Wednesday, December 21, 2005

On The Heels Of Kitzmiller

Over on Space.com, they have a nifty article about the discovery of some basic building blocks of life that have been found in the accretion disk of a distant star. How appropriate that, just as the Theory of Evolution is vindicated in US courts, scientists announce another link in the chain.

It turns out that the building blocks of life may be incorporated into the planets before they ever form. This isn't the first time this idea has been tossed out. After all, the acetylene and hydrogen cyanide found out at that other star are also found in our own gas giants, and presumably, were present in large amounts on Earth in its early days, as well. It's a reasonable, assumption, anyway.

Anyway, scientists are pretty excited by this, since an interesting reaction occurs when you combine acetylene, hydrogen cyanide and water in the presence of a catalyst (any old surface will do in a pinch, though). All kinds of compounds pop up, including amino acids, which terrestrial life uses to create proteins, and adenine, one quarter of the base pairs used in our DNA! Yup, a basic building block of protein and a basic building block of DNA, all in one nifty little package. And the "prebiotic" components of these amazing molecules have been found lightyears away.

So-called abiogenesis might not be understood, but this is how science works, and why it excites me so much. Small clues lead to big conclusions.

It's like CSI in space.

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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain

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Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu