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Thread: Life on mars?

  1. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]After all, even if life can arise from random reactions between carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and methane (ammonia, whatever,) it's a highly unlikely event.
    how do you know?
    ok... imagine the earth... how big it is... HUGE [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile_k_ani_32.gif[/img] (and there are way bigger plannets)... and imagine how many environments there are now... and how many puddles of "soup" there are, how many combinations of that soup there are, how many times lightning strikes, etc...
    I don't think life is all that rare considering all that.
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]just dong get your hopes up yet
    I think there's a real possibility... I don't think that's proof of anything much though.
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  2. #10
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    Well, there's a pretty good case to rule out the "warm, shallow pond" theory that was put forth in the mid-1900's. There's just too much random activity to sustain the types of connective processes required. Cells have walls keeping certain things inside and others outside for a reason - it's real hard to reproduce DNA and RNA when your parts are getting washed away by water all the time. There's a wide belief that the earliest life on Earth began deep undersea, fueled by geothermal activity. That's a very turbulent environment for autocatalytic activity, especially activity involving delicate carbon chains. But meteorites do sink, and this article does suggest that extremophiles survive in the organically-bare substrate of Mars (with little in the way of atmosphere and a comfy temperature range which hugs both sides of the liquid phase of water.)
    I'm not saying life arising on Earth couldn't happen, just that from our understanding of it, from our combinatorical models of it, it's unlikely for any particular Earth-like planet to have progenated Earth-like biological processes.
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    I saw this, and I thought "Err, how could I not have seen this article in my daily checks?? Slippin'." The next thought, of course 'RTFA'- Ahh, I saw this story a *cough* while ago. Of course, not this exact article, but was the same idea. Still, it sure would be fun to see some life on Mars.
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  4. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]After all, even if life can arise from random reactions between carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and methane (ammonia, whatever,) it's a highly unlikely event.
    This isn't really true. Chemicals don't react randomly. There are very specific laws that dictate how two chemicals will react when they come into contact with one another. When you see it this way, the most basic form of life goes from highly unlikely to quite probable, given any sort of environment to sustain it.
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  5. #13
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    I'm afraid I don't follow, Schloaty. There may be specific laws governing chemical reactions, but that doesn't mean they have certainty. Chemistry is plauged by the non-determinism of quantum physics, albeit, not to the degree of elementary particles. As an oxygen atom approaches an iron atom, the probabilty of oxidation rises, but even if they are impossibly close to one another, there remains a possibility that they will not react.Regardless of how specific these laws are, there is still the issue of probability. When you account for all the combinatorical possibilities, it's not a matter of how well-defined the rules are; the complexity, the uncertainty is a consequence purely of the number of choices that can be made regarding which reactions happen among what chemicals when. I don't understand how chemical laws having narrow scope (being specific) would necessarily make any particular event more likely. Can you elucidate?
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    Well, I think schloaty's point is not that there is certainty in chemistry, it's just that the interactions of chemicals are not random. So, when considering the likelihood of life emerging from a chemical soup, you can't really assign probabilities based on random interactions. In earth's primordial soup, for example, there existed very specific conditions and very specific building blocks that would put specific chemicals in close proximity. The chance of the various proteins arising from slime ponds is far greater, for example, than in the middle of a desert.

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    I wish I had a single clue of what you guys are talking about. I'm all confuzzled...methane this...titan that? I know what methane is but what's titan? Is that a new planet or something?
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  8. #16
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    That's true, and I do understand that when I say that it's unlikely that, given the chemistry in question, the conditions for life to arise are hard to come by. You can read all about it, just do a search on combinatorics and evolutionary biology I'm certain you'll be able to find the kinds of mathematical models I'm thinking of. At the moment I don't have time to put up any internet sources, but the books Quantum Evolution by Johnjoe McFadden and Darwin's Black Box by Michael J Berthe examine the probabilities of catalyzing the fundamental chemicals of known biology; one estimate, I believe it referred to types of nucleic acids, put the probability of the production any of the fundamental varieties of acid (DNA, mRNA, tRNA, etc.) at one in 6^160, that's a 10 followed by 109 zeroes, and I believe that probability refers to the timeframe within which single-celled organisms are thought to have originated. Earth hasn't had the time for this type of reaction to be 'likely.' It is a possibility, but not a plausible one, given our understanding of Earth at the time of protogenesis (the origin of the first cells or whatever DNA and RNA originally used to propogate themselves.) As soon as I'm back from my evening classes I'll look up the details for you; chemists have been crunching these numbers since Watson and Crick, guys.
    I was disappointed when I first read about this myself. But hey, anthropocentric universe; we're here today, so DNA must have come up somewhere! There's no need to fret just because Earth isn't a good candidate. :)
    ~Joe
    PS - Titan is a moon. I believe it is a moon of... Saturn? Jupiter? One of the bigger planets in our solar system. Anyhow, Titan, and one of her sister moons, (is it Ganymede?) are likely candidates for places harboring extraterrestrial life, as they have liquid oceans of water (maybe ammonia) and other conditions thought to be helpful for raising living things.
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
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    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

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