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Moore's Law and the Origin of Life 272

DoctorBit writes "MIT Technology Review is running a story about an arXiv paper in which geneticists Alexei A. Sharov and Richard Gordon propose that life as we know it originated 9.7 billion years ago. The researchers estimated the genetic complexity of phyla in the paleontological record by counting the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides in typical genomes of modern day descendants of each phylum. When plotting genetic complexity against time, the researchers found that genetic complexity increases exponentially, just as with Moore's law, but with a doubling rate of about once every 376 million years. Extrapolating backwards, the researchers estimate that life began about 4 billion years after the universe formed and evolved the first bacteria just before the Earth was formed. One might image that the supernova debris that formed the early solar system could have included bacteria-bearing chunks of rock from doomed planets circling supernova progenitor stars. If true, this retro-prediction has some interesting consequences in partly resolving the Fermi Paradox. Another interesting consequence for those attempting to recreate life's origins in a lab: bacteria may have evolved under conditions very different from those on earth."
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Moore's Law and the Origin of Life

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  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @02:01PM (#43464185)

    This is dealing with evolution, not origin of life. While it fits even less with a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible than life originating on Earth, it weighs neither positively nor negatively on whether life arose on its own or was created by a deity.

  • by Empiric ( 675968 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @02:12PM (#43464315)
    You're welcome. []
  • by alexgieg ( 948359 ) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @03:07PM (#43464865) Homepage

    Since the supernatural is completely imaginary

    It depends on how you delimit natural. Math and logic laws aren't natural, at least in the sense that they're causal results from some physical/material/energetic/whatever process. In fact it can be argued it's the other way around, and nature as a whole "follows" the principle of non-contradiction, arithmetic, generalized geometry. That's pretty supernatural for me, in the strict sense of "beyond nature".

    Still no literal "bearded man in the sky"-style deity though.

  • No. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ljhiller ( 40044 ) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @03:59PM (#43465431)
    Current thinking is that there were simpler life forms without DNA-based genomes (e.g. RNA) which then acquired a DNA genome. The first DNA would then be essentially a reverse-transcription of an existing, non-trivial RNA molecule, starting when that first primitive reverse transcriptase enzyme appeared. The same complexity analysis on the RNA would be MUCH steeper, as RNA is far more mutable and reactive than DNA. This theory, let's not even call it that, this observation of a trend, ignores the technology shift above and obtains this highly speculative conclusion. And, the extrapolation is still invalid.

    A transistor isn't much of a computer, but it is a switch, and three of them is a logic gate. 3 nucleotides is not a genome of a living thing. There's no point in extrapolating the length of a genome below the minimum length of a viable genome if the question you're trying to ask is "when was the first genome?" The graph shows billions of years of very short genomes starting at 9 BCE.I don't know what the minimum genome is, but I'm sure it's not 1 pair, or 3 pairs. A good guess would be the 4 BCE mark on the graph, though.

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