Is life a gamble? Scientist models universe to find out

rod

Oct 22, 2019
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Interesting report on the potential for abiogenesis at work to create life on Earth, in the universe, and perhaps a multiverse does a better job using statistics for abiogenesis. I like to call this the *law of abiogenesis*. Life arising via spontaneous combustion from non-living matter, this must be inevitable :) Scientific American in 1907 published that Mars had vegetation growing on it. Scientific American in 1911, published that Venus was a habitable planet in our solar system. Today there are more than 4200 exoplanets confirmed, The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia, 4251 currently listed. None are confirmed as exoplanets where life is present. In the mid-1990s, meteorite ALH84001 was claimed to contain possible, fossils of little Martians. Other Martian meteorites had similar claims for some.

It appears in science, that Earth having life as unique in the universe, could be a philosophical struggle for some.
 

tqn

Apr 23, 2020
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I believe that life is appearing all the time deep underground in places where there is heat, water, and perhaps enough pressure, but the old life eats the new one. Everything points to the fact that there is life on the martian underground, and probably that happens in many planets.
 
Mar 19, 2020
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Considering that abiogenesis is a process extraordinarily complex, it is not surprising that many will question how this could happen.

Probability models on such issues are highly debatable. I am surprised that Nature would even touch such a paper. The conclusion of the model "show the betting odds for life emerging are not good, at least for the observable universe."

That we are here offers empirical evidence which suggests the odds are highly probable. (How many 100s of billions of galaxies are there in the observable universe?!) Last time I checked, there is no need for a model for life arising on earth. There is a need to address the chemistry leading to abiogenesis on earth, and therein lies the biggest challenge. Oceanic thermal vents likely played a critical role.

Determining the mechanism of abiogenesis has the long odds, not that it actually happens. One must wonder what the good professor who wrote up this article thinks about deities, and alternative facts. A very valid question considering his odds as "not good" - which clearly indicates that we should not be here!
 
Apr 23, 2020
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Considering that the professor is Japanese, its very improbable that he believes in any deities. Statistics dont need deities. The fact that it happened, and thus we exist, doesnt change the probabilities of it happening.
 
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Actually there are a lot of major-league supernatural believers in Japan (see Shinto), like everywhere else. Why should they be any different?!

To pile on just a tad, the impression I get from reading this is that Professor Totani makes only a minor and trivial case for the origin of life's chemistry. In reality, it is vastly more complex then he is suggesting - indeed, almost infinitely so.

Beyond that, there is nothing he notes to even remotely model probability. much less relating it to having long odds (various comments suggest a rather bio-naive Astrophysicist). He stated "I hoped to find at least one realistic path of abiogenesis, to explain abiogenesis by words of science..." . That is a remarkable statement since even the greatest minds in biochemistry are struggling with just one or two elements that may play into it all. And he hopes to find one presumably complete path? That is certainly the definition of naive, and rather comical to be sure.

Probably the most outlandish aspect is when he (an Astrophysicist mind you) asks:

"So, how would these RNA molecules made up of at least 40 to 60 nucleotides have popped up on their own? "

This question has no validity whatsoever regarding modeling abiogensis considering it is a tiny fraction of all the chemistry involved. It is equivalent to asking:

"So, how could all the components of the universe have popped up on their own? "

Both are reasonable questions, but neither provides any consideration whatever of probability. Neither does his extended treatment of "RNA everything", never dealing with the myriad other components that are surely involved, to say nothing of the vast amount of time abiogensis would require. If he had done so, based on the "logic" used in the entirety of the article, he would certainly have proclaimed beyond any doubt whatsoever that "Abiogensis is simply not possible." That would certainly send "I think therefore I am" right out the window!

The good professor knows not of what he speaks. Probably should stick to Astrophysics and model things for which there are no direct proofs. He could always go back to school and get a Ph.D. in a life science, giving him a better understanding of the topic at hand, something he is clearly lacking in the extreme. No doubt there are a lot of Astrobiologists who would take up this bio-blasphemy and run with it.....
 
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One of the great understatements from rod:

"It appears in science, that Earth having life as unique in the universe, could be a philosophical struggle for some."

But rod, you should know better than to keep using your joke about abiogensis and spontaneous combustion! You know perfectly well that they are not even close, and could be misleading people based on all the things you know and do not joke about.

From the accurate-but-hated Wiki :

"Spontaneous combustion or spontaneous ignition is a type of combustion which occurs by self-heating (increase in temperature due to exothermic internal reactions), followed by thermal runaway (self heating which rapidly accelerates to high temperatures) and finally, autoignition."

Just to set the record straight, rod does not joke around with most stuff. And he probably knows more than he should. Most are left eating his dust! :)

 
Jan 4, 2020
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The paper did the news round weeks ago, I said something like this at the time: Biologists think life is common, Totani thinks not.

Biologists in general think life is common since it evolved so early here on Earth, but that language capable human analogs are rare like the elephant trunk – each trait evolved just once in 4 billion years. The consensus theory, based on biology and geology, is that life evolved in alkaline hydrothermal vents. Genome trees [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/07/our-last-common-ancestor-inhaled-hydrogen-underwater-volcanoes ], heat shock protein ancestor temperature ranges and cell metal content agree on that.

Recent evidence implies that evolution was not a fluke. Their mineral assemblies can produce simple hydrocarbon starter materials that can build cells out of CO2 and H2, and that was also adopted as the universal common ancestor metabolism. [ https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/was-life-s-first-meal?utm_campaign=news_daily_2020-03-02&et_rid=388985880&et_cid=3228349 ].

These early vents could replicate 100s of bases long RNA strands by abiotic thermocycling PCR as demonstrated in experiments. They also concentrate biomolecules many order of magnitudes over in their pores. Another recent result is that the environment maximizes membrane vesicle production out of heterogeneous lipid mixes.

Moreover, in the early ocean the simple hydrocarbons would meet reduced, dissolved catalytic iron at the ocean interface, and together with other mechanisms the vents could produce lipids, sugars, and nucleobases in its various parts. The gluconeogenesis/glycolysis could happen at the vent/ocean interface, nucleobases could be produced in the core, and lipid production could happen at the vent/crust interface from further synthesis of the simple lipids. The Fe rich ocean would sequester phosphate but the mineral filtered and pH buffered vents would likely not. Such vents could also produce the ammonia that went into nucleobases before enzyme evolution, so that nitrogen instead was pulled from the atmosphere.

Finally, very recent results suggest that early Earth was an ocean world [ https://www.universetoday.com/145214/3-billion-years-ago-the-world-might-have-been-a-waterworld-with-no-continents-at-all/#comment-159746 ].

But Totani deviate from the consensus and thus consider us rare in the universe. Along that line of analysis, cosmologists think not since we discovered inflation. Eternal inflation, which is what we see, naturally makes infinite many universes, each with its own physics. Very few – roughly 1 out of 10^120 – are habitable since star or even atoms demand physics in a narrow range. That would (arguably) explain why our universe is good for producing life but also why it is bad at supporting it (long distances between stars and galaxies). A galaxy here or there with a planet here or there will have human analogs.
 
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I believe that life is appearing all the time deep underground in places where there is heat, water, and perhaps enough pressure, but the old life eats the new one. Everything points to the fact that there is life on the martian underground, and probably that happens in many planets.
To be clear: that does not happen right now though, for reasons already Darwin found out, earlier life consuming cell building compounds as nutrients.

And that is what we see, all life derives from a universal common ancestor.

That underground (as in deep hydrothermal vents) once evolved life on Earth? That is currently the dominant hypothesis in the field.
 
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Actually there are a lot of major-league supernatural believers in Japan (see Shinto), like everywhere else. Why should they be any different?!

To pile on just a tad, the impression I get from reading this is that Professor Totani makes only a minor and trivial case for the origin of life's chemistry. In reality, it is vastly more complex then he is suggesting - indeed, almost infinitely so.

Beyond that, there is nothing he notes to even remotely model probability. much less relating it to having long odds (various comments suggest a rather bio-naive Astrophysicist). He stated "I hoped to find at least one realistic path of abiogenesis, to explain abiogenesis by words of science..." . That is a remarkable statement since even the greatest minds in biochemistry are struggling with just one or two elements that may play into it all. And he hopes to find one presumably complete path? That is certainly the definition of naive, and rather comical to be sure.

Probably the most outlandish aspect is when he (an Astrophysicist mind you) asks:

"So, how would these RNA molecules made up of at least 40 to 60 nucleotides have popped up on their own? "

This question has no validity whatsoever regarding modeling abiogensis considering it is a tiny fraction of all the chemistry involved. It is equivalent to asking:

"So, how could all the components of the universe have popped up on their own? "

Both are reasonable questions, but neither provides any consideration whatever of probability. Neither does his extended treatment of "RNA everything", never dealing with the myriad other components that are surely involved, to say nothing of the vast amount of time abiogensis would require. If he had done so, based on the "logic" used in the entirety of the article, he would certainly have proclaimed beyond any doubt whatsoever that "Abiogensis is simply not possible." That would certainly send "I think therefore I am" right out the window!

The good professor knows not of what he speaks. Probably should stick to Astrophysics and model things for which there are no direct proofs. He could always go back to school and get a Ph.D. in a life science, giving him a better understanding of the topic at hand, something he is clearly lacking in the extreme. No doubt there are a lot of Astrobiologists who would take up this bio-blasphemy and run with it.....

I hear you. But on the other hand Totani is keeping with a minor tradition in the field, where probabilistic models and biologists that can't see how evolution would get around evolving its own genetic machinery has published similar papers for decades. E.g. even the merited Koonin once wrote on 'the biological big bang' of having enough planets to get an - according to him - minimal set of proteins doing it [ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1973067/ ]. (He had the reverse problem, he did not appreciate the astrophysical side.)

[FWIW, in my longer comment I suggest that the common genetic machinery evolved from simpler systems. We even have evidence that it might have evolved so over a half alive cellular ancestor lineage https://www.nature.com/articles/nmicrobiol2016116 . Mind that just this week I saw that this often referred to paper met a criticism - I'm not fond of either work's methods and I don't see that either is conclusive in test, so I'll take the weak criticism as evidence that the work is not totally without merit (and nor is the criticism, of course).]
 
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rod

Oct 22, 2019
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I found this comment by Torbjorn very interesting here. "But Totani deviate from the consensus and thus consider us rare in the universe. Along that line of analysis, cosmologists think not since we discovered inflation. Eternal inflation, which is what we see, naturally makes infinite many universes, each with its own physics. Very few – roughly 1 out of 10^120 – are habitable since star or even atoms demand physics in a narrow range. "

My observation, *which is what we see*. To get around a rare Earth and universe we live in today, cosmology uses inflation and multiverse doctrine. Reports I have show the multiverse could contain 1E+500 different universes, and now I see 1E+120 universes in the multiverse may be habitable. Okay folks, here was consensus cosmology thinking in 1948, a lesson from the past.

“Nineteen years after Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the galaxies seem to be running away from one another at fabulously high speeds, the picture presented by the expanding universe theory—which assumes that in its original state all matter was squeezed together in one solid mass of extremely high density and temperature—gives us the right conditions for building up all the known elements in the periodic system. According to calculations, the formation of elements must have started five minutes after the maximum compression of the universe. It was fully accomplished, in all essentials, about 10 minutes later.” —Scientific American, July 1948

Apparently the cosmology department underwent some serious new math development to work with new observations since 1948, but both use QM and GR to explain the expanding universe. At the moment, I am not aware that any telescope on Earth recorded and observed 1E+120, potential habitable universes with stars in them. The Big Bang model shows CMBR redshift where z >= 1000, thus the universe is limited to about 46 billion light years radius as cosmology calculators show, https://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/help/cosmology_calc.html, just plug in z=1000 and use the default settings for flat universe calculations.

Presently very remote objects have redshifts near 12.0 recorded by telescope spectra like GN-z11. Telescopes operating on Earth (or space) do not *see* what inflation claims in this discussion, i.e. there are other universes and stars that statistically according to multiverse thinking, could be habitable. Galileo argued against the geocentric astronomy using the telescope. Others using the telescope confirmed that the Galilean moons were there, and moved around Jupiter so supported what Galileo presented. I use my telescopes and can confirm that the Galilean moons are there and move around Jupiter today, some 400 years later. Presently we have confirmed 4255 exoplanets now, The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia

No exoplanets on this list are documented showing life is there (presently). Telescopes do not show other universe that could be habitable with other stars too that could support life as we see here on Earth. This is what we do see today using science and the scientific method, rooted in observations, testing, and falsifying claims.
 

rod

Oct 22, 2019
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Okay, the 1E+120 universes, even this number is rare for life supporting universes, my bad Torbjorn. "Very few – roughly 1 out of 10^120 – are habitable since star or even atoms demand physics in a narrow range. "
 

rod

Oct 22, 2019
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FYI, to put a practical observation here. On the evening of 21st and early morning of 22nd April, I observed Lyrid meteors. With my binoculars, I could also see M13 globular cluster in Hercules, a good, fuzzy ball shape. Telescopes can record objects like M13 too but seeing stars shining through into our universe from another universe in the multiverse ??? :)
 
Mar 19, 2020
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I have only one question, and this is not meant to be facetious, but will likely end up contentious. How many multiuniverses are there? If ours is the only one, how do we know that?

Opening the door to 1E+500 different universes in one multiuniverse implies to some people an infinite number of multiuniverses, ad infinitum. Not saying this is wrong, just wondering about the modelling.
 
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rod

Oct 22, 2019
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In my extensive home database :) I see reports like this I documented. Cosmic Collisions, Sky & Telescope 124(6):20-26, 2012 (December). This is a quick summary of the S&T report, 'Cosmic Collisions' in the December 2012 issue which reviewed the multiverse or bubble cosmology.

"Efforts are underway in cosmology to establish that the big bang is part of an eternal inflating universe which during the early inflation period, about 1E-35 second after the big bang, some bubbles collided with our universe and left behind fingerprints in the cosmic microwave background radiation or CMBR that point to other universes and bubbles in cosmology. These bubble fingerprints could support that the universe is just part of a grand multiverse that is eternal and according to string theory, perhaps 1E+500 different universes exist (p. 23). Cosmologists are studying intently WMAP data and waiting for results from the European Space Agency Planck spacecraft measurements to look for evidence of past colliding bubbles in the CMBR. Some problems were discussed in the big bang model that inflation solves like the missing magnetic monopoles, uniformity of space in all directions and the flatness problem of the universe. The largest conflict between calculation and observation was discussed, namely dark energy influence should be > 1E+100 larger than observations allow. This is considered to be the largest discrepancy between theory and observation in science. However the multiverse using string theory could solve this. As the report stated – “String theory could solve this problem if multiple universes exist. The theory implies the existence of 1E+500 different types of empty space, with different particles, forces, and amounts of dark energy allowed in each, Guth explains. If instead of just one, every one of these 1E+500 possible solutions is correct – meaning each solution matches a different universe that exists in a larger multiverse – then dark energy’s value isn’t weird at all. We just live in one of the universes where the amount of dark energy is what we measure it to be, a value particularly friendly to our existence. These theoretical arguments do not constitute direct evidence for multiple universes. But such evidence might be found. The infinite, higher-dimensional multiverse (the cheese in the Swiss cheese) into which these bubble universes are born would expand faster than any of its individual bubbles, but if enough universes popped into being in this landscape, some of them might form close enough to collide with our own. This collision could leave a temperature bruise in the CMB’s mottled surface shaped like a faint, round disk. Such a disk would consist of photons that are slightly warmer (or cooler) than the surrounding CMB, anomalies that are even weaker than those that show up in the iconic map from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). That’s saying something, because the CMB’s 2.7-kelvin temperature deviates by at most 0.0002 kelvin from one point to another across the entire sky.” – page 23.
 

rod

Oct 22, 2019
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dfjchem721, given the excerpt I show for the multiverse from the December 2012, Sky & Telescope, Torbjorn Larsson position seems *reasonable*, life could pop up just about anywhere in a multiverse with 1E+500 different flavors. However, I like *what I see* as a fundamental principle for scientific verification so I enjoy telescope views of objects like M13 :)
 
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I like what I see too rod. And I do have a problem with string theory. After reading quite a bit about it, I now think of strings as that stuff one uses for kites and yo-yos.

Some people find that theories to support other theories +++ seem to expand like the observable universe!

Afraid I can only go so far. Somewhere in there could be a Monty Mistake : "A Theory Too Far" (see Operation Market Garden).
 
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Yes, a major gamble and big mistake by Monty - and some theorists. After all, his theory : reach Germany and end the war in a few months. They failed to appreciate recon photos (real, hard data) of Panzers near their drop zones at the last bridge. They turned out to be the 2nd Waffen SS Panzer Corps under Model, loaded with tanks and battle-hardened troops from the Russian Front. This is what is best known as a "worst case scenario" for Monty's "theory".

It was an disaster for the British, and is a warning about building up too many concepts on unproven ones. Shaky foundations are not limited to architectural considerations..........
 
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Apr 24, 2020
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One significant problem with this paper is the speculative assumption that out of 10 ^24 possible 40 mer RNA molecules, only 10 ^4 have some replicase activity. The paper provides no basis for this whatsover. They also speculate on how many nucleotides are present on the planet at the starting point. There are additional speculative points and this is like the Drake equation, where very few of the parameters are really nailed down. So I agree with dfjchem721 that there are too many assumptions.
 
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Quite right, herculepoirot. For instance, he makes no accounting for membrane formation, a vastly complex requirement needed to enclose and entrap any likely mechanism with "plans" on becoming a living organism. The membrane must have portals for metabolites and waste products, without allowing leakage of any essential components for kick starting life. And then there are all the enzymic activities unrelated to replication, especially the many aspects of intermediary metabolism, energy activation mechanisms to create ATP+, lipid and carbohydrate biosynthesis, etc. to name a few.

Clearly the level of complexity was not properly configured into his model(s).
 
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Apr 25, 2020
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So, if life is found in our solar system, will that blow his hypothesis out of the water? Or would it be claimed that life must have somehow bounced from one solar body to another, within our system?
 
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Or would it be claimed that life must have somehow bounced from one solar body to another, within our system?
That's what is thought the most likely somewhere in these posts or the original article, I'm not sure where though. There's also a name for that process, but I can't remember it. The cause of this process would be a massive collision and the resulting debris, with life attached, scattered through space. Not such a daft idea, as some pieces of Mars have been found on earth (I think?) :)
 
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That's what is thought the most likely somewhere in these posts or the original article, I'm not sure where though. There's also a name for that process, but I can't remember it. The cause of this process would be a massive collision and the resulting debris, with life attached, scattered through space. Not such a daft idea, as some pieces of Mars have been found on earth (I think?) :)
Panspermia. But I don't know if this is the case in such a relatively small world as our solar system.
 
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rod

Oct 22, 2019
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The report by space.com says “In the study, Tomonori Totani, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Tokyo, modeled the microscopic world of molecules across the epic scale of the entire universe to see if abiogenesis is a likely candidate for the origin of life.”

Abiogenesis as the scientific explanation for the origin of life in this report, touched off quite a discussion thread here. Panspermia, multiverse, life's last common ancestor (a fossil that is not documented thus a missing link, the very first living cell that created the tree of life in the fossil record according to Charles Darwin), etc. Science committed to the materialist view, must use abiogenesis, what I like to call the law of abiogenesis to explain the origin of life on Earth or anywhere else in the universe. From a source of mine I received this comment, "Materialists must believe that life arose from non-living chemicals by chemical evolution. This remains an intractable problem for materialists, because they can’t invoke natural selection as they do, however implausibly, for biological evolution."

It appears that the Totani paper suggests the origin of life via abiogensis from non-living matter may indeed be, "an intractable problem for materialists" in science, thus plenty of heat is rising now :) Since the experiments of Louis Pasteur, we see the law of biogenesis at work in the origin of life on Earth. The law of biogenesis can be observed throughout the fossil record too, Precambrian, Cambrian explosion, Cenozoic. We do not see fossils where their ancestor was non-living matter in the *evolutionary tree of life*.
 

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