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Origin of life dustup: Once again, we discover why we love Inference Review


A genuine discussion between Helen Hansma and Brian Miller in the Letters Section:

In response to “Hot Wired,” a discussion between Brian Miller and Jeremy England, both experts, on fluctuation theorems and the origins of life. (Vol. 5, No. 2).

According to Miller, moving mica sheets could not “have generated more than a tiny fraction of the required free energy.” He offers no evidence to support this claim. If the mica sheets move even one angstrom closer together and have a spring constant stiff enough to provide 170 piconewtons of force, they can push together two molecules to form a covalent bond.6 The equation for a spring constant, F = kx, shows that a spring constant of 1.7 newton-meters would suffice. The spring constant of the mica depends on the number of mica sheets in the layer that is opening and closing. Each mica sheet is approximately one nanometer thick. Only about seven mica sheets are needed to provide this spring constant.7 Mica does indeed provide an endless energy source with more than enough energy to create the molecules of life.

Helen Hansma, “On the Origins of Life” at Inference Review

To which Miller replies:

Hansma envisions that spaces between adjacent mica sheets embedded in rocks along the ocean floor could serve as the staging ground for the formation of the first cell. In her model, the relative motion of one sheet toward a neighboring one mechanically forces molecules together. Either the repulsive electrostatic force is overcome and a covalent bond is formed between the molecules, or the motion breaks them apart. The mechanical energy of the sheets is converted into chemical energy. The critical flaw in this scenario is Hansma’s claim that mica might potentially provide sufficient mechanical energy for such a process. The efficiency of energy conversion in an ancient marine environment is far too low for the model to be plausible.

Brian Miller, “On the Origins of Life” at Inference Review

A refuge for serious dialogue. No pussyhats. No political endorsements.

See also: New edition of Inference review features Richard Buggs, James Shapiro, and Larry Krauss. Imagine! Serious discussions. And none of that “we’re the voice of Science!” bilge. Hey, it’s all free too. Read, think, and make up your own mind while you still can.

I'd suggest that the brush and trees have adapted to regular small fires. Allowing a huge fuel load to build up invites conflagrations and outright fire storms. kairosfocus
Nature has a “Daily Briefing” which I get. Today, already, this - ‘Features & opinion Trump vs. Biden: what's at stake for science? This week, the Nature Podcast speaks to Lauren Wolf, the US bureau chief of Nature’s news team, and our US-based reporter Jeff Tollefson about why Nature must cover politics and what’s at stake in the upcoming US presidential election. “I think the short answer is: everything,” says Tollefson, who wrote a feature on how Trump damaged science, and why it could take decades to recover. The coronavirus pandemic has put a harsh spotlight on the connections between science, politics and policy, he says. “This touches on public health, it touches on just how science is used across the US government, it touches on issues of scientific integrity — and frankly it touches on issues of democracy.” .... And a slight puff piece for Gavin Newsom, governor of California, on the wildfires there, saying it is proof positive of climate change. Belfast
Belfast at 1, indeed. It would be surprising if there were not similar deepfakes of Trump, a more obvious target. The whole topic is worthy of a more serious treatment. News
I love it too, but this crept in the other day round the time that SciAm and Nature bravely undertook to do the thinking for us. https://inference-review.com/article/disinformed Extract ‘Political uses carry enormous potential. If Russian efforts got Donald Trump elected, as former Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper suggested, one could hardly think of a more ominous threat.5 A GAN-generated deepfake already exists of Nancy Pelosi sounding drunk and saying things she never said.6 It is primitive, and thus easy to detect, but that did not prevent both President Trump and Rudy Giuliani from retweeting it. The same principle was at work in recent deepfakes of political figures in Gabon and Malaysia.7” Needing a head to kick, Trump was chosen. Belfast

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