New Life Form Found

#26
Two things. First, I don't think I ignore the time dimension. Rather the time dimension appeared to be working against the idea of life being 'easy'. It seemed to be working towards life possibly being unique.
Evolution of life might not be easy but on the space/time magnitude we are considering it is "likely" IMO.

Consider, that the earth is a little older than 1/3 the age of the universe. In other words, no planet has had more than three times as long to develop life than Earth. Further, it seems unlikely that a small but significant portion of the early lifespan of the Universe could possibly support life.
Probably true, but how much of that early span is the question.



Consider, that it is almost impossible to extinguish life once it takes root. Life can survive in the most precarious situation. There are calculations about life surviving even the hellstorm of a "planet killing" asteroid. There are suggestions that life can survive the cold heartless vacuum of space. I think you too easily reach the conclusion that life could have started and extinguished on Earth in the past. Extinction is a difficult thing to achieve. Sure, it is possible and I cannot rule it out but there is no evidence that such a thing occurred. To expect it to happen requires you to first accept the hypothesis that life is 'easy'.
Here we disagree. It's easy for me to imagine a catastrophic collision of bodies. It's also very easy for me to imagine so-called intelligent beings extinguishing themselves in a war of sorts. For the record, I doubt life evolved on Earth in the past, but I also doubt it hasn't arisen and died off elsewhere in the universe. Earth is 1/3 the age of the universe and life has existed for only a fraction of that time so there is almost an incomprehensible amount of time for life to rise and fall.

Given that we had not found life that had developed twice on a planet with an age roughly equal to 1/3 the age of the Universe (with near perfect conditions for life) it is not hard to make the argument that life might be so uniformly unlikely as to have occurred only once.

Now of course all of this assumes that life follows our template. While I would not doubt that other life types could exist, it seems unlikely that they could have formed in an environment without active chemistry. That tends to suggest that you would not see life arising spontaneously in frozen states or plasma states or in areas absent of significant amounts of building blocks of whatever type. The Universe is still large when ruling all of those places out but it shrinks quite a bit when you require some form of liquid (certainly less than the merest fraction of one percent of the volume of the universe).
Complete agreement here.

Item 2. I am no longer certain that this represents what I thought at first. If this bacterium uses DNA with the same base pairs and is actually just an evolved life form, it is not that big of a deal to me. In other words, it might well suggest that life can exist in a variety of environments that we did not conceive of. It would not suggest though that it evolved separate from the solitary Tree of Life that we see on Earth today. We already knew from our study of chemoautotrophs that life can exist in places that we would not first have thought possible (think no sunlight as an energy source).
Now your shock is clarified. Using arsenic is surprising given how deadly it is to all previously known life forms. Of course the reason it's deadly is that is is actually a pretty good phosphorous mimic so it's not surprising that a bacteria evolved to actually use arsenic. I wonder what happens if you withdraw arsenic and add phosphorous.
 
#27
Savoy, IL
#28
If Earth's history was compressed into one day:

http://dml.cmnh.org/2005Apr/msg00410.html

Life evolved around 4 AM.

Eukaryotes evolved just after lunch.

Dinosaurs walked the earth around 10:45 PM.

Humans evolved 4 seconds before midnight.


Here is another example in which Earth's history is shrunk into a year:

http://www.francistapon.com/Travels/Continental-Divide-Trail/Earth-s-History-Compressed-in-One-Year

I like his conclusion about the "crown jewel" of evolution. :laugh:
That is interesting.

I guess one argument against my idea that life should have evolved several times by now given the long history of the earth could be that the time during which just the right environment existed was brief. In other words, the formation of life might be highly unlikely or even impossible under the conditions in which we now live. Perhaps genesis requires a much more energetic environment than we currently enjoy. One with higher temperatures, radiation levels, electrical storms etc.

Another argument could be made that the presence of life itself mitigates against the creation of new life. In other words, life could more easily form if it did not have to do so in competition with existing life.

Oh well, we will probably never be able to sort through any of this but it is interesting to me.
 
#29
Captain 'Paign
Phoenix, AZ
All of this discussion does not even bring to bear the possibilities of other universes, as posed by super-string theory (Michiu Kaku being among the most famous espousers and theorists). "Super-string" theory poses that there are multiple dimensions beyond the 3 space and 1 time dimension that we know. It's possible that our ability to only sense four dimensions limits us from interacting with or experiencing a large portion of the universe, or that the other dimensions (it's posed that there could be as many as ten) could lie within our own universe and could contain whole separate universes with different realities. It's complex but interesting stuff if you are into that sort of science. I'd highly suggest reading Kaku's book "Hyperspace" and subsequent works if you would like a more detailed explanation.
 
#30
All of this discussion does not even bring to bear the possibilities of other universes, as posed by super-string theory (Michiu Kaku being among the most famous espousers and theorists). "Super-string" theory poses that there are multiple dimensions beyond the 3 space and 1 time dimension that we know. It's possible that our ability to only sense four dimensions limits us from interacting with or experiencing a large portion of the universe, or that the other dimensions (it's posed that there could be as many as ten) could lie within our own universe and could contain whole separate universes with different realities. It's complex but interesting stuff if you are into that sort of science. I'd highly suggest reading Kaku's book "Hyperspace" and subsequent works if you would like a more detailed explanation.
See Flatland for a basic primer on being unable to see a dimension in which you don't exist. I haven't read it in 30 years. As I recall it is the kind of book you can polish off in an hour or two.
 
#31
Captain 'Paign
Phoenix, AZ
See Flatland for a basic primer on being unable to see a dimension in which you don't exist. I haven't read it in 30 years. As I recall it is the kind of book you can polish off in an hour or two.
Hyperspace explores that same concept and then some, albeit I read it about 15 years ago and not 30. I might have to give Flatlander a read, though.
 
#32
When I read your post about intelligence I was stuck thinking about that part. If we found something like a field mouse on a planet, would that be intelligent life? How about a dolphin?
I draw the line right above Iowa fans. :thumb:

My argument was that life on earth appears to have formed ONCE in billions of years. All life on earth uses the identical building block molecules (the same base pairs). If life could form easily, it seemed obvious that life should have formed multiple times on earth. We should see species that are so alien from each other that they must be unrelated.

This has not occurred. Until now.
Pardon my appalling ignorance of biology here. Is it inconceivable that these newly-discovered bacteria evolved from a phosphorus-based life form? I guess I'm also not clear how the similarity of other life forms would be particularly strong evidence that life only formed once, since I would assume that the statistical improbability is the creation of conditions conducive to the initial formation of life, rather than the formation of life given such conditions.

That's a cool video, Razor. The universe is often mind-boggling, and only becomes more so as we move away from the human scale. The video, for instance, engages in the simplification that light travels eight billion years to get from one place to another. But, of course, from the light's perspective, it got here the moment it left! How cosmologists and theoretical physicists wrap their heads around this stuff is just beyond me.
 
#33
Illini Foot Soldier
Basket is 100% sure this new life form is gay and is responsible for the North Korea conflict.
 
#34
I draw the line right above Iowa fans. :thumb:
So dolphins would count then right? But what about the mouse? ;)


Pardon my appalling ignorance of biology here. Is it inconceivable that these newly-discovered bacteria evolved from a phosphorus-based life form? I guess I'm also not clear how the similarity of other life forms would be particularly strong evidence that life only formed once, since I would assume that the statistical improbability is the creation of conditions conducive to the initial formation of life, rather than the formation of life given such conditions.
You could be right and that life could use the same building blocks but spark to life spontaneously multiple times.

OTOH, all life seems to share the common use of exactly the same set of 5 nitrogenous nucleotides. These nucleotides code in triplet format for particular peptides. I believe that ribosomes are ubiquotous structures in all cells to allow for protein synthesis.

It seems unlikely that each time life arose, the same 5 nucleotides would be used in the same way in the same sequence to code for the same 20 peptides. Surely they might use the same 5 nucleotides and the same 20 peptides, but the code should be different between species if they arose independently IMO. In fact it is a bit more complex. I believe that 3 nucleotide sequences using the 4 bases involved in translation (protein synthesis) can make 4^3 or 64 codes. Each of the codons codes for a peptide with some redundancy. A couple of codons code for start and stop sequences (to begin or terminate a protein). The vast majority of codons are exactly the same across all species. There are a couple of exceptions dealing with differing stop codons. With the remainder of the code being identical that suggests an evolutionary change rather than a difference in genesis.

Lastly, there are some fundamental differences between plant and animal mitochondrial RNA. That suggests a very early evolutionary split. I am not expert enough on the genetic process to explain the difference with any accuracy (I don't have a complete grasp of it). There may be errors above but I think I have it right. My background is more high energy physics than biology.

I am not sure what the odds of that happening by chance are but they seem long.
 
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#35
I draw the line right above Iowa fans. :thumb:
Where do Red Sox fans fit:laugh::deadhorse::hand:


Pardon my appalling ignorance of biology here. Is it inconceivable that these newly-discovered bacteria evolved from a phosphorus-based life form? I guess I'm also not clear how the similarity of other life forms would be particularly strong evidence that life only formed once, since I would assume that the statistical improbability is the creation of conditions conducive to the initial formation of life, rather than the formation of life given such conditions.
Without any data, I suspect that this bacteria did evolve from the more common phosphorous utilizing organisms. I sort of said so in an earlier post but did not say it so explicitly. As for the energy barrier for evolution, I think you are right that it is the existence of the physical/chemical environment that facilitated the emergence of "life" that is limiting. There is obviously no way to know for sure, but that is the consensus.
 
#36
So dolphins would count then right? But what about the mouse? ;)
Wouldn't a pig be a more reasonable comparison for Iowa fans?




You could be right and that life could use the same building blocks but spark to life spontaneously multiple times.

OTOH, all life seems to share the common use of exactly the same set of 5 nitrogenous nucleotides. These nucleotides code in triplet format for particular peptides. I believe that ribosomes are ubiquotous structures in all cells to allow for protein synthesis.

It seems unlikely that each time life arose, the same 5 nucleotides would be used in the same way in the same sequence to code for the same 20 peptides. Surely they might use the same 5 nucleotides and the same 20 peptides, but the code should be different between species if they arose independently IMO. In fact it is a bit more complex. I believe that 3 nucleotide sequences using the 4 bases involved in translation (protein synthesis) can make 4^3 or 64 codes. Each of the codons codes for a peptide with some redundancy. A couple of codons code for start and stop sequences (to begin or terminate a protein). The vast majority of codons are exactly the same across all species. There are a couple of exceptions dealing with differing stop codons. With the remainder of the code being identical that suggests an evolutionary change rather than a difference in genesis.
Good explanation. You of course mean amino acids, not peptides, but that's an explanation everyone can understand.


Lastly, there are some fundamental differences between plant and animal mitochondrial RNA. That suggests a very early evolutionary split. I am not expert enough on the genetic process to explain the difference with any accuracy (I don't have a complete grasp of it). There may be errors above but I think I have it right. My background is more high energy physics than biology.
There are many other differences too. The biology of a plant cell is extremely different than a metazoan cell. Outside of the fact that they have a nucleus, they're barely more like our cells than a bacteria.
 
#37
Good explanation. You of course mean amino acids, not peptides, but that's an explanation everyone can understand.
:doh:

Thanks! I have been using them interchangeably for a long time. Peptide though is at least two linked Amino Acids. Linked by a peptide bond. Always good to have someone fix your errors.



There are many other differences too. The biology of a plant cell is extremely different than a metazoan cell. Outside of the fact that they have a nucleus, they're barely more like our cells than a bacteria.
In general I agree with that. Plants and animals of course are very different. One need only look at the squirrel scampering across a lawn to see the difference. OTOH, they both have most of the same organelles (with a few obvious exceptions like lysosomes), the same mitotic processes, even the same exact molecular structure of specialized things like the cytoskeleton and the flagella). They both use the double helix with the same base pairs. They both have similar genetic codes. Both use ATP as their energy currency of choice. I get what you are saying but I think there is no doubt that they arose from the same evolutionary process as opposed to animals springing from the ooze separate from plants.
 
#38
Savoy, IL
In general I agree with that. Plants and animals of course are very different. One need only look at the squirrel scampering across a lawn to see the difference. OTOH, they both have most of the same organelles (with a few obvious exceptions like lysosomes), the same mitotic processes, even the same exact molecular structure of specialized things like the cytoskeleton and the flagella). They both use the double helix with the same base pairs. They both have similar genetic codes. Both use ATP as their energy currency of choice. I get what you are saying but I think there is no doubt that they arose from the same evolutionary process as opposed to animals springing from the ooze separate from plants.
As a plant guy, I agree with you. Now, I think the evolutionary split was VERY early, but I agree that they arose from the same event. One of the biggest things that make them different are the fact that they have chloroplasts, which is an interesting body in itself because it was probably its own individual organism to begin with, then somehow became part of the plant's genetic code. We owe a lot to chloroplasts. :laugh:
 
#39
:doh:

Thanks! I have been using them interchangeably for a long time. Peptide though is at least two linked Amino Acids. Linked by a peptide bond. Always good to have someone fix your errors.





In general I agree with that. Plants and animals of course are very different. One need only look at the squirrel scampering across a lawn to see the difference. OTOH, they both have most of the same organelles (with a few obvious exceptions like lysosomes), the same mitotic processes, even the same exact molecular structure of specialized things like the cytoskeleton and the flagella). They both use the double helix with the same base pairs. They both have similar genetic codes. Both use ATP as their energy currency of choice. I get what you are saying but I think there is no doubt that they arose from the same evolutionary process as opposed to animals springing from the ooze separate from plants.
I don't want to get into a huge debate here, although we can if you'd like, but this is simply not correct. Yes, both use the double helix and the same nucleic acids and the central dogma is true in both. Yes both use ATP, but the details on how that is generated is different.

My main issue however is regarding division and the cytoskeleton. These are very different between plants and metazoans. Yes both use microtubules and actin for example but the proteins that modify the activities of these cytoskeletal networks are completely different and the specific dynamic properties even show differences. Regarding division, DNA duplication and segregation is similar but the final stages of cytokinesis are completely different which isn't surprising given that plants have a cell wall.

But yes, the take home point that we at some point shared an ancestor with the Christmas Cactus and Pitcher plant on my desk is true.
 
#40
I don't want to get into a huge debate here, although we can if you'd like, but this is simply not correct. Yes, both use the double helix and the same nucleic acids and the central dogma is true in both. Yes both use ATP, but the details on how that is generated is different.

My main issue however is regarding division and the cytoskeleton. These are very different between plants and metazoans. Yes both use microtubules and actin for example but the proteins that modify the activities of these cytoskeletal networks are completely different and the specific dynamic properties even show differences. Regarding division, DNA duplication and segregation is similar but the final stages of cytokinesis are completely different which isn't surprising given that plants have a cell wall.

But yes, the take home point that we at some point shared an ancestor with the Christmas Cactus and Pitcher plant on my desk is true.
That is all I am saying.
 
#41
As a plant guy, I agree with you. Now, I think the evolutionary split was VERY early, but I agree that they arose from the same event. One of the biggest things that make them different are the fact that they have chloroplasts, which is an interesting body in itself because it was probably its own individual organism to begin with, then somehow became part of the plant's genetic code. We owe a lot to chloroplasts. :laugh:
I believe the same is true of mitochondria if I am not mistaken. If THEY evolved and became a symbiote, it had to happen even earlier than the choloroplast since they are found in both animals and plants.

I have seen all kinds of elegant studies of mitochondria used to track human ancestries across millenia. I think the study of mitochondria across species and even kingdoms could be pretty interesting. I wonder how much work has been done on it.
 
#42
As often happens with "science by media release", I see there are questions about the study's validity coming from members of the scientific community:

http://www.slate.com/id/2276919/

As I said before, I'm not in any position to judge who's right.
 
#43
This is one of my favorite threads. As Illest pointed out there were questions about the science involved.

Professor Redfield has now given a talk that appears to refute the entire idea of arsenic being used as a surrogate for phosphorus. A blogger followed her talk in Ottawa

7:48 All life today is all related. All life descended from a common ancestor.

7:50 Common ancestor of all life today: DNA genome, cellular, lipid bilayer, protein synthesis, many modern biochemical pathways.

8:05 Redfield was suspicious. NASA’s track record was not good, given Martian meteorite debacle.

8:06 Whenever Redfield wants to think something through, she blogs.

8:40 Redfield: This is a story of serial failure. Lead author convinced of evidence without good research, senior authors didn’t provide supervision. Co-authors should have accepted responsibility. Reviewers failed, missed a lot of problems. Science failed in selecting reviewers.

8:42 “And finally, NASA failed big time.”
 
#44
This is one of my favorite threads. As Illest pointed out there were questions about the science involved.

Professor Redfield has now given a talk that appears to refute the entire idea of arsenic being used as a surrogate for phosphorus. A blogger followed her talk in Ottawa
The review process is broken in many senses. I cannot argue the specifics of the review process in question, but I've been shocked by what I've seen in many review cycles. To be sure, it is a difficult proposition but probably the most important job of scientists. And unfortunately, editors make the job more difficult rather than easier.

Regarding oversight of the actual research by the senior researcher - it's important but about as possible as it is for Beckman to keep track of each individual player. Your only hope is to hire honest people and create a proper environment.
 
#45
Does God fit into this equation? Where did matter come from that over billions of years has created the vastness of creation?
 
#46
I think this great example of how the scientific process is self correcting and, unlike the picture painted by many that scientists are a collusive sort propping up "beliefs" and "revenue streams", scientists have actual interests in trying to find "truths".
 
#47
I think this great example of how the scientific process is self correcting and, unlike the picture painted by many that scientists are a collusive sort propping up "beliefs" and "revenue streams", scientists have actual interests in trying to find "truths".
I wish this were true. Over-interpretation of data is almost required to publish in most fields and outright data falsification is rampant.

Paper retractions are common and I suspect less than 10% of falsifications are ever found. There are lots of people to blame and many reasons for the behavior, but to suggest that scientists as a group are interested only in "truths" and not worried about "revenue streams" is naive. Revenue streams are the primary concern of most scientists.
 
#48
A chunk of the problem here is that quite frequently researchers are evaluated and rewarded for how much they get published rather than on the overall long term quality of their work. Then add in the facts that most falsifications don't get caught and that some "scientific" journals will publish anything if you are willing to pay to have it published or if it suits their agenda and the risk to reward calculation ends up getting skewed toward publishing anything in the anticipation you won't get caught. As pointed out by IO, it comes down to $$$$. We reward researchers for the wrong thing, quantity rather than quality.
 
#49
A chunk of the problem here is that quite frequently researchers are evaluated and rewarded for how much they get published rather than on the overall long term quality of their work. Then add in the facts that most falsifications don't get caught and that some "scientific" journals will publish anything if you are willing to pay to have it published or if it suits their agenda and the risk to reward calculation ends up getting skewed toward publishing anything in the anticipation you won't get caught. As pointed out by IO, it comes down to $$$$. We reward researchers for the wrong thing, quantity rather than quality.
This is not true. The problem is how we evaluate quality. You can publish 6,000 papers in the low end journals you mention and it will do nothing for your career. One paper in a high end journal such as Nature or Science can change your career. What makes a paper interesting for these high end journals is novelty and overall impact. In other words, is this paper going to be cited regularly in the literature going forward they are interested. The works that meet this criteria are those which explain a previously unidentified process or give an in depth understanding of some process that can push the field.

Make no mistake, identifying scientific fraud is difficult. It must be regulated within the individual labs because the type of analysis needed to catch fraud is very difficult in the review process when you don't have access to the primary data. And even then, the only way to truly control for fraud is by having upstanding individuals in your lab.
 
#50
This is not true. The problem is how we evaluate quality. You can publish 6,000 papers in the low end journals you mention and it will do nothing for your career. One paper in a high end journal such as Nature or Science can change your career. What makes a paper interesting for these high end journals is novelty and overall impact. In other words, is this paper going to be cited regularly in the literature going forward they are interested. The works that meet this criteria are those which explain a previously unidentified process or give an in depth understanding of some process that can push the field.

Make no mistake, identifying scientific fraud is difficult. It must be regulated within the individual labs because the type of analysis needed to catch fraud is very difficult in the review process when you don't have access to the primary data. And even then, the only way to truly control for fraud is by having upstanding individuals in your lab.
That really depends on where you are, a top research university (or institution) or podunk U.