Dust "comes alive" in space

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Lani
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Dust "comes alive" in space

Postby Lani » Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:28 am UTC

Scientists have discovered that inorganic material can take on the characteristics of living organisms in space, a development that could transform views of alien life.

Read more here.

Really, really awesome.
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Postby 3.14159265... » Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:49 am UTC

I guessed at it, but proof, yay.

Nice :D
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Postby Belial » Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:53 am UTC

So badass
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They/them

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Postby SpitValve » Wed Aug 15, 2007 5:05 am UTC

The phrase "grain of salt" comes to mind.

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Re: Dust "comes alive" in space

Postby yy2bggggs » Wed Aug 15, 2007 6:01 am UTC


Herman
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Postby Herman » Wed Aug 15, 2007 6:06 am UTC

SpitValve wrote:A "grain of salt" develops a mind.


Fix'd

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Postby bbctol » Fri Aug 17, 2007 10:47 pm UTC

Herman wrote:
SpitValve wrote:A "grain of salt" develops a mind.


Fix'd


:D

If this is true, it is crazy awesome and sci-fi writers will pick up on it right away. If not, sci-fi writers will pick up on it anyway.

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Postby Meowsma » Sat Aug 18, 2007 5:54 am UTC

These interacting complex structures exhibit ... self-duplication, metabolic rates in a thermodynamically open system


That's life, if you ask me.

bifurcations that serve as `memory marks' ... and non-Hamiltonian dynamics.


Even moreso.

Pretty incredible, this discovery.

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Postby Bondolon » Sat Aug 18, 2007 6:34 am UTC

bbctol wrote:
Herman wrote:
SpitValve wrote:A "grain of salt" develops a mind.


Fix'd


:D

If this is true, it is crazy awesome and sci-fi writers will pick up on it right away. If not, sci-fi writers will pick up on it anyway.


I've read some sci-fi that discusses this, and the crystalline entity on ST:TNG was this (presumably).

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Postby LE4dGOLEM » Sat Aug 18, 2007 11:28 am UTC

first link wrote:“The question now is to see if it can evolve to become intelligent. It’s a little bit like science fiction at the moment. The potential level of complexity we are looking at is of an amoeba or a plant.


LOL WUT.

EDIT for real content:

Is a plant not significantly more complex than an amoeba?
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Postby idont_know12 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 8:40 pm UTC

This is an awesome discovery, and makes me very happy.

Finally, perhaps, scientists will realize that there's no logical reason that 'life' would only exist in the form of hydrocarbon structures.
I'm very curious to see where this goes.

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Postby 4=5 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:10 pm UTC

LE4dGOLEM wrote:
first link wrote:“The question now is to see if it can evolve to become intelligent. It’s a little bit like science fiction at the moment. The potential level of complexity we are looking at is of an amoeba or a plant.


LOL WUT.

EDIT for real content:

Is a plant not significantly more complex than an amoeba?
and an amoeba is really freaking complex!

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Postby Sartorius » Wed Aug 22, 2007 5:18 am UTC

So's a plant. Can we not all agree that life itself is amazing and continue?
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Postby Knuckles » Wed Aug 22, 2007 11:47 am UTC

There are seven conditions which an object must meet to be considered alive. We learned these in middle school. As a refresher, let me run you through them and compare each against your typical bit of floating space matter.

Homeostasis - this is a fancy word which means an organism retains a constant internal environment independent of the external environment. For example, your temperature is the same whether it's 0 or 100 degrees outside. Space matter does not meet this requirement. Its internal temperature and environment is dependent on the conditions of the void it's floating in.

Composed of cells - exactly what it sounds like. If they find a weird cellular analogue in space matter, that's fine, but it must have an analogue of SOME sort. Animal, plant, bacterial, and fungal cells are wildly different, but they all serve the same purpose: they are the "atoms" of organisms, the smallest part which uniquely identifies and structures the organism as a whole. Cells carry out specialized tasks and retain information about the genetics and large-scale structure of an organism. Space matter does not have a cellular analogue.

Metabolism - a living thing must consume energy and use it. Space matter does not consume energy from any source, merely absorbs it. Nor does it perform the other function of metabolism: transforming matter which is not part of the organism into matter which is part of the organism. The article claims space matter does metabolise, but I have yet to see any evidence which says it can beyond the article. Tentatively, you might be able to claim space matter meets this criteria, but further research is required.

Growth - living things must grow through metabolism, such as a child getting stronger bones from finishing his veggies or an amoeba growing from phagocytosis. Growth is NOT merely the introduction of new matter, so collisions between objects in space is not growth in a biological sense, since nothing is metabolised. Space matter does not grow.

Adaptation - This is an organism's ability to change in accordance with the environment so as to better suit living conditions (on a basic level, adaptation ensures good reproduction and metabolism, and helps homeotstasis from being thrown out of wack). It is the primary agent of evolution. You'll notice that comets have yet to evolve. This is because they do not adapt to the environment.

Resonse to environment - An organism will respond when an environmental condition changes. A response can be as simple as moving away from a source of heat or other pain, and covers everything through to phenomena like emotions and feelings that sentient beings experience. Space matter does not react to environmental changes, except in the same way all matter does on a chemical level, such as by melting when extreme heat is applied.

Reproduction - this is the creation of new organisms from parents. The article claims space matter reproduces, but again, I have seen no evidence suggesting it does. I can make no comment on whether or not space matter meets this criteria.

So there you go. Space matter meets, at most, 2 of 7 conditions required to be life, as we have defined it. At best, you're looking at "life" which is on the same level as prions and viruses, both of which are considered somewhere between "real" life and growing crystals. At worst, you're looking at growing crystals.

The helix structure bit, by the way, is a red herring. Lots of structures are present throughout the universe. Implying space matter is life because it has a helix structure at the molecular level is as ridiculous as saying that my balls are planets because they're spherical (like planets). Perhaps the helix structure is a structure which underpins all MATTER, not all life specifically.

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Postby German Sausage » Wed Aug 22, 2007 2:06 pm UTC

Knuckles wrote:Homeostasis - this is a fancy word which means an organism retains a constant internal environment independent of the external environment. For example, your temperature is the same whether it's 0 or 100 degrees outside. Space matter does not meet this requirement. Its internal temperature and environment is dependent on the conditions of the void it's floating in.


What about cold-blooded creatures?

Also, fire fills five (or six, if you consider that it has a constant-ish heat) of those categories. I don't like your theory.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:44 pm UTC

Knuckles wrote:There are seven conditions which an object must meet to be considered alive. We learned these in middle school.

But does that make it true? Life has been around a lot longer than this particular clump of philosophical contortionism. If a creature from space walks up to me and shakes my hand, and starts a conversation, I'm going to say he's alive. Should something be really strange about him--like, he's not made up of cells, sorry--he's still alive.

As weird and hypothetical as this may be, it should be treated seriously if you really want to separate definition of life from observed properties common to terrestrial life.

Nevertheless, with respect to said definitions, I think you missed some stuff from the peer reviewed article I linked to.
The helix structure bit, by the way, is a red herring. Lots of structures are present throughout the universe. Implying space matter is life because it has a helix structure at the molecular level is as ridiculous as saying that my balls are planets because they're spherical (like planets). Perhaps the helix structure is a structure which underpins all MATTER, not all life specifically.

...but I think you missed the point. It's not that they are helical that's special, it's that their helical structure is formed in plasma (i.e., there exists an abiogenetic process to form the structures), and that these structures can self replicate by virtue of the geometry/physics involved (see the article I linked to).

Edit:
Please note: I'm not arguing these crystals are alive; I'm arguing that there are issues with this particular response.

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Postby 4=5 » Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:51 pm UTC

Knuckles wrote:
Composed of cells - exactly what it sounds like. If they find a weird cellular analogue in space matter, that's fine, but it must have an analogue of SOME sort. Animal, plant, bacterial, and fungal cells are wildly different, but they all serve the same purpose: they are the "atoms" of organisms, the smallest part which uniquely identifies and structures the organism as a whole. Cells carry out specialized tasks and retain information about the genetics and large-scale structure of an organism. Space matter does not have a cellular analogue.


I can imagine a collection of enzimes and protiens that can reproduce without the confines of a cell, sure it would be harder for them, but it's not impossible


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