Simple Molecules: The Building Blocks of Lie

first_imgAt a physical level, everything in the universe is made of atoms and molecules.  Life, being a subset of everything in the universe, is composed of a subset of all molecules that exist.  It could be said that any atom or molecule present in a living thing is a building block of life, but how informative is that?  Carbon, for instance, is essential to life, but is also a building block of cyanide, tailpipe soot, graphite, diamond and a host of deadly poisons.    It’s not just the presence of the simplest parts that conveys information about the whole – it’s the way that the building blocks are assembled into the complex structure.  A child’s alphabet building blocks, for instance, form gibberish when assembled by an infant who cannot read.  Life has been compared, by contrast, to an encyclopedia of highly specific information.  This information then directs a symphony of coordinated, dynamic processes using molecular machines.    Evolutionists are fond of pointing to carbon, water and other atoms and simple molecules as “building blocks of life.”  Embedded in the phrase is a subtext of progress.  If the building blocks are present, the statement suggests that they will “build” or assemble into life, given the right circumstances.  No one would say, though, that since silicon is a building block of computers, finding silicon on extrasolar planets is a sure bet computers will eventually be found.  In a similar vein, life uses a subset of “organic compounds” (carbon-based chemicals), but sometimes the word organic is used in an equivocal way to suggest the presence of life, even though many organic compounds (cyanide, gasoline, and carbon tetrachloride, for example) are poisonous or useless to biology.    At what point does the use of “prebiotic compounds” or “organic soup” or “building blocks of life” invoke the power of suggestion to support an evolutionary, naturalistic view of life’s origin?  Look at these recent examples to see if the inference to life is warranted by the observations.Oxygen:  The oxygen atom, though necessary for most living things, can also be a deadly poison – that’s why we take antioxidants.  In the cell, it is handled very delicately by complex enzymes that combine it with byproducts of respiration to form water and carbon dioxide, which can be safely removed.  Oxygen’s mere presence, however, suggested to EurekAlert that life was ready to explode in a plethora of wondrous complexity.  The title reads, “2 oxygenation events in ancient oceans sparked spread of complex life.”  Would the same thing be said of silicon sparking the spread of computers?Carbon:  Carbon is essential to most living molecules.  It is basic to fats, sugars, proteins and nucleic acids.  Raw carbon, or simple hydrocarbons, however, are useless to life unless incorporated by enzymes into structural molecules according to coded instructions.    Why, then, are the news media all using the L-word Life in their reports about the discovery of methane around a nearby star?  Methane is the simplest “organic” (carbon-based) molecule: one carbon joined to four hydrogens.  Because of its fourfold valence, carbon easily joins with other atoms – especially the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen.  Methane is abundant on Titan, the gas giants, some comets and probably Mars, though not associated with life there.  Humans use methane for their cooking but not for their biology; it is emitted as a waste product by the bacteria in cow stomachs and by the decay of biomass, but is not a nutrient for life.    Nevertheless, most reports from a paper in Nature1 emphasized the L-word when methane was detected around a star, even though the authors said nothing about life.  “Under certain circumstances, methane can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry – the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life,” said the BBC News.  Ditto for Science Daily.  A NASA scientist called this “a dress rehearsal for future searches for life on more hospitable planets,” according to Space.com.  National Geographic was slightly more tentative, but ended with a focus on methane’s potential as a biomarker for life on other planets.Amino acids:  Proteins are composed of long chains of one-handed amino acids.  These carbon-based molecules have two simple parts, an amino group and a carboxyl group, and a side chain (R-group) that can be as simple as one hydrogen (glycine) or much more complex with cyclic domains and other things.  Of the almost endless varieties of possible amino acids, life as we know it is restricted primarily to 20 kinds.  It is not just the amino acids alone that make them “lively” but their specific combinations into long chains, held together by peptide bonds.    Finding a few amino acids, however, got EurekAlert all excited with two pronouncements on the same day: Meteorites are rich in the building blocks of life and Meteorites a rich source for primordial soup.  Both articles insinuated that a steady rain of amino acids on the primitive earth would have been sufficient to kickstart life in the ocean – even though amino acids avoid joining into polypeptides in the presence of water.  Notice the confidence mixed with suggestion in a statement by a scientist from Imperial College, London: “We know that approximately 3.8 to 4.5 billion years ago the Earth underwent heavy bombardment from meteorites which brought molecules to our planet, just before life emerged on Earth.”Water:  It goes without saying that water is another simple molecule often associated with the L-word.  A press release from Jet Propulsion Lab referred to life twice in the story about dust disks around stars (see the other 03/19/2008 entry today).  The article said that the discovery of water vapor molecules in the disk “may help shed light on the origins of our own solar system and the potential for life to develop in others.”  They also quoted Carr using the “building blocks” angle, “Now that we can identify these molecules and inventory them, we will have a better understanding of the origins and evolution of the basic building blocks of life–where they come from and how they evolve.” Countless press releases rush to include the L-word whenever a discovery is made of “building blocks of life” in space.  Presumably, the claim could be made about hydrogen.  Humans have plenty of hydrogen atoms bound to carbon and oxygen.  By extension, then, the whole universe is a building block of life.1.  Swain, Vashist and Tinneti, “The presence of methane in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet,” Nature, 452, 329-331 (20 March 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06823.Your imagination is being taken for a ride when you fall for the “building blocks” line.  Assumptions, unwarranted inferences and misdirection: these are the building blocks of lie.(Visited 35 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Record grape harvest for South Africa

first_img16 May 2013 South Africa’s wine industry has seen the biggest grape crop ever produced after a bumper 2013 harvest season, wine consultation organisation VinPro announced in its harvest report on Tuesday. “The total crop is 4.6% higher than the record crop in 2008 – and high-quality wines are anticipated for the 2013 vintage,” VinPro’s consultation service manager, Francois Viljoen, said in the report. According to the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems, the 2013 wine grape crop is predicted to reach about 1.5-million tons – 5.6% higher than the 2012 crop. Bigger harvests are also expected in all of the Western Cape’s nine wine districts, excluding Robertson. Record crops are predicted for Worcester, Breedkloof and Olifants River. “The 2013 wine harvest – including juice and concentrate for non-alcoholic purposes, wine for brandy and distilling wine – is expected to amount to 1 152 million litres, calculated at an average recovery of 773 litres per ton of grapes,” Viljoen said. Despite a delayed and shorter-than-usual harvest season, good weather conditions impacted positively on wine grape quality. It was also a particularly healthy year, with effective disease and pest control by producers. “Producers, viticulturists and winemakers are excited about a promising crop in terms of quality,” he said. “The moderate harvest season contributed to intense colour, exceptional flavour and good structure in the red cultivars, especially for Pinotage appearing good in terms of size and quality. “Throughout the industry winemakers anticipate excellent fruity and tropical white wines with fresh characteristics,” he said. SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

Ebola survivors share life-saving tips via mobile app

first_img8 January 2015Ebola survivors in West Africa are connecting with each other and sharing public health advice, as well as speaking about the challenges they face in post-recovery, using an interactive mobile app available through #ISurvivedEbola, the ground- breaking West African multimedia campaign.The innovative digital tool debuted in Guinea on 5 January, piloted by the first Guinean survivor to share her story with the #ISurvivedEbola campaign. The website also houses the stories of a growing community of Ebola survivors from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.In the first message sent via the mobile app, Camara “Fanta” Fantaoulen said: “Yes, I survived Ebola, thanks to the help of the brave health care workers who treated me. And I’ve learned that together, we can defeat this virus and protect our families and communities.”After losing her father and five other family members to suspected or confirmed Ebola, Fantaoulen believed her death was imminent when she tested positive for the virus. Thanks to a combination of early treatment, strict adherence to her treatment plan, and sheer determination, she recovered from the virus and is now providing psychosocial support to Ebola patients.Survivor storiesThe mobile app is the latest component of the #ISurvivedEbola campaign, which leverages survivor stories from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to deliver vital public health information about Ebola to affected populations, and to reduce the stigma faced by Ebola survivors.A key way in which the campaign does this is by documenting survivor stories in video, audio, and print formats; then disseminating these stories broadly via local, national, and international media, online platforms, and other distribution channels. Educational radio dramas that tell fictional yet reality-based stories of survival, and radio call-in shows that feature Ebola survivors as guests, are among the campaign activities.#ISurvivedEbola is part of the #TackleEbola initiative and is implemented by PCI Media Impact in collaboration with Unicef.Each survivor who has shared his or her story through the campaign is given a smartphone installed with the app. This helps them to use the technology to share information about their lives after recovery. The smartphones and the app were provided and developed with support from the charity fundraising website GlobalGiving.With the release of the app and launch of the website, the #ISurvivedEbola campaign has completed the first phase of its roll-out. It includes two additional survivor story videos from survivors in Liberia and Sierra Leone, respectively.Helping othersThe Liberia video introduces the world to Decontee Davis, a 23-year-old who overcame Ebola but lost her fiance to the virus. Davis now works in an interim care centre for children who have come in contact with Ebola patients and are under 21 days of observation. Many of these children have lost one or both parents to the disease.From Sierra Leone, audiences meet Aminata Kargbo, a university student who, after surviving Ebola, has become a leader in efforts to educate others on the benefits of early treatment.“We began in early December with the launch of the campaign and release of the first survivor video out of Liberia,” said Sean Southey, chief executive of PCI Media Impact.“Then, the campaign launched educational Ebola-focused radio programmes in Liberia and released the premier survivor story out of Sierra Leone. Now, we have activated the mobile app, released the first survivor story out of Guinea, and launched a website that will allow concerned citizens throughout the world to join the movement.”The multiple #ISurvivedEbola campaign products and activities are reinforcing the existing work being done by organisations like Unicef in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to spread key messages about Ebola to the public.“While treatment of Ebola patients is critical, the best way to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is to cut the chain of transmission and prevent further infections,” said Rafael Obregon, chief of the communication for development section at Unicef.“As the global UN lead for the Social Mobilization Pillar of the Ebola response in West Africa, Unicef is at the helm of efforts to stop transmission by working with national governments and partners to educate the public in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea about how to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from the virus.“#ISurvivedEbola is reinforcing our efforts by providing this information in multiple, highly entertaining forms, including through the testimonies of actual survivors.”Videos for the #ISurvivedEbola campaign are available on Vimeo, while audio clips are available on Soundcloud.Follow #ISurvivedEbola on Twitter @SurvivedEbola, Facebook, and Instagram @isurvivedebola. Source: APOlast_img read more

Fake news a drawback of tech penetration: Parrikar

first_imgSpread of technology comes with fallouts and drawbacks like fake news, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Sunday. “Today we have got technology penetration everywhere but there are some drawbacks also like fake news. There are news reports that say cell connectivity is dangerous to humans … People want cell phones, but they don’t want towers in their village,” Mr. Parrikar said at an IT-related public function here.”People should realise that fake news can do enormous harm and a rumour can do more harm,” the Chief Minister said. He announced that the Goa government was gearing to go fully digital vis-a-vis government transactions by December this year. “We have been completely online on payments whether it is Real-time gross settlement systems (RTGS) or other modes. Now we have decided that all our transactions will be digitalised. We are trying to do it by September but it may go up to December ,”Mr. Parriakar said.last_img read more

Vettel fastest in Ferrari on cold 2nd day of F1 testing

first_imgCavaliers ban fan who aimed racial taunts at Spurs’ Mills Bottas was next at 0.303 seconds slower in his Mercedes.They were followed by McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, who just edged Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the third fastest time.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“In terms of general operation everything is really smooth. So it is good to come here and switch on the car and be able to run,” Vettel said. “Obviously the limiting factor was the weather. I think the next two days won’t be much better but I hope next week will be.”Cold and wet conditions, which reduce the tire’s grip on the tarmac, limited driving for a second straight day with only six more test days left before the season starts in Melbourne. Even with temperatures at their highest, both Vettel and Sauber rookie Charles Leclerc spun off the track and into the gravel.Kevin Magnussen had the biggest scare of the day. The Haas driver was about to crash when he managed to regain control and skirt just alongside the barrier until returning to the track.Vandoorne’s third-best time, however, came on a faster set of tires than Verstappen. Much more worrying was that his session was cut short by a problem with the car’s exhaust that the team said it was investigating.McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso had a wheel pop off on Monday, limiting his driving time as well.The hiccups don’t bode well for a team trying to rebound after three disappointing years with Honda by changing to Renault engines.Red Bull’s fortunes turned after Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest time and clocked the most laps on Monday.Verstappen had trouble getting his car out of the garage early because of a problem identified by the team as a “minor fuel leak.”Defending champion Lewis Hamilton was scheduled to relieve Bottas at midday. But Mercedes announced after the lunch break was cancelled that Bottas would continue behind the wheel “to maximize our mileage after the poor track conditions limited running this morning.”That means Hamilton has made 25 laps in the Mercedes so far.Vettel recorded the most laps for the session with 98, four more than Bottas. Google honors food scientist, banana ketchup inventor and war hero Maria Orosa View comments Families in US enclave in north Mexico hold sad Thanksgiving Vettel said that it was too early to size up Mercedes or the rest of the potential contenders.“For sure you look at the others and compare, but it’s very difficult. So I think we should not get into details too much because it is a bit pointless,” Vettel said. “First we try to understand the car. A lot of mileage, that is the key right now, and then later we focus on performance.”Robert Kubica, who hasn’t raced in F1 since 2010 after being badly injured in a rally crash, served as Williams’ reserve driver in the afternoon. He completed 48 laps and the seventh fastest time.Testing near Barcelona runs until Thursday. A second four-day session will be held from March 6-9.The season-opening Australian GP is on March 25. Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany steers his car during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)MONTMELO, Spain — Sebastian Vettel was faster than rival Valtteri Bottas on the second session of Formula One testing on Tuesday, as bad weather continued to complicate preparations for the upcoming season.Vettel set the pace with a lap of 1 minute, 19.673 seconds in the German’s first drive of the new Ferrari.ADVERTISEMENT A track temperature of 4 degrees (39 F) when the session started kept most drivers in the garages until things warmed up by noon.To make up some of the lost time, officials granted the teams’ request to cancel the one-hour lunch break.But light snow fell on the track as temperatures fell again with an hour remaining for the session.“It was very cold on track today. I don’t think I’ve ever driven in such cold conditions before in Formula One,” Bottas said. “The tires are just not made for these conditions. But we made the most out of the day.”More snow is forecast for Wednesday.ADVERTISEMENT Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMCcenter_img MOST READ Read Next AFP official booed out of forum Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university PLAY LIST 01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City LOOK: Iya Villania meets ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ cast in Mexico Pussycat Dolls set for reunion tour after 10-year hiatus John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding LATEST STORIESlast_img read more