Monday, January 25, 2021

Immersed in more unknowns!

5:12 PM | ,

When one speaks about the extraterrestrial origin of life, one usually alludes to precursor molecules of what could have been the initial soup from which the first amino acids, nucleotide bases or lipids that formed a protomembrane emerged. The favorite objects were meteorites. More recently, in 2017, a new nursery has been discovered: the protoplanetary clouds of dust and gas surrounding young stars. Two teams of scientists detected signs of methyl isocyanate, a prebiotic molecule, in the clouds surrounding two newly formed solar-type stars. Using data from the Atacama Observatory in Chile, the researchers found that a young multistellar system, IRAS 16293-2422, emitted multiple spectral lines characteristic of this compound. Methyl isocyanate forms peptide bonds that hold amino acids together in proteins [see «The astrochemical origin of planetary systems and life», by Rafael Bachiller; Research and Science, April 2015].

Wallace Arthur, a biologist by profession and amateur astronomer, opts for a more aprioristic approach in Life through time and space, which does not mean less rigorous. The book is about our origin, our destiny, our place in the universe and the verisimilitude of intelligent life in the cosmos. Written in a series of seven triplets of chapters, it repeats in each of them the same thematic sequence: astronomy, evolution and embryology. The underlying logic is far from self-evident.

Let it be, for example, the triplet entitled «From the stars to the embryos». It presents a first astronomical chapter on the observation of galaxies; an evolutionary second chapter on Homo habilis; and a third embryological chapter on brain development. It starts from a hypothesis, one might say, drawn from the realm of scientific fantasy: the existence of inhabitants of Andromeda (possibility that the author believes real).

FRancy Delgqdo

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