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By looking at information stored in chemistry, says former NASA fellow, life from non-life can be explained

An outstanding question in the field of evolutionary biology and biochemistry is how the complex, fragile biochemicals that made up life arose and transformed biomaterial in the early Earth from non-living to the earliest "living" organisms.  Some researchers have looked for quasi-alive constructs like prions or viruses for clues.

But a new paper by Paul Davies, an Arizona State University Regents' Professor and director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and Sara Walker, a NASA post-doctoral fellow at the Beyond Center, published in the journal Interface suggests that researchers are approaching the problem in the wrong way.

They suggest that rather looking at the "hardware" (biochemicals), they look at the "software" (chemically encoding information).  The authors suggest that the defining line between the living and non-living is the ability to manage encoded information, thus the key question is how this information handling arose.

Spark of Life
Could the clue to how life arose lie in how it encodes information?

Comments Prof. Walker, "When we describe biological processes we typically use informational narratives -- cells send out signals, developmental programs are run, coded instructions are read, genomic data are transmitted between generations and so forth.  So identifying life's origin in the way information is processed and managed can open up new avenues for research."

"Chemical based approaches have stalled at a very early stage of chemical complexity -- very far from anything we would consider 'alive.' More seriously they suffer from conceptual shortcomings in that they fail to distinguish between chemistry and biology."

"We propose that the transition from non-life to life is unique and definable," Prof. Davies adds, "We suggest that life may be characterized by its distinctive and active use of information, thus providing a roadmap to identify rigorous criteria for the emergence of life. This is in sharp contrast to a century of thought in which the transition to life has been cast as a problem of chemistry, with the goal of identifying a plausible reaction pathway from chemical mixtures to a living entity."

"To a physicist or chemist life seems like 'magic matter.  It behaves in extraordinary ways that are unmatched in any other complex physical or chemical system. Such lifelike properties include autonomy, adaptability and goal-oriented behavior -- the ability to harness chemical reactions to enact a pre-programmed agenda, rather than being a slave to those reactions."

"We believe the transition in the informational architecture of chemical networks is akin to a phase transition in physics, and we place special emphasis on the top-down information flow in which the system as a whole gains causal purchase over its components.  This approach will reveal how the logical organization of biological replicators differs crucially from trivial replication associated with crystals (non-life). By addressing the causal role of information directly, many of the baffling qualities of life are explained."

Crystals
Crystals are also self-replicating, but they lack the flexibility of life.
[Image Source:  Giovanni Dall'Orto]

If that all sounds a bit abstract, it is.

But basically it seems that the pair are arguing that by looking at differences between the self-replicating information in biochemicals (e.g. RNA) verus self-replication information in inorganic/non-living constructs (e.g. crystals), researchers may be able to retrace the process of how life arose on Earth more easily than if they merely focus on painstakingly mixing chemical constituents, hoping something arises.

Sources: Interface [via Arvix], Arizona State Univ.



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RE: Personally
By gladiatorua on 12/14/2012 11:45:27 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Simple question that can not be explained chemically is what formed first, the cell membrane or the components of a cell nucleus?
Cell membrane obviously. You know about eukariotes and prokariotes right? Prokariote does not have nucleus. Bacteria and archea are prokariotes.
quote:
Also after single cell organisms formed, what caused them to form into multicell organisms?
The fact they could AND it was beneficial to them? Have you ever heard about colonial organisms?
quote:
If a mat of single cells formed into the first multicell organism what made some cells form into skin, others form into livers cells, or nerve cells, or blood cells, ect?
First multicellular organisms didn't have blood, skin, liver or nervous system. The need to differentiate cells came much later. It's not like sexual reproduction with all the complex stuff was a thing from the beginning.
quote:
The article talks about the encoding that makes life into life, but where did the encoding of information come from?
Previous generations.
quote:
So many people think we now know 99% of the truth of how the universe works and was formed, I believe it is more like we know and understand about 1% of the truth of how the universe works and was formed.
Funnily enough, only {insert scripture of your choice}-humpers think they know 99% because it's all written in the {insert scripture of your choice}.
Good scientist know the limits of their knowledge. That's what makes them good and that's how they know where to push to expand those limits.


RE: Personally
By JediJeb on 12/14/2012 1:20:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The need to differentiate cells came much later.


What caused organisms to differentiate cells into the types needed? Did the first organism to have a bone begin with having just a single mutated bone cell that somehow didn't cause it to die and things just went from there? If it went from there, how did it come about to have multiple bones with joints instead of just one long bone?

quote:
Cell membrane obviously. You know about eukariotes and prokariotes right? Prokariote does not have nucleus. Bacteria and archea are prokariotes.


So there are organisms which only have a cell membrane with nothing inside that makes it alive? Sorry I am a chemist not a biologist, I just know that from a chemical standpoint that the structures of that complexity do not happen easily if at all.

quote:
Previous generations.


What gave encoding into the original generation?


RE: Personally
By gladiatorua on 12/16/2012 12:23:35 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
What caused organisms to differentiate cells into the types needed?
Once scientists figure out to some degree of certainty, how multicellular organisms evolved for each separate case(plants, animals etc) the matter might become clearer. For now there are hypotheses, like colonial organisms or symbiosis between two or more single-celled organisms or weired Siamese twins of single-celled organism etc. What I meant was, complex sell "predetermination" came much later, when organisms started to reproduce sexually from two fused cells growing into full organisms. Simpler organisms just split the part of their body with full array of cells needed for new organism, and those cells multiplied.
quote:
Did the first organism to have a bone begin with having just a single mutated bone cell that somehow didn't cause it to die and things just went from there? If it went from there, how did it come about to have multiple bones with joints instead of just one long bone?
First organisms didn't have bones. Look up chordates and their relationship to vertebrates.
The problem with pre-bone organisms is that they didn't have enough hard tissue to leave to fossilise.
quote:
So there are organisms which only have a cell membrane with nothing inside that makes it alive? Sorry I am a chemist not a biologist, I just know that from a chemical standpoint that the structures of that complexity do not happen easily if at all.
No. The don't have nucleus. They are structured slightly differently. Look up prokaryote.
quote:
What gave encoding into the original generation?
Original polypeptide of random amino-acids? Look at evolutionofdna.com


RE: Personally
By lilhammer10 on 12/14/2012 3:17:31 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, we all understand how Empirical Evidence worshipers like you and "good" scientists view the world. You stare at the world around you and think "Holy cr@p! I wonder how all of these bazillions of atoms and the elements they compose magically came together in a perfect mix and evolved over millions of years, after millions of chance mutations to form something so complex!" While I shout "Hey dumb@ss! It's a Samsung and it dries your clothes!"

You strain to view the microscopic world under glass to build your little, un-provable theories and wet dreams you call science that you change every other day to suit the scenario. You like to pleasure yourself to the sound of your own voice and thoughts while every fiber of your very being just wants to vomit you out of itself if it only could. You are the definition of retarded. You see the world around you and witness the truth but couldn't grasp it if your life depended on it. Your prefer snake-oil to the simple truth and the stench of treacherous lies compared to honesty.

Oh yes, and I get that you simply like to inflame others.


RE: Personally
By Asetha on 12/15/2012 1:03:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Previous generations.


Question begging.


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