A Precursor to RNA? Excerpt:
If RNA was indeed the first biological molecule, discovering how it first formed would illuminate the birth of life. The basic building blocks of RNA were available on prebiotic Earth, but chemists, including (Georgia Institute of Technology chemist Nicholas) Hud, have spent years trying to assemble them into an RNA molecule with little success. About 15 years ago, Hud grew frustrated with that search and decided to explore an alternative idea: Perhaps the first biological molecule was not RNA, but a precursor that possessed similar characteristics and could more easily assemble itself from prebiotic ingredients. Perhaps RNA evolved from this more ancient molecule, just as DNA evolved from RNA.
What’s interesting about this? We really don’t know much about how life came to be on Earth. We know quite a lot about what happened once there was life, but the study of life’s origins – abiogenesis – is still working out the basic details. This may be a step towards a better understanding, maybe even a hypothesis.
Mating With Neandertals Was Hard. I’ll forgo the obvious joke. Excerpt:
While past studies have suggested that interbreeding improved immunity and genetics related to disease resistance, it turns out that Neanderthals might have actually passed along some harmful genes, as well. Studies suggested that genes associated with increased risk of lupus, biliary cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease, and smoking addiction were all inherited from the Neanderthals.
Whoops. While it’s interesting to know that there are traces of these hardy, resilient humans left, we could probably do without the disease aspects.
One more, this one presenting the possibility of a revolutionary material: Lighter Than Water, Stronger Than Steel. Excerpt:
Materials shape human progress – think stone age or bronze age. The 21st century has been referred to as the molecular age, a time when scientists are beginning to manipulate materials at the atomic level to create new substances with astounding properties.
Taking a step in that direction, Jens Bauer at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and his colleagues have developed a bone-like material that is less dense than water, but as strong as some forms of steel. “This is the first experimental proof that such materials can exist,” Bauer said.
Hank Rearden could not be reached for comment.
On that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.