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Space Science

Organic Matter Found In Canadian Meteorite 226

eldavojohn writes "From what sounds like the opening of an X-Files episode, Canadian scientists have reportedly found in a meteorite organic matter older than the sun at Tagish Lake in Canada. From the article: '"We mean that the material in the meteorite has been processed the least since it was formed. The material we see today is arguably the most representative of the material that first went into making up the solar system." The meteorite likely formed in the outer reaches of the asteroid belt, but the organic material it contains probably had a far more distant origin. The globules could have originated in the Kuiper Belt group of icy planetary remnants orbiting beyond Neptune. Or they could have been created even farther afield. The globules appear to be similar to the kinds of icy grains found in molecular clouds — the vast, low-density regions where stars collapse and form and new solar systems are born.' The article implies that life could potentially survive in these meteorites and maybe even travel through space — supporting the theory that life may have arrived on earth and evolved from that point on."
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Organic Matter Found In Canadian Meteorite

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  • Panspermia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @02:50PM (#17091236) Journal

    Attributed to Anaxagoras ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaxagoras [wikipedia.org] ) in the 5th century BCE. Basically the idea the precursors to life are everywhere in the universe, allowing that life on earth may have sprung from this source.

    It seems plausible. This evidence doesn't prove it though.


    The structures are invisible to the naked eye and resemble minute hollow balls with carbon-rich shells. A chunk of meteorite no larger than a grape could contain a billion of the tiny globules.

    Fullerene? That would explain a lot about the persistence of these structures through the process of transport and reentry.

    Disclaimer: "God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." - William Cowper ( for varying values of "God", "mysterious", "wonders" - symbolset )

  • by Bloke down the pub ( 861787 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @02:53PM (#17091258)
    We are stardust, we are golden.
  • Re:Keep in mind... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ruff_ilb ( 769396 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @02:54PM (#17091270) Homepage
    And heck, there's not any definitive proof that I know of that organisms have to be primarily carbon-based. Sure, it makes the most sense given the properties of the carbon atom, but it would be theoretically possible to have an organism based on something else.
  • Re:Extra-solar life? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by edbarbar ( 234498 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @03:26PM (#17091546)
    I don't believe gravity is a huge impediment to life moving around:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox [wikipedia.org].

    Think about how far humankind will advance in 50 years, and whether we would be able to make a micro-replicator that we could send to other stars.
  • great balls of fire (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phyruxus ( 72649 ) <jumpandlink&yahoo,com> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @03:28PM (#17091560) Homepage Journal
    iirc, only the outermost few centimeters of any incoming meteor are ever heated. If you come upon a just-crashed meteorite that is broken open, it will be cold on the inside, and the outside will be cool to the touch in (again iirc) minutes.
  • by pln2bz ( 449850 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @03:54PM (#17091798)
    I wouldn't believe the dating results for these types of things. There is a big problem with trying to date asteroids, meteorites and such.

    Absolute dating assumes that isotopes degrade in a purely statistical manner. There is reason to believe, however, that changes in electromagnetic bombardment of an isotope can affect the decay of those isotopes. Using a simple experimental apparatus, decay rates can be correlated with the phases of the moon, the motions of the Sun and the stars. Go to http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/tim e.html [21stcentur...cetech.com] for the details. This is not some crazy idea. Labs already perform corrections on raw carbon dating data due to electromagnetic bombardment into the atmosphere (which affects the amount of carbon isotopes in the atmosphere, which are then inhaled by living things).

    There is also good reason to believe since the Deep Impact mission to Comet Tempel 1 that comets are merely asteroids on elliptical orbits that have picked up the voltage of deep space and then come into range of the Sun's weak electric field. Rather than being the trail of sublimating ice, the comet's coma and tail are evidence of electric machining. This makes sense because asteroids have occasionally been observed to turn into comets near the gas giant planets. If this is true, then this would mean that asteroids are regularly exposed to potentially large amounts of electromagnetic radiation. For more information, go here: http://www.thunderbolts.info/pdf/ElectricComet.pdf [thunderbolts.info].

    This process of electric machining would almost surely affect the dating ages of these objects *if* the experiment linked to above is true. It might also explain why some craters don't quite date to the years that we think they should.

    This of course causes all sorts of problems for archaeology, geology and astronomy, and this fact alone might induce a lot of scientists to want to look the other way. So, I wouldn't expect a lot of curiosity on these things so long as they pose such a threat to research that has already been done.
  • Re:Keep in mind... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:01PM (#17091852)
    The Big Bang didn't form any appreciable amounts of carbon. Carbon is formed in stars. Stars form more carbon than silicon (which is the element most similar to carbon and the most obvious potential alternative structural basis for life), which is a reason to think carbon based life would be more common. We really can't make any serious judgements about likelihoods at this point as we know very little about extrasolar planets and the conditions for life to arise.
  • Re:so what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tcc3 ( 958644 ) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @08:04PM (#17093804)
    I think he meant Pluto the (former?) planet, not Plutonium the element.
  • Re:Extra-solar life? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thomas Miconi ( 85282 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @07:16AM (#17097436)
    Actually, finding life is very difficult because the necessary conditions for the formation of a single celled organism only exist with very low possibilities.

    This may well be true, or not. Right now we don't know how life emerged (though we have quite a few hypotheses [wikipedia.org]), so we can't say.

    However, you might want to reflect on this: traces of photosynthetic life have been found in the oldest sediments we know of (see Hadean [wikipedia.org]). Fully-formed fossils appear not much later than that. That puts a lower bound for the appearance of modern bacterial lifeforms at about 3.5Gy ago, and we know that bacteria were not the first form of life to emerge (they're just too complicated). Basically, it seems that life appeared on Earth pretty much as soon as it could. That's not quite what you would expect from a "very low possibility" event.

    Keep in mind that we have never manufactured a single living cell with functional DNA in a lab even with conditions entirely under our human control. Pasteur's Law still holds today. If we can't use thousands of years of engineering, including at least 2 decades of advanced bio-medical technology, to manufacture a single funcional cell from non-organic material, do you really expect it to form arbitrarily in space all the time?

    We have never manufactured a star either - despite the fact that we know how stars work. Yet there are billions of stars in the universe. Our inability to build something is no indication of how easy it is for Nature to build it.

    Life is a very, very complicated business, involving the interplay of a large quantity of microscopic compounds. It is quite possible that the easiest way to create a living cell will not be to engineer one in a "top-down" manner, but rather to find a process through which life would originate "on its own".
  • by Bemopolis ( 698691 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @10:32AM (#17098668)
    SImple — they don't. Your last sentence is the assumption used; i.e., that it has spent its life in an environment such as ours. This is a very good assumption, since in order to show any relativistic time dilation before it reaches us an object needs to have had traveled at very high speed or spent time in a very strong gravitational field. In the former case the speed involved would have to incredible; for example, if the meteorite had spent its entire life travelling at 10% of the speed of light (30,000 km/sec), that would only slow down the decay rate by 1%, well within any margin of error. In the latter case, the meteorite would have had to spend its time very close to a black hole (a few km away for a black hole the mass of the Sun), in which case it would be unlikely to escape to get to us anyway.

If I were a grave-digger or even a hangman, there are some people I could work for with a great deal of enjoyment. -- Douglas Jerrold