finding them floating in space is trivial? Thus leading to the idea of life being more common than we think.

      Uh, no, there's nothing that says it's common. (That could come later, though.) From what we know, or actually from what we DON'T know, it's possible that these meteorites are incredibly rare and that we have the most unique planet in the universe.

      We really need to actually find a lifeform somewhere else .

      • I could be wrong here, but I believe it's actually generally suspected at this point that the chemical basis for life is rather common outside of our planet and outside of our solar system [wikipedia.org]. This brings to mind certain ideas about the nature of our universe [wikipedia.org] which are kind of interesting, if a little ambitious.
      • Possible, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @08:31AM (#37031960)
        The anthropomorphic fallacy (we overestimate the probability of life-related thing because we are living and we are there to see it) has a counter-argument which runs "We live on a planet which originally had no life, and we are here. Life must arise spontaneously because the initial conditions of the universe did not admit of any life, and there is at least some (us). If it has arisen at least once (regardless of how it got here) and survived despite all the cosmic and other accidents to the Earth, whether it's asteroid collisions or becoming a snowball, life is fairly tough. Therefore, based on present knowledge, and our understanding of how big the Universe is, life is most likely fairly common".

        People who argue that we are unique in a very large universe are in essence taking a position which at base is religious, not scientific. Science assumes that once we observe a phenomenon, if we reproduce the initial conditions it will recur. This has worked extremely well up till now, whereas the successive religious claims of uniqueness, beginning with the Earth at the centre of the universe, have all been exploded.

        • Therefore, based on present knowledge, and our understanding of how big the Universe is, life is most likely fairly common

          What that statement is really saying is: "Because we don't really know any better, it could be common." We're still at that "we don't know" phase.

          People who argue that we are unique in a very large universe are in essence taking a position which at base is religious, not scientific.

          Since I said nothing about religion the only real reason to bring it up is to attempt to discredit me by claiming I believe in creatures I've never seen before. Though funny in this context, it serves no purpose here. Science allows people to attack problems from different perspectives, correct?

          I didn't argue that we are unique. What I am talking about is crit

          • First, I didn't refer to you. I wrote "People who argue that we are unique...", which you did not do. You adopted a sceptical position which runs counter to the positions which are usually reached by considering what is known so far about biology, planet formation and the like, but you did not argue that we are unique. I noticed that.

            I am, however permitted (as, among other things, a one time student of the history of science and religion) to note that arguments to uniqueness normally have a religious found

            • arguments to uniqueness normally have a religious foundation, because there is no evidence whatsoever that they are correct

              What? This is exactly backwards. There is NO evidence yet that life exists outside of Earth. Paradoxically, however, we /believe/ that life must exist elsewhere because here we are. This is such a common paradox, it even has a name, the Fermi Paradox [wikipedia.org].

        • by gewalker (57809)

          Position #1 -- God fearing Bible thumper. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates life is present or absent elsewhere in God's creation. The Genesis account explains the origin of life on this planet. Existence of life elsewhere is therefore inconclusive, more data is needed.

          Note: some GFBT's argue that life elsewhere cannot exist, but they either do not know their Bible or mis-use the revealed word of God.

          Position #2 -- God denying atheist cosmologist. The Drake equation gives the expected number of p

          • Given that we do not know why there is an excess of matter over antimatter in the observed universe, your argument would lead us to believe that there isn't a universe.

            In fact this result is evidence that supports a wider scope for life. It shows that rocks can act as a shield for relatively fragile molecules which are components of larger organic molecules. This is a key argument; for life to be abundant, if the necessary molecules start to appear from natural causes in the early planet they must last long

            • by gewalker (57809)

              Disagree if you lifke, but if you actually consider the mechanics of abiogenesis, the ET organic fragments do not really affect the science -- it is an issue of "too little to make a difference" -- there really is not a good abiogenesis orgin of life scientific theory. This discovery does not alter the gulf between some random amino acids and life. We have no trouble with explaining some amino acids availability. The problem is that they are reactive molecules that degrade in utility more often than not wit

            • In fact this result is evidence that supports a wider scope for life.

              In the scope of our solar system, we could be observing a local phenomena. I'm not advocating, nor hoping, this is the case - just saying we need more evidence with respect to a universal phenomena.

        • by Empiric (675968)
          This has worked extremely well up till now, whereas the successive religious claims of uniqueness, beginning with the Earth at the centre of the universe, have all been exploded.

          How so? In order for this to be the case, it would seem there would be two conditions, applying to any premise, for the "successive" claims (of which you have provided two highly-dubious "examples")...

          1. Such a claim was unequivocally made

          2. It has been demonstrated false

          I understand there have been historical interpreta
          • I understand there have been historical interpretation of the Earth as the center of the universe, but this was not universally held even within Catholicism even at the time of Galileo--Copernican heliocentrism was a "minority view". And as far as the original sources go, we have such notations as the Earth "hanging on nothing" (re: Job 26:7) which is a notably-accurate description rather arguing against the notion of the Earth being specified as fixed. "An" interpretation does not equate to "the" interpretation for the purposes of demonstrating an overall view has been refuted.

            The view of the original authors, who should be able to lay claim to special revelation, was that the Earth was fixed with a dome over it: http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Seely-Firmament-WTJ.pdf

            That Catholics in later centuries, with the advantage of being informed by science, didn't believe this is uninteresting. It is interesting that their view does not match the views of those who supposedly had direct access to the source.

            I'm not at all surprise

            • by Empiric (675968)

              Obviously, I was not unaware of the contrary model, as I directly stated it in my post, something generally considered difficult to do when unaware of what one is typing.

              I understand you have a PDF citing an academic position.

              Quoting that, as a characterizing example:

              "Accordingly, it seems most probable that so far as the physical nature of the sky is concerned, the Hebrews, as a typical scientifically naive people, believed the raqia was solid."

              You may also wish to check the paper's concluding paragraph.

              "M

        • The anthropic principle* basically states that the fact that we can observe the universe necessarily constrains the observations we will see. In other words, if the nuclear strong force was 100x as strong, no life would exist to observe and measure that. It is really focused on the baseline forces and constants that underlie our understanding of physics.

          The anthropic principle focuses solely on actual observed evidence: we can observe that we exist, and we can measure the forces and deduce the constants mat

      • We really need to actually find a lifeform somewhere else .

        So we can kill it and dissect it!

        And people wonder why aliens have not landed and introduced themselves. ;)

      • For one I still have to throw some doubt here because I dont remember us landing on any meteorites lately to be making this claim as intently as the poorly written article does. Still what significance if any does this have? As others have stated, we have shown that the building blocks of life exist all throughout the universe but actual life itself still evades us. It would seem that before we trouble ourselves with the question of where the building blocks came from we should figure out how they got put

    • by ledow (319597)

      Life *may* have been bootstrapped from a meteorite directly. We've always said it's possible. This is not "proof" either way, it just adds data (to both sides).

      Such compounds aren't necessarily common in the universe. Parts of those compounds are nothing more than a handful of molecules that likes to stick to other types in certain combinations. All those molecules/atoms are (as far as we can guess) present in just about any place you can study in that kind of detail. It's the "diamonds are a type of c

    • If you read the article, and remember that meteorites are bits of rock that have fallen to earth, this is by no means conclusive-- the most accurate description appears to be the Slashdot Headline ("Building-Blocks-of-DNA-Confirmed-In-Meteorites"). They did test the surrounding area for similar molecules and did not find any, but the article does not state whether such material is found anywhere on earth, or how old the meteorites were, or where they were found.

      So Im not clear on how the possibility that i

    • by vlm (69642)

      A.) Does that mean that life here on Earth most likely have been boot-strapped from meteorites?
      B.) Such compounds are so common in the universe that finding them floating in space is trivial? Thus leading to the idea of life being more common than we think.

      A is probably wrong.

      Talk to a biologist about the quality level of 100K-year and older DNA. The reason you can't clone ancient DNA from dinos, maybe even mammoths, is it decays too much from radiation/age/whatever in just a few zillion years, even in ideal conditions. In space the radiation and temp swings will be worse, and it'll have to travel even longer.

      B is probably correct. However, I think there are probably a lot more worlds where the alpha predator is a microscopic virus or maybe protozoa at mos

      • No one is talking about *finding* DNA in meteorites, just amino acids and other chemical precursors (which are *used in* DNA).

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      It means that certain organic chemicals are probably common in the universe. Depending on your desire to believe, that could mean that life is common "out there" or it could mean fuck all. Take your pick.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        It means that certain organic chemicals are probably common in the universe. Depending on your desire to believe, that could mean that life is common "out there" or it could mean fuck all. Take your pick.

        I prefer the middle ground, and take it to mean "fuck all life out there".

    • by PineHall (206441)
      Good questions! It seems to me that the ideas of exogenesis and panspermia [wikipedia.org] which have been discounted (in my reading) may be more of a possibility with the new evidence than previously thought. The standard theories of the origin of life [wikipedia.org] may need some revision. I can understand why scientists want to keep all of the theory on earth as opposed to pushing it off earth. It is easier find evidence and prevents concept of the something unknown happened out there. But right now there is a whole lot of unknown
      • by jc42 (318812)

        I can understand why scientists want to keep all of the theory on earth as opposed to pushing it off earth. It is easier find evidence ...

        Oh, I dunno; it may turn out a lot easier to find evidence about the origins of life "out there" than here on our home planet. The problem here is that nearly anywhere it lands, a speck of amino acid or other organic compounds will find itself in an environment teeming with lots of tiny, one-celled critters that consider such compounds food. Life may have landed here in a bit of rock 4 billion years ago, but today it wouldn't stand a chance; it'd be gobbled up before it had a chance to find food and repr

  • Considering that all planets are composed of material that was once floating about in space, this is kind of obvious. It's just a matter of when it arrived. Being part of a meteor sounds cool and all, but it's not like in the movies where there's a magic meteor that can give super powers (which seems to be the summary's interpretation). It just means this specific matter arrived on earth after the planet was already pretty well formed.

    • by Froeschle (943753)
      "It just means this specific matter arrived on earth after the planet was already pretty well formed."

      The material from which the earth formed likely contained such material as well . It didn't necessarily have to rain from the sky. Some of that material may have originated on what are now non-existent, i.e. destroyed, planets. All the metals on the earth are a result of previous generations of stars, so why couldn't at least some of this type of material not have been included in the "mix" as well? Bacte
  • But the Bible didn't say nothin' bout no metorites!
    • The guy was either out on magic mushrooms, or trying to describe a flying saucer. Or both...though, seriously, given that I have actual evidence for magic mushrooms, and I have no belief in Biblical inerrancy, I'll take the psilocybin explanation.
    • by Holammer (1217422)

      But the Bible didn't say nothin' bout no metorites!

      There are plenty of descriptions of meteorite type objects in the bible. From Genesis to Book of Revelation. Sure, they're described and fire and brimstone or stars falling from the sky. But it's the best a bunch of stupid goat herders could come up with.

    • I'm surprised. 62 comments and you're the first angry atheist trying to troll this into a religion flame war.

      Oh, and I read the story first on Fox News. Yeah, those bible thumping tea baggers published it before Slashdot!
      • by scubamage (727538)
        Angry atheist? Not at all. More like malevolent agnostic who finds cafeteria Christians to be hilarious joke fodder.
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @08:19AM (#37031864)

    We already know that our atoms come from supernovae. Carbon, Oxygen and other atoms are formed in stars and scattered around the Universe via supernovae. Every atom in your body was once in the fiery furnace of a star just before it exploded. Now we know that, later on, the precursors to the DNA that makes us who we are were floating around in meteors in space. They crashed to Earth where, over time, it developed into DNA, cells, and life.

    Scientific explanations don't make things boring, they make them incredibly cool!

    • by zoom-ping (905112)
      IIRC supernovas are capable of producing heavier atoms (>= iron). A regular dying star can fuse atoms into carbon and oxygen just fine, so not all the atoms in our bodies were forged in supernovas. Still awesome tho.
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Supernovas are the things the fling the atoms through space though...

        • Supernovae aren't the only things though.. our sun will not go supernova, but it will still expand into a red giant at the end of it's life, engulfing most or all of the inner rocky planets, and then finally eject most of it's remaining elements (envelope) into surrounding space, turning into a little white dwarf, and leaving behind a planetary nebula.. those elements just won't go quite as far out in space as fast as a supernova would've ejected them, but eventually they'll make their way around out there
  • How, exactly, does this help answer the question of where life came from (possibly)? Is it easier/ more likely for these compounds to form on meteors than simply to originate on Earth? Or does this merely shove the question back to "well, it didn't come from Earth, so it came from a meteor!" "How did it get on the meteor?" "...I don't know, aliens maybe?" I really don't understand why they hypothesized that meteors brought the compounds here. Is it really just that we have no idea how they can form on Earth

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Both mechanisms are possible. This is just more evidence.

      We've made organic compounds from primordial soup + lightning, now we've also proved they're drifting through space (it was just a hypothesis before this).

    • That material along with the carbon molecules got spread when the previous star generations exploded via novae. That means the DNA traces and higher molecule junk came from the previous generation of starts that preceded the solar system.
  • Sperm-esque shaped meteor + egg-esque shaped planet = life

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @08:39AM (#37032066)
    we are billion year old carbon...
    • by gmhowell (26755)

      And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

      These whippersnappers with their Firework and Love Game...

  • Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen. Surprise!
  • Now that the god argument has been settled, can we focus on unimportant science like colonizing Mars for the betterment of man kind?

  • It would be interesting if all life on this planet was nothing more than an elaborate experiment designed by some ancient race who hurled a bunch of their DNA to some random part of space. We may someday (in the distant future) have to resort to the same so that we could (very, very indirectly) travel through intergalactic space, possibly to survive (via proxy) some sort of (self-inflicted?) calamity on Earth.
  • We have had any number of events which could hurl material from Earth well past escape velocity and into space. Is this material coming back after one of those events? I skimmed the article, but did not see where they eliminated Earth as the source of the material.

  • is made up from materials 'from space'. Stupid article
  • Strong evidence for RNA. Suggestions of hybrid poly-aromic hydrocarbon nucleic acid system before that. DNA is the most stable, accurate, and complex of the three. But when it evolved it would overwhelm the competition over millions of years.
  • I've read most of the posts here and did not see anyone posting the possibility that meteor have hit the earth over the years (however many billions of years) which launched some "building blocks" or Amino Acids into space in the form of meteorites etc. . .?
    Could it be possible that some of those rocks God threw at us bounced off and scattered materials across the galaxy and beyond?

    • by RockDoctor (15477)
      I suspect that you're not looking for a serious answer, but I'll give you one nonetheless.

      The early solar nebula is hypothesised to have had a significant gradient of isotopic compositions in consequence of it's thermal gradients, by the same sort of differential evaporation and acceleration processes that produce temperature-related isotopic gradients in terrestrial rainfall.

      The effects are small, but variations in the isotope chemistry of meteorite material from different sources (Moon, Mars, Vesta) are

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        significant gradientS of isotopic compositions

  • So, by the same logic, if rocks are found in space rocks, then rocks found on earth were created in outer space by meteorites.

What the world *really* needs is a good Automatic Bicycle Sharpener.

Working...