Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

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Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:33 am

Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Date: January 17, 2018

Source: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Summary: RNA was probably the first informational molecule. Now chemists have demonstrated that alternation of wet and dry conditions could have sufficed to drive the prebiotic synthesis of the RNA nucleosides found in all domains of life.

RNA was probably the first informational molecule. Now chemists from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have demonstrated that alternation of wet and dry conditions could have sufficed to drive the prebiotic synthesis of the RNA nucleosides found in all domains of life.

"And the Earth was without form and void" -- before the emergence of life. Meanwhile, we know rather more about the early Earth, but how might the chemical structures that provide the basic subunits of today's hereditary molecules -- RNA and DNA -- have formed from simpler starting materials some 4 billion years ago? Under what conditions could these building blocks have then been linked into long chains that could not only encode information but also propagate it by self-reproduction? Many possible scenarios have been proposed for the phase of chemical evolution that preceded the emergence of the first biological cells. Now, researchers led by LMU chemist Professor Thomas Carell have extended these models by demonstrating a plausible route for the prebiotic synthesis of the 'nucleosides' that constitute the informational components of RNA.

Specifically, Carell and his colleagues have shown that nucleosides can be formed in a continuous process by exposing simple chemicals to the kinds of fluctuating physical conditions that would have prevailed in geothermally active areas characterized by volcanic activity on the early Earth. They begin with a mixture of formic acid, acetic acid, sodium nitrite and a few nitrogen-containing compounds, all of which have previously been shown to form from even simpler precursors under prebiotic conditions. The reaction mixture also contained nickel and iron, which are found in large amounts in the Earth's crust. The driving force for the chemical reactions is supplied by fluctuations in temperature and pH, together with wet/dry cycles, such as those that occur in the vicinity of periodically active hot springs or in strongly seasonal climates with alternating periods of precipitation and evaporation.


Continues...
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:42 am

Very cool...........farther back from the geyser.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri Jan 19, 2018 3:55 am

There have been lots of ideas of this kind. I have seen suggestions that the first life was made in more or less this way on radioactive beaches, on ice, in warm pools, on comets, and against clay surfaces. One day, perhaps, some scientists will actually simulate the original conditions enough to create a self replicating unit.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Poodle » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:21 am

A complete reboot? That's not a bad idea, Lance.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby TJrandom » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:26 am

If it is as simple as all that - there must be life "as we know it" all over the universe.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby ElectricMonk » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:38 am

TJrandom wrote:If it is as simple as all that - there must be life "as we know it" all over the universe.


Very likely in my opinion.
I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
Spoiler:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:39 am

I do assume there is life all over the universe. Looking at Mother Earth, its the intelligent part that is going to prove: rare.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Cadmusteeth » Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:38 pm

Could we somehow calculate the probability of intelligence arising by looking at the commonality among organisms that have developed intelligence?

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby TJrandom » Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:41 pm

Cadmusteeth wrote:Could we somehow calculate the probability of intelligence arising by looking at the commonality among organisms that have developed intelligence?


What... life?

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:48 pm

The Error of Small Samples haunts these halls. Beware.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri Jan 19, 2018 6:38 pm

Indeed. Gawdzilla is so right.

I must admit, though, that I tend to support the Rare Earth Hypothesis. That is related to the Fermi Paradox, and explains why we have never seen any signs of alien intelligences, by suggesting that worlds where advanced life developed are very, very rare.

We do not understand as yet what is needed for such life. In our ignorance, we cannot derive even the faintest idea of probabilities. There are three things needed, and we do not know how frequent each condition is.

1. Conditions suitable for abiogenesis.
2. Conditions stable enough to give time for evolution. Here on Earth, we needed 4 billion years with no major disasters.
3. Conditions which drive evolution.

My view, FWIW, is that other worlds where all three conditions prevail are likely to be few and far between. There is often a tendency among those who speculate, to think that temperatures for liquid water are the important thing. The Goldilocks Zone. But that is merely the beginning, and there are likely to be numerous special conditions required.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby ElectricMonk » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:05 pm

If life can spontaneously arise, it makes Panspermia less credible.
I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
Spoiler:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Poodle » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:08 pm

There's a lot of 'likely' in there, Lance. There's also a lot of 'do not know/understand'.
I think we know very little and we therefore have no basis for even beginning to guess the likelihood of life or, indeed, intelligent life elsewhere. Except, of course, 'elsewhere' is a zonkingly huge place. I retain my hopes.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri Jan 19, 2018 7:46 pm

Hope is fine, Poodle. But we need to be realistic. We simply do not know.

There is SOME knowledge percolating in. For example, studies of extrasolar planets are starting to show that our planet and our solar system are actually somewhat special. For example, most planets around other stars have quite elliptical orbits, as opposed to the almost circular orbits of our system. That means that for our system there is much less temperature variation across the stellar year, and a much better chance for life to thrive and much less chance in systems with elliptical orbits.

Red dwarf stars are the most common in our galaxy, but astronomers have found that they are prone to bursts of gamma and X-rays which would sterilise any planet orbiting close enough to have liquid water. Most other non red dwarf stars are also less stable than ours. There is more.

I think that the evidence we have, little though it is, would support the idea that advanced life is likely to be rare.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Cadmusteeth » Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:41 am

Yeah that sounds about right. Just thought I'd ask

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Poodle » Sat Jan 20, 2018 9:07 am

Actually, there's no particular difference of opinion here ... it's merely a nuance of meaning. What's rare in a universe the size of this one? Going straight for the extreme, if life occurs on only one in every 1,000,000 planets, that's still a lot of life on a universal scale.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby TJrandom » Sat Jan 20, 2018 9:22 am

And if intelligent life only occurred on one in every 1,000,000 of planets with life... (not counting this one of course, for which there is some doubt), there just might be a lot of intelligent life in the universe.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:56 pm

Except, TJ, that would not explain the Fermi Paradox.

The galaxy is more than 8 billion years old, and advanced life on Earth took 4 billion years to evolve. There are at least 100 billion star systems. If evolved life appeared on one in a million, there would be 100,000 star systems with evolved life. Many would be far more advanced than Earth.

Now, if just one of them was aggressive, it could expand to overpopulate the entire galaxy, using slower than light travel, in somewhere between 500,000 and 10,000,000 years. Where are THEY?

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby TJrandom » Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:59 pm

Maybe they just haven`t gotten around to the planets with unintelligent life - no fun there.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:54 pm

More likely that one in a million is still more than reality. If the number of advanced and evolved planets was one in 100 billion star systems, that would explain it.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:25 pm

TJrandom wrote:Maybe they just haven`t gotten around to the planets with unintelligent life - no fun there.

Explains why we don't get visitors, now don't it.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:39 pm

Here is something for you to think about. Put aside your unrealistic optimism, and think like a skeptic, entrenched in reality, not hope.

Just to show how rare the system that creates advanced life.

We know that our sun, four billion years ago, when life began, was 30% weaker. The world should have been a frozen iceberg on which life would be impossible ! But it was not.

The explanation for the warmth, and liquid water at the time was that the atmosphere was full of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas.

But over 4 billion years the sun has been warming up. It is now much, much hotter. Yet throughout, most of the time (excluding a brief Snowball Earth), the world was just the right temperature to maintain liquid water. Not too hot. Not too cold. A real Goldilocks situation.

Fairly obviously the atmosphere must have changed at EXACTLY the right rate to maintain the right temperature. How likely is that ?

My view is that it was extremely unlikely. Meaning that this sort of thing would happen only very rarely indeed. Hence the Rare Earth idea.

This situation with a gradually warming star is common to all Sol type stars. They end eventually, as our sun will, as a red giant. How many will undergo EXACTLY the right subsidiary changes to maintain an equable planetary temperature ?

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:48 pm

I'm glad you straightened us out.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby TJrandom » Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:37 am

Lance, I believe you have it wrong. Our sun, and our earth didn`t maintain temperatures at exactly the right mix to permit life. Instead, life evolved to take advantage of the temperature that was present. Were the temperature lots hotter, or colder - either we (humans) would have died out or evolved to live within the new range. If colder, maybe we would have built houses with insulation and learned to use fuels to stay warm, and if hotter, maybe we would have lived by streams and stayed in the shade. Of course, we did both. Other life would have faced their own challenges of extremes - and overcome them or died out, making way for those species that could evolve - such as the shrimp that live on black smokers in the ocean depths, or critters that live deep within caves.

Planets which we find to be extreme and not capable of supporting life - may be exactly the environment that life elsewhere has evolved to need.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby ElectricMonk » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:13 am

Douglas Adams and his puddle of water...

It is doubtful that humans would exist in a way close to what we are like today even if we restarted from the first living system with exactly the same initial conditions: evolution is way too random.
It is false to say that earth is uniquely suited to evolve intelligent life: for most of time, it wasn't - life turned the earth into something that can sustain very complex organisms and ecosystems.
There is little reason to doubt that if life can arise on other planets spontaneously, it will in time change the planet in such a way as to allow for more and more complex forms of life: there is on inherent limit arising from initial conditions.
I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
Spoiler:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
- Douglas Adams

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:44 am

ElectricMonk wrote:It is false to say that earth is uniquely suited to evolve intelligent life: for most of time, it wasn't - life turned the earth into something that can sustain very complex organisms and ecosystems.

Yep. "Uniquely designed" and it takes 4 billion years?

And the guys who study Chicxulub say that if it had hit the Earth's atmosphere a few seconds sooner or later (hitting Atlantic or Pacific) very very few organisms would have survived the ensuing holocaust. Close to a total reboot for life.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:53 am

I gotta think that near circular orbit is very important, and repeat it as I had never heard of that before. A reboot for all life would have been a set back....but with our nice orbit and single cell animals and plants already thriving...not a difficult task.

Having an iron core is quite beneficial as well as it allows for a magnetic shield from the life killing cosmic rays and sun bursts. I assume iron core might not be rare, but not all that common either........just another factor in the rare Earth equation.

Speaking of meteors, having a close giant in the system (Saturn or Jupiter, if not both?) takes the majority of the incoming asteroids. Thats always a help.

Also...the collision making the moon offset our rotation also encouraging life. How the odds are affected or how the outcomes are limited is not known.......but, they sure do all add up. Not much different than the issue of all the variables to even have a universe? Saw a recent article on that re how its not that big an issue other than affecting the end product of what does happen to develop....again, that anthropocentric point of view that reality is not limited to.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby ElectricMonk » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:07 am

There are plenty of organisms with life-cycles that alternate between active and dormant, capable to withstand very adverse conditions during the latter.
On a very elliptically orbiting planet, life could evolve to alternate between different cycles of season, similar to day/nocturnal adaption.
It is very likely that different planets will allow for different speeds of colonization of all its habitats with life, but it's not a inhabitable/uninhabitable dichotomy.
I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
Spoiler:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
- Douglas Adams

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:26 am

ElectricMonk wrote:There are plenty of organisms with life-cycles that alternate between active and dormant, capable to withstand very adverse conditions during the latter.

Gee, I guess the scientists missed that bit. I'll let them know they screwed the pooch. :roll:
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:01 pm

ElectricMonk wrote:There are plenty of organisms with life-cycles that alternate between active and dormant, capable to withstand very adverse conditions during the latter.
On a very elliptically orbiting planet, life could evolve to alternate between different cycles of season, similar to day/nocturnal adaption.
It is very likely that different planets will allow for different speeds of colonization of all its habitats with life, but it's not a inhabitable/uninhabitable dichotomy.

does that mean having a circular orbit is "not" advantageous? (I just want to calm Gawd's peptic ulcer.)
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby ElectricMonk » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:14 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:does that mean having a circular orbit is "not" advantageous? (I just want to calm Gawd's peptic ulcer.)


obviously not.
We can assume that on a circular orbit, evolution would be faster since in a dormant state, no reproduction can happen, limiting changes to the times of favorable conditions.

Gawd, I would like you to quote Scientists claiming that life is impossible on elliptically orbiting planets.
I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
Spoiler:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
- Douglas Adams

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:21 pm

Where did I say that?
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:45 pm

Gawd: +1.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Austin Harper » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:25 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Where did I say that?

Where did he say you said it? He just wants you to find the scientists who said it.
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:43 pm

AH: -1. The inference is clear. How dumb do you think EM is we all are?
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:47 pm

Austin Harper wrote:
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Where did I say that?

Where did he say you said it? He just wants you to find the scientists who said it.
Where did I say I'd read scientist saying .... etc.?
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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:52 pm

TJ

Yes, it is true that organisms adapt to existing conditions, within limits.
But it is also true that our sun has maintained liquid water conditions for 4 billion years, despite a sun that warmed 30%. Life can adapt, but not to living in steam or ice. The temperature stability over that 4 billion years would appear unlikely, and this kind of balance would exist only on rare worlds.

To EM

Re adapting to create a dormant period to survive high and low temperatures.
This would require evolution. Probably millions of years. A planet with a strongly elliptical orbit would not permit the time to adapt.

One of the fallacies I have seen written up manytimes is the idea that, since some bacteria here on Earth can survive extreme conditions, they could evolve under similar extreme conditions on other planets. We need to realise that those adaptations took 4 billion years to develop here. On another planet, life still needs ideal conditions for abiogenesis and then ideal conditions for millions of years of evolution, before adapting to adverse conditions.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby TJrandom » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:25 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote: Life can adapt, but not to living in steam or ice.


Bummer for the critters that thrive in liquid methane, oxygen, mercury, metals, lava, etc.

One of the fallacies I have seen written up manytimes is the idea that, since some bacteria here on Earth can survive extreme conditions, they could evolve under similar extreme conditions on other planets. We need to realise that those adaptations took 4 billion years to develop here.


Except for those that may have evolved in mere thousands of years and have remained stable without further evolutionary changes for the past 4 billion years. Since we don`t have an evolutionary tree for bacteria, we don`t know how or when they evolved.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby Lance Kennedy » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:40 pm

Not totally true, TJ.

A lot of the evolutionary tree for bacteria can be determined by the genome. To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of such rapid evolution into extremophiles.

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Re: Chemical evolution: Progenitors of the living world

Postby TJrandom » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:47 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:Not totally true, TJ.

A lot of the evolutionary tree for bacteria can be determined by the genome. To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of such rapid evolution into extremophiles.


OK, I do accept that... but then I would ask for the evidence that it took 4 billion years for bacteria to come to a survivable state.


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