What'sNEW July - September 2013Water on Mars "discovered" by Curiosity is actually not news at all, says Gil Levin, 27 Sep 2013.
5 Bold Claims of Alien Life, a compilation of 5 entries on Space.com, 20 Sep 2013. Thanks, Google Alerts.
Could Life Have Survived a Fall to Earth?, European Planetary Science Congress (+ScienceDaily +RedOrbit), 12 Sep 2013. Thanks, Ken Jopp & Google Alerts.
"...Let me be clear: I do not doubt that self-preservation—the inchoate striving to maintain system integrity against threat and to perpetuate existence via reproduction—is the default existential condition of living things, present and past. But the emergence of that default state needs to be explained. This is the truck-sized gap in the origins and transitions narratives that Dawkinsian selfishness obscures." (p 107)
Lyon's essay is among fourteen in a collection that followed a workshop at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research. The workshop, held in 2007, was designed to extend the research project promoted by John Maynard-Smith and Eörs Szathmáry with the publication of The Major Transitions in Evolution, in 1995. We think Lyon's essay does an even worthier thing — it exposes a questionable, basic assumption. We notice another questionable, basic assumption — life "originates?" The evidence, at least, has train-sized gaps.
Pamela Lyon "To be or not to be: Where is self-preservation in evolutionary theory?" p 105-125 in B. Calcott and K. Sterelny, eds., The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited, ISBN:9780262015240, MIT Press, Apr 2011.
...Bacteriophages serve to shuttle genes between diverse ecosystems... and even introduce novel genes to new environments. ...The migration of bacteria, or of the megafauna that bacteria infect, allows phages to traverse the globe. ...Bacteriophages are capable of forming and collapsing entire ecosystems.
Going Viral by Breeann Kirby and Jeremy J. Barr, The Scientist, 1 Sep 2013.
Viruses and Other Gene Transfer Mechanisms is the related local webpage — What'sNEW about HGT |
Traits with "non-adaptive" origins are hard to explain with the mainstream theory of evolution. But genomes with programs that are "pre-adapted" for unencountered situations are a standard prediction of cosmic ancestry. The report of this analsis concludes, ...The pervasiveness of non-adaptive traits may require a rethinking of the early origins of beneficial traits.
Aditya Barve and Andreas Wagner, "A latent capacity for evolutionary innovation through exaptation in metabolic systems" [abstract], doi:10.1038/nature12301, p 203-206 v 500, Nature, 8 Aug 2013.
"Basically, we went looking on Mars because the origins-of-life options on Earth just aren't looking very good," Benner said. For whatever reason, the story is getting a lot of coverage. Of course, if life came to Earth from Mars, that is called panspermia. Welcome aboard, Steve!
Earth life 'may have come from Mars' by Simon Redfern, BBC News, 28 Aug 2013.
Astrobiology XVI will take place Tuesday, 27 August 2013, in San Diego, California. Some of the world's leading experts, including conference co-chairs Richard Hoover, Gil Levin, Alexei Rozanov and Chandra Wickramasinghe, will discuss the latest developments in astrobiology. Of special interest to us, the international team studying the Polonnaruwa meteorite that fell 29 Dec 2012, will present evidence for life in it. At an evening session (8-10 PM, Marriott Hotel, Marina E), conference panelists will recap some of the news and answer questions from the audience. The evening session, titled "Life in the Cosmos," is open to all; science reporters are especially welcome.
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XVI, Conference 8865, 27 Aug, of the SPIE Optics + Photonics 2013 Conference, San Diego Convention Center, 25-29 Aug 2013.
Milton Wainwright et al., "Isolation of a Diatom Frustule Fragment from the Lower Stratosphere (22-27Km)-Evidence for a Cosmic Origin" [pdf | local pdf], p 10183-10188 v 22, Journal of Cosmology, Aug 2013.
Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Multimedia: All Raw Images: Opportunity: Microscopic Imager: Sol 035. The following day, NASA took 8 more images of the same area abraded by the RAT. Why not before the obliteration???
Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT), information page at NASA.
The Curious Case of the NASA Crinoid Cover-Up (with crinoid fossils for comparison), by Richard C. Hoagland, 2004.
Dr R Raynal emails to suggest that the fossil is a different animal, 11 Aug 2013.
Life on Mars! is the main related local webpage. Thanks, Richard Hoover.
Meridiani Planum was wet — NASA's observation on Sol 28, What'sNEW, 2 Mar 2004.
A fossil on Mars resembles one on Earth, 28 Oct 2015. — Includes comments from various experts.
In the figure, the concentric circles represent: 1, CDSs positions on the direct (blue) and reverse (red) strands; 2, CDSs with a best match within eukaryotes (orange), bacteria (green), and viruses (purple); and CDSs with MORN repeats, ankyrin repeats, and F-box domain motifs (white); CDSs with no match (gray); 3, CDSs whose protein products were identified in the proteome of purified P. salinus particles.
Nadège Philippe, Matthieu Legendre et al., "Pandoraviruses: Amoeba Viruses with Genomes Up to 2.5 Mb Reaching That of Parasitic Eukaryotes" [abstract], doi:10.1126/science.1239181, p 281-286 v 341, Science, 19 Jul 2013; and commentary:
The Case for Alien Life by Sarah Fecht, Popular Mechanics, 1 Aug 2013 (+Arizona State University +PhysOrg.com, 15 Jul 2013). Thanks, Stan Franklin.
Life on Mars Discovered in 1976?, 31 min. YouTube video posted by Ben Deniston, 8 May 2013.
What's Really Going on in Lake Vostok? by Carolyn Gramling, Science NOW, 9 Jul 2013.
Antarctic Lake Vostok 'might have fish', BBC News, 8 Jul 2013.
In Subglacial Lake, Surprising Life Goes On, Newswise, 5 Jul 2013.
Yury M. Shtarkman, Zeynep A. Koçer et al., "Subglacial Lake Vostok (Antarctica) Accretion Ice Contains a Diverse Set of Sequences from Aquatic, Marine and Sediment-Inhabiting Bacteria and Eukarya" [html], doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067221, 8(7): e67221, PLoS ONE, 3 Jul 2013.
Life on Europa, Other Moons, Other Planets? is a local webpage with related links. Thanks, Bob Sweeney.
In cosmic ancestry, new genetic programs must be acquired by some form of horizontal gene transfer (HGT). The observed bacterial DNA was apparently acquired through an RNA intermediate. After transfer, newly acquired genes need testing and optimising. Sometimes they will turn out to be useless or even harmful. The harm may be manifest as cancer. Or perhaps cancer cells are more likely to acquire new genes. These examples are seen in somatic cells, but HGT often also reaches germline cells, as the report mentions. The news from Maryland is entirely plausible to us.
David R. Riley, Karsten B. Sieber et al., "Bacteria-Human Somatic Cell Lateral Gene Transfer Is Enriched in Cancer Samples" [html], doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003107, 9(6): e1003107, PLoS Comput Biol, 20 Jun 2013.