some joke about how at least you can get a beer out there.
Top astro-boffins are chuffed today to announce that they have detected large amounts of chemicals necessary to birth alien life - not to mention some alcohol - drifting in space around a young star just 400 light-years away. “In the protoplanetary disc of gas and dust surrounding the young, newly formed star, we found …
Am I the only person who feels using the word 'just' in sentences like that is a bit sad and slightly pathetic? I mean, yes, 400 light years isn't that far in galactic terms, but for a species that probably isn't going to be travelling further than few a light hours in the foreseeable future, I think we should probably stop acting as if a distance like that is akin to a trip to the local shops.
It's a matter of context.
Make a clock, and you are working in thousandths of an inch, or thousandths of a millimetre or what ever.
Buy a length of speaker wire, and you buy it by the yard or meter. Not the thousandths of anything.
In astronomical terms, 400 light years is practically down the shops, in comparison to the the stars we can see who's light started out when we were still using rocks as tools.
But if you want a suitably impressive number.. calculate 400 light years in inches.
speed of light ≈ 186,282 miles per second
speed of light ≈ 5,874,589,152,000 miles per year
63,360 inches in a mile
speed of light ≈ 372,213,968,670,720,000 inches in a year
400 light-years ≈ 148,885,587,468,288,000,000 inches.
Or, for you die-hard metric fanbois (and for a slightly more accurate result):
speed of light = 299,792,458 meters per second
speed of light = 9,454,254,955,488,000 meters per year
400 light-years = 3,781,701,982,195,200,000 meters
39.3701 inches in a meter
400 light-years = 148,885,985,209,223,243,520 inches
Fire, because you'd better have a lot of it handy if you're trying to move 148,885,985,209,223,243,520 inches in any direction...
So a few simple organic molecules have been found. To imply that this is the origin of life is like looking at a heap of bricks and saying that is the origin of a country mansion.
No sir, there is still a big gap in the story. I hope science will bridge that gap, but I am still waiting.
> I hope science will bridge that gap
Isn't that "physics envy" talking? One may like to have simple explanations, possibly adduced with a few equations, that fit on a page. Unfortunately, complex system, unlike the physical foundations (which themselves are still in need of amendments) do not offer themselves to an approach like that. You are left with a large bag of tricks to somewhat "explain" your complex system which yields a moderately successful explanations, but you will be unlikely to do much better, really. You can bridge the gaps more solidly if your simulations take off in a big way of course, but there isn't enough CPU power or a spare planet in a timewarp for that yet.
Thank you for a constructive comment on part of my original post.
Yes, I have a degree in physics followed by a career in computing - which I describe to people as logic on a large scale. I have written some big complicated programs.
But biology is enormously more complicated than any computer program I ever wrote, as your own comment seems to say. Protein and DNA molecules are precision engineering jobs that don't 'just happen'.
In 1982 AG Cairns-Smith wrote a book 'Genetic Takeover'. He was a senior lecturer in Chemistry at Glasgow University. One point he made was that practical organic chemistry is difficult, and unless you keep careful control you end up with a filthy useless mass of tar.
His hypothesis was that clay systems provided an ordered atomic framework, to which organic systems were later added. Finally the organic systems 'took over', and the clay was forgotten. His book contains the throwaway line 'mud is fascinating stuff'. So it is if you are into the complexities of silicate chemistry. The currently fashionable hypotheses are that superheated water in the vicinity of lava channels provided the inorganic 'guiding hand' to organic developments.
What we perhaps need are some experiments in these matters, analogous to the famous Miller experiment ca 1953. Miller showed the production of amino acids etc from methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), and water (OH2), but as I originally commented these are a long way from protein and DNA. The radio astronomers results, and the results which Lewis Page describes, are like reruns of Miller.
"big half of the cake"
If, for "half", you're quantifying by mass, but, for "big", you're quantifying by volume, and the cake is such that different parts of it are of different densities, you can indeed have a big half that is larger - in terms of volume - than the small half, while each half is half the mass of the whole cake.
I can picture it now: 10 billion years from now, an alien spacecraft is exploring what's left of our solar system, and finds a probe drifting somewhere between where Earth and Mars used to be. After determining that bringing the probe on board the spacecraft won't harm the crew, they do so, and began exploring its storage contents.
SIG: Sir, I've recovered an entity from the alien probe! It appears to be a computational construct, containing a grouping of several quintillion files. The language it is stored in is very easy to learn. I think you should see this.
CAP: OK, so what is it?
SIG: Sir, this probe was manufactured by a very primitive civilization! They called themselves 'humans'. The people appear to have just mastered artificial intelligence; however, these files were created and stored for a long time before this civilization made the achievement. According to one file, this civilization had telescopes to help them see farther, and they used some of them to help them see far-off worlds. The file also has information that they found what they consider to be the first traces of life around a new star. I am calculating the coordinates the file has for this "new star".
CAP: Yes, just about the same for every other dead civilization we've come across. What else is in this group of 'files'?
SIG: I believe I just found a vid of some sort...here, see for yourself.
(The viewscreen immediately changes to a Youtube video: Rickrolled!)
CAP: Arrgh, turn that off! Only savages could create that and think it's advanced!
SIG: Sir, I have the coordinates the humans stored for their entry about the 'new star'.
CAP: Why that's...that's System 01! How did such primitive savages find our home system...when it had just barely formed?
SIG: Sir, according to another 'file', this species appears to have also been at war with itself. A prime indication that this is a single-system species. They were squabbling for the limited resources on their planet until the day they achieved artificial intelligence.
CAP: Really? Artificial intelligence is great, but it doesn't usually end up solving the resource problems. How did these 'humans' manage to turn a computational singularity into global peace?
SIG: Hmm...sir, it appears that 'computational singularity' ended up solving the resource problem by killing the demand for the resources.
CAP: WHAT! SIG, eject the probe immediately!
SIG: Probe away. Not sure what it could have done. Its weapons pods were empty, and it had nothing of what could be considered 'fuel'. It's drifting towards that gas giant.
CAP: Good. Perform a low-frequency scan for any more of these probes so we can round them up and destroy them. WEAPS, raise shields, in case any probes happen to have weapons on them!
(Unfortunately for our heroes, the tiny amount of mass the probe possesses is just enough to start fusion ignition in Jupiter. As the probe becomes part of Jupiter, the explosive reaction destroys the spacecraft and the crew. The end.)
Eureka. Probes rule, NukEvil, and curious files have created everything since the birth of discovery and invention with imaginanation? That was a superb post which deserves a certifiable boost, NukEvil.
Methinks with IT Command and Control is that one enigmatic hop, a second giant step and a third colossal quantum leap into a dilemma which challenges the perceived order of things, with bits and bytes beings being natural heirs apparent, an APT solution in Future Peace Spaces ....... and able to visit dumb pathetic and catastrophically destructive war zones upon wayward systems of perverse administration and corrupt executive office man management if the choice taken is not to play nicely.
Ps ..... Do you know what has just happened there, Lewis P? It will be an education to see if there is anything further constructive and instructive, you and El Regers can do with that opportune ball.
Oh, and WTF are supposed intelligence services delivering, apart from diddly squat worth a jot, whenever pontificating politically inept puppets and corrupt fiat currency inventing parasites are tolerated and allowed along with media muppets and military knuckleheads, to parade red flags every day, as clear and presently dangerous news and views to a smarter, and getting considerably smarter much quicker than was ever before imagined world, which needs not their self serving feeds and seditious seeds?
And that question to any who think they have intelligence and would be being paid for what they have to offer by any intelligence agency or government/nation or international business model/module/machine.
Ps ….. and that earlier question remains, Lewis/El Regers, only now is it highlighted and raised in spades …….. and in words of two syllables and less is still….Whatcha Gonna Do About It
Remember it well - and I bet he wouldn't have changed his view of politicians had he met Tone, or Call Me Dave!
I must admit to a sneaking liking for his Steady State Universe - much more aesthetically pleasing than the Big Bang. Do not a large number of Buddhist texts contain the words "From beginningless time..."
They discovered that one of the strippers had spilled a drink on the instrument cluster and some organic material had gotten mixed in from an unspecified reproductive act. They're still scratching their heads trying to explain the cloudy substance on the external mirror. Although the scratching may be due to microorganism left by the goat they were joyriding.
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