New Year - science predictions for 2007

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New Year - science predictions for 2007

Postby tubataxidriver » Tue Jan 02, 2007 10:17 pm

As it is that time of year again (reviews of last year, predictions for the next) I thought it might be interesting to take a look forward to the possible developments in science that may provide further illumination in this field.

A starter for ten. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a considerable amount of work going on at the moment on the chemical origin of life and chemical evolution, and that over the next few years we will see significant advances in understanding that will begin to fill the vast gaps in knowledge that creationists can currently exploit. We just don't know at the moment exactly how very simple molecular systems might have evolved into the self-replicatory macromolecules required for life. The problems exist on numerous levels, involving inorganic, organic and especially aqueous chemistry, all driven by complex reaction kinetics and mechanism. Are there any alternative routes, or is RNA/DNA the only chemically viable end-point?

What do others think about this?

What other scientific developments might we see over the next year that would help?

Jeremy Hodge
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Postby Timothy Chase » Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:53 am

Well, on the metabolic side, you have:

The Stepwise Evolution of Early Life Driven by Energy Conservation
James G. Ferry and Christopher H. House
Molecular Biology and Evolution 2006 23(6):1286-1292
http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/conte ... /23/6/1286

Prior to the Stepwise Metabolic theory, we were talking about a thirty step metabolism. House and Ferry found an archaea which has several metabolic paths, one of that employs only three steps, carbon monoxide, acetate, iron sulfate (if I remember correctly) and two enzymes - where the two enzymes might not have been necessary - in the beginning.

Here is a story at the popular level describing this development:

Putting Life's Puzzle Together
May 17, 2006
http://www.astrobio.net/news/article1961.html

Additionally, there is something by Koonin involving the coevolution of cells and viruses:

The ancient Virus World and evolution of cells
Eugene V Koonin, Tatiana G Senkevich, and Valerian V Dolja
Biol Direct. 2006; 1: 29.
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articl ... id=1594570

However, an RNA world looks indispensible. Moreover, all three approaches complement one-another, as far as I can tell. But one interesting development: it appears that DNA preceded the branching of the the archaea and prokaryotes. There is a deep homology between the mechanisms they use to initiate transcription. And of course the eukaryotes were a later innovation.
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Re: New Year - science predictions for 2007

Postby Paula Thomas » Wed Jan 03, 2007 10:05 am

tubataxidriver wrote:As it is that time of year again (reviews of last year, predictions for the next) I thought it might be interesting to take a look forward to the possible developments in science that may provide further illumination in this field.

A starter for ten. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a considerable amount of work going on at the moment on the chemical origin of life and chemical evolution, and that over the next few years we will see significant advances in understanding that will begin to fill the vast gaps in knowledge that creationists can currently exploit. We just don't know at the moment exactly how very simple molecular systems might have evolved into the self-replicatory macromolecules required for life. The problems exist on numerous levels, involving inorganic, organic and especially aqueous chemistry, all driven by complex reaction kinetics and mechanism. Are there any alternative routes, or is RNA/DNA the only chemically viable end-point?

What do others think about this?

What other scientific developments might we see over the next year that would help?

Jeremy Hodge


I was reminded of the story of the paleontologist who found a fossil right in the middle of a big gap and told a creationist who was nearby. To his surprise the creationist was delighted and said "You now have two gaps to explain instead of one!"

I would predict that stem-cell research will begin to bear fruit over the next few years and that someone in the Bush family will need the products of it someday but by then the USA will be so poor that they can't afford it because it couldn't keep up technologically due to the rise of creationism which drove the best American brains overseas.

Sorry to be dreary but if we don't win this one...

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Re: New Year - science predictions for 2007

Postby Timothy Chase » Wed Jan 03, 2007 5:18 pm

wilmot wrote:I was reminded of the story of the paleontologist who found a fossil right in the middle of a big gap and told a creationist who was nearby. To his surprise the creationist was delighted and said "You now have two gaps to explain instead of one!"

I would predict that stem-cell research will begin to bear fruit over the next few years and that someone in the Bush family will need the products of it someday but by then the USA will be so poor that they can't afford it because it couldn't keep up technologically due to the rise of creationism which drove the best American brains overseas.

Sorry to be dreary but if we don't win this one...

Paula


I personally believe there is a bit more riding on this. Young Earth Creationism is a problem not only in the United States and Great Britain, but Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It is showing signs of becoming a problem in other parts of Western Europe and evolutionary biology is strongly associated with Marxism in parts of Eastern Europe. And creationism is becoming a problem in the Moslem world. To the extent that creationism takes hold in these places, it becomes much more likely that you will see some form of totalitarianism arise - and we aren't even speaking of the developing countries as of yet - which tend to be a great deal more conservative and literalistic in terms of their religious beliefs. Moreover, much of the population growth that we will be seeing take place in the next fifty years will be in the developing countries.

It should also be noted that to the extent people embrace creationism, they will be rejecting science - and this will have implications at the political level in terms of the funding of research and particularly their opposition to biotechnology. The latter holds out the promise of providing us with alternatives to industrial methods (through the genetic modification of bacteria and viruses) which are cheaper, both in terms of economics and the environment - and which may provide us with the tools with which to address other problems.

Scientists are now speaking of genetically modifying mycorrhiza to increase the uptake of carbon dioxide and methanogens to sequester methane. The latter gas is a green house gas which is twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide - and which will be released into the environment in much greater quantities as the tundra in artic regions thaw. There exists the promise of genetically altering crops so that they may adapt to more hostile environments and otherwise increase the food supply. Similarly, as we face increased global warming, we can expect to see epidemics which have been a problem principally in the tropics become far more common at the higher latitudes - and biotechnology may offer solutions to that as well.

All this is probably just scratching the surface.

The global problems which we will be facing in the next few decades are problems of fairly major proportions. But they are problems which science might very well be able to address. At this time, we cannot afford to have people embacing extremist ideologies or turning against science.
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Postby Timothy Chase » Wed Jan 03, 2007 5:54 pm

Jeremy,

Here is some material you might be interested in. I haven't looked up all the associated technical papers, but...

2006
Is water the answer to nature's handedness?
23 January 2006
http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/ChemScien ... edness.asp

2005 - Technical
Real ribozymes suggest a relaxed error threshold
Ádám Kun, Mauro Santos & Eörs Szathmáry
Published online: 28 August 2005
Nature Genetics 37, 1008 - 1011 (2005)
http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v37/n9/abs/ng1621.html

2005
Calculations favor reducing atmosphere for early Earth
Was Miller-Urey experiment correct?
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/ ... 090705.php

2005
Life's Origins Were Easier Than Was Thought
Date: 2005-09-19
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 075214.htm

2004
Volcano gas, amino acids make peptides
Study is important in understanding transformation of monomers into polymers
By Graciela Flores
Oct. 8, 2004
http://www.the-scientist.com/news/20041008/02

2004
Molecular Midwives Hold Clues To The Origin Of Life
Date: April 4, 2004
http://www.sciencedaily.com/print.php?u ... 081143.htm

2004
UF STUDY SUGGESTS LIFE ON EARTH SPRANG FROM BORAX MINERALS
Jan. 8, 2004
http://www.napa.ufl.edu/2004news/earthstart.htm
(on the formation of ribose)

2003
Purdue scientists discover why we're all lefties deep down
August 5, 2003
http://news.uns.purdue.edu/UNS/html4eve ... hiral.html

2002 - Technical
Evolution of Amino Acid Frequencies in Proteins Over Deep Time:
Inferred Order of Introduction of Amino Acids into the Genetic Code
Dawn J. Brooks, Jacques R. Fresco, Arthur M. Lesk and Mona Singh
Molecular Biology and Evolution 19:1645-1655 (2002)
http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/conte ... 19/10/1645

2001 - Technical
Selective adsorption of L- and R-amino acids on calcite
Robert M. Hazen, Timothy R. Filley, and Glenn A. Goodfriend
PNAS u May 8, 2001 u vol. 98 u no. 10 u 5487-5490
http://hazen.gl.ciw.edu/publications/?m ... t=download

2000 - Technical
Peptide nucleic acids rather than RNA may have been the first genetic molecule
Kevin E. Nelson, Matthew Levy, and Stanley L. Miller
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California at
San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0506
Contributed by Stanley L. Miller, February 2, 2000
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/97/8/3868

1998
Biochemists Gain Crystal-Clear Insight Into 'Ancient' Enzyme
Date: 1998-05-15
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/19 ... 080552.htm

1995 - Technical
Investigation of the prebiotic synthesis of amino acids and RNA
bases from CO2 using FeS/H2S as a reducing agent
(ferrous sulfide/pyrite/amino acids/purines/pyrimidines)
ANTHONY D. KEEFE, STANLEY L. MILLER, GENE MCDONALDI, AND JEFFREY BADA
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
Vol. 92, pp. 11904-11906, December 1995
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/92/25/11904.pdf

1993 - Technical
From amino acids to prebiotic active peptides:
A chemical reconstitution
Andr C Brack
Pure & Appl. Chem., Vol. 65, No. 6, pp. 1141-1151,1993.
http://www.iupac.org/publications/pac/1 ... 6x1143.pdf

1975 - Technical
Evidence for De Novo Production of Self-Replicating and Environmentally Adapted RNA Structures by Bacteriophage Q3 Replicase
Manfred Sumper and Rudiger Luce
Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA
Vol. 72, No. 1, pp. 162-166, January 1975
Communicated by Manfred Eigen, October 11, 1974
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/72/1/162

1975 - Technical
Nucleotide Sequence of Microvariant RNA: Another Small Replicating Molecule
D. R. Mills, F. R. Kramer, C. Dobkin, T. Nishihara, and S. Spiegelman
PNAS | November 1, 1975 | vol. 72 | no. 11 | 4252-4256
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/72/11/4252

1972 - Technical
Prebiotic Synthesis of Hydrophobic and Protein Amino Acids
David Ring, Yecheskel Wolman, Nadav Friedmann, and Stanley L. Miller
PNAS | March 1, 1972 | vol. 69 | no. 3 | 765-768
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/69/3/765

1967 - Technical
An Extracellular Darwinian Experiment with a Self-Duplicating Nucleic Acid Molecule
D. R. Mills, R. L. Peterson, and S. Spiegelman
Communicated May 18, 1967
PNAS 1967; 58: 217-224.
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/58/1/217
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