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Inorganic Particles In Plasma Displays Life-Like Properties Sunday, August 19, 2007

Posted by h3nry in biology, DNA, evolution, origin of life, physics, plasma, protein, science, science experiment.
3 comments

Here is another scientific research report published recently at ScienceDaily, this time regarding a discovery made by physicists that inorganic material shows life-like qualities:

Now, an international team has discovered that under the right conditions, particles of inorganic dust can become organised into helical structures. These structures can then interact with each other in ways that are usually associated with organic compounds and life itself.

In essence, the environment is the fourth state of matter – plasma – where electrons are no longer bounded to atoms. The particles in the plasma sate exhibit the ability of self-organisation to form helical structures, where they attract, divide and bifurcate to form two copies of themselves, interact with other particles – and even evolve into stable structures:

Quite bizarrely, not only do these helical strands interact in a counterintuitive way in which like can attract like, but they also undergo changes that are normally associated with biological molecules, such as DNA and proteins, say the researchers. They can, for instance, divide, or bifurcate, to form two copies of the original structure. These new structures can also interact to induce changes in their neighbours and they can even evolve into yet more structures as less stable ones break down, leaving behind only the fittest structures in the plasma.

I was very excited to read this report – imagine the possibilities this discovery opens up! As the article points out, it could even more conceivable now that non-carbon forms of life exist somewhere out there in the universe. As a matter of fact, Imagine a universe where “life” and perhaps even “intelligence” exist in the state of plasma… this is frankly quite freaky and exciting at the same time.

There is one major issue with the report though. It is not clear to me if this discovery is yet another computer simulation or an actual experimentation (emphasis mine):

However, Tsytovich and his colleagues demonstrated, using a computer model of molecular dynamics, that particles in a plasma can undergo self-organization as electronic charges become separated and the plasma becomes polarized..

Anyone has any ideas? I am leaning to interpret it as a computer model was used for the experiment. I will keep an eye out for it, because this is quite a remarkable discovery.

Human Protein Evolution Retraced – at Atomic Level…! Saturday, August 18, 2007

Posted by h3nry in adaptation, Darwinism, evolution, human evolution, mutation, protein, science.
3 comments

I think this is breaking-news stuff. Apparently for the very first time, scientists are able to track very precisely and at an “unprecedented detail” – in fact at atomic level to be exact – of the evolutionary path of an important human protein.

Here is the summary: using state-of-art computational and molecular technology, the ancestor of an important human protein was recreated in labs. These are then subjected to high tech particle physics analysis where the atomic structures of the protein through the past 450 millions of years were revealed.

Says one of the scientists involved:

“This is the ultimate level of detail,” Thornton said. “We were able to see exactly how evolution tinkered with the ancient structure to produce a new function that is crucial to our own bodies today. Nobody’s ever done that before.”

Specifically, only 7 mutations are required for the protein to evolve to its current structure, and the mutations are dependent on each other. As a scientist remarked, much to the dismay of anti-Darwinians,

“This study has refined our knowledge of evolution because it helps address the question of whether adaptation occurs through large or small effect mutations,” said Padilla. “This study shows that small changes may enable large adaptations to occur. These large adaptations may then by further refined by smaller adaptations.”

It is a short and not an overly technical article which is worth a read.

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