The news keeps pouring in—surprising bits of information about exoplanets and micro-biochemistry that make the existence of life beyond Earth more and more likely.
First a water review. Life’s most likely solvent is everywhere, not only far out sloshing around on exoplanets, but inside the moons of Jupiter and Saturn—lots of it. Scientific American January 2016 reports that Earth is loaded with about 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of water. Titan has 13 times that much. Europa 1-2 times that much, Callisto 12-14 times, Ganymede 1-22 times. Enceladus has only 0.1 times or 130 million cubic kilometers, but that’s still quite a lot, especially if the temperature near its rocky core reaches the expected 90 degrees C.
Subsurface oceans (listed from largest to smallest) include Ganymede, moon of Jupiter; Titan, moon of Saturn; Europa, moon of Jupiter; Triton, moon of Neptune; Pluto, Ceres, Enceladus, moon of Saturn , and Mimos, moon of Saturn.
Much farther out in the Milky Way shines star J1407, a young spinning star with a huge planetary ring system probably carrying a large moon. Such a moon, especially if orbiting an easy-to-detect gas-giant planet, “…could provide a relatively life-friendly, rocky, water-bearing surface..[which] would greatly expand the possibilities for places where life could exist.”
Then there are genes. The more we learn the more amazing they seem: Cancer cells expand our notion of how life works, or might find ways to come alive and thrive. David Matus of Stony book University found a gene in the transparent work Caenorhabditis elegans that regulates the ability of an anchor cell to invade host tissue. When turned off, the gene could not invade, but it could divide. When it could not divide,
the cell began to invade again.
Think cancer cells. Apparently, if genes in cancer cells can be turned off to stop their division, invasion is made possible. “…halting cell division was both necessary and sufficient for invasion.” See October
2016 Journal Developmental Cell.
Cancer biologists have long noted that invasive cancer cells leave dividing cells behind “…and push forward into healthy tissue.” That’s why we need to target those non-dividing invasive cancer cells as well as dividing cells to devise a cure. Understanding such basic genetic functions could expand our insight into how primitive genetic mechanisms get started.
Author of The Archives of Varok
The View Beyond Earth (Book 1. Rewrite of A Place Beyond Man 1975)
The Webs of Varok (Book 2.)
Nautilus silver award 2013 YA
ForeWord finalist 2012 adult SF
The Alien Effect (Book 3.)
An Alien’s Quest–Reconciliation and Hope (Book 4. coming in 2015)
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How the Hen House Turns- http://www.ladailypost.com
Complexity, Bio, Bibliography and Links- http://caryneeper.com
Astrobiology- http://astronaut.wpengine.com search:Who’s Out There