back to article Move over, Bernie Ecclestone. Scientists unearth Earth's oldest fossil yet: 4bn years old

As far as we know, nearly four billion years ago nothing walked the lands of Earth, but there was life in the seas. Now British boffins think they've found a fossil record of some of the earliest lifeforms on the planet. The structures are tubes and filaments made of haematite – a form of iron oxide – that the team postulate …

  1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

    This is from the beginning of our solar system. To me, this about the same as trace of life on Mars or even different planetary system. In other words, this is HUGE DISCOVERY. That is because there is very little commonality between Earth in that geological (even, astronomical) age, and now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

      about the same as trace of life on Mars or even different planetary system

      The same as finding life elsewhere? You stick with the rocks sir. I'll take the transport to Pandora, and breed with lithe, attractive cat-like aliens.

      1. Rattus Rattus

        Re: "breed with lithe, attractive cat-like aliens"

        Or be eaten by them. Potayto, potahto, right?

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

      It's from the point at which the big accretion of rock had formed sufficiently to have surface water with microenvironments that were stable enough to persist until some life forms occupied them. Whether those life forms came from elsewhere in the emerging Solar System, whether they blew in from further out, or whether they evolved on the spot, this suggests indeed that life, rather than being a rare phenomenon that only appears when conditions are just right, is likely to turn up very soon after even remotely suitable conditions emerge. I agree with you, that's a big thing. It is also worrying because if life is very common, why haven't we seen more evidence of it? Does every civilisation run out of resources or blow itself up before it really gets into space, or it is just that it's only primitive micro-organisms that can cross long distances because of radiation?

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

        Everyone remembers that scene in Matrix, and Mr Smith's inescapable logic. Rewriting the basic urge to subjugate, displace and consume all other life is non-trivial, especially in the time available. It only took us 100 years to get into the current mess!

        I fully expect every other civilisation to have had to face the same test. I also wonder if they faced their own Trumps...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

          "I also wonder if they faced their own Trumps..."

          There is only one Trump. It travels the universe destroying all life that reaches a certain technological threshold.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

          "I fully expect every other civilisation to have had to face the same test. I also wonder if they faced their own Trumps..."

          Current evidence for other detected planetary systems indicates they all have their own gas giants.

      2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

        @Vonya i Mor

        Maybe civilizations aren't more openly present because microbes commonly move from star system to star system, and we've just been lucky in dodging the Andromeda Strain so far.

        Either that, or civilizations start hiding the moment they develop large scale light-bending technology. That way they can hide from their redneck neighbors. I'd hide from us too, and I am one of us!

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

          Calling us 'redneck neighbors' is an insult to rednecks, in the cosmic neighborhood we are well the rednecks in crass.

          1. lockeptrv

            Sticks and stones!

            Gee, find me a "safe place". "Rednecks" were tough people. Probably with more of a sense of humor.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

        "It is also worrying because if life is very common, why haven't we seen more evidence of it?"

        Not in the least. Just because life is common doesn't mean intelligent life capable of communication over inter-stellar distances is plentiful.

        At present, pretty much all we can do shout and hope someone is listening. And if someone is listening (and happens to hear us), will they bother to reply and if they do how many decades before the reply reaches us?

        That we have, as yet, no evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy, never mind the rest of the universe means nothing.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Trace of lifeforms 3.7 bln years old

      There is commonality between Earth in that geological age and now, at the hydrothermal vents. The environment there is pretty much identical to what it was four billion years ago. Same chemical makeup, same lack of light, and same absence of oxygen in the water.

      And finding this is not the same as finding it on Mars around the same time period, because that would prove that either 1) life was not a crazy accident so it is very likely in all Earth-like planets or 2) that both were 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source since there wasn't time for life to travel on a meteor from one to the other so soon after the crust was formed. Either would have far bigger implications than this discovery alone.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

        That's dangerously close to a "turtles all the way down argument" and solves nothing ultimately about the origin of life. The much more logical argument is that life originates separately at each suitable location.

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

          And then there's the question, why only one life-seed? Why can't life bootstrap in an environment that already has life?

          I mean, explain the octopus?! Three hearts and blue blood!

          1. Chemical Bob

            Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

            "explain the octopus?! Three hearts and blue blood!"

            They're related to Andorians (?)

          2. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

            I mean, explain the octopus?! Three hearts and blue blood!
            Not to mention properly designed eyes.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

              "Not to mention properly designed eyes."

              Which work and look amazingly similiar to ours, despite developing in a way that's almost, but not quite, completely unlike ours. (the outboard processing engines to image-process things before feeding to the main brain is another major variance)

          3. I am the liquor

            Re: I mean, explain the octopus?!

            Timely paper on cephalopod evolution:

            http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2017/february/evolution-of-the-squid.html

          4. Axman

            I mean, explain the octopus?! Three hearts and blue blood!

            The octopus is easy to explain. It has ~ 95% of the same genes that we have, a similar proportion to the banana, which has no hearts and no blood.

          5. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

            cephalopods (octopii and squid) are relatively easy to explain as early divergers from our wormlike ancestors. It's more obvious in the giant squid dissection video on youtube.

            Like worms, octopii and squid brains surround the mouth and even our fishy ancestors had multiple hearts (one per gill) that evolved from worms' multiple parallel pumps. That only dropped down to one heart somewhere before amphibians as the simple inline pump became more complicated (if you look along the family lines you can see the "knotting" effect that produced 2, then 3 and then 4 chambered hearts.)

            As for the blood, there's only a one atom difference at a critical location between chlorophyll, haemocyanin and haemoglobin molecules. (magnesium vs copper vs iron respectively). Nature seldom starts over when it can adapt existing items - which explains why things end up as Heath-Robinson messes a lot of the time.

        2. psychonaut

          Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

          read "three body problem" and its 2 sequels, mainly because they are awesome, but also because it might explain* the answer to your question of why we dont we see life everywhere.

          * other answers to the question of life, the universe and everything are also available

          1. Mage Silver badge

            Re: why we dont we see life everywhere.

            We've hardly started "looking" elsewhere at anything likely. The James Webb telescope and spectroscopic analysis should help.

            Space is really big. The Oort Cloud is about 1000 times further away than the inner part of the Kuiper belt. The Milky way has billions of suns.

            The galaxy could be teaming with life, but we don't know yet.

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: why we dont we see life everywhere.

              Its taken us a good 3 billion years to get to the point of destroying the planet to the point where someone on another one nearby could be sure there was some life here. It took the universe 11 billion years to get the ingredients together to make a solar system and a planet that could nurture life, Any where else that got to the elements necessary for life earlier is probably too explosively active in terms of stars emitting high energy crap and shit flying around to sustain organic chemicals for long let alone for life to evolve enough to try and untie its own umbilical cord.

              We are probably not the first but if there is some other life out there its very likely to be so far away for us not to be able to see it yet. But dont worry - we still have pubs!

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: why we dont we see life everywhere.

              "We've hardly started "looking" elsewhere at anything likely."

              Putting this in context.

              The galaxy is 100,000 light years across. Our best planet spotting telescope has only been able to pick up large exoplanets up to 600 light years away - and super earths only reliably out to 200 light years.

              There's a lot of unviewed space out there. Here be dragons.

        3. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

          >That's dangerously close to a "turtles all the way down argument" and solves nothing ultimately about the origin of life.

          Once you've accepted that the universe sprang into existence when "nothing" exploded and resulted in something (in defiance of the laws of physics) and then the debris from that explosion defied the laws of thermodynamics and went from chaos to extraordinarily ordered systems, "turtles all the way down" is the least of your problems.

          I'm all for research, but I seem to think we've seen this before - was it rock structures on Mars? Really old inorganic stuff which doesn't relate to anything we know as organic, but seems to follow a pattern, so it might be and we might be able to disprove God by proving life on other planets! Though I'm never sure how those two things are related.

          'Tis but a funding expedition. Not to say its unworthy, but probably nothing to get excited about.

          1. Hans 1 Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

            >we might be able to disprove God by proving life on other planets!

            You cannot prove or disprove God, it is a concept ... earth's not flat, not at the center of the universe, we yumans (good old Carl) do not all have a common female ancestor, mt-DNA proves that, so the bible is a hoax, fact, undeniable fact.

            However, that does not disprove God in any way, nothing does or ever will, coz to the believer, "facts don't count" ...

            Satan icon, coz the concepts outlined above must be the pov of Satan.

            PS: I don't believe in God, Satan, heaven or hell

            1. AbelSoul
              Thumb Up

              Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

              @Hans 1:

              Upvoted purely for "yumans" - brought a nostalgic smile to my face.

            2. nijam

              Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

              > that does not disprove God in any way, nothing does or ever will, coz to the believer, "facts don't count" ...

              True, but for the more subtle true believers, their God has been carefully designed to be intrinsically unprovable (one way or the other). Or perhaps I should say, their religion has gradually evolved its definition of God to be intrinsically unprovable.

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

                True, but for the more subtle true believers, their God has been carefully designed to be intrinsically unprovable (one way or the other).
                Religious behaviour/belief in god(s) appears to be at least 100,000 years old. Aristotle gave us his laws of thought less than 2,500 years ago. A tad hard to conceive of Mesolithic humans carefully designing their religion to be unprovable millennia after the event :-)

            3. Adair

              Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

              @Hans 1 - '...so the bible is a hoax, fact, undeniable fact.'

              Assertion is not fact my good sir. It always pays to understand your target so as to avoid lobbing entirely the wrong munition it it's direction. Your main problems are that 'the Bible' is:

              a. not a 'scientific treatise'

              b. is effectively a library comprising books of a number of different literary styles, from history through to poetry, and including 'prophecy' (which is not primarily about foretelling the future), and 'apocalyptic' (which kind of is about foretelling, but in coded language).

              c. taken all together, far from being any kind of 'proof' of God, they are much more about human beings struggling to make sense of this life, and that if 'God' is what actually God is all about---more often than not they are seen to be making a pigs ear of the whole thing even when there are brief incidents of enlightenment.

              Hardly a hoax, much more a realistic rag bag reflecting the actualitie of human existence, while providing and exploring the possibility that there is more going on here than we know, or often care to understand.

            4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

              You cannot prove or disprove God, it is a concept

              I (sort of) agree with part of your assertion[2] - you cannot prove or disprove God *using the scientific method*.

              Lets face it, trying to devise a repeatable, consistent experiment to prove or disprove an omnipotent, omnipresent deity is pretty close to the dictionary definition of impossible - and the proof by experimentation is pretty much at the heart of the scientific method.

              Of course, I'm also biased on the subject since I do believe in the existence of God (but not the devil, heaven or hell[2])

              [1] Your proofs can be refuted by theology.. and flat-earth, centre of the universe stuff that you put in isn't in the Bible in any way, shape or form. They are stuff (like immortal souls, the trinity, devils et. al) that have been accreted by the various churches on the long, slow slide into semi paganism.

              [2] See [1].

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

                Well, you could prove the existence of a god, but you'd need his cooperation. Disproving is impossible, especially if he started the ball rolling 14 billion years ago and lost interest 13.9 billion years ago. i.e. he exists, but left UniverseSim running and went out to walk the dog around the multiverse.

            5. Uffish

              Re: ' so the bible is a hoax '

              If you are going to rant about religion please include a modicum of intelligence in your arguments. For example, the idea that the bible (or Buddhist texts, or..etc) were created as hoaxes is laughably improbable. Say that they are simply philosophical, psychological or even scientific theories from the past if you wish, but let's have less of the alt-rationality please.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 'seeded' from the same extrasolar source

          "The much more logical argument is that life originates separately at each suitable location."

          But this hypothesis is easily disproved by available evidence: there are life forms in Oxford that are clearly related, if distantly, to life forms in Cambridge, for example.

          It may turn out that all life in this solar system has a common origin, but that life in other solar systems is unrelated. It'll be a while before we find out, if we ever do. So far, evidence concerning extraterrestrial life is rather lacking.

        5. DougS Silver badge

          @Mage

          If we found evidence of life existing on Mars 4 billion years ago as well, it would suggest that Mars & Earth either have a common extrasolar source or is so "easy" that it will quickly spring up almost everywhere that suitable conditions exist.

          We'll know if the latter is case as eventually we will have the ability to check the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system.

          If we could get down into the ice under Europa, find life, and examine its makeup (i.e. does it have RNA/DNA) we could answer a lot of questions as well, but that probably won't happen in our lifetimes.

        6. lockeptrv

          Short and to the point!

          Then it takes a long time before life begins to communicate beyond replication. LOL

  2. Scott 26
    Alien

    lucky it's not blue

    ... otherwise it could be the Protomolecule

  3. G Watty What?
    Thumb Up

    Sub heading

    Brilliant just brilliant. Made me chuckle so whoever wrote that, bravo!

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Hmmm.

    OK it's possible, but it seems kind of sketchy.

    And extrapolating that to Mars?

    Mars is very much less volcanic that Earth (it's go magnetic field so no spinning iron core, solid or liquid).

    I'll go with common evolution over some extrasolar "seeding" idea every time.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm.

      Mars does not have a large moon.

      At the time life appeared the Moon was much nearer Earth, and Earth was spinning faster. Tidal forces vary as the inverse cube of the distance. So the tides were gigantic.

      This means there was huge erosion, so all sorts of minerals and chemicals dissolved and suspended in the water, plus dissolved and entrained gases. All of this was stirred and shaken and swirled around, cycled from wet to dry, from hot to cold, and through different concentrations of different chemicals.

      Somewhere in there the First Replicator appeared very quickly. In the calm brackish seas of early Mars it might take very very much longer.

  5. Rich 11 Silver badge
    Joke

    Pah! Humbug. All humbug!

    I just can't take these chaps' claims seriously. Even a geologist should know better than to use a solar system animation which includes the orbit of Pluto. What are they doing, living in the past?!

  6. sjsmoto
    Alien

    I'm probably the only one that gets annoyed with scientists and astronomers having to append to every discovery a Rimmer-like gush about alien life. Like the recently impressive find of seven nearby Earth-sized exoplanets - sure, that may be cool, but it's nothing compared to the possibility there may be ALIENS!

  7. Palpy

    Perhaps we haven't heard from anyone else because --

    -- physics presents absolute limits after all.

    I loved reading sci-fi, but just maybe there is no FTL travel. No hyperdrive. Maybe there is no super-abundant energy source -- maybe the resources to build a Dyson sphere around a star are practically beyond reach no matter how much smarts a civilization has.

    Besides, the universe could have come up with sharks -- sharks with frickin' lasers! -- on thousands of planets, but life does not automatically mean high technology. Or intelligence. (Evolution is not teleological. On Earth it has an inordinate fondness for beetles and bacteria, neither of which are much interested in interstellar communication devices.) Bacteria-like cryophiles may be common on Enceladus, but we sure can't detect them.

    And what can we detect at, say, 5 or 10 light-years from home? How energetic would a transmission have to be for us to see it? And that's practically Sol's backyard. The inverse-square law makes emissions seem fainter fast as distance spreads out to the hundreds and thousands of light-years. See Brian Koberlein's essay. (The Inverness-square law applies to kilts and plaids, I believe, making emissions somewhat more likely under certain conditions of excitation.)

    Being a uniformitarian, I've always tended to think life is probably not a super-rare fluke. Technological life that advertises itself clearly and with sufficient power, however, might be rare.

    1. stewate4

      Re: Perhaps we haven't heard from anyone else because --

      > And what can we detect at, say, 5 or 10 light-years from home?

      I think finding an atmosphere around a planet with a high proportion of a reactive gas such as oxygen in it would be a good indication that there was life there.

      1. Palpy

        Re: Perhaps we haven't heard from anyone, @stewate4 --

        Yes, I agree. And truthfully, we will probably be able to figure out if there are things living under the ice on Enceladus in the not too distant future. Maybe microscopic bits of life are ejected from the under-ice ocean in the famous plumes. It would be great to drop an ice-mole through the crust and see alien ice-squid swimming around...

        Exciting times.

        My point was more toward those who wonder why we haven't contacted, or been contacted by, other civilizations. The "If life sprang up elsewhere, why haven't they hacked into Yahoo yet? Everyone on Earth has" kind of question.

  8. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Boffin

    Blood

    It's strange how human blood has the same salinity as the sea and is full of iron. Coincidence or what?

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Blood

      "It's strange how human blood has the same salinity as the sea and is full of iron. Coincidence or what?"

      Charles Darwin called, he has a theory he wants to explain to you.

      The iron thing is interesting. Octopodes have a different oxygen transport mechanism using copper-based haemocyanin rather than iron based haemoglobin; haemocyanin works better in cold, low oxygen conditions. So whereas the concept of oxygen transport via a circulatory system is common, the carrier and its mode of containment can have evolved to be different depending on circumstances. Mind you, when I see an octopus I have the uncomfortable feeling that I'm looking at an alien intelligence.

      What is interesting is that current life on Earth has evolved from things using quite different chemistries to obtain energy, and oxygen as one half of the redox reaction is comparatively recent - though it has made large multicellular organisms possible.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Blood

        Mind you, when I see an octopus I have the uncomfortable feeling that I'm looking at an alien intelligence.
        Biologist Jack Cohen kept a pet prawn in his laboratory. This was a solitary rather than flocking variety of prawn. Over several months of interaction with it, Cohen realised that the prawn was far more intelligent than it needed to be and that in the absence of interaction with him, vanishingly unlikely to be exhibited in its native environment.

        1. nijam

          Re: Blood

          > ... the prawn was far more intelligent ...

          So what? People always believe this about their pets, not because it's true, but because humans - sorry, yumans, I mean - cannot help anthropomorphising things. [Yes, even abstractions - god makes perfect sense as an anthropomorphisation of ignorance.]

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Blood

            So what? People always believe this about their pets, not because it's true, but because humans - sorry, yumans, I mean - cannot help anthropomorphising things.
            Anthropomorphising? A strange term to use to describe studying animal behaviour. And what has god to do with it? I suggest you take your medication and have a lie down ;-)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One things for sure. It did NOT evolve on planet earth. No time and no prebiotic soup. You guys should have been at the last Origins of life conference...

    1. JLV Silver badge

      >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

      Pray tell us some more, where did it evolve then? Panspermia theory that it came in via meteorites? Not necessarily wrong, but pretty much conjecture only at this point.

      Or... did you have another mechanism in mind? I notice the term 'prebiotic soup' tends to congregate on certain websites and yours reminds me of another AC's recent endearing little post.

      http://www.icr.org/article/reheating-prebiotic-soup/ ?

      Don't be shy, now.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

        Panspermia theory that it came in via meteorites? Not necessarily wrong, but pretty much conjecture only at this point.
        The idea that life originated on Earth is no less speculative. Have you read Crick and Orgel's Directed panspermia paper?

        Consider also something Crick and Orgel were unaware of at the time; there exist on Earth several "species" of bacteria that are extremely resistant to hard radiation. The condition of high levels of hard radiation that could have resulted in that trait evolving exists in nuclear power stations, but the bacteria certainly existed prior to their recent invention. Sufficiently high levels of radiation do exist in interstellar space.

        If they did not evolve in interstellar space, or nuclear power stations, we are left with the hypothesis that they were, in Steven Jay Gould's words, "hopeful mutations".

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

          Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

          "If they did not evolve in interstellar space, or nuclear power stations"

          - then maybe the adaptations that make them resistant to hard radiation were also helpful in their environment? If the adaptation is in DNA repair, then maybe it's because of high levels of chemicals that damage DNA in their environment, for example.

          Alternatively, rats are obviously so well-adapted to living in sewers, they must have evolved on another planet and migrated here only after we built sewers. ;-)

        2. graeme leggett

          Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

          (post posting edit: near simultaneous posting to the other response but looking at it, Allan Dyer explained it better)

          Alternative line of enquiry.

          the bacteria that resistant to hard radiation are resistant due to a evolutionary development to a non-radiation challenge but that is a mechanism that is also radiation resistant.

          Low quality analogy - a tank offers protection from x-rays to it's occupants but it's x-ray resistance is a result of defence against pointy metal objects not alien tripods and their terrifying 'heat rays'

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

            Yes, let's just go with a string of unlikely coincidences. If life had originated multiple times on Earth (why restrict it to just once?), or evolved from a simpler genetic code, you might reasonably expect living things to use a variety of genetic codes. Unlike human languages, the language of genetics eschews a large number of possibilities. Much more pleasing to maintain Earth as the centre of the Universe :-)

        3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

          "The condition of high levels of hard radiation that could have resulted in that trait evolving exists in nuclear power stations, but the bacteria certainly existed prior to their recent invention. "

          Sorry, that's quite wrong. There are the remains of at least one "natural" nuclear reactor in Africa - caused a bit of a panic when first found.

          Because U-235 has a much shorter half life than U-238, there is a lot less of it around now than when the Earth formed, and uranium deposits are not very radioactive. But billions of years ago there was a lot more of it, and natural processes could cause depositions of uranium salts from leaching, thus creating high background levels of radiation in the kind of warm water regions that would be ideal for bacterial growth. In the African case the levels could be high enough that water penetration slowed neutrons enough to cause criticality - resulting in heat which dried out the deposit enough to damp things down until the next time water penetrated.

          tl;dr - the ancient Earth was a lot more radioactive, and this may have been one of the factors that prevented eukaryotic life from evolving as it tends to be much less rad-hard than bacteria.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

            Sorry, that's quite wrong. There are the remains of at least one "natural" nuclear reactor in Africa - caused a bit of a panic when first found.
            Yes, I'm familiar with the natural nuclear reactor(s) at Oklo, but the region is as far as we know unique and given the conditions that gave rise to it/them likely to remain so. It's worth bearing in mind that their thermal output likely never exceeded 100 kW.

            Radiation-resistant bacteria on the other hand are found planet-wide. Yes, the early Earth was far more radioactive than present, but nowhere near the extent found at Oklo.

            The evolution of eukaryotic life has been pushed back further in time than assumed when I were a lad by the find at Ediacara. It would not surprise me in the least to discover that eukaryotes had more than one such abortive start. The Ediacara fauna are not the kind of organism likely to form fossils.

            There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

            Life on the Mississippi

        4. JLV Silver badge

          Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

          >Have you read Crick and Orgel's

          No, I haven't. I am vaguely aware of Panspermia as a general theory, that's about it.

          Despite not having read your above recommendation, I find it quite amusing when someone who, I presume, works in IT like me, claims to know all about early life's bootstrapping mechanism.

          Quoting you:

          "The idea that life originated on Earth is no less speculative."

          and the OP:

          "One things for sure. It did NOT evolve on planet earth. No time and no prebiotic soup."

          My, my, what certitudes when the best minds in the field are still figuring things out. Extremophiles are a late addition to life sciences. So are other things like archea. Certitude is... we are very much in the early learning and speculation stages of this branch of science right now. We don't really know the missing link between inert organic matter and living organisms.

          When someone takes a budding science, uses its own acknowledged problems and unknowns to say "X is bullshit, Y is better", then my own bullshit meter lights up if that person does not apply the same rigorous scientific criteria to Y. That's certainly the case with creationism, where we are told that evolution has "lots of theoretical holes", but the only needed experimental support for creationism is "it's in the Bible, believe!". Ditto intelligent design.

          We don't know yet how life bootstrapped and even if we did for Earth, we would at this point be starting with a sample size of one.

          As far as Panspermia goes, I am aware of it as a theory and it would be great to start looking more into it if we ever find traces of life elsewhere in the Solar system. That's about it.

          Occam's Razor kinda puts the onus of disproving a local life start on Panspermia, doesn't it, though? Why go for something complicated, when simpler will do?

          And, if you buy into Panspermia, does that not leave you with a variation on the exact same problem - how did life start up elsewhere?

          So, to your "no less speculative", I call BS, despite not ruling out Panspermia outright.

          1. Kyle Roberts

            Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

            Hi JLV, I agree about panspermia, (except you refer to it as a "general theory", I would call it wild speculation) but your rigorous scientific approach seems to be lacking regarding some opposing views:

            >"That's certainly the case with creationism, where we are told that evolution has "lots of theoretical holes", but the only needed experimental support for creationism is "it's in the Bible, believe!". Ditto intelligent design."

            Even IF that were true, it would not prove they are wrong. Evolution (in the sense of chemicals to mankind) not only has "lots of theoretical holes", it is fundamentally flawed according to Creationists. There is no way of repeating the 'experiment' of the creation of life, so it is not real science either way.

            The reality is, they spend a LOT of energy looking at the actual facts and evidence, and compare how it fits with their understanding of the bible and Neo Darwinism.

            Consider your own quote: "My, my, what certitudes when the best minds in the field are still figuring things out." I would add: "OR are totally flummoxed".

          2. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

            No, I haven't [read Crick & Orgel]. I am vaguely aware of Panspermia as a general theory, that's about it.

            Despite not having read your above recommendation, I find it quite amusing when someone who, I presume, works in IT like me, claims to know all about early life's bootstrapping mechanism.

            First, I have never claimed "to know all about early life's bootstrapping mechanism". If you believe I have, you will need to quote my words. At this point, I can only assume you are making stuff up.

            I am not sure why being vaguely aware of something counts for very much.

            FWIW Crick not only wrote the paper I referenced, he received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his and Watson's discovery of the helical structure of DNA. He was also the first, in 1968, to propose that life could be bootstrapped from non-living chemicals if it started with RNA; the so-called RNA World hypothesis.

            Despite becoming a significant industry in biology, RNA World research has generated ever more complexity to the problem rather than approaching a solution. To paraphrase Lynn Margulis, it's a piece of piss to go from bacteria to humans but a huge leap to go from inert chemicals to RNA.

            Gerald Joyce estimated 400 million years for The Rise and Fall of the RNA World "beginning 4.0 to 4.2 billion years ago and ending 3.6 to 3.8 billion years ago". Except it looks like there was already fully formed prokaryotic life around 4.0 to 4.2 billion years ago so not sufficient time for the RNA World to have taken place.

            It's also worth noting that despite spending a decade in IT, I was never told over a 40 year period that, no, you can't undertake the courses I did in physics, chemistry, mathematics, botany, genetics, zoology, geology, philosophy, history and engineering because I was making my living as an artist, market gardener or IT consultant.

            Occam's Razor kinda puts the onus of disproving a local life start on Panspermia, doesn't it, though? Why go for something complicated, when simpler will do?
            Only a simpleton would refer to the transition from lifeless chemicals to life as "simple".

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

      Panspermia is pretty laughable really. Have you seen a meteor flashing across the sky at night? Pretty much anything organic is going to be roasted. Then there's larger ones that stay cooler inside - how do you get them off a planet - given it would take something like a meteor impact on that said planet and that can shatter quartz so dna stands no chance. And if it did stand a chance how can it have evolved to survive the radiation that space will fling at it for the billions of years it needs to realistically travel between the stars?

      And then there is the really bit question - if it didnt start on earth where did it start and how? Panspermia is slightly less likely than God and just as lazy a conclusion.

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

        Ahem.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_meteorite

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

        Panspermia is pretty laughable really.
        I'm sure the likes of Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, Stephen Hawking et alia would be devastated by your critique. And what a waste of money the EXPOSE experiment was. Tish...

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

          You do realise that if all the biomass on earth was dna and you blew the earth up and by some magic none of the dna died by the time it reached the nearest planet there would be enough for 1 piece of dna for every 500Km^2 of an earth sized planet. The chances of actually getting a single cell that could function IF it found somewhere it could live and reproduce are close enough to zero for me to laugh at the idea.

          1. Kyle Roberts

            Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

            [The chances of actually getting a single cell that could function IF it found somewhere it could live and reproduce are close enough to zero for me to laugh at the idea.]

            This is fascinating... Crick and others concluded that the chances of any kind of DNA life evolving on earth in the time available was zero, so life must have come from elsewhere!

            1) Life could not have evolved here

            2) Life could not have arrived from elsewhere.

            Has life always existed since before the beginning of the universe?

            How can this be?

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: >It did NOT evolve on planet earth.

              Crick and others are either obviously wrong or have been deliberatelymisquoted by panspermia proponents.

  10. Tom Paine Silver badge

    MSL?

    Pictures from the Curiosity rover on Mars suggest haematites might be seen on the surface of the Red Planet.

    Er... say more about this please? Whart MSL ? Curiosity pics are these? I've fallen out of touch with UMSF over the last year or so... :/

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope the fossil had a better haircut

    Seriously, the guy has a wad you could 'beat a whale to death with' and he's got some kind of weird 70's toddler thing going on...

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