back to article Bad news! Astroboffins find the stuff of life in space for the first time

Scientists have announced today that a stable organohalogen, a class of compounds normally produced by organisms on Earth, has been detected for the first time in space. But discovering the faint traces of the chemical known as Freon-40 or methyl chloride (CH3Cl) or chloromethane in places that predate life has dashed hopes of …

  1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

    Is there anybody else here who made perfect sense of that conjecture and would believe it to be true and accurate?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

      Please note ..... registering a thumbs down vote is moronic without an accompanying explanation as to the offence caused.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

        Forgive them, they know not what they do.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

        "Please note ..... registering a thumbs down vote is moronic without an accompanying explanation as to the offence caused."
        Er... you're not used to that yet? I find that linking to scientific papers supporting my posts is a sure-fire way to get downvoted with no reason given.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

          "Er... you're not used to that yet? I find that linking to scientific papers supporting my posts is a sure-fire way to get downvoted with no reason given."

          PG, your problem is you link to papers which are often either (a) not actually related to the matter in hand or (b) you have misinterpreted.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

            "PG, your problem is you link to papers which are often either (a) not actually related to the matter in hand or (b) you have misinterpreted."
            And not explaining my "misinterpretation" helps how? You may be able to become informed telepathically; I cannot.

            1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

              Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

              Pompous Git,

              We appear to have hit a raw nerve with our sensible view.

      3. Pirate Dave
        Pirate

        Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

        "Please note ..... registering a thumbs down vote is moronic without an accompanying explanation as to the offence caused."

        If I can understand what you typed without having to hold my breath and stand on my head, then you are a FRAUD and are in no way related to the true amanfrommars. Your initial post was easily discerned as a shallow and casual attempt at confusion, not the deep, thoughtful gibberish that AMFM imparts upon us.

        That's the explanation for at least one thumbs-down.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

          Please stop feeding them. Please.

    3. Lysenko

      Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

      It means that Chloromethane can be synthesized by non-biogenic means (not news) and that this appears to occur more frequently in space than anticipated (news). Since there is plenty of UV light to drive the reaction and no shortage of Chlorine, that implies that there is plenty of Methanol/Methane around with no biological origin.

    4. Muscleguy Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

      A boffin writes: I do and I'm only a mere stamp collecting biologist. But they make you do chemistry as a prerequisite for Physiology* so I last did it fairly recently, 1984 in fact.

      So it all sounds tickety-boo to me and you can quote me on that.

      As to the problem finding a shortlist of bio-signature molecules that really just confirms that the boundary between chemistry and life is not a boundary but a fairly seamless transition. It used to be thought that only life could make organic molecules then urea got synthesised and organic chemistry was born.

      *technically they wanted either first year chemistry OR physics but most of us did both. I have used both and a modicum of maths, you cannot do physiology without algebra and calculus is fairly handy even if the computers do that these days.

    5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

      Chokes!

      Did I just see amanfromMars 1 complaining about the comprehensibility of someone else's writing style? A phrase involving black a pot, and a kettle is screaming its way through my mind at the moment.

      I guess the shoe's on the other foot now. Assuming he doesn't have tentacles / pseudopodia...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

        Why is it an unspoken assumption of so many here that amanfromMars cannot change, or become better at communicating with us simple Earth creatures? THIS is why most of them won't talk to us!

      2. Chemical Bob

        Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

        "Did I just see amanfromMars 1 complaining about the comprehensibility of someone else's writing style?"

        You, sir, need a higher Ambiguity Tolerance.

    6. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

      Organohalogens? Chemists would call them 'haloalkanes' or 'alkyl halides'.

    7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

      amanfromMars...

      ...complaining about word salad and gobbledegook!

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

        Not complaining, Sorry that handle is already taken, just drawing attention to its more widespread use than in any recent past.

        And here be a little something for all posting comment anywhere to consider .... https://youtu.be/aYItTxqTc38

        To think one certain of anything in these times and spaces where everything is so very different from most everything gone before is surely a madness confirmed within oneself.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

          Waiiiiiiiiit a minute, you're not the real amanfromMars. I know this because I can understand what you're saying. What's going on?

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook and Real Alien Virtualisation

            We’re trialing your primitive communications with added 00mph is what’s gong on, Sorry that handle is already taken.

            Prepare yourself for fundamental changes being registered here, over there and elsewhere and around more than a few other spaces too.

            1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

              Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook and Real Alien Virtualisation

              Nope, nope. I'm not failing the (reverse?) Turing test today.

              1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

                Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook and Real Alien Virtualisation

                Nope, nope. I'm not failing the (reverse?) Turing test today. .... Sthiat
                .

                Good for you, sir or madam, that be prime sub-prime GCHQ territory.

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

            He's been known to make sense every once in a while. I am however not sure if it's because he is ON his meds at those times or OFF them. Or possibly because I'm as insane as he appears to be at times.

            1. Pirate Dave
              Pirate

              Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

              "He's been known to make sense every once in a while. "

              I agree with " Sorry that handle is already taken." That's not the original AMFM - he never once worked the acronyms AI or IT (in all caps, natch) into a regular word. Long ago I used to try to puzzle out AMFMs postings. Some, I think, did have a great deal of depth to them.

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

                "Some, I think, did have a great deal of depth to them."
                John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett / Deep & Meaningless

              2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

                Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

                Perhaps his, ahem, algorithm, has been improved.

              3. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: Word Salad vs Gobbledegook

                @PirateDave, looking at the account numbers it would seem there was amanfromMars (Without the one) that last posted on 10 June 2009, then amanfromMars 1(with the one) that FIRST posted on 10 June 2009. So unless the account actually got transferred to someone else it would still be the same person.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The stuff of life found everywhere

    Except, strangely, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The stuff of life found everywhere

      Oh no, the president is not dead, he's big as life and twice as loud.

      I know you want him gone, but the "zombie clause" is not applicable here. Heck, even Barack 'no pulse' Obama slipped thru!

      1. paulc

        Re: The stuff of life found everywhere

        "Heck, even Barack 'no pulse' Obama slipped thru!"

        but Barry inhaled... as that was the point...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The stuff of life found everywhere

          I'm pretty sure Don inhales too, quite a lot in fact.

          Perhaps it makes him look more threatening to his rivals. ;-/

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The stuff of life found everywhere

      Except, strangely, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave....

      Nope. It's life Jim, but not as we know it.

      Thinks... Does pond slime come in orange as well as green...

      1. Chemical Bob
        Thumb Up

        Re: It's life Jim, but not as we know it.

        Damn, beat me to it! Have an upvote.

  3. MrDamage

    Sir PTerry's "The Globe"

    Rules 5 & 6

    Life turns up everywhere it can.

    Life turns up everywhere it can't.

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    I did not know my home town is so old

    I saw CH₃Cl and read it with the IUPAC name. A moment later I discovered I my home town is over 3.9 billion years old: "... chemical known as Freon-40 or methyl chloride (CH3Cl) or chloromethane in places that predate life ..."

  5. cb7

    I hope

    There was no contamination on the instruments that gave rise to false readings...

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    If you want to find extraterrestrial fast, forget boffins; give it to the telemarketers.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Yeah, but we want to find them. Not to cause them to hide and refuse to answer our signals.

      Or worse, declare war on us.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They are not hiding and they won't declare anything. They just install warning beacons around our system announcing: Warning! Terrans!

        1. paulc

          "They just install warning beacons around our system announcing: Warning! Terrans!"

          I'm pretty sure our inane television broadcasts are warning enough...

  7. Archtech Silver badge

    Nothing new here...

    As predicted by Chandra Wickramasinghe and Fred Hoyle back in the 1960s. (Hoyle's novel "The Black Cloud" presents an intelligent, amusing look at some of the possible implications of panspermia).

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new here...

      Not forgetting that Fred first formulated the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and did most of the heavy lifting on developing it. I've long lost count of the number of other scientists who have called him "an idiot". Jealousy I guess...

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Nothing new here...

        Neither of them are idiots, the problem is neither of them are biologists and you should always beware of experts commenting outside of their fields. That is the problem with them. There's a similar problem with Penrose and consciousness and nobody should call him an idiot or stupid.

        Another problem is with people like that you cannot tell them they are wrong and they become immune to rational criticism. Hoyle and Wrickramasinge postulated that seasonal flu (northern hemisphere only of course) was caused by meteorite showers just before the duck-pig-human transmission and mixing vessel reality got absolutely nailed down by the virologists. Yet they persisted.

        Panspermia is nothing more than physicists trying to take over a branch of biology for themselves. The real problem with it is that it isn't an explanation because they cannot explain where or how life gets started in order to get spread about.

        We have perfectly good ideas for how it happened on this biosphere, use a search engine of your choice to look up RNA World and inform yourself. BTW I have designed ribozymes, they are a biotechnology.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Nothing new here...

          "Panspermia is nothing more than physicists trying to take over a branch of biology for themselves."
          There ya go! And I thought Francis Crick was a biologist. What a fool I've been...

  8. Pompous Git Silver badge
    Devil

    I can't believe I read this...

    "Based on our discovery, organohalogens are likely to be a constituent of the so-called 'primordial soup', both on the young Earth and on nascent rocky exoplanets."

    Oh noes! A Young Earther!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't believe I read this...

      I don't see how those organohalogens could ever become part of Earth's primordial soup.

      Didn't the Earth become molten during the Iron Catastrophe? I assume heat like that would dis-associate all present organic molecules. And it would have happened 500 million years after planetary formation, when all the inner-system volatiles had long been swept away or destroyed by strong solar UV.

      By the time the crust finally solidified there would be practically no organics left anywhere in the inner system Only incoming comets could then supply those. And cometary impacts tend to be pretty energetic too, so I doubt any significant organics would remain following those events as well. Plenty of H2O tho...

  9. PapaD

    Well, the earth is young.

    I mean, its only been around for 4.5billion years, whereas the universe is like 13.7 billion years old....

    Its practically a whipper-snapper.

  10. MrKrotos

    organohalogens

    Let me be the first to welcome our organohalogen overlords :P

  11. Jez Burns

    "Finding the molecule around stars and cold asteroids, spots where the chances of life are slim, mean organohalogens are probably not reliable chemical markers life."

    Space whales?

    1. James 51 Silver badge
      Alien

      No, it's Moya.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Space whale piss.

  12. Shaha Alam

    i'm not saying it's aliens...

    ...but turns out it's not aliens.

    <Giorgio Tsoukalos sad face.>

    1. W4YBO

      Re: i'm not saying it's aliens...

      <Giorgio Tsoukalos sad face.>

      "I think not."

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: i'm not saying it's aliens...

      Could be, maybe a flying saucer came by and they stopped to take a crap ... this might explain a lot about the world as we know it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is no "Intelligent Life" out there...

    We are living proof.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is no "Intelligent Life" out there...

      What if we are alone? If we are all the universe can come up with then god is a sadistic b****.

  14. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    All that fuss about fridges and air-conditioners and it turns out space is full of freon anyway, thanks to comets with leaky seals.

    So much for science.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      But at least the Freon is up there out of harm's way, rather than in our atmosphere enabling ozone depletion.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        At least we won't be misleading alien astronomers doing spectroscopy on our atmosphere an more with lots of it floating about. IF they can sniff the radionuclides from atmospheric bomb tests, Chernobyl etc that will be a bigger sign of fuckwit life.

        Detecting those they will slap a 'Too Dangerous, Avoid and Quarantine' notice on us. I mean is the rise of smartphones behind the dearth of UFO sightings or have they shuffled off to leave us to our fate?

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Bah! (4 David Nash)

        "But at least the Freon is up there out of harm's way, rather than in our atmosphere enabling ozone depletion."

        It occurs to me that the Ozone depletion we see could be caused by the Earth sweeping

        through this sea of Freon we once called the "vacuum of space", it's ozone fizzing away in an ablative reactive scream that no-one can hear (because, space, right?). Confronted with the gigaliters of Freon lounging about in the Earth's orbital path, the odd squirt from one's window air-conditioner seems trivial.

        Scientists need to start addressing these conundrums:

        a) Maybe the reason space has no ozone in it is due to all the Freon there.

        2) Maybe that's why space is so cold.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Also weakens the case for CFC damaging the Ozone layer.

    I had not realized any organism synthesized them .

    thumbs up for clever research however.

    1. Daedalus Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Also weakens the case for CFC damaging the Ozone layer.

      CFC's are just a subclass of organohalogens. Most organohalogens are harmless to the ozone layer because they break down in the lower atmosphere. Many CFC's are so unreactive that they diffuse into the upper atmosphere where they break up due to solar ultraviolet radiation. The free chlorine atoms liberated there are responsible for the reactions that deplete ozone, or more exactly, destroy it faster than it can be created by solar UV.

  16. gryff
    Pint

    To find life throughout the universe...

    ...Just follow the trail of fish+chip papers, kebab wrappers...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: To find life throughout the universe...

      Not to mention Milky Way and Galaxy wrappers.

  17. Scroticus Canis
    Meh

    Freon-40 is just a trademark name not the chemical's name.

    So I take it the Chemours Company is now trading in outer space? Next an article about finding Perrier or Evian among the stars as H₂O and CO₂ are also out there.

    With all the posts about CFCs I also take it that fluorine is no longer a requirement for a chlorofluorocarbon?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pirate

      Re: Freon-40 is just a trademark name not the chemical's name.

      "With all the posts about CFCs I also take it that fluorine is no longer a requirement for a chlorofluorocarbon?"

      No, they do the fluorine part in software now, so it's no longer needed. It IS a dangerous chemical, you know...

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