Collaboration: Come together to study life's origins

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Researchers working on the origins of life tend to fall into two camps — those who investigate artificial life and those who study the origins of life on Earth four billion years ago. The communication gulf between the two needs to be closed if the field is to progress.

Artificial-life researchers are less concerned about how life originated on Earth than with the idea of life as a universal phenomenon — including its emergence and self-organization. And those pursuing experimental verification of mechanisms for terrestrial origins are seldom drawn to the broad theoretical ideas of artificial life.

The Earth-Life Science Institute's Origins Network, working with members of the research community, has issued a statement to encourage fresh approaches to the subject (C. Scharf et al. Astrobiology 15, 10311042; 2015). We suggest that origins-of-life research requires inspirational innovation, cross-disciplinary collaboration and reassurance from institutions that such research will be supported. We hope that these proposals will help to train a new generation of scientists to think more broadly and less tribally.

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  1. Columbia University, New York, USA.

    • Caleb Scharf
  2. Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo, Japan.

    • Nathaniel Virgo &
    • H. James Cleaves

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  1. Report this comment #67525

    Carlos Polanco said:

    To the editor:
    Origin of Life: approaches from the polar profile proteins
    The Scharf's editorial (1) [Collaboration: Come together to study life's origins, Nature] recommends to encourage multidisciplinary work on the origin of life, and search for institutional support to impulse this discipline under the agreements reached at the Workshop held August 26-28, 2015 at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo Japan (2).

    One of the specializations for the study of the origin of life is the one that recreates mathematically or computationally the polymerization of peptides that should have prevailed 4 billion years ago. During the last decade, my colleagues and I have been working with the physico-chemical property polarity (3), to measure the stability of the valence electrons in a covalent bond (4), first to identify the main function related to peptides and in a later stage, to computationally re-create the important experiments made by Miller-Urey, Fox & Harada and B.M. Rode (6-8) related to the origin of life.

    I think this property should be included in the science agenda for this subject since it has shown to be a contribution to Structural Proteomics.

    Sincerely yours,
    Carlos Polanco, Ph.D., D.Sc.
    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México City, México.

    Carlos Polanco is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Sciences at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México City, México. (

    1. Scharf C, Virgo M, Cleaves HJ. Collaboration: Come together to study life's origins Nature 529, 25 (2015) DOI:10.1038/529025e.
    2. Scharf C., et al. A Strategy for Origins of Life Research. Astrobiology 15:1031-1042. (2015) DOI: 10.1089/ast.2015.1113.
    3. Pauling L. General Chemistry [Química General] 3rd edition W. H. Freeman & Company Publishers, (1955), pp. 227, 621.
    4. Polanco C, Morales-Reyes A, Castañón-González JA. Electronegativity profile of proteins associated to Ebola virus: a review. The Battle Against Microbial Pathogens: Basic Science, Technological Advances and Educational Programs (A. Méndez-Vilas, Ed.). FORMATEX Publishers, (2015), pp. 1025-1030.
    5. Polanco C, et al. Detection of selective antibacterial peptides by the Polarity Profile method. Acta Biochim Pol 60:183-189 (2013).
    6. Polanco C. et al. A toy model of prebiotic peptide evolution: the possible role of relative amino acid abundances. Acta Biochim Pol 60:175-182 (2013).
    7. Polanco C. et al. Discrete dynamic system oriented on the formation of prebiotic dipeptides from Rode's experiment. Acta Biochim Pol 61:717-726 (2014).
    8. Polanco C. et al. Computational model of abiogenic amino acid condensation to obtain a polar amino acid profile. Acta Biochim Pol 61:253-258 (2014).

  2. Report this comment #67557

    Rodney Bartlett said:

    Relativity means Evolution must adapt -

    When contemplating the theory of evolution, many people assume evolution belongs exclusively to the biological sciences. I maintain complete comprehension also requires physics. Without a conviction that time travel to the past is possible, I?d have to totally agree with the evolutionary concepts Charles Darwin proposed. But I have no doubt that time doesn?t exclusively operate in a straight line.

    The Virtual Particles composing space-time are not actually particles but are fluctuations in an energy field and therefore are pulses of energy ("The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow – Bantam Press 2010, p.113). It will be seen that these fluctuations can occur exclusively in the gravitational field. Using Einstein's writings; it will be shown how gravity is responsible for mass and matter*, plus all forms of the nuclear forces and electromagnetism**. Thus, the great scientist's Unified Field^^ manifests itself, uniting all space-time (the entire universe and all its particles' motions in the past, present and future). This makes time travel to the past possible. Comparing the universe to the "moving curtains of light" known as auroras, the cosmos might be called a rippling curtain of gravitation or gravitational waves.

    • Albert Einstein's ?Speilen Gravitationfelder in Aufbau der Elementarteilchen eine Wesentliche Rolle?? (Do gravitational fields play an essential role in the structure of elementary particles?), Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, (Math. Phys.), 349-356 (1919) Berlin.
      • When Einstein penned E=mc^2, he used c (c^2) to convert between energy units and mass units. The conversion number is 90,000,000,000 (light's velocity of 300,000 km/s x 300,000 km/s) which approx. equals 10^11. Gravity waves with a strength of 10^1 are, via quantum gravitational lensing, concentrated 10^24 times after they?re focused to form matter (to 10^25, weak nuclear force?s strength – giving the illusion that a weak nuclear force^ that is not the product of gravitation exists). Waves are magnified by the matter's density to achieve electromagnetism?s strength (10^36 times gravity's strength) i.e. 10^25 is multiplied by Einstein's conversion factor [10^11] and gives 10^36 (this gives the illusion of the existence of electric and magnetic fields that are not a product of gravitation). (The gluons that bind mesons would likewise be either products of gravitation or, like quarks, replaceable by the more fundamental 1's and 0's.) After absorption by atoms, the depleted remnant of the gravity waves is re-radiated from stars, interstellar gas and dust, etc. It?s radiated as gravitational waves (a Gravity Wave Background, challenging the idea that Cosmic Inflation was necessary to generate gravitational waves) which have lost most of their energy or strength during formation of forces (returning to a strength of 10^1). Since gravity can produce electromagnetism, it?s also radiated as electromagnetic waves ? including an infrared background whose heat output exceeds that of the stars alone, in addition to a microwave background. The latter challenges the idea that existence of the cosmic microwave background proves the universe began with the traditional Big Bang.

    ^ Remember, this is only one example: the so-called weak force?s strength isn?t constant and varies with distances [more info in "The Strengths of the Known Forces? by theoretical physicist Matt Strassler [May 31, 2013] -

    ^^ The suggestion of matter being composed of space-time answers a 50-year-old objection to Einstein's Unified Field Theory which was put forth by Professors Newman and Penrose [Newman, E. T., Penrose, R. J. - Mathematical Physics 3, 566 (1962)]. In the 19th century, Scottish mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell unified electricity and magnetism into electromagnetism. Albert Einstein's equations say that in a universe possessing only gravitation and electromagnetism#, the gravitational fields carry enough information about electromagnetism to allow the equations of Maxwell to be restated in terms of these gravitational fields. This was discovered by the mathematical physicist George Yuri Rainich (1886 -1968). The objection by Newman and Penrose was that the gravitational fields, if known everywhere but only for a limited time, do not contain enough information about their electromagnetism to allow the future to be determined, so Einstein's unified theory fails.

    1. Modern science adds the nuclear weak and strong interactions, for a total of 4 fundamental forces. However, it's proposed here that these are no more than byproducts of gravitational-electromagnetic interaction. Virtual particles "cannot be directly detected by a particle detector (but) also exist in some circumstances as real particles" (eg the real photons detected as light waves). ["A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking – Bantam Press 1988, p.69]. The proposal is that virtual photons, and other virtual particles like gravitons, produce the binary digits of 1 and 0 which encode pi, e, ?2 etc.; and matter particles [and even bosons like the Higgs, W and Z particles] are given mass by photons/gravitons interacting in matter particles? ?wave packets? (a term from quantum mechanics).

    If time (referred to as ?motion of particles in space") is unified with the gravitational and electromagnetic fields which this comment proposes to be the creators of particles, the gravitational fields are not known for only a limited time but do contain enough information. And Einstein succeeded, just as John Wheeler and Charles Misner claimed [?Classical physics as geometry? by Charles Misner and John Wheeler – the ?Annals of Physics? - Volume 2, Issue 6, December 1957, Pages 525?603)].

    Even though Einstein told us space and time are curved and warped, we insist on limiting ourselves to a purely straight-line concept of time. Such a concept means Darwinian evolution is the only possible explanation for the origin of species (unless you believe in God). But to stick to science – Einstein's nonlinear time allows evolution to be restricted to adaptations and relatively minor modifications within species. Their origin is plausibly explained by human biotechnology from centuries in the future finding its way into the distant past. In a biological sense, the Theory of Evolution certainly explains adaptations and modifications. But believing it also explains origins is unwarranted extrapolation. That takes an idea which accounts for some parts of life and, since it?s the only scientific explanation we currently have, assumes it accounts for all parts of life.


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