back to article New theory: The space alien origins of vital bio-blueprints for dinosaurs. And cats. And humans. And everything else

Molecules essential to life on Earth may have been delivered to our home world by meteorites and comets, according to the results of experiments. Specifically, a team of brainiacs at the University of Hawaii in the US, National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan, and the Université Côte d’Azur in France, looked into the origin of …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Never make assumptions

    They assume it was comets and meteorites that brought DNA and RNA to Earth, but it could just have easily been the B-Ark.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Never make assumptions

      Or maybe it was a long-term investment by a bloke in an invisible suit, starting up new hunting grounds.

    2. Lloyd

      Re: Never make assumptions

      Have you been out in your local High Street recently? I'd say the B-Ark is a definite favourite for the origin.

      1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "I'd say the B-Ark is a definite favourite for the origin"

        Lloyd I think you are being a bit optimistic. Much further down the alphabet would be my assessment.

        Uppies.

    3. Mips

      But still...

      ...the Universe made us!

      What about God? Oh! It is out there somewhere. Or everywhere.

  2. Timmy B Silver badge
    Trollface

    I wonder who

    made the "coated slivers of polished silver wafers" way out in space that seem to be needed for this?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I wonder who

      ..and did they leave any ice cream?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Alien

    I, for one,

    Welcome our new phosphorous alien overlords!

  4. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    brainiacs

    brainiacs — my brain hurts reading this.

  5. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Ok, so it's a typo ...

    ... but I like the name of the new chemical 'phopshine'.

    Obviously developed for polishing silver if you have dirty cutlery whilst having lunch in a vacuum or notice your pesky bracelet has tarnished charms on the way to Mars ...

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Ok, so it's a typo ...

      Not sure but I think I may have drunk a lot of that at Uni.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    There's plenty of phosphorus in the Earth's crust so no need to look for extra-terrestrial origins. Oh, silly me. There is. Publications.

    1. cbars

      I don't think it was explicitly stated, but the article implied that the specific chemical phosphine is not formed by natural processes on Earth. I am not a chemist, but I guess it's not likely for the crust phosphorus to react with 3 Hydrogen atoms due to it being already bonded with other elements.

      On the other hand I also have no idea why phosphine is specifically required to get to the amino acidy bits, my GCSE biology has not stuck with me but I thought you can usually get to chemicals through various routes. In conclusion I both disagree and agree with your skepticism.

      1. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge

        phopshine

        phopshine sounds like the name of a photoshop plug-in that makes your pictures shine.

        We understand that the earth's atmosphere used to be reducing in the olden days, before photosyntheseis liberated lots of molecular oxygen (O2) that would readily react with any phosphine (PH3) our there to produce phosphates (H3PO4).

        1. SonOfDilbert

          Re: phopshine

          "Phopshine" - made from the finest grain and potatoes. Best served chilled to -273.5 Celsius.

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Heh, nice try but I'm not falling for that one - if there was phosphorus in the ground it would glow at night, and it obviously doesn't!

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Coat

        That's because the fireflies are eating it as soon as it shows.

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      I'm normally critical of the panspermia crowd. But it appears that naturally occurring phosphates aren't in a form suitable for life. Plants and microbes convert it into the form we need. But that leaves the small problem of how phosphate got into the form necessary for life before there was any life. If most of the earth's oceans came from comets and that was contaminated with biology-friendly phosphates, then we're quids in. So this research has merit.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Boffin

        My main problem with the panspermia crowd are the ones that see it as the answer, when all it does really is shift the question.

        Some of them almost sound religious "God did it. The end." in their answer.... "But who created God" apparently isn't a logical follow-up.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I find these 'possibility' type theories both annoying and misleading and agree with Dr. Syntax that the main motivation for them is to get something published.

      Everything in the Solar System was made from the same small portion of a much larger molecular cloud nova remnant and this would have been fairly homogeneous until the Sun and planets were well on their way to formation, for without the Sun and planetisimals there would have been nothing to cause differentiation, to separate the different materials in the cloud.

      Water is a good example of this: many people now believe that Earth originally had no water at all and that it was all delivered by comets. The reality is that whilst Earth's oceans account for 96.5% of all the surface/near surface water, there's evidence that somewhere between 1.5-11 times this amount exists in the Earth's mantle, hundreds of miles deep, and which wouldn't have got there via comets.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Also doesn't a post formation origin for all sorts of stuff fail the volume test? Presumably there has to be gazillions of comets/roid's hitting proto-earth to deliver enough phosphorus material for life to spontaneously develop.

        Isn't deposition prior and during proto-earth formation far more likely? Especially since you have all the time the Earth took to both develop an atmosphere and/or a magnetic field for high power cosmic rays to hit the embedded phosphorus.

        1. SonOfDilbert

          Comeroids

          Whilst I'm sure your post has scientific merit, I can't help but fixate on your comeroids ("comets/roid's"). Anything with a "roid" in it sounds painful.

      2. cornetman

        > I find these 'possibility' type theories both annoying and misleading and agree with Dr. Syntax that the main motivation for them is to get something published.

        I concur and I wonder if what is proposed even qualifies as a theory.

        Surely, "hypothesis" would be more appropriate...if we're going to be precise and all.

        No wonder creationists still use the tiresome phrase "just a theory" if the rest of us are so careless with our language.

    5. Kernel

      "There's plenty of phosphorus in the Earth's crust so no need to look for extra-terrestrial origins. Oh, silly me. There is. Publications."

      My reading of the article is that it is known that elemental phosphorus is created in massive stars, so any phosphorus present on earth must have an extra-terrestrial origin, presumably by way of earth being made from material scattered by the explosion of one or more suitably massive stars.

  7. _LC_
    Facepalm

    Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

    * We know from most religions, that god has to be male.

    Could it be that it was his jizz floating around in the universe, landing on planet earth? Damn, if only he'd used some handkerchiefs...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

      That would be the panspermia theory.

      1. _LC_

        Re: Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

        Are you insinuating that he 'fired off' into other directions, as well? So there are extraterrestrials out there then and they look just like us!

        Quite some manners, that. Dude needs a mom, I'd say.

        1. David Harper 1

          Re: Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

          "Quite some manners, that. Dude needs a mom, I'd say."

          Or a supply of socks.

          1. SonOfDilbert

            Re: Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

            I've never understood the sock thing...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

              > I've never understood the sock thing...

              If you have to explain it, then it's no longer funny.

              Probably something about not having a box of tissues. Or a girlfriend.

    2. SonOfDilbert

      Re: Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

      Handkerchiefs??? Who on Earth uses handkerchiefs to clean up their excess semen leakage???

      "Would you like some tissues, dear?"

      "Good God no! We're not plebs! Pass me one of my embroidered handkerchiefs!"

  8. Paul Cooper

    Earthly origins

    Of course everything needed for life came from asteroids and comets - isn't that how the earth (and all the other planets) accreted in the first place?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Earthly origins

      According to the paper, the phosphates in the earth's crust aren't very water soluble or useful for biology. Plants and microbes overcome this for us but that's no good before there were plants and microbes -- and for life to get going we did need to be swimming in it; every DNA or RNA nucleotide ("letter") needs at least one phosphate anion.

      But if comets and meteors are polluted with space-synthesized phosphates of the sort life needs, then perhaps that's where it came from.

      1. Grikath Silver badge

        Re: Earthly origins

        Phosphates aren't very water soluble, but that isn't really a problem for basic biochemistry, given that all energetic processes where phosphor is involved ( which are quite important ones ) do not use phosphate, but phosphoric acid.

        Which is quite readily soluble in water, and readily formed near, say, the highly acidic environment near an underwater volcano. Which, surprise!, even to this day supports life based on purely anaerobic chemotrophic mechanisms.

        People do tend to forget that Early Earth, when life started, was a bit....different... in ecology than nowadays.

  9. stuwaldy

    Re: Assumption: There is a god and he* created everything.

    That'll be the coming of the lord that they sing about.

  10. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Oh FFS

    Either 'I cant work out how life started on a warm wet chemical rich earth so it must have formed in cold barren space' or 'it was somehow created on another warm wet chemical rich planet and was somehow blasted into space in a way that somehow preserved the life from the massive acceleration required to do so to travel across space unaffected by radiation or time and magically land on earth without burning up in the atmosphere or suffering massive deceleration that regularly causes shocks that can shatter quarts let alone the remaining life in the missile!

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coat

    Well I personally ...

    go for the Great Green Arkleseizure theory.

  12. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge
    Boffin

    "deoxyribose, in a chain that forms the backbone of DNA and RNA"

    Err, no, you'll only find deoxyribose in DNA. The clue is in the names, *Deoxyribo*Nucleic Acid and *Ribo*Nucleic Acid.

    1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

      Re: "deoxyribose, in a chain that forms the backbone of DNA and RNA"

      Yep. Also, both ribose and deoxyribose are carbohydrates and contain no phosphorous; it's the phosphorous groups which link the sugars to form the backbone of the respective RNA and DNA molecules. DNA is double stranded and RNA is single stranded, no helix shape.

      Meep!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OMG! WE ARE ALL ILLEGAL ALIENS!!!

    Don't tell Trump He's got to kick himself out....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OMG! WE ARE ALL ILLEGAL ALIENS!!!

      > Don't tell Trump He's got to kick himself out....

      Oh, please do actually. Maybe he can practice just the kicking himself part first before getting to the "out" part.

      If he needs to he can practice on Kavanaugh, McConnell and Graham first. I'd like that.

  14. Mombasa69

    still impossible

    Basically like a Swiss Watch magically being created from sand blowing about randomly, that's how impossible that RNA and DNA happened by chance, I'm no creationist either, they have the same problem, if there was a God, who created God?

    The mystery continues.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From the article:

    >They then bombarded them with electrons in a vacuum chamber cooled to 5 Kelvin (-268 degrees Celsius). The electrons mimic the ionizing radiation from cosmic rays and the temperature matches the coldness of space.

    Why not also ionizing radiation in the form of gamma, UV and X-rays? I am not sure how many free electrons there are in outer space but there is plenty of EM radiation and not only from the sun.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thought the current working hypothesis was

    Some sort of rocks with polar surfaces acting as ionic lenses to concentrate important biomolecules.

    Seem to recall iron sulfide aka fool's gold being one of them.

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