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Space Science

Meteorites May Have Delivered Seeds of Life On Earth 277

esocid writes "At the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, scientists presented evidence today that desert heat, a little water, and meteorite impacts may have been enough to cook up one of the first prerequisites for life. The result of that brew could be the dominance of "left-handed" amino acids, the building blocks of life on this planet. Chains of amino acids make up the protein found in people, plants, and all other forms of life on Earth. There are two orientations of amino acids, left and right, which mirror each other in the same way your hands do. These amino acids "seeds" formed in interstellar space, possibly on asteroids as they careened through space. At the outset, they have equal amounts of left and right-handed amino acids. But as these rocks soar past neutron stars, their light rays trigger the selective destruction of one form of amino acid."
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Meteorites May Have Delivered Seeds of Life On Earth

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  • God vs. ...that. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 75th Trombone ( 581309 ) * on Sunday April 06, 2008 @11:41PM (#22985068) Homepage Journal
    I have a feeling a creation vs. evolution flamewar is about to start. Creationists will be creationists, but everyone else just think for a second:

    If you were an average joe, not even a stupid joe but an average joe, which honestly sounds more convincing: 1) A supreme being did it, or 2) blah blah amino acids blah blah meteorites blah blah neutron star light rays blah blah?

    So y'know, take it easy on the creationists. They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?
  • by Dada Vinci ( 1222822 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @11:46PM (#22985122)
    Well, you've actually hit on one of the main creationist talking points -- "what are the odds that we'd all have left-handed amino acids, instead of a random mix that wouldn't work?" I'd be intersted to hear how they respond. I'd imagine with the same response as always (God put it here), but who knows. A good theory of why left-handeness is preferred (at least among amino acids) is a pretty big deal.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @11:54PM (#22985178)

    They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?
    Poorly written news articles don't excuse flawed thinking. One shouldn't depend on shallow news stories or vague religious texts for explanations of the physical world.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @12:00AM (#22985206)
    So y'know, take it easy on the creationists. They may not understand how science works, but when faced with an article like this, can you really blame them?

    Really, you should have gotten a +1 Funny not a Troll mod. Fact is, those are exactly the kind of people that bring down civilizations, so going easy on them isn't an option. So far as not understanding science ... well, it's not my fault they didn't pay attention in 7th grade science class. If they don't understand what they're talking about they should either educate themselves or just shut up.
  • by Fifth Earth ( 1172333 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @12:09AM (#22985260)
    "All earthbound meteors catch an excess of one of the two polarized rays." [which are generated by neutron stars]

    Doesn't this imply that there is a neutron star somewhere in the immediate vicinity of Earth that's zapping all our incoming meteors? Wouldn't we, um, notice?

    I mean, neutron stars are pretty rare things (~2000 known in our galaxy, nearest known is 280 lt/yrs away). I find it improbable that a significant majority of the incoming material has passed by one at some point in its life.
  • by TheNarrator ( 200498 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @02:11AM (#22985872)
    Seems there's a lot of people out there who think that this or that scientific discovery will make all the creationists wake up and finally abandon creationism. Not going to happen. You just can't reason somebody out of something they weren't reasoned into in the first place.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @02:15AM (#22985896)
    Where did those amino acids come from?
  • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) * on Monday April 07, 2008 @02:18AM (#22985916) Homepage
    The idea that nucleic acids and other organic building blocks were delivered to Earth from a meteor is not new. In fact, I remember reading about that in a space book when I was 5.

    Personally, I think that whether or not the "seeds of life" originated here or came here on a meteor is a stupid idea, as it's not where they came from that is even remotely interesting, but how they came to be in the first place. If they originated here, then an asteroid impact may have scattered them elsewhere, and there may be other bewildered life forms on other planets wondering where they came from, or vice versa. What difference does it make?

    What I want to know is how complex organic molecules were formed into self-organising, self-replicating structures. Bigfoot is not the missing link. How we got to elemental material spewed out from a supernova to DNA, *that's* the missing link.
  • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) * on Monday April 07, 2008 @02:20AM (#22985928) Homepage
    "How we got to elemental material spewed out from a supernova to DNA"
    Should read:
    "How we got from elemental material spewed out from a supernova to DNA"

    I'd say I didn't preview, but that excuse no longer exists. I guess I'm just a tard :(
  • by dookiesan ( 600840 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @02:52AM (#22986036)
    You may as well not believe in plate techtonics because we can't yet move a mountain. We will accomplish that goal of artificial life in a lot less than a billion years if we don't go extinct before then.

    Even hard proof that we were derived from random evolution should not shake anyone's faith in God.

    A person may claim to see colors and hear sounds and have other subjective experiences. The more we learn about the brain the less need there is for any of these subjective things to exist. Science is explaining away all of your behaviors and someday may explain everything you do based on predictable simulations of the neurons in your brain. It may even predict that you will claim to experience the world and "see" colors and other things that don't exist. This doesn't shake my faith that you still experience the world though!
  • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @03:47AM (#22986248) Homepage

    Just thought I'd point out that the 'space seed theory' is nothing new. Panspermia [] has been around a long while. In the modern form since the 1800s.

    I agree that many times it does seem that observation based science is lacking. However 'creation scientists' strikes me as as misnomer, unless there's a branch of creationists that believes the world is older than 6000 years old. Christian scientists, or religious scientists sure, no problem.

    For those with faith the hypothesis that life might not have originated on Earth shouldn't be a big deal. The origin of the space life, or the origin of the big bang can still be handled very well within the realm of most religions. If you're a Scientologist it's a given life didn't start here!

    Sure life from space shoots the story of Genesis but if the entire bible is to be taken word for word literally, I'm dissapointed that the museum of natural history has no displays for the unicorns and dragons mentioned in it. Let alone the species of whale that would make very eco-friendly human water transport systems ALA Jonah - provided you can stand the smell of whale gut for 3 days.

    Faith and science, unless they hit the extreme spectrums, do not have to be mutually exclusive.

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:21AM (#22986556)
    as usual, an epic fail in the understanding of science and evolution.

    evolution is what happened AFTER self replicating molecules happened. a rock doesn't just turn into a tin can as some massive retards try put forth, trillions of chemical reactions per second would have to happen for a billion years before you MIGHT run across a combination which has the ability to recreate itself.

    the difference between the scientists trying to explain this and religous people doing the same, is the scientists openly admit they don't know, where the religous factions can't stand the idea they don't.

  • by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:26AM (#22986568)
    I'm not sure left handedness needs such a far fetched explanation. It makes sense for cells to pick one handedness or another, otherwise they need twice the machinery. And there are plenty of pathways that connect different amino acids and other compounds, so if one of them is left handed, chances are most of the rest are as well. And which handedness it ended up being may just have been chance.
  • by pkphilip ( 6861 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:36AM (#22986600)

    Even hard proof that we were derived from random evolution should not shake anyone's faith in God.
    Before we can arrive at any *hard proof* of evolution, we will first need to know what it takes to create a self-replicating organism in the first place. We are no where near knowing the different steps it takes to deliberately create a living unicellular organism.

    When we don't even know this, we cannot reasonably postulate the different evolutionary stages required to create this same organism.

    Anything that can come about by evolution can be deliberately engineered. If not, why not?
  • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) * on Monday April 07, 2008 @07:48AM (#22987080) Homepage
    No, that book is an evolution (pardon the pun) of the theory of evolution. It deals with what happened (in RD's view) *after* the avalanche of life had been triggered.

    What I was asking was, what was the first snowflake that started that avalanche. Wake me up when people have started caring about that, coz I don't see much discourse on that subject in the scientific media.
  • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @08:49AM (#22987438)
    I at least can recall the following. We have plenty of stereospecific molecules to the extent that sometimes the lefthanded molecule of something is good for us while the righthanded variant is poisonous. It doesn't mean that for every molecule in nature only one handedness will occur. Amino acids are nearly always lefthanded. Google for "homochirality".

    If we create a mirror case for the current biological condition where all lefthanded molecules are replaced by righthanded and vice versa, this condition would be equally plausible.

    The idea of symmetry breaking is that each of the conditions is equally plausible but mutually exclusive, and that a small perturbation early on would magnify to result in complete dominance of one variant. The origin of this perturbation is trivial, a butterfly flapping its wings if you wish, the important thing is the magnifying effect.

    Parent post refers to a modification of that idea, where the two conditions are not exactly similar but there is actually a slight preference for one of the conditions. In the first case on half of the planets with life will have lefthanded life, the other half will have righthanded life. In the second case, all life is lefthanded.
  • by Ginger Unicorn ( 952287 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @09:02AM (#22987582)
    This is just another possible piece in the jigsaw puzzle.

    It's a bit churlish to say this doesn't explain anything. It just doesn't explain everything. This early on in the game there are still lots of threads to pick up in the story. When you watch a murder mystery, do you start complaining after a couple of scenes because they haven't found the murderer yet? Or perhaps you're too used to columbo...

    give them a chance to figure it out, it's not like the emergence of life is some kind of trivial problem to understand.

  • by Guido von Guido ( 548827 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @09:12AM (#22987662)
    "Before we can arrive at any *hard proof* of evolution, we will first need to know what it takes to create a self-replicating organism in the first place."

    Evolution (and the evidence for it) does not depend (logically or otherwise) on the origin of life. It doesn't really matter if the first self-replicating organism developed in a pool on the beach or in a deep-sea thermal vent, if it came from a meteorite from somewhere else, or if God poofed it into existence.

    To suggest that evolution depends on this in any way is just moving the goal posts around.
  • by Tesen ( 858022 ) on Monday April 07, 2008 @11:03AM (#22988832)
    Faith isn't about rationality (this may piss off a few people, but it is true); faith is about a confidence that something created or set things in motion. If you subscribe to the Christian view, then the end result of this thing we call life is either eternal hell or eternal paradise (I have issues with these concepts even as a Christian - perhaps I am by my own beliefs not a true Christian). As a science type myself, my faith gives me confidence that there are rules to the universe and that the rules we are trying to learn exist for a reason and do not arbitrarily act in contradiction to one another.

    Q: "how is this idea any different from an atheists viewpoint other than what started it all (which atheists generally have no viewpoint on)?"

    A: There really is no difference; I feel compelled to explain the creation of this universe is because a Supreme Being made it so. From an atheists stand point, it is irrelevant if God created the universe or not, if we're just examining the rules of this universe. Our ideas diverge, when you as an Atheist attempt to explain what created the big bang; I believe a Supreme Being, you may believe another universe fell apart and our universe started as a tiny fragment of another, or this is the 2nd to nth time our universe has expanded and collapsed.

    Q: "What relevance does God have now that he's set the rules of the universe (physics et al) in place?"

    A: Truth is, I don't know. If God is all powerful, then God has seen the beginning and the end of his creation. I.e. God is timeless, so right at this moment is He relevant, on a linear scale? Perhaps not, but on a grander scale live by my rules and there will be a place for you in heaven, then I'd have to say yes.
    See my other attempt to answer one of your questions:

    Q: "Does God ever interfere with the universe (changes the rules, even on a local or minute scale) for his own purposes (e.g. Jesus walking on water, Moses parting the sea, other misc miracles)?"
    A: Refer to my attempt to answer above; if he has seen all, then he has already set things in motion that will caused Moses to part the sea, if He is all powerful and created this construct, then He has the intimate knowledge needed to cause an odd force of some kind to pull the sea apart. Because we can't explain why it happened, does not mean it did not and was not programmed (if you will) to happen.

    So is this interference or preordained based on the rules He wrote for the verse? I dunno, I think that is up to the individual to decide.

    A: If so, why? And does this have any effect on how one should live their life?

    Q: Dunno on the first part, I am not God, hehe. Everything that happens around us has the potential to affect us. This is where it gets tricky though, if God has absolute control over the rules of the universe, does that mean we still have free will? Or is the shape of the universe (and of us) already determined based on the programming He has done? I don't really know for sure; if you take it at face value that we are defined by the rules He has created, then no we do not. But is this really true? It is conceivable that God created the rules of the universe, physics etc and how we evolve but left out any programming on how we as individuals operate (though human nature would seem to indicate certain tendencies were programmed in - and yes, the tendency for violence is one of the things I am really pissed off about).

    Q: is there ANYTHING about your belief structure that changes how you should live your life?

    A: My questions change. I did not believe in God for so long, I am still not 100% sure why I started to believe again I was so hard core science type and a total atheist. But no matter the questions I asked science, certain things in my life still did not make sense (very personal reasons I'd rather not discuss); somewhere along the way during a physics class, certain faith based opinions and views started to emerge in my skull, some of them I found reassuring some scared me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2008 @01:07PM (#22990642)
    You've missed the bigger problem: if this is a scientific experiment, where's the control? It's not proper application of the scientific method unless she isolated a variables using a control. Unless she had a second jar, and prayed for her deity to create life there, and life was created for her, I'm not buying it.

    I would make her repeat the experiment with a control. Then when she got back I'd ask her how one designs a double-blind experiment when God is involved.
  • by stoomart ( 1092733 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @07:07PM (#23006602)
    My original post was in response to db32 statement that the problem with creationists is a "piss-poor" understanding of probability and this statement:

    It seems funny to me that the whole thing stems from "the probability of that happening is so small that it couldn't possibly happen". No...the probability of that happening is so small that it makes it a near miracle that it happened. That is the whole damned point of probability. Determining the frequency of an event that COULD happen.
    I am in no way asserting that I have as much knowledge about science as any other ordinary person on here. I would however assert that I probably have more knowledge and understanding about things of a spiritual nature than most unbelievers on here. Science and faith in God should not ever be used to discount each other. Science should be used to explain that which can be explained and observed using the scientific method and faith in God should be used to explain the things of the spiritual world and life.

    I agree that from a strictly scientific perspective, the theories of evolution are the most probable of any other explanations about the origin of species. For myself, I believe in a spiritual realm which involves a God based on my own experiences. Because I believe in God, I subscribe to His account of creation which made everything in a mature form, such as the universe, the earth as well as every living thing on it. If God does exist, do you not agree that He would have the power to make everything in it's current form, showing the evidence of it's prehistoric nature? Just think, He didn't make a fetus, He made a Man.

    If someone wants to base their entire belief about why we are here strictly on science and that which is seen, that is their choice. Honestly, I don't believe any person has the capacity to fully reject the fact that there is a God because He built into every person a sense or knowledge of their creator, all they can really do is suppress the truth, in unrighteousness as the bible says. I don't believe in atheists and if you are one and think I'm full of crap, ask yourself if you would pass a lie detector test with the question "Do you believe in God?"

    In Christ's love, stoo

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