Astrobiology: 0 Steps Forward, 3 Steps Back

first_imgAstrobiology, the science in search of a subject, has major hurdles to overcome in its quest to explain everything from hydrogen to high technology.  Despite being one of the most active interdisciplinary research projects around the world (see 01/07/2005 entry), a leading researcher this week conceded that several promising leads of the past are now considered unlikely.  Because the biochemicals we know (proteins and nucleic acids) are so advanced and improbable under prebiotic conditions, attempts to generate them or build living systems based on them have proved fruitless.  Astrobiologists are having to imagine simpler, hypothetical precursor molecules as stepping stones.  If square one was the Miller experiment in the 1950s, this puts them behind square one.    Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund leads a team of astrobiologists at Leiden University in the Netherlands.  In the third presentation in a “Life Detection” seminar series at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (see 12/03/2004 and 11/05/2004 entries for first two), Dr. Ehrenfreund, a specialist in complex molecules in space, who described herself as an experimentalist rather than a theorist, first put astrobiology into the larger context cosmology and astrophysics.  Prebiotic molecules either had to be formed in situ on the early earth, or had to be delivered via comets, asteroids, or interstellar dust.  She listed 137 molecules that have been identified in space (see, including a number of complex carbon compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).  Also of interest are some 80 varieties of amino acids identified in meteorites (living things only use 22 of them).  So far, this is all chemistry, not biochemistry; but if such molecules could arrive on earth by extraterrestrial special delivery, presumably they could contribute to the “prebiotic soup,” she speculated.    Most of the talk consisted of typical astrobiology scenarios and the details of carbon chemistry and interstellar clouds.  What really got interesting were the results of her team’s own specific laboratory experiments.  They put thin films of amino acids (glycine and D-alanine) into a chamber made to simulate a Martian environment, complete with the UV radiation expected at the surface.  The goal was to determine, even if such molecules could form in early Martian lakes, whether they could survive long enough to contribute to prebiotic chemistry.  The answer was depressing: the amino acids had a half-life of only eight hours under those conditions.  They repeated the experiment ten times with the same results.  “We have to implement that knowledge into models of regolith mixing,” she said, “to understand what kind of results that would give, and how long amino acids can survive….”  She quickly changed the subject to future Mars missions, but other problematical facts came to light during the presentation and the Q&A session following:Mars:  Dr. Ehrenfreund agreed that the Martian Meteorite that sparked the modern astrobiology movement did not contain signs of life.  It was useful in retrospect for arousing interest in astrobiology, she said, but the consensus of scientists is that the alleged biogenic markers were produced by purely physical processes.Water:  The primary source of water in our oceans was probably not comets, she agreed, but outgassing or water-rich planetesimals from 2-3 AU (see 03/02/2002 entry).Chirality:  She agreed that polypeptides have to be 100% one-handed to function, and suggested that maybe adsorption on minerals provided the sorting of otherwise mixed-handed molecules; she conceded, however, that minerals are often heterogeneous.Dilution:  The concentration of amino acids in meteorites is exceedingly low; they would have been hopelessly diluted if a meteorite landed in the oceans.Fellowship:  She admitted that molecules delivered from space would have to collect somehow in small areas where they could “meet” one another.  She suggested small basins or rock layers, but failed to explain how a rapidly-moving meteorite could protect its precious cargo, or how the molecules, once delivered, could be protected from the same UV radiation that her experiments showed were rapidly destructive.Real vs. Virtual:  She agreed with Benner (see 11/05/2004 entry) that ribose is very unstable in all conditions, and so are phosphates, the essential backbones of nucleic acids.  This forced her to suggest that the biomolecules with which we are familiar were not involved in the origin of life, and that astrobiologists must seek simpler, more stable, more abundant, more primitive building blocks to get life started.  Even PNA, a popular alternative to RNA, is already fairly “evolved” and therefore unlikely to be the first, she said.  What these more primitive, more abundant molecules must have been to produce something that could be considered alive, she did not specify.Takeover:  When confronted with Benner’s argument that you cannot invoke so many ad hoc “genetic takeovers” in an origin-of-life scenario, she dismissed it by claiming Benner is a theorist, not an experimentalist.  (Yet Benner’s team had tried hundreds of alternatives to ribose, and all the popular alternatives to RNA, and said they don’t work.)During the Q&A, this reporter mentioned that Benner (11/05/2004) had suggested a desert environment was necessary to stabilize ribose, yet Russell (12/03/2004) countered that was the worst environment because of the radiation, which her experiments seemed to confirm.  What was her take on these mutually exclusive scenarios?  All she could offer were vague suggestions that comets or meteorites might deliver simpler materials to concentrated areas somehow, perhaps in environments alternating hot and cold between impacts.  Most of her answer discussed problems #4, 5 and 6, above.    The audience was polite and receptive to Dr. Ehrenfreud, who, given the challenge of the subject matter, was knowledgeable and personable.  If they were expecting encouraging laboratory evidence, however, to support astrobiology’s contention that life can originate spontaneously on a planet, most of what they got was, “more work needs to be done.”    The entire presentation can be viewed in streaming video from JPL Multimedia.  As a footnote, Huygens scientists announced this week that the methane found on Titan was not produced by life, in case anyone was hoping.  See the story on is a totally bogus science built on the assumptions of Darwinism and naturalistic philosophy.  Its only bright side is to motivate more experimental work in chemistry, physics, geology and astronomy – which is good, but assumes no other motive would do so.  And its track record is abysmal.  Of the biomolecules we know, Dr. Ehrenfreund said, “I wouldn’t really fix on this modern biochemistry thing, and on one component [like ribose or RNA]; we have done that for 50 years, and we didn’t succeed to go any step further with that; so I think you have to think a little bit in a new way.”  So 50 years after Stanley Miller proudly announced the formation of amino acids in a laboratory flask, we now know all that was irrelevant hype.  Today, the wizards of chemistry are into visualization.  They ask us to envision hypothetical simpler entities, yet to be discovered, that might self-organize into self-reproducing machines.    So what do you think?  Is the “useful lie” tactic the only way to get funding for science?  (see 05/02/2003 entry).  The Miller experiment used it.  The Mars Meteorite used it.  Both are now defunct.  Is astrobiology a welfare program for scientists who ought to be studying the real world, not hypothetical sci-fi landscapes where primitive molecules “get together” and start living?  What if Wall Street acted this way?  Would you continue patronizing a financial adviser who, after 50 years, admits that you have lost money on every investment he tried, and said that now you need to think of new, unspecified, unknown, untested investments?(Visited 19 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Taal Volcano – GC1GJ6N -GEOCACHE OF THE WEEK – August 6, 2012

first_imgEnjoying the view from the top of the volcanoGeocachers will need to travel by boat and on horseback to get to the Geocache of the Week.Taal Volcano (GC1GJ6N) is part of a chain of volcanoes located on the western side of the island of Luzon in the Philippines.The difficulty 5, terrain 5  EarthCache was placed by Team1337 in late September of 2008. Since then, it has attracted a number of geocachers to journey out to the volcanic island to claim a smiley.Taal Volcano presents one of the most charming and picturesque views and is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, with its last eruption occurring in 1977.Getting to Taal Volcano on horsebackGeocachers who make the trip to this volcano often dive into Crater Lake – a lake inside the volcano’s crater that holds sulfuric content – to celebrate their trip.A geocacher who embarked on this journey writes, “Unbelievable, amazing, what a trip and very beautiful view!  It was a real adventure to reach the rim of the crater. I used a boat and I walked to the rim of the crater. The questions were a real challenge, but I did it! Thanks a lot for this EarthCache.”The 112 images on the cache page have done a fantastic job revealing the volcano’s beauty and capturing geocachers’ experiences.Continue to explore some of the most engaging geocaches around the globe. Check out all the Geocaches of the Week on the Latitude 47 blog or view the Bookmark List on Geocaching.comIf you would like to nominate a Geocache of the Week, send an email with your name, comments, the name of the geocache, and the GC code to [email protected] a dip in Crater LakeShare with your Friends:More SharePrint RelatedExploring Belize and Guatemala One Geocache at a TimeOctober 21, 2014With 2 commentsMt. Mazama (GC123H6) – GEOCACHE OF THE WEEK – February 6, 2013February 6, 2013In “Community”GeoTour Azores (GT6F)November 13, 2018In “GeoTours”last_img read more

Microsoft unveils IoT Central to simplify Internet of Things development

first_imgTags:#Azure#cloud#Internet of Things#IoT#Microsoft#paas#saas David Curry Follow the Puck Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces Microsoft announced on Thursday a new “software-as-a-service” (SaaS) offering, called IoT Central, aimed at reducing the complexity of building Internet of Things solutions.IoT Central allows developers to create software and hardware without cloud expertise, a necessity for large-scale IoT solutions in the past. Microsoft does not say exactly how the service reduces the need for cloud experience but said it will continue to update over the coming months.See Also: The bot invasion is on, powered by $24B in fundingThe new service is powered by Azure IoT Suite, Microsoft’s current central platform for IoT development. We assume for developers not accustomed to cloud computing, it will automate parts of the process.“[IoT Central] has the potential to dramatically increase the speed at which manufacturers can innovate and bring new products to market, as well as lower the barriers to creating IoT solutions that generate new revenue opportunities and better experiences for customers,” said Microsoft.Also updating AzureMicrosoft will also be updating Azure IoT Suite with a new “pre-configured solution”, called Connected Factory. The solution “makes it easy to connect on-premises open platform communications (OPC) UA and OPC Classic devices to the Microsoft cloud and get insights to help drive operational efficiencies.”Connected Factory has built-in cloud security to make configuring devices in the cloud a safe experience. Microsoft has partnered with Unified Automation, Softing, and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise to build “turnkey gateway solutions” for the Connected Factory, using Azure cloud services.Microsoft has made big investments in IoT and cloud over the past year and they appear to be paying off. Even though Amazon still controls most of the market-share for cloud computing, Azure is catching up.center_img Internet of Things Makes it Easier to Steal You… Related Posts Small Business Cybersecurity Threats and How to…last_img read more

At 34, Ben Askren finally makes UFC debut under Vegas lights

first_imgFILE – In this Nov. 3, 2018, file photo, UFC fighter Ben Askren waits for the start of a middleweight mixed martial arts bout between David Branch and Jared Cannonier at UFC 230, in New York. Askren is finally making his UFC debut after a decade in mixed martial arts and a lifetime of wrestling. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)Ben Askren retired nearly 18 months ago. He was content to end his mixed martial arts career as one of the best fighters never to compete in the UFC.Although the unbeaten former collegiate wrestling star had dominated competition around the world for nearly a decade, his tactical fighting style and his personal beefs with UFC President Dana White had kept him off the sport’s biggest stage — and Askren insists he was at peace with it all.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES Lacson backs proposal to elect president and vice president in tandem “I was retired,” he said. “I was happy. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do in life. But I said, ‘This opportunity is too good to pass up. I’m going to take it.’ I’m here to compete, and that’s it.”Askren traveled a long way from suburban Milwaukee to the Vegas lights. He hasn’t fought in the U.S. in nearly six years during an MMA career that began shortly after he competed in freestyle wrestling in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.The two-time NCAA wrestling champion at Missouri won the Bellator welterweight title in just his seventh pro bout in 2010, but he wasn’t offered a UFC contract when he became a free agent in 2013. He moved to the Singapore-based One Championship and won another title, defending that belt four times while fighting in China, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates. Askren never betrayed much dissatisfaction with his situation, praising the promotions that employed him while the UFC ignored him.Tyron Woodley, the UFC welterweight champion, was Askren’s wrestling teammate at Missouri. The close friends have trained together for UFC 235, which features Woodley’s latest title defense against Kamaru Usman in the co-main event.“I just felt like Ben wanted to compete against the best guys, be treated fairly, be paid well and keep dominating, so I didn’t know if he had to be in the UFC to actually facilitate those wants and needs,” Woodley said.ADVERTISEMENT “I can only control things I can control,” Askren said. “There was a guy who didn’t like me, and I can’t control that, and that was the reason I didn’t fight the better guys.”And then the UFC finally called last year. The 34-year-old Askren decided to answer.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine ‍football chiefSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesAfter winning belts in the Bellator and One Championship promotions, Askren (18-0) finally makes his UFC debut Saturday night against former champion Robbie Lawler. Instead of enjoying retirement, Askren will be locked in the T-Mobile Arena cage at UFC 235 for a perilous matchup with an inveterate brawler.Askren is at peace with this development, too. Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte Askren claims he really thought he was done with the sport when he retired in September 2017, convinced he would never have the right opportunity to join the UFC — and not even sure if he wanted it, given his online history with the company. He has sparred repeatedly on social media with White, who derided Askren as “the most boring fighter in MMA history” and an “absolute moron” before blocking Askren on Twitter.Everything changed last year when White and One Championship boss Chatri Sityodtong put together an unprecedented MMA trade. The UFC shipped former flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson to One in exchange for Askren, and both fighters eagerly jumped at the opportunity.“When this thing happened, I think it hit everybody by surprise, because who the hell would have thought a trade would have ever happened?” Woodley said. “I think it’s dope for the sport.”White hasn’t said much publicly about the reasoning behind the UFC’s decision to sign Askren after so many years. Askren still hasn’t talked to White at any length since the move.“I don’t think he wants to talk to me,” Askren said. “Maybe he doesn’t feel like he needs to, and that’s fine. Whatever.”Askren has changed during his decade in the game. He barely knew how to punch when he started, instead dominating with his superb wrestling, but his striking and jiu-jitsu have steadily improved.But his plan against Lawler (28-12) is simple and obvious, according to Askren: “Close the distance and wrestle him. Can you see a scenario where he beats me on the ground? I can’t see it.”Askren’s fans and teammates can’t believe the wait is finally over. They’re confident Askren will seize this surprising opportunity — and they can’t wait to hear what he’ll have to say about White and the UFC after it’s over.“He’s been talking like this since college, and I’ve just been trying to calm him down, because I recognize it’s an art behind it,” Woodley said. “It’s not ever taking away from his performance.” Trump campaign, GOP groups attack Google’s new ad policy PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss MOST READ 1 dead, 3 injured in Quezon road crash Hong Kong tunnel reopens, campus siege nears end View comments P2.5 B shabu seized in Makati sting, Chinese national nabbed LA Galaxy unveil statue of Beckham before 2-1 win over Chicago Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. 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