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Might there be unclassifiable life forms out there?

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Fifth domains? (fifth columns? 😉 )

From Motherboard:

There’s already some evidence that something weird and undiscovered exists out there. Highly novel (and large) viruses, with weird strings of DNA (for a virus) have been discovered that seem to have strings of DNA from seemingly archaeal and eukaryotic genomes. The conventional thinking is that these viruses got that DNA in antiquity from unknown and long extinct eukaryotic and archaeal organisms. But that’s not necessarily the case.

The thought is that those genomes are “now only present as a so-called parasitic fourth domain [in these viruses],” Woyke and Rubin wrote. “It is possible, however, that this cellular precursor has simply not yet been detected and still exists awaiting discovery.”

Finally, the most trippy suggestion the scientists make is that maybe undiscovered life is using a genetic code we don’t understand, and haven’t, until recently, known how to detect and sequence.

“Sequencing to date has mostly been limited to the detection of the canonical four [DNA] bases,” they wrote. New techniques “have the potential to allow the recognition and characterization of environmental organisms with base modifications and compositions distinct from the four standard bases and their currently described modifications.”

Well, if we take the ID approach seriously—that DNA is a language—there is no obvious reason why it could not use different elements to form the instructional words. The words would, of course, have to be functional in the context; otherwise, nothing would happen.

Now, this whole train of thought seems to have got started due to the discovery of the giant viruses. See, for example,

The Scientist asks, Should giant viruses be the fourth domain of life?

Mimivirus discoverer doubts Darwin, banned from publication in France

Biggest virus ever: “We don’t understand anything anymore!” (Hey, after decades of academic smugness, that is a good place to begin discovery!)

See also: With Enceladus the toast of the solar system, here’s a wrap-up of the origin-of-life problem

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19 Replies to “Might there be unclassifiable life forms out there?

  1. 1
    Adapa says:

    Has anyone calculated the CSI of these mysterious mimivirus genome strings to see if they were designed? Or the dFSCI? Or the FSCO/I? Seems like it could be pretty important.

  2. 2
    cantor says:

    Has anyone ever figured out how to calculate the “fitness” advantage of a hypothetical mutation ex ante? Seems like it could be pretty important.

  3. 3
    Sirius says:

    Reply to #2: Surely it is not possible to calculate the advantage. The fitness of a mutation depends on the particular environment that the organism occupies. And environments change constantly. Please say if you disagree!

  4. 4
    cantor says:

    Reply to #3: Has anyone ever figured out how to calculate, ex ante, the “fitness” advantage of a hypothetical mutation in a given environment? Seems like it could be pretty important.

  5. 5
    Adapa says:

    cantor

    Reply to #3: Has anyone ever figured out how to calculate, ex ante, the “fitness” advantage of a hypothetical mutation in a given environment? Seems like it could be pretty important.

    Yes, they have.

    Long-Term Dynamics of Adaptation in Asexual Populations
    Wiser, Ribeck, Lenski
    Science 13 December 2013: Vol. 342 no. 6164 pp. 1364-1367

    Abstract: Experimental studies of evolution have increased greatly in number in recent years, stimulated by the growing power of genomic tools. However, organismal fitness remains the ultimate metric for interpreting these experiments, and the dynamics of fitness remain poorly understood over long time scales. Here, we examine fitness trajectories for 12 Escherichia coli populations during 50,000 generations. Mean fitness appears to increase without bound, consistent with a power law. We also derive this power-law relation theoretically by incorporating clonal interference and diminishing-returns epistasis into a dynamical model of changes in mean fitness over time.

    Real science done by real scientists.

    Has anyone calculated the CSI of these mysterious mimivirus genome strings to see if they were designed? Or the dFSCI? Or the FSCO/I? Seems like it could be pretty important.

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    Might there be unclassifiable life forms out there?

    If so, it would prove that ID is true. Just ask keiths.

  7. 7
    cantor says:

    5 Adapa November 8, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Yes, they have.

    I guess you don’t know what ex ante means, and didn’t even bother to look it up.

    Has anyone ever figured out how to calculate, ex ante, the “fitness” advantage of a hypothetical mutation in a given environment? Seems like it could be pretty important.

    .

    .

  8. 8
    Adapa says:

    cantor

    I guess you don’t know what ex ante means, and didn’t even bother to look it up.

    I guess you couldn’t be bothered to even read the abstract of the paper that was provided, let alone the paper itself.

    We also derive this power-law relation theoretically by incorporating clonal interference and diminishing-returns epistasis into a dynamical model of changes in mean fitness over time.

    Has anyone calculated the CSI of these mysterious mimivirus genome strings to see if they were designed? Or the dFSCI? Or the FSCO/I? Seems like it could be pretty important.

  9. 9
    cantor says:

    Reply to #8: It seems you have a reading comprehension problem. Your quote from the abstract has nothing whatsoever to do with my question:

    Has anyone ever figured out how to calculate, ex ante, the “fitness” advantage of a hypothetical mutation in a given environment? Seems like it could be pretty important.

    .

    .

  10. 10
    Adapa says:

    cantor

    Reply to #8: It seems you have a reading comprehension problem. Your quote from the abstract has nothing whatsoever to do with my question:

    The paper answers your question but it won’t help if you refuse to read it.

  11. 11
    cantor says:

    reply to #10: You have a reading comprehension problem. That paper has nothing whatsoever to do with the question I asked:

    Has anyone ever figured out how to calculate, ex ante, the “fitness” advantage of a hypothetical mutation in a given environment? Seems like it could be pretty important.

    .

    .

  12. 12
    Adapa says:

    reply to #11: You have a reading comprehension problem. That paper has everything to do with the question you asked:

    Has anyone calculated the CSI of these mysterious mimivirus genome strings to see if they were designed? Or the dFSCI? Or the FSCO/I? Seems like it could be pretty important.

  13. 13
    cantor says:

    That paper has everything to do with the question you asked


    Not. You’ve been called out on your obvious literature bluff and have nothing else to offer. Repeating a falsehood multiple times does not make it true.

    Has anyone ever figured out how to calculate, ex ante, the “fitness” advantage of a hypothetical mutation in a given environment? Seems like it could be pretty important.

  14. 14
    logically_speaking says:

    I hate these word games, we are all better than that.

    From good old wiki,

    “The term ex-ante (sometimes written ex ante or exante) is a phrase meaning “before the event”.[1] Ex-ante is used most commonly in the commercial world, where results of a particular action, or series of actions, are forecast in advance (or intended). The opposite of ex-ante is ex-post (actual) (or ex post)”.

    Hope it helps.

  15. 15
    cantor says:

    14 logically_speaking November 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Hope it helps.

    I’ll make a low-risk prediction: It won’t help one iota.

    The troll could easily have looked that up himself, but having a logical dialog is outside his comfort zone.

    So he opened his playbook and tried DDD#6.

  16. 16
    Adapa says:

    logically_speaking

    I hate these word games, we are all better than that.

    Thank you LS but I’m well aware of what the term means. Our childish little troll here was making an idiotic demand, similar to demanding we predict every roll of a die before it is tossed. Childish troll was too lazy to read the paper where long term averages and trends were indeed characterized, just as the long term trends of dice rolls can be characterized. There were even examples with calculations given:

    From the paper:

    Fitness may continue to increase because even very small advantages become important over very long time scales in large populations. Consider a mutation with an advantage s = 10e?6. The probability that this mutation escapes drift loss is ~4s for asexual binary fission (13), so it would typically have to occur 2.5 × 10e5 times before finally taking hold. Given a mutation rate of 10e?10 per base pair per generation (23) and effective population size of ~3.3 × 10e?7, it would require ~10e8 generations for that mutation to escape drift and millions more to fix. Also, pleiotropy and epistasis might allow a sustained supply of advantageous mutations, because many net-beneficial mutations have maladaptive side effects that create opportunities for compensatory mutations to ameliorate those effects.

    I’ve learned to not pay much attention to scientifically illiterate childish trolls like this one. They aren’t interested in learning, only indulging their attention whore cravings.

  17. 17
    keith s says:

    LS,

    You can also observe cantor’s trollish attempt at an expertise bluff here and onward.

  18. 18
    cantor says:

    16 Adapa November 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Consider a mutation with an advantage s = 10e?6.

    BA/WJM/KF: It looks like petitio principii needs to be added to the DDD list.

  19. 19
    Silver Asiatic says:

    cantor 18

    16 Adapa November 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Consider a mutation with an advantage s = 10e?6.

    BA/WJM/KF: It looks like petitio principii needs to be added to the DDD list.

    Good one.

    “Let’s consider a mutation with an advantage. Or a disadvangage. Who cares? It’s just evolution. We can make it up as we go along and then add numbers to it.”

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