Life From Space? (Panspermia; Lithopanspermia)

rynner2

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#1
This page details lab experiments that show that amino acids, essential building blocks of proteins, and hence essential for 'life as we know it', can be created in interstellar gas clouds.

Thus these compunds should be widespread through space, and be incorporated into planetary systems and comets, meaning that it is likely that life in the universe is the rule rather than the exception.

I find it interesting how quickly this idea is becoming the current scientific paradigm. 20 years ago it was only scientists on the fringe, often mocked as crackpots, who favoured such ideas, but now it seems they're coming in from the cold.

And those interstellar gas clouds are cold! (It's ultraviolet radiation that facilitates the chemical reactions that produce the amino acids.)
 

tzb57r

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#2
I've always had a problem with "look...basic building blocks, I'll bet that leads to life". The reality is that amino acids are rather low energy and so are quite stable and easy to form [they are also relatively easy to detect at low levels, humans also go looking for them], the tricky bit is putting the blocks together to form a self replicating system. [From the evidence on Earth the simple bit seems to be making single celled organisms and the tricky bit is forming multi-cellular life and sexually reproducing systems]

There is a really good book by Prof. Cairn-Smith (republished about two years ago, the title was something like 7 essays on evolution) which suggests that all life on earth is evolved from clay. He presents a good argument. He also dismisses the panspermia theory as merely relocating the problem of the creation of life to another planet but does not dismiss it as the source of life on earth. I've met Prof. Cairn-Smith a few times, nice guy and have quizzed him on "why, if this type of life is so readily formed, do we not see it today?" his answer was "it was out evolved".

From my own point of view given that life evolved on earth almost as soon as there was liquid water I would say that life is almost certainly very widespread in the universe. Given the amount of time (3 billion years) that it stayed at the slime stage before evolving into multi-celled life (625 million years ago), I don't think much of the life we encounter in the future will be very "Star Trek".
 

harlequin2005

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#3
Would we actually recognise the clay based life as life? It may still be there, doing its thing in the deep trenches. By the time it was brought up yto the surface, it would be mud again, such life needing low turbulence

8¬)
 
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Anonymous

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#4
rynner said:
Thus these compunds should be widespread through space, and be incorporated into planetary systems and comets, meaning that it is likely that life in the universe is the rule rather than the exception.
And according to this there is a newly discovered candidate for life bearing planets outwith the solar system:

'Astronomers have discovered a planetary system around another star that is similar in scale to our Solar System.
It reminds them of home, say the researchers.

The scientists, Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, are also announcing the discovery of 13 new planets, bringing the number of known so-called exoplanets - planets outside our own system - to over 100...

...The planetary system that superficially looks like ours orbits a star called 55 Cancri in the constellation Cancer. It was already known to have one planet orbiting it, also discovered by Butler and Marcy in 1996.'

The article also states that the next generation of orbital satellites will be able to detect Earth sized planets.
 

rynner2

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#5
That story was included in BBC TV news last night, Wastrel.

They helpfully added a graphic showing the position of 55 Cnc in relation to last night's new moon. I wonder how many people looked at the sky, saw Venus, and got all excited! (55 Cnc is supposedly rather dim - but I can't find it in SkyMap Pro!)

Later: I did find it, underanother name:

Names and Catalog Numbers

Bayer Letter: rho 1 Cancri
Flamsteed Number: 55 Cancri
PPM Catalog Number: PPM 99117

Position and Magnitude

Magnitude: 5.95

Position information for 12 Jun 2002 21:24:38
(Julian day number 2452438.35044)

Apparent RA (epoch of date): 08h 52m 42.39s
Apparent Dec (epoch of date): +28° 19' 29.2"

(I bet you really needed to know all that!)
And a big kiss from rynner for anyone who could see that star at all in the summer twilight - which should put off a whole generation from astronomy!
 
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Anonymous

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#6
rynner said:
That story was included in BBC TV news last night, Wastrel.
Since I very rarely watch TV, I bet this one was too!:) (from the BBC ):-

'Astronomers say there could be billions of Earths in our galaxy, the Milky Way.
Their assessment comes after the discovery of the 100th exoplanet - a planet that circles a star other than our own.

The latest find is a gas giant, just like all the other exoplanets so far detected, and orbits a Sun-like star 293 light-years away.


Scientists say they are now in a position to try to estimate how many planets may exist in the galaxy and speculate on just how many could be like the Earth. The answer in both cases is billions.'
 
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Anonymous

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#7
harlequin said:
Would we actually recognise the clay based life as life? It may still be there, doing its thing in the deep trenches. By the time it was brought up yto the surface, it would be mud again, such life needing low turbulence

8¬)
The clay was supposed to act as a substrate for all of those chemical reactions to happen on. Does give a whole new perspective on the term "feet of clay" though. ;)
 

harlequin2005

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#8
Indeed it was. I felt the term 'clay based' was substantially correct, since the self replicating part of 'cell' ('organo-crytal' is probably more accurate in this case) production relies entirely on the clays crystaline abilities and water, not chemical replication as it does in wholly organic animals. Any life forms of this sort would probably be laminal and of a 'colony' type, like lichens are in our organic world, and due to the nature of their replicating substrate, prey to turblent flow. Fascinating thought, though, if the therory were correct, that somewhere in the deep, still, cold trenches, they could be down there, doing the same thing as the have since just after the seas became seas

8¬)
 

river_styx

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#9
Whatever happened to the hunt for the good, old fashioned silicon based life forms?
I want my talking crystals god dammit!
 
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Anonymous

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#10
Harl,
Fair point. I guess it would be akin to bringing up a deep deep ocean critter. Once removed from its environment all we would get would be mush. I wonder if there is any simple way to look for evidence of literally clay based life in-situ.:confused:
 

beakboo1

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#11
Could there be intelligent life deep underground? Far fetched yes, but an interesting thought. They might know that there's a surface to the planet, but couldn't imagine any life here, with such low pressure and negligable (to them) atmosphere. We would be as ghosts to them. :madeyes:
 

rynner2

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#13
New research shows that clouds of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons existed before the formation of the solar system.

PAHs can easily form other pre-biotic chemicals, so the implication is that if most planets in the universe were seeded with PAHs then life could be a widespread phenomenon.

New Scientist article
 
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Anonymous

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rynner said:
New research shows that clouds of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons existed before the formation of the solar system.

PAHs can easily form other pre-biotic chemicals, so the implication is that if most planets in the universe were seeded with PAHs then life could be a widespread phenomenon.

New Scientist article
Unfortunately intelligence is another matter entirely... :D

(Suddenly starts ranting for no immediately apparent reason...)

Never ceases to amaze me that when we know that it took until between 5 and 10 million years ago for intelligent life to develop on this planet, so many of us just assume that intelligent life must be common elsewhere if there's any life at all off Earth. Intelligence is just one of evolutions attempts to build a better species: it is no better than huge size, tiny size, ferocity, camouflage, poison, whatever, and it hasn't been around long enough yet for us to call it a 'success' (after all, the dinos had 120 million years -24 times longer than we've had by the current thinking- and there still seems to be a tendency for us to think of them as a failure simply because they became extinct).

My own theory is that life will be found to be common, but that most of it will be simple, and that which isn't simple will be non-intelligent. If we're lucky, there might be one intelligent species in our galaxy. I don't -of course- mean us.

End of rant.
 
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Anonymous

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#15
Zygon said:
If we're lucky, there might be one intelligent species in our galaxy. I don't -of course- mean us.
There are days when I wonder if there is intelligent life in the universe, and I *do* mean us. ;)

I have to admit that my prejudices follow similar lines. We could equally ask the question "Do six legged mammals exist out there?" Intelligence is (probably) just another survival trait.
 
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Anonymous

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Zygon said:
Never ceases to amaze me that when we know that it took until between 5 and 10 million years ago for intelligent life to develop on this planet, so many of us just assume that intelligent life must be common elsewhere if there's any life at all off Earth. Intelligence is just one of evolutions attempts to build a better species: it is no better than huge size, tiny size, ferocity, camouflage, poison, whatever, and it hasn't been around long enough yet for us to call it a 'success' (after all, the dinos had 120 million years -24 times longer than we've had by the current thinking- and there still seems to be a tendency for us to think of them as a failure simply because they became extinct).
Sci-fi would be less fun if the aliens were realistic...who wants to know about humanity's struggle against a particularly unpleasant alien annelid that makes holes in milk cartons?
 
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#17
Inverurie Jones said:
Sci-fi would be less fun if the aliens were realistic...who wants to know about humanity's struggle against a particularly unpleasant alien annelid that makes holes in milk cartons?
Hmm. Actually that might be fun. Make a change from insect-like mind-parasites. (Re-reading Jack Vance's Durdane trilogy at the mo', and loving it while at the same time squirming at the sheer cliched quality of the Asutra).
 

TVgeek

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#18
In re-reading John Keel's "Haunted Planet", I found he ranted about this 20 years ago. His argument is that if amino acids combine into the primordial soup and get struck by lightning to create life, why isn't it still happening?

Keel's take on this seems to be: if it ISN'T happening all the time, isn't it more likely that life on our planet was somehow seeded either purposely or accidentally.

I'm not saying I totally agree with his thinking (after all Young Earth had a very different atmosphere, rate of space debris bombardment, etc...) but I wonder: HAS it stopped? Rather than
a "lightning strike" could UV rays create the energy necessary to create life? Isn't UV (for example) been found to be a contributing factor to the flu virus mutations?

Any thoughts?
TVgeek
 

rynner2

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#19
TVgeek said:
In re-reading John Keel's "Haunted Planet", I found he ranted about this 20 years ago. His argument is that if amino acids combine into the primordial soup and get struck by lightning to create life, why isn't it still happening?
It probably is. But the difference between then and now is that now the 'amino acids/new life' would be rapidly gobbled up by microbes with the advantage of several billion years of evolution.

Original primitive live (whether created here or drifted in from space) would have had a predator-free environment to develop in. As variations and mutations took effect, then Natural Selection would have kicked in, and the long process of refinement and diversification would have begun.
 

TVgeek

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#20
rynner said:
It probably is. But the difference between then and now is that now the 'amino acids/new life' would be rapidly gobbled up by microbes with the advantage of several billion years of evolution.
Excellent point!
Has this process been re-created in the lab since Keel
published? That was one of his points -- that the "life kick-start" hasn't been repeated by science.

TVgeek

P.S.
What happens if they find the newly formed mix unpalatable?
"Beware the Blob"?
 
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#21
In re-reading John Keel's "Haunted Planet", I found he ranted about this 20 years ago. His argument is that if amino acids combine into the primordial soup and get struck by lightning to create life, why isn't it still happening?
Because the primordial soup no longer exists? The experiments that produced amino acids through lightning strikes used an atmophere and ocean nothing like that of the current Earth.

Has this process been re-created in the lab since Keel
published? That was one of his points -- that the "life kick-start" hasn't been repeated by science.
This page details some of the experiments that have been done on the origins of life. From what the piece states, and from what I remember from the last time I studied this, there has been little to no luck in devising a route from amino acid production, which is fairly common, to producing some sort of self replicating system.
 

tzb57r

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#22
Some time ago I contributed to this thread with a reference to a book about the origins of life being in clays. In my usual way I have just got round to posting these.

The first is a list of publications by Graham Cairns-Smith the second is to the mans home page at the Chemistry department he works in. and the third is to Amazon. The book is actually very readable and while suggesting that life evolved on earth from clay it is not a way-out-there rant
 

rynner2

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#23
Many more Solar System moons than thought may have liquid oceans, increasing the chances of life having evolved: BBC Article

And, a discussion of the possibilities of Life on Titan.
The possibility that all of Titan's current atmospheric CH4 and N2 is of biogenic origin is explored from a consideration of the potential productivity of oceanic microbes.
 
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Anonymous

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#24
fascinating thread

and lots of excellent links
thank you
saves having to data mine for myself
the planetary system detected around 55 Cancri is fictionalised
here
http://www.orionsarm.com/worlds/Danzig.html
(find the mistakes heh heh)
but you are right, it is too dim to see from a town in england without a powercut

Life might start in space occasionally, but it need not be the main source of the self organising systems that develop on planets. I imagine without any real justification that most life is generated in association with clay minerals as Cairns-smith postulates, and these minerals tend to be found on planets with water.

steve b
 

rynner2

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#25
Indian scientists may have found life from space:
New Delhi - Indian researchers believe they have discovered traces of extraterrestrial life in the shape of microbes in samples they collected outside the Earth's sphere, the Press Trust of India reported on Monday.

Jayant Narlikar from the Indian Space Research Organisation announced during a lecture on The Search For Extraterrestrial Life in Nagpur, Maharashtra, that they had made the discovery a few weeks ago, but were double-checking their findings.

"Micro-organisms resembling coccus, fungal and rod-like bacillus were discovered in samples collected 41km above the earth's surface," said Narlikar.

"Biologists are now trying to verify the origin of the micro-organisms. Whatever may be the source of life, if biologists confirm the results, it will prove that extraterrestrial life does exist," he added.

Narlikar said the Indian scientists had used a sophisticated gadget called a cryosampler to conduct the experiment for life in space.

"This is only the second experiment of its kind in the world. The United States had conducted a similar study where some evidences of life were found. It will open a new line of challenge for the global scientific community," said Narlikar.

Narlikar observed that their sample could contain "microbial life coming from debris of comets and other celestial objects". - Sapa-AFP
 
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Anonymous

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#26
life "from" space

Yeah, well....
41 klicks up, it is still inside the earth's thinnest upper atmosphere and definitely inside the magnetosphere-
the most likely origin is, I'm afraid to say, right here.
Still it makes intra-system microbial transfer more likely, IMO
steve b
 

rynner2

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#27
Is there Life on Earth?

Astronomers try to find out!
To replicate the view that a distant astronomer would have if studying the Earth from another planet, Traub and his colleagues used the nearby Moon as a mirror. Using the Steward Observatory 90-inch telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona, they measured both the light of Earthshine from the Moon and the light of the Moon itself, then corrected the Earthshine to determine how the Earth would appear to a faraway observer. They compared this measured spectrum to a model created by Traub and CfA's Ken Jucks.
 

tzb57r

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#28
"Micro-organisms resembling coccus, fungal and rod-like bacillus were discovered in samples collected 41km above the earth's surface," said Narlikar.
I will bet my annual bonus that the results of the analysis of these “alien” life forms are that they are from Earth. The 41Km up is not very far and is still in the atmosphere of Earth. If life is raining down on Earth from space all the time, why then have these not been detected in inter-planetary space? Could it be that the flow of life is from Earth into space and not the other way around? Could the Solar wind be taking life from the upper reaches of the outer atmosphere and moving it to the outer solar system?

If you extend the above idea, then I believe that it is likely that if we find life on a Jovian moon or Mars that it will be DNA based and will possibly have several cell components in common with Earth based life. This could make it dangerous to return samples of this to the planet, as it may have enough in common with existing life as to be infectious.
 

rynner2

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#29
tzb57r said:
The 41Km up is not very far and is still in the atmosphere of Earth. If life is raining down on Earth from space all the time, why then have these not been detected in inter-planetary space? Could it be that the flow of life is from Earth into space and not the other way around?
Space is not very far away - closer than the next county for most people! 41 km is definitely outside most of the atmosphere.

As for why these things have not been found in space, I don't think we've looked, yet, although I believe some missions are planned. (I'll see if I can find some links.)

But any flow of life would have to be two-way, IMO.

EDIT: Here's a link about Stardust, a probe aiming to recover material from Comet Wild-2 in January 2004. Comets would be a likely source of biological or prebiotic material.
Stardust is an ambitious but low-cost mission to capture the first samples from a comet, as well as grains of interstellar dust, and return them to Earth. If successful, the probe will pass by the planet and parachute its collection back to the surface in January 2006.
 
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Anonymous

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#30
rynner said:
As for why these things have not been found in space, I don't think we've looked, yet, although I believe some missions are planned.
Well, there was Apollo12 that picked up the streptococcus off Surveyor-
suppose they could have found germs of extraterrestrial origin, but it seems unlikely.
steve b
 
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