Taken Directly from Science Daily…
Chemists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Hawaii, Manoa, showed that conditions in space are capable of creating complex dipeptides — linked pairs of amino acids — that are essential building blocks shared by all living things. The discovery opens the door to the possibility that these molecules were brought to Earth aboard a comet or possibly meteorites, catalyzing the formation of proteins (polypeptides), enzymes and even more complex molecules, such as sugars, that are necessary for life.
“It is fascinating to consider that the most basic biochemical building blocks that led to life on Earth may well have had an extraterrestrial origin,” said UC Berkeley chemist Richard Mathies, coauthor of a paper published online last week and scheduled for the March 10 print issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
While scientists have discovered basic organic molecules, such as amino acids, in numerous meteorites that have fallen to Earth, they have been unable to find the more complex molecular structures that are prerequisites for our planet’s biology. As a result, scientists have always assumed that the really complicated chemistry of life must have originated in Earth’s early oceans.
In an ultra-high vacuum chamber chilled to 10 degrees above absolute zero (10 Kelvin), Seol Kim and Ralf Kaiser of the Hawaiian team simulated an icy snowball in space including carbon dioxide, ammonia and various hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane and propane. When zapped with high-energy electrons to simulate the cosmic rays in space, the chemicals reacted to form complex, organic compounds, specifically dipeptides, essential to life.
At UC Berkeley, Mathies and Amanda Stockton then analyzed the organic residues through the Mars Organic Analyzer, an instrument that Mathies designed for ultrasensitive detection and identification of small organic molecules in the solar system. The analysis revealed the presence of complex molecules — nine different amino acids and at least two dipeptides — capable of catalyzing biological evolution on earth.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Mathies Royalty Fund at UC Berkeley.
We thought we would share this great article Sourced from BRISBANE TIMES – published 28 Novmeber 2012
Where even the earth is melting
THE world is on the cusp of a “tipping point” into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.
“The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales,” says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. “Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started.”
While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions.
Climate change scientists warn the rate of melting of permafrost in the Arctic could cause significant impact to the environment. Pictures courtesy of an Australian documentary team from Unboxed Media, which is producing a series called Tipping Points, to be aired in 2013.
Human-induced emissions now appear to have warmed the Arctic enough to unlock this vast carbon bank, with stark implications for international efforts to hold global warming to a safe level. Ancient forests locked under ice tens of thousands of years ago are beginning to melt and rot, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air.
The report estimates the greenhouse gases leaking from the thawing Arctic will eventually add more to emissions than last year’s combined carbon output of the US and Europe – a statistic which means present global plans to hold climate change to an average 2degree temperature rise this century are now likely to be much more difficult.
Until very recently permafrost was thought to have been melting too slowly to make a meaningful difference to temperatures this century, so it was left out of the Kyoto Protocol, and ignored by many climate change models.
“Permafrost emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 per cent of total emissions,” said the report’s lead author, Kevin Schaefer, of the University of Colorado, who presented it at climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar. “This must be factored in to treaty negotiations expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol.”
What isn’t known is the precise rate and scale of the melt, and that is being tackled in a remarkable NASA experiment that hardly anyone has heard of, but which could prove to be one of the most crucial pieces of scientific field work undertaken this century.
The findings, for now, are still under wraps. “But I think ‘tantalising’ is probably the right word,” said Charles Miller, the principal investigator in NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment, or CARVE.
His office is a rugged little Sherpa passenger aircraft, stripped of seating and packed with electronics and sensors. Each day, the plane criss-crosses the ice fields, forests and tundra of Alaska, skimming along at low altitude, hugging the contours of the ground.
“I’ve seen the annual migration of the caribou – thousands of animals in a single line stretching for 10kilometres along a ridge, led by a bull with giant antlers,” Professor Miller said. “There are grizzly bears in the forests, and moose wallowing in lakes – it’s just incredibly beautiful up here.”
But it isn’t the scenery that brought them to Alaska. What the scientists are searching for is invisible to the human eye – the haze of methane and CO2 that hovers low over the landscape in summer as the permafrost melts.
“We fly like a rollercoaster, in a flight line that touches the ‘boundary layer’ [a layer where the air from the ground mingles with higher altitudes] and then we fly down, and come straight back up. We keep doing that repeatedly,” Professor Miller said.
The plane dips in and out of the methane plumes, sucking up data that hints at the extent and speed of the permafrost melt.
“We’re finding very, very interesting changes, particularly in terms of methane concentrations,” he said. “When scientists say ‘interesting’, it usually means ‘not what we expected’. We’re seeing biological activity in various places in Alaska that’s much more active than I would have expected, and also much more variable from place to place … There are changes as much as 10 to 12 parts per million for CO2 – so that’s telling us that the local biology is doing something like five or six years worth of change in the space of a few hundred metres.”
Methane is not present in the frozen soil, but is instead created as the earth thaws and organic matter is consumed by tiny organisms.
“If the Arctic becomes warmer and drier, we will see it released as carbon dioxide, but if it is warmer and wetter it will be released as methane.”
The findings of the first year of the experiment are so complex that Professor Miller and his team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are still trying to work out exactly what they have found. The results are being kept secret, which is standard practice while the numbers are crunched and the work is submitted to a peer-review process.
“What we can say is that methane is significantly elevated in places – about 2000 parts per billion, against a normal background of about 1850 parts per billion,” he said. “It’s interesting because the models are predicting one thing and what we are observing is something fairly different.”
The rate of melt was “deeply concerning”, said Andy Pitman, the director of Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, an adviser to the Climate Commission, and a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports.
“It had been assumed that on the timescale of the 21st century, that the effects of methane release would be relatively small compared to other effects – that’s why it has been largely left out of the climate models,” Professor Pitman said.
“I think it’s fair to say that until recently climate scientists underrated the rate at which permafrost melt could release methane. I think we’ve been shown to be over-conservative. It’s happening faster than we had thought … This is not good news.”
The report presented to the UN said a tipping point could still be averted if the world moved to cut emissions from fossil fuels fast.
“The target climate for the climate change treaty is not out of date,” Professor Schaefer told Fairfax Media. “However, negotiation of anthropogenic emissions targets to meet the 2 degree warming target must account for emissions from thawing permafrost. Otherwise, we risk overshooting the target climate.”
The report pointed out that permafrost carbon feedback had not been included in the Fourth IPCC report, the most recent update from the UN’s climate body, published in 2007.
“Participating modelling teams have completed their climate projections in support of the Fifth Assessment Report, but these projections do not include the permafrost carbon feedback,” the report said. “Consequently, the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, due for release in stages between September 2013 and October 2014, will not include the potential effects of the permafrost carbon feedback on global climate.”
The cost of this omission could be high if measured in financial terms, according to Pep Canadell, a CSIRO scientist and executive director of the Global Carbon Project, which tallies how much CO2 humans can release before the climate can be expected to warm to dangerous levels.
“If you were to take the price of a tonne of carbon to be $23 like Australia does, you are looking at an extra cost of about $35 billion for the permafrost,” Dr Canadell said. “That’s on top of the hundreds of billions we already know it will cost to slow emissions to reach a 2degree level. It’s a significant problem in the carbon budget.”
The evidence that major change is already happening is trickling in not just from the NASA measurements, but from ground-based tests.
“There is compelling evidence, not just that permafrost will thaw, but that it is already rapidly thawing,” said Ben Abbott, a researcher at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
“Borehole measurements, where temperature readings are taken at multiple depths within the soil, show more than 2 degree soil warming in some areas of Alaska. While that may not sound like much, a lot of permafrost is at or just below freezing. The difference between minus 1degree and 1degree is the difference between a fresh frozen meal and a rotten mess.”
In a piece in the journal Nature, Mr Abbott and fellow researcher Edward Schuur from the University of Florida summarised recent findings from experts in the field.
About 1700 billion tonnes of organic carbon is held in frozen northern soils, they said – about four times more than all the carbon emitted by human activity in modern times and twice as much as is present in the atmosphere now. The impact of thawing soil on the speed of climate change will be similar to the total rate of logging in all forests around the world, they calculated.
“Our collective estimate is that carbon will be released more quickly than models suggest, and at levels that are cause for serious concern,” they wrote. “We calculate that permafrost thaw will release the same order of magnitude of carbon as deforestation if current rates of deforestation continue.”
Like Professor Miller, Mr Abbott’s job involves long expeditions into the Alaskan tundra.
“I think it’s easy for people to feel that the Arctic is just a far away place that will never have any direct effect on their life,” he said. “[But] the last time a majority of permafrost carbon was thawed and lost to the atmosphere, temperatures increased by 6degrees. That’s a different world. Too often climate change is depicted as a story of drowning polar bears and third world countries. Human-caused climate change has the potential to change our way of life. Mix in the potent feedbacks from the permafrost system and it becomes clear that we need to act now.”
Situations sometimes consume us. They take over our lives and they simply consume us. Our past situations linger in our mind, in our hearts and in our souls and they leave us drained and simply tired of being tired. Current situations have the ability of wearing us thin, making us angry and draining our minds of everything we are capable of… We, as humans simply get sucked in by situation and spat out…
This is where sometimes I truly believe we need to remember where we live and what actually surrounds us. Not the situations that we live in, and not the situations that surround us, but the physical being of the world – nature, our planet, everything that has existed much before us and the situations that consume our minds.
We need to take a step back and appreciate our world, our planet and the true beauty that it offers us. We need to let it inspire us, motivate us and simply let yourself be in awe of its magnificents.
I challenge you today, this week, this month to take a time out, a coffee break and to enjoy nature… Really appreciate what has been for millions and millions of years, and what will exist for millions and millions more.
This post was inspired by the documentary Planet Earth – watch the documentary HERE
for National Geographic News
Published October 11, 2012
The universe just got a bit richer with the discovery of an apparent diamond-rich planet orbiting a nearby star.
Dubbed 55 Cancri e, the rocky world is only twice the size of Earth but has eight times its mass—classifying it as a “super Earth,” a new study says. First detected crossing in front of its parent star in 2011, the close-in planet orbits its star in only 18 hours. As a result, surface temperatures reach an uninhabitable 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit (2,150 degrees Celsius)—which, along with carbon, make perfect conditions for creating diamonds.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope collected data on the planet’s orbital distance and mass, and resulting computer models created a picture of 55 Cancri e’s chemical makeup.
“Science fiction has dreamed of diamond planets for many years, so it’s amazing that we finally have evidence of its existence in the real universe,” said study leader Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University.
“It’s the first time we know of such an exotic planet that we think was born mostly of carbon—which really makes this a fundamental game-changer in our understanding of what’s possible in planetary chemistry.”
(See “‘Diamond’ Planet Found; May Be Stripped Star.”)
At only 40 light-years away, in the northern constellation Cancer, the gemlike planet sits relatively near Earth. In dark skies, 55 Cancri e’s host star is clearly visible to the naked eye. (See gem pictures.)
Diamond Planet Has Odd Chemistry
The new models fit with previous studies that showed 55 Cancri e’s parent star was abundant in carbon—much more so than our sun.
“If we make the assumption that the star and its surrounding planets are all born from the same primordial disk of material, then it makes sense that the entire planetary system would be carbon rich,” said Madhusudhan, whose study will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Princeton astronomer David Spergel believes the diamond-planet find probably represents the first discovery of a whole new class of planets whose chemistry has never been encountered. (Related: “‘Diamond Planets’ Hint at Dazzling Promise of Other Worlds.”)
“Unlike our solar system, which is dominated by oxygen and silicates, this planetary system is filled with carbon,” said Spergel, who was not involved in the new study.
“While it’s still unknown exactly what implication this will have on our understanding of evolution of planetary systems,” he said, “there’s no doubt it is an important step towards understanding the full diversity of planets.”
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[Microscopic] evidence cannot be presented ad populum. What is seen with the microscope depends not only upon the instrument and the rock-section, but also upon the brain behind the eye of the observer. Each of us looks at a section with the accumulated experience of his past study. Hence the veteran cannot make the novice see with his eyes; so that what carries conviction to the one may make no appeal to the other….
— Thomas George Bonney ‘The Anniversary Address of the President’, Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 1885, 41, 59.
The above quote ends with “This fact does not always seem to be sufficiently recognized by geologists at large.”
As a geologist do you believe this to be true?
Does image effect opinion?
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but lets be honest in this day and age, whether it be a book or a person, a coffee or a company we do not have time to delve much deeper than what we hear and see.
Two books, one advertised and promoted with positive reviews, an enticing cover and a cheery author willing to do signings, against a plain covered, non- reviewed, non-advertised, lone book sitting on the shelve with no author to be seen – which do you buy?
This morning I came across an article in The Australian:
ADVERTISING executive Steve Harris has a blunt message for the nation’s mining industry leaders: lift your poor image and low profile or get used to being attacked by governments and milked for more tax revenue.
And I couldn’t help but to think to myself that this was too true.
The report commented that:
Unsurprisingly for an ad executive, Harris reckons mining companies should boost their advertising budgets to help get their message out and garner more grassroots support.
“If you look at prominent, high-profile brands in Australia that are respected and trusted and loved, you have organisations like McDonald’s that sells fast, fatty food — and one of their key engagement points in the community is the Ronald McDonald House program,” he says.
“That’s a couple of million dollars a year in each state. Compare that to Rio’s $33m investment in WA communities.
Referring back to my original comparison with the books, the same goes for all companies and I hate to admit it, but this marketing executive is right – it is about image.
People hate the mining companies, and more often than not I sit down with a group of friends or family and they so readily can tell me why mining is bad, yet they can not tell me why it is good.
People love fast food, they can tell you why it is good, but very few admit why it is bad.
And the only difference I can see – promotion.
It is sad, but it is so, so very true. We live in a society of promotion. Where the guy who shamelessly tells people how awesome he is, is seen as awesome. Where as the guy who sits on the sidelines and works for the greater good is forgotten…
Image is everything. Promotion is evens more. And perhaps This Article has an insight that the big corporations should really be taking into consideration in this declining climate…
Do you think shameless promotion could have changed the image of the mining corporation? And if we started now, is it too late? Or would it simply come across as what it truly is?
Geology isn’t just about the world around us, it is about the universe that surrounds us.
And Geology isn’t as much about the here and the now, nor about the future, but rather about our past and how it effects our future…
You and I both know that there are many events in time which have altered the course of our lives, and we all know that this isn’t specific to Geology. So often in my life I know I ponder the what if’s. The events that have effected me over my lifetime occasionally leave me standing staring into oblivion seeing myself as Gwyneth Paltrow in sliding doors – if I get on that train where will my life take me – a fork in the road leading my life in two very different directions….
Our world and our universe is no different.
And Sunday as I switched on the news to hear the passing of someone who had become somewhat of an icon [perhaps that is an understatement] for making what was once seen as science fiction into reality for a brief moment in time I thought to myself…
What if we had not taken that first step? Perhaps it may have lead us to an existence where we never say ‘why not’?
The enormity of what happened on July 20, 1969 is in someways unfathomable – so much so that there are people out there spending their lives proving that it was a fake.
And in my opinion it has lead us to a reality where people now say – we can do that.
Create space stations – why not?
Investigate other planets – why not?
Mine asteroids – why not?
Personally how many times have I said, will I say – “well if they can send a man to the moon…..”
Anything is possible, and while there was an army of people who sent a team of men to the moon on that memorable day, it is and always will be Neil Armstrong who is remembered for what I would have to call one of the most inspirational and motivational feats that man has ever achieved.
The past is our future. Geology shows us that everyday with every new discovery in something as simple [or complex] as a rock…. And everyday as we watch the world around us grow in amazing ways, as we see humans taking exploration to out of this world new limits, in part we can almost say [or at least on this day in the passing of a hero] that this one event changed our lives, and the lives of our children forever…
It was, and always will be – One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind…
May a hero rest in peace knowing that his bravery and his words not only changed the world, but changed the mindset of a generation…