Scientists have discovered water that has been trapped in rock for more than a billion years. The water might contain microbes that evolved independently from the surface world, and it’s a finding that gives new hope to the search for life on other planets.
The water samples came from holes drilled by gold miners near the small town of Timmins, Ontario, about 350 miles north of Toronto. Deep in the Canadian bedrock, miners drill holes and collect samples. Sometimes they hit pay dirt; sometimes they hit water, which seeps out from tiny crevices in the rock.
Recently, a team of scientists (who had been investigating water samples from other mines) approached the miners and asked them for fluid from newly drilled boreholes.
Greg Holland, a geochemist at Lancaster University in England, and his colleagues wanted to know just how long that fluid had been trapped in the rock. So they looked at the decay of radioactive atoms found in the water and calculated that it had been bottled up for a long time — at least 1.5 billion years.
“That is the lower limit for the age,” Holland says. It could be a billion years older. That means the water was sealed in the rock before humans evolved, before pterosaurs flew and before multicellular life.
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Life may have first emerged on land about 100 million years earlier previously thought, suggests a study that has scientists up in arms, many of whom are arguing that the research paper should never been published in the first place.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, suggests that ancient fossilized creatures found in Southern Australian sediments actually came from land, not from the ocean. If the findings are true, the fossils would have been lichenlike plants that first colonized land, not ocean-dwelling ancestors of jellyfish.
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Scientists trying to unravel the mystery of life’s origins have been looking at it the wrong way, a new study argues.
Instead of trying to recreate the chemical building blocks that gave rise to life 3.7 billion years ago, scientists should use key differences in the way that living creatures store and process information, suggests new research detailed in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
“In trying to explain how life came to exist, people have been fixated on a problem of chemistry, that bringing life into being is like baking a cake, that we have a set of ingredients and instructions to follow,” said study co-author Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist and astrobiologist at Arizona State University. “That approach is failing to capture the essence of what life is about.”
Living systems are uniquely characterized by two-way flows of information, both from the bottom up and the top down in terms of complexity, the scientists write in the article. For instance, bottom up would move from molecules to cells to whole creatures, while top down would flow the opposite way. The new perspective on life may reframe the way that scientists try to uncover the origin of life and hunt for strange new life forms on other planets.
“Right now, we’re focusing on searching for life that’s identical to us, with the same molecules,” said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at the NASA Ames Research Center who was not involved in the study. “Their approach potentially lays down a framework that allows us to consider other classes of organic molecules that could be the basis of life.”
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A number of life-support machines are connected to each other, circulating liquids and air in attempt to mimic a biological structure. The Immortal investigates human dependence on electronics, the desire to make machines replicate organisms and our perception of anatomy as reflected by biomedical engineering.
Researchers moved a step closer to creating new life forms in the laboratory after they demonstrated an artificial genetic material called XNA can be replicated in the test tube much like real DNA. X, which in this case stands for “xeno” indicates the replacement of the helical backbone of the new molecule.
Scientists at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the U.K. demonstrated for the first time a way to extract information from the artificial genetic molecules and mass produce copies of them.
The research, published today in the journal Science, shows that DNA and its sister molecule RNA may not be the only chemical structures upon which a living unit can be based.
“Life is based on this amazing ability of DNA and RNA to store and propagate information,” saidPhilipp Holliger, a Medical Research Council molecular biologist and senior author on the study. “We have shown that the basic functions of DNA and RNA can be recapitulated” with new artificial molecules.
Vitor Pinheiro and colleagues from Philipp’s group used sophisticated protein engineering techniques to adapt enzymes, that in nature synthesise and replicate DNA, to establish six new genetic systems based on synthetic nucleic acids. These have the same bases as DNA but the ribose linkage between them is replaced by quite different structures.
In doing this they showed that there is no functional imperative limiting genetic information storage to RNA and DNA. Therefore, the discovery has implications for the understanding of life on Earth. As other informational molecules can be robustly synthesised and replicated, the emergence of life on Earth is likely to reflect the abundance of RNA (and DNA) precursors in early Earth.
The scientists invented a lab method for making copies of synthetic DNA. They also developed a way to make XNA fragments that evolve with desired properties.
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Case Western Reserve University biochemist Erik Andrulis has just published a paper about a discovery that goes way beyond the RNA he usually researches. He claims he’s discovered the secret to life itself – and it all has to do with energy-spirit things he calls gyres.
His 105-page paper is called “Theory of the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life,” and you can download the whole thing for free from the peer-reviewed journal Life.
The problem is that even sympathetic readers found the paper incomprehensible and (worse for scientists) untestable.
“Technology is stitching together all the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic nerves, entire continents of machines conversing with one another, the whole aggregation watching itself through a million cameras posted daily. How can this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than ourselves?”
About 12 km northwest of the Iranian city of Persepolis, lies a rocky hill. Engraved on the almost perpendicular façade of the hill, at a considerable height, are rich ornamented reliefs dedicated to the Achaemenid kings belonging to the early first millennium BCE. This area is known as Naqsh-e Rustam, and also as Necropolis.
Naqsh-i Rustam (the Throne of Rustam, in English) was considered a sacred mountain range in the Elamite periods. The façades of Naqsh-i Rustam became the burial site for four Achaemenid rulers and their families in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, as well as a major center of sacrifice and celebration during the Sasanian period between the third and seventh century CE
The tombs are known locally as the ‘Persian crosses’, after the shape of the facades of the tombs. The entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross, which opens onto to a small chamber, where the king lay in a sarcophagus. The horizontal beam of each of the tomb’s facades is believed to be a replica of the entrance of the palace at Persepolis.
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