SETI bioastro: Earth in Trouble in 2880 and Life's Origins

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Date: Mon Apr 22 2002 - 06:48:11 PDT


>From Washington Times, 22 April 2002

Charles Rousseaux

On this 32nd anniversary of Earth Day, it's important to remember that the
Jeremiahs of the environmental movement actually do have it right. One day,
life as we know it will be wiped off the Earth.

It has happened before, and it will again, not as a consequence of evil
corporate capitalism, but rather devastating orbital dynamics. There are
about 1,000 large asteroids capable of hitting the Earth flying around the
solar system at a speed and recklessness that defy comparison. They hit
hard, too. About 65 million years ago, a chunk of space rock hit near the
Yucatan Peninsula, exterminating 75 percent of the life forms living on
Earth at the time, including all the dinosaurs (except for Fidel Castro).
Other asteroids have had similarly deep impacts on the Earth's ecology.

Alarmingly, NASA scientists recently calculated that a fairly large rock
innocuously named 1950 DA has a chance of ruining the weekend plans of
everyone on Earth.

So where is the outrage? Where were the people carrying the "Down With
Asteroids" signs during this past weekends protests against everything in
Washington? Why isn't the World Wildlife Federation demanding that Congress
do something to end this threat to world wildlife? Why didn't Al Gore
denounce President Bush for failing to counter the threat from above during
his 35th or so coming-out speech in Florida?

Probably because anti-asteroid activism doesn't pay the bills or procure the
votes. NASA scientists consider 1950 DA "a greater hazard than any other
known asteroid," but calculate that its chances of causing an Armageddon are
only 1 in 300. Besides, that close encounter that won't come until 2880, a
distant threat that is death to fund-raising and ballot-box appeal. Instead,
environmental activists and Democratic operatives will spend today attacking
big producers, big polluters and big Republicans, who, if you believe the
rhetoric, have nothing better to do than kill spotted owls, drop arsenic
into the water and breathe sulfur dioxide into the air.

However, the quality of the U.S. environment has never been better,
according to the "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2002," a study
just released by the Pacific Research Institute. Authors Steven Hayward and
Julie Majeres noted that the total emissions of six "criteria" pollutants
regulated by the Clean Air Acts have declined by almost a third since 1970,
even though the U.S. economy has grown by almost the same amount since then.
Water quality is up, releases of toxic chemicals are down, and supplies of
energy are still abundant, despite the best efforts of Senate Democrats.

That shouldn't be surprising, since most Americans want a clean, safe
environment, even if they don't bother to join the Sierra Club. Yet most of
them also realize that neither they nor their children can be protected from
all hazards at all costs.

Last year, NASA spent $4.5 million on the Near Earth Object Program, which
is designed to identify and discover 90 percent of the 1 kilometer and
larger asteroids in near-Earth orbit by 2008. That's .03 percent of it's $15
billion annual budget, two-ten thousandths of a percent of the $2.13
trillion budget for fiscal year 2003 that President Bush sent to Congress.
The NASA scientists I talked to seemed to think the level of funding was
about right, based on the low-risk nature of the threat.

Defense got a much bigger chunk of our tax dollars, and rightfully so. After
all, Osama bin Laden probably isn't hiding in the asteroid belt. A less
distant, but also less certain threat is global warming, allegedly caused by
industrialized countries' increased emissions of carbon dioxide. Those
releases could be cut by an infinitesimal amount by following the strictures
of the Kyoto Protocol, but only at a catastrophic price. According to
skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, the $150 billion cost of one
year's worth of compliance with the Kyoto treaty would be almost enough to
buy every inhabitant of the Third World basic access to sanitation, water,
health and education - twice.

Those sorts of cost-benefit calculations are supposed to be a basic part of
political decision-making. Yet ironically, many of the same politicans and
activists who apply a pragmatic approach to procuring votes and demanding
dollars will spend today demanding environmental protection at all costs.

Still, there's still reason for optimism this Earth Day. After all, the sky
isn't scheduled to fall until 2880.

Charles Rousseaux is an editorial writer and an editor for the Commentary
pages of The Washington Times.

2002 News World Communications, Inc.


>From Andrew Yee <>

Informnauka (Informscience) Agency
Moscow, Russia

E.A. Kuzicheva, N.B.Gontareva
Institute of Cytology
Russian Academy of Sciences
St. Peterburg
+7 (812) 247-18-29,

Natalia Reznik, Informnauka (Informscience) Agency, 7-095-2675418



The eternal question about the origin of life on the Earth has no answer so
far. One of the theories assumes that life on the Earth might have
originated in space. Russian scientists successfully reproduced the
experiment carried out by Nature three and a half billion years ago.

Life originated on the Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago. However, the
scientists are still disputing over the possible sources of the life origin.
The matter is that life on our planet evolved from the molecular level to
the level of bacteria organisms within 0.5 - 1 billion years, this period
being very short for such an important evolutionary step. The researchers
are still racking the brains over this mystery. One of the popular
hypothesis asserts that some germs of life have been brought to the Earth
from space. But what exactly could have been brought from space and how
could the germs have originated in space?

E.A. Kuzicheva and N.B.Gontareva, research assistants from the Institute of
Cytology, Russian Academy of Sciences, have confirmed a possibility of
abiogenous synthesis of complex organic compounds (monomeric units of
nucleic acids) on the surface of comets, asteroids, meteorites and
space dust particles in the outer space. Therefore, it is possible that the
above monomeric units of nucleic acids could have got to the Earth and thus
could have significantly reduced the time period of the evolution process.
On the surface of space bodies the scientists have found all kinds of
various organic molecules (amino acids, organic acids, sugars etc.) and the
components required for their synthesis. Obviously, it is there that organic
substances are being synthesised, but the researchers can not be sure of
this fact, until the experiments confirm their assumptions.

The scientists from St. Petersburg reproduced synthesis of one of the DNA
components -- 5'-adenosine monophosphate (5'-AMP) under the conditions
specially designed to simulate the space environment. In order to synthesise
5'-AMP it is required to combine adenosine and inorganic phosphate.

On the Earth the reaction goes in the solution, but there are no solvents
whatsoever in space, therefore the researchers dried them in the air and got
a pellicle. Synthesis requires energy. The major source of energy in the
outer space both at present and in the prebiotic period of the Earth history
has been the solar ultraviolet radiation of different wavelengths.
Therefore, the pellicles were irradiated by a powerful ultraviolet lamp.

Naturally, the synthesis
was carried out in vacuum, and the researchers used the lunar soil,
delivered to the Earth by the 'Moon-16' station from the Sea of Abundance,
as a model of the comet, meteorite, interplanetary or cosmic dust. The soil
represented basaltic dust of the dark-grey colour, the diameter of its
particles being less than 0.2 millimetres.

After 7-9 hours of ultraviolet irradiation of the dry pellicles the
scientists acquired several compounds, mainly 5'-AMP, one of the DNA/RNA
monomers. The energy of radiation does not promote synthesis alone, it also
facilitates decomposition of the initial and newly-synthesised compounds,
the more powerful the radiation is, the more extensively the decomposition
goes. However, the lunar soil provided some protection. It has appeared that
a small pinch of the
lunar soil protects organic substances from the destructive ultraviolet
impact -- the lunar soil helps to increase the 5'-AMP yield by 2.7 times.

The researchers have made a conclusion that the organic compounds synthesis
could have happened in the outer space environment. The synthesis could have
taken place on the surface of space bodies at the initial phases of the
solar system formation, along with that the chemical evolution (formation
and selection of complex molecules) could have started in space. By the time
the Earth was formed the chemical evolution might have approached the phase
to be followed by the biological evolution. That implies that life on the
Earth most probably did not start from the elementary organic molecules
synthesis, but commenced from the polymers formation phase or from a further
stage. Hopefully, the above assumptions will help the scientists to deeper
penetrate into the mystery of the accelerated development of life on the
Earth when the latter was quite a 'young' planet.

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