Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On the Origin of the Genes of Viruses - 5

Cosmic abiotic "robosome"
In the second post of this series I wrote about a "place where only forces, quanta, molecules, and atoms existed, but nevertheless a place that some evolutionary hypotheses say we can explore, because a lot of scientists have been pondering that ["place"] for a long time".

That "place" is depicted in the graphic to the left (click to enlarge).

The "primeval atom" of Big Bang theory generated a molecular cloud which eventually condensed into stars that eventually went nova or supernova to then form another molecular cloud, which eventually condensed into yet another star.

You may have noticed that I labeled the "primeval atom", together with the processes
Ribosome: a molecular machine
and parts in it, as a "cosmic abiotic robosome", which is of course a play on the word "ribosome."

In the previous post of this series it was noted that a ribosome is "a large and complex molecular machine", that is, a molecular machine factory within carbon-based living cells which manipulates and/or produces molecules for various genetic purposes (see graphic to the right).

In abiotic evolution terminology the entity that produced the Big Bang is a cosmic abiotic robosome which eventually produced a molecular cloud that condensed into a star or stars, which also eventually produced subsequent molecular clouds.

But more than that, the condensing of the molecular cloud by the cosmic abiotic robosome also produced planets.

The cosmic abiotic robosome, like the earthly biotic ribosome within carbon-based life forms, has its own way of replicating things:
The very earliest universe was so hot, or energetic, that initially no particles existed or could exist (except perhaps in the most fleeting sense), and the forces we see around us today were believed to be merged into one unified force. Space-time itself expanded during an inflationary epoch due to the immensity of the energies involved. Gradually the immense energies cooled – still to a temperature inconceivably hot compared to any we see around us now, but sufficiently to allow forces to gradually undergo symmetry breaking, a kind of repeated condensation from one status quo to another, leading finally to the separation of the strong force from the electroweak force and the first particles.

In the second phase, this quark–gluon plasma universe then cooled further, the current fundamental forces we know take their present forms through further symmetry breaking – notably the breaking of electroweak symmetry – and the full range of complex and composite particles we see around us today became possible, leading to a gravitationally dominated universe, the first neutral atoms (~ 80% hydrogen), and the cosmic microwave background radiation we can detect today. Modern high energy particle physics theories are satisfactory at these energy levels, and so physicists believe they have a good understanding of this and subsequent development of the fundamental universe around us. Because of these changes, space had also become largely transparent to light and other electromagnetic energy, rather than "foggy", by the end of this phase.

The third phase started after a short dark age with a universe whose fundamental particles and forces were as we know them, and witnessed the emergence of large scale stable structures, such as the earliest stars, quasars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies and superclusters, and the development of these to create the kind of universe we see today. Some researchers call the development of all this physical structure over billions of years "cosmic evolution". Other, more interdisciplinary, researchers refer to "cosmic evolution" as the entire scenario of growing complexity from big bang to humankind, thereby incorporating biology and culture into a grand unified view of all complex systems in the universe to date.
(Chronology of the Universe, Wikipedia, emphasis added). The cosmic abiotic robosome eventually produced carbon as well as the planet Earth:
Formation of the carbon atomic nucleus requires a nearly simultaneous triple collision of alpha particles (helium nuclei) within the core of a giant or supergiant star which is known as the triple-alpha process, as the products of further nuclear fusion reactions of helium with hydrogen or another helium nucleus produce lithium-5 and beryllium-8 respectively, both of which are highly unstable and decay almost instantly back into smaller nuclei. This happens in conditions of temperatures over 100 megakelvin and helium concentration that the rapid expansion and cooling of the early universe prohibited, and therefore no significant carbon was created during the Big Bang. Instead, the interiors of stars in the horizontal branch transform three helium nuclei into carbon by means of this triple-alpha process. In order to be available for formation of life as we know it, this carbon must then later be scattered into space as dust, in supernova explosions, as part of the material which later forms second, third-generation star systems which have planets accreted from such dust. The Solar System is one such third-generation star system.
(Wikipedia, Carbon Formation, emphasis added; cf. NASA). This means that our Sun and our Earth have descended from an ancestor star that exploded and emitted a molecular cloud which then condensed to form a second ancestor star that did the same, i.e. formed a molecular cloud that condensed into the Sun and the planets of our solar system.

Thus, the cosmic abiotic robosome is composed of cosmic "parts" as it were: forces, plasmas, quanta, atoms, molecules, planets, stars, and galaxies.

The ribosome within carbon-based life forms is also composed of many parts as it were (The Uncertain Gene - 8).

In the next post we will look closer to try to find an abiotic genetic replicator (e.g. "robozyme") for ancient RNA-virus genes.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

It is National Poetry Month. The following poem by Sylvia Plath seems to describe the cosmic abiotic robosome philosophy quite well.

Lady Lazarus
by Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it--

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?--

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot--
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

'A miracle!'
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart--
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash--
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

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