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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Let me wander into my sci-fi daydreams

Let me wander into my sci-fi daydreams

Finding ‘Weird Life’ On Earth:

The question Davies is asking is profound, for if life did get its start multiple times on our planet, we can assume it’s far more likely to have appeared elsewhere in the universe. The case for life on those trillions of habitable planets Alan Boss talks about in yesterday’s entry becomes more and more formidable. The BBC story cited above also discusses the work of Steven Benner (University of Florida), whose team has created what Benner calls “…an artificial synthetic chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.”

Benner says the molecule — a modified version of the DNA double helix but with a six-letter genetic alphabet instead of four — is not self-sustaining (”You have to have a graduate student stand there and feed it from time to time”), but it is evolving. He wants to apply natural selection to it to watch it evolve under selective pressure. So is Benner’s creation alive, or are we basing too much on our Earth-based assumptions? “Remember – just because you are a chemical system which is self-sustaining and capable of Darwinian evolution, that doesn’t mean that is the universal definition of life,” the scientist adds.

Things like Deinococcus-Thermus bacterium lend themselves toward the idea that life came to earth via big falling rocks from the sky. There has been a bit of speculation as to how many earth-like planets exist in the universe lately, but single-celled life that is capable of surviving environmental extremes also suggests that life could exist on planets like Jupiter and Venus. Even if they evolved into something ‘intelligent’ (those damn single-quotes again!) it is statistically impossible they would resemble us in any way.

These bacteria could also survive a comet smashing and destroying our planet. Once the planet returned to a relative normal state, life could evolve once again. I think we need to consider piggy-backing our genomes into these suckers to ‘assist’ evolution after the apocalypse wipes us out.

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