Tag Archives | Life

Did Life On Earth Start With A Single Ocean-Sized Mega-Creature?

lucaFile this under we-are-all-connected: three billion years ago, life on Earth may have been a global mega-organism called LUCA, from which all living things today are descended. Can we get an artist’s rending of this colossal being?  New Scientist writes:

ONCE upon a time, 3 billion years ago, there lived a single organism called LUCA. It was enormous: a mega-organism like none seen since, it filled the planet’s oceans before splitting into three and giving birth to the ancestors of all living things on Earth today.

This strange picture is emerging from efforts to pin down the last universal common ancestor – not the first life that emerged on Earth but the life form that gave rise to all others.

The latest results suggest LUCA was the result of early life’s fight to survive, attempts at which turned the ocean into a global genetic swap shop for hundreds of millions of years.

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86-Year-Old Veteran Chronicles His Life in Rage Comic

RageNot something you would expect from an 86-year-old. Andy Khouri writes on Comics Alliance:

“Rage comics” are a memetic phenomenon by which crude digital drawings of different facial expressions and physical gestures are remixed infinitely by countless individuals to convey the elation, despair, love and hatred of the Internet hive mind. We usually talk about these comics in ironically grandiose terms (like when a rage comic face appeared in a man’s testicular sonogram) but the truth is that many of them are genuinely hilarious reads (like the Rage Comics All Stars’ “performance” of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”), and some are even quite touching.

Because rage comics typically express primal responses to utterly mundane but often “scene”-specific experiences, it would seem unlikely that an 86-year-old man would be the author of what many Reddit users are calling the greatest rage comic ever made. Published earlier this week on the man’s birthday, the comic details in deeply personal terms the events of his life, beginning with his earlier memories from childhood and including his service in World War II, estrangement from his children and discovery of true love.

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Over 55 Percent of Mississippi Voters Agree That Fertilized Eggs Are Not People

Emily Wagster Pettus reports in the AP via Boston Globe:
JACKSON, Miss.— Mississippi voters Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would have declared life begins at fertilization, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide. The so-called "personhood" initiative was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling. The measure divided the medical and religious communities and caused some of the most ardent abortion opponents, including Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, to waver with their support.
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How Did We Get to 7 Billion from 1 Billion People in Just 200 Years? (Video)

Via NPR:
It was just over two centuries ago that the global population was 1 billion — in 1804. But better medicine and improved agriculture resulted in higher life expectancy for children, dramatically increasing the world population, especially in the West. U.N. forecasts suggest the world population could hit a peak of 10.1 billion by 2100 before beginning to decline. But exact numbers are hard to come by — just small variations in fertility rates could mean a population of 15 billion by the end of the century.
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Making Everyday Objects Deadly: The Art of the Shiv

ShivI've also heard them called shanks, the word itself, "shiv" or "shank," intuitively sounds like their intended use, further relayed with these photos from this article by William Drenttel in Design Observer:
A shiv is a weapon crafted from the limited resources of a prisoner's closed world. Crudely constructed from such things as spoons, shoelaces and upholstery tacks, shivs lie somewhere between the graceful and the grotesque. They're primitive, too — like outsider art, but produced deep on the inside. The individual parts that make up a shiv tend to be everyday objects, innocent things furtively reconstituted as lethal weapons. Each design choice is essential, but what's particularly notable is that shivs, at their core, are not so much evocations of minimalism as they are symbols of survivalism. A shiv is all about masked utility: it's an innocuous object with improbably toxic intent (whether used to attack others or to protect oneself...)
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Microbes Found Preadapted for Life in Space

Space MicrobesVia the Daily Galaxy (some have been unable to get this link, here is the cached version):

Microbes born on Earth are already pre-adapted for journeying through space, living in space, and not just surviving but flourishing in radioactive environments where they are continually exposed to radiation by ions similar to what might be encountered in a nebular cloud.

In 1958, physicists discovered clouds of bacteria, ranging from two million bacteria per cm3 and over 1 billion per quart, thriving in pools of radioactive waste directly exposed to ionizing radiation and radiation levels millions of times greater than could have ever before been experienced on this plane.

The world’s first artificial nuclear reactor was not even built until 1942. Prior to the 1945, poisonous pools of radioactive waste did not even exist on Earth. And yet, over a dozen different species of microbe have inherited the genes which enable them to survive conditions which for the previous 4.5 billion years could have only been experienced in space.

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Scientists Seek To Create Inorganic Life

_55308642_inorganicgraphic464Scientists in Scotland are attempting to dramatically expand our concept of what we consider “alive” by creating entities that reproduce and evolve, but are made out of non-carbon-based materials. Can plastic truly live? If it displayed the same characteristics that we normally attribute to living things, would it somehow seem “fake”? Via the BBC:

All life on earth is based on organic biology – in the form of carbon compounds – but the inorganic world is considered to be inanimate.

A team from Glasgow University has demonstrated a new way of making inorganic chemical cells. The aim is to create self-replicating, evolving inorganic cells which could be used in medicine and chemistry. The project is being led by Professor Lee Cronin from the university’s College of Science and Engineering.

He said: “What we are trying do is create self-replicating, evolving, inorganic cells that would essentially be alive. You could call it inorganic biology.”

Researchers say the cells, which can also store electricity, could potentially be used in all sorts of applications in medicine, as sensors or to confine chemical reactions.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life Advice Column

6-2008-04-dr-martin-luther-king-jrCould history’s greatest minds help you with your mundane daily problems? Perhaps not.

From 1957 to 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned “Advice for the Living”, a feature for Ebony magazine in which he answered readers’ questions on everything from the atom bomb to capital punishment to dating and how to catch a nice young man. (Make sure you have the “radiating personality, a pleasant disposition, and that feminine charm
which every man admires.”)

King recommends playing gospel music rather than rock, as rock ‘n’ roll “so often plunges men’s minds into degrading and immoral depths”. He tells how to gain self confidence. His admirable strategy of love and passive resistance seems to function a bit strangely when put to use in situations such as when a friend hits you on the head with an iron pole.

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Observations on Atheism

CyclopsSo the question has been raised to atheists: if life is the product of random chance and there is no divine authority and life is ultimately what you make it, then why do you care what people believe one way or another? Specifically in regard to a belief in God.

One response to the question is commentary on monotheism’s Apocalyptic “literalists” — people who sincerely want to see the world end and are actively trying to bring about its destruction.

Atheists see it as their moral duty to attack the root of such beliefs — which just happens to be belief in God. And it’s fair to say this is all part of the Atheistic consensus.

So atheists are literally trying to save the world … delusions of grandeur, anyone?

Time and time again I can’t help but notice the parallels between atheists and religious types: the bitter hostility towards anyone who doesn’t just choke down their ideology; the inconsistent belief system and subsequent rationalizations that sidestep the issue by exploiting our human emotions.… Read the rest

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Number Of Species On Earth Estimated At 8.7 Million

SpeciesEver wonder how many species are sharing this Earth? Apparently it’s 8.7 million, give or take a few. This takes into account the few thousand plant or marine species we haven’t discovered yet or documented. Via Physorg:

That is a new, estimated total number of species on Earth — the most precise calculation ever offered — with 6.5 million species found on land and 2.2 million (about 25 percent of the total) dwelling in the ocean depths.

Announced today by Census of Marine Life scientists, the figure is based on an innovative, validated analytical technique that dramatically narrows the range of previous estimates. Until now, the number of species on Earth was said to fall somewhere between 3 million and 100 million.

Furthermore, the study, published today by PLoS Biology, says a staggering 86% of all species on land and 91% of those in the seas have yet to be discovered, described and catalogued.

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