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Space Telescope Launches Friday to Find New Earths


Friday , March 06, 2009

By Andrea Thompson

If Friday’s launch goes according to plan and successfully lobs NASA’s new Kepler space telescope into orbit, the mission stands to potentially change the way we look at the universe.

Kepler is designed to turn its eye on thousands of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy and look for signs of Earth-sized planets orbiting in a region conducive to supporting life.

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I wonder if they have dumped the following idea…

The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems

Executive Summary

Reflecting the near inevitability of human missions to Mars and other locales in the solar system where life might exist, and given the interest of the public in the question, Are we alone?, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) commissioned the National Research Council, which formed the Committee on the Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems, to address the following questions:

  • What can be authoritatively said today about limits of life in the cosmos?

  • What Earth-based research must be done to explore those limits so that NASA missions would be able to recognize, conserve, and study alien life that is encountered?

Theory, data, and experiments suggest that life requires (in decreasing order of certainty):

  • A thermodynamic disequilibrium;

  • An environment capable of maintaining covalent bonds, especially between carbon, hydrogen, and other atoms;

  • A liquid environment; and

  • A molecular system that can support Darwinian evolution.

Earth abundantly displays life that uses solar, geothermal, and chemical energy to maintain thermodynamic disequilibria, covalent bonds between carbon, water as the liquid, and DNA as a molecular system to support Darwinian evolution. Life with those characteristics can be found wherever water and energy are available.

The natural tendency toward terracentricitya requires that we make a conscious effort to broaden our ideas of where life is possible and what forms it might take. The long history of terran chemistry tempts us to become fixated on carbon because terran life is based on carbon. But basic principles of chemistry warn us against terracentricity. It is easy to conceive of chemical reactions that might support life involving noncarbon compounds, occurring in solvents other than water, or involving oxidation-reduction reactions without dioxygen.

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wonderdog, Newbies get moderated until they can be trusted. And yes I agree with you- that is to see/ read the follow-up to "The Privileged Planet". However I suspect it would just be piling on more data to support the original claims. But thay is a good thing... Joseph
I'm new here; is there a reason why I can't see my comments? wonderdog
I think it would be pretty cool if they made a sequel to the Privileged Planet. That is my favorite ID documentary. wonderdog
If NASA really wants to find earth-like planets all they have to do is read "The Privileged Planet" and follow that lead. EvilSnack that book also discusses other possibilities for living organisms. Joseph
bFast, very interesting article. How did I know, after reading the first couple sentences, that this would be in there:
The scientists do not know how the cellular machinery guiding this process may have originated, but they emphatically said it does not buttress the case for intelligent design, a controversial notion that posits the existence of a creator responsible for complexity in nature. Chakrabarti said that one of the aims of modern evolutionary theory is to identify principles of self-organization that can accelerate the generation of complex biological structures. "Such principles are fully consistent with the principles of natural selection. Biological change is always driven by random mutation and selection, but at certain pivotal junctures in evolutionary history, such random processes can create structures capable of steering subsequent evolution toward greater sophistication and complexity."
Basically: "Even though many 'ID theorists' were correct regarding the existence of such a mechanism, they are still wrong. It happened randomly." ...yet there is absolutely no proof that this vital "protein complex" came about randomly. This is dogmatically assumed even though they just proved wrong what has been militantly defended for decades, that random genetic mutation/variation from generation to generation is INCAPABLE of creating the information found in biological structures. I'm not even sure that the scientists involved here believe that it is not proof, or at least suggestive, of ID. But they know that if they don't "emphatically" reject ID along with their proposal, their findings will be ignored and their careers will possibly be tarnished. uoflcard
I like what Casey Luskin had to say about the "recipe" for life on other planets at www.evolutionnews.org/2008/12, see his Dec 2, 2008 entry. He discusses a children's book which lists the ingredients as organic molecules, water and energy, and points out that one important ingredient is missing: information. Granville Sewell
It was Antoine Lavoisier who discovered the chemical properties of water (two hydrogen atoms bound to one oxygen atom) in the late 18th century. William Paley's "Evidence" expounds very little on the subject, but William Whewell, master of Trinity College (Cambridge) wrote "Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology" (published in 1832 as a Bridgewater Treatise). Whewell presented the first systematic argument for the fitness of water. Barb
At what we terracentrically name room temperature, water is the only liquid that is suitable for life. However, I doubt we have done enough research on the liquid phases of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, or other chemicals that are gases to us, but which are liquids in other circumstances, to make an authoritative declaration. EvilSnack
Indeed, there isn't any other water-like solvent (besides solutions composed mostly of water). It's various properties are both unique, and absolutely essential to life as we know it. I believe it was Thomas Henry Huxley, "Darwin's bulldog", who first made the scientific case for the unique qualities of water (he called it "aquasity") that made it a pre-requisite for life. And he, of course, was an evolutionary biologist...indeed, one of the very first. Allen_MacNeill
Anaxagoras_Rules, I didn't say that, but no, I do not know of any other water-like solvent. :( Mario A. Lopez
Off topic, anyone interested in making a thread for this post on livescience.com: Alfred Wallace Confirmed? Hidden Mechanism Guiding How Biological Organisms Respond To Natural Selection, Says Study http://www.scientificblogging.com/news_releases/alfred_wallace_confirmed_hidden_mechanism_guiding_how_biological_organisms_respond_natural_selection_s bFast
I expect life on any planet in this particular solar system to be DNA-based and cellular. Mario, I'm curious about something you said. Is there another solvent that exhibits the life giving properties of water? I mean cohesion, temperature moderation (and very high specific heat), its ability to expand, rather than contract, under freezing temperatures, and its ability as a solvent? In looking at periodic table, it's hard (for me, at least) to envision a heterogenous, reproducing mixture, to be concocted from different elements. The nonmetals are crucial, in that they tend to form molecular bonds, while the metals tend to form ionic bonds. Also, the same fundamental forces are acting upon the same chemicals, and receive energy from same sun. For these and other reasons, I expect that life came to be DNA-based by chemical necessity, and not by accident. I don't buy into common descent, and so the earth to me is living proof that life had to be DNA-based. Anaxagoras_Rules
How to make life: Dirt + Water + Time = Life. lol Hmm... seems a bit fishy to me... well, it will be fishy soon enough, after it (life) evolves into a fish. xD Funny. They can believe that life can evolve from non-living materials, without proof, yet often hold to the idea of an intelligent being behind life as crazy. Well, given materialism... it must have happened on accident. :P Domoman

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