Showing posts with the label Origin of Life

Book Review: Outgrowing God

The year 2020 will certainly go down as a memorable one,  given our struggles to cope with a global pandemic.  When not out and about -- which was often -- I managed to pick up a great habit of reading at least 30 minutes every day.  This practice has given me relaxation, along with the joy of continually learning and gaining new insights to life.  Of numerous reads this year, I felt compelled to write a review on Outgrowing God , by Richard Dawkins.  If memory serves, I wrote a review on his earlier work, The God Delusion , back in 2009.  Indeed the two books have many similarities and it feels a bit deja vu to read his latest e-book.  Since taking a more leisurely stride in reading, no notes were taken along the way.  Relying on raw memory, Dawkins' key reasoning on why we do not need a god was:  Assuming the biblical recordings of Abrahamic God (in Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were largely accurate, and that itself is a big "if", the Almighty is simply too cruel,

Life on Mars

The 9 to 5 has prevented me from hitting full throttle on my blogging endeavours the last few months.  I may finally have struck a balance between work and blogging.  Over the next few months, I am going to write a number of posts on my favourite topic: The Universe . To start, let's look at the possibility of life on Mars.  The red planet has long been suggested as the next best rock in our Solar System to host life.  By that, I am not suggesting human-like Martians that you see on TV or the big screen (as this famous Martian image alludes). Instead it is quite likely that simple organisms might have existed back when Mars was more Earth-like. Here are some engaging arguments:  Mars water-scarred terrain - the planet has vast systems of canyons.  In fact, the "Grand Canyon" of Mars is 5 times longer and 4 times deeper than the one in the U.S. These rugged terrains suggest the forces of water and glacial ice once at work. Needless to say, water is a key breeding ground

A Creationist Argument on the Origin of Life

This article  holds a rare strong argument on the creationist view of life.  It attempts to show us that  not enough time has elapsed from the birth of the universe to allow for all the necessary trial and error in spontaneously creating and then mutating life to where we are today .  Though well written, there is one fatal flaw with its primary argument.  The probability argument does not stand, because to beat it, all you need to do is to be "lucky." I will admit that in our case, we need to be really lucky. Despite the seemingly improbable odds however, it is still possible that one hits the jackpot on the first try.  Just look at the lottery, there is almost always a winner.  And we happen to be one of many lucky winners over time! -PTS

Book Review: The God Delusion

Back in August, I wanted to do a deep dive on the origin of life. Well, my hectic 9 - 5 delayed this exercise by four months. Anyway, I started off by reading  The God Delusion , a bestseller written by the famous Richard Dawkins . This book not only defends atheism, but it goes so far as to attack the religious position. Here are some of the main principles explained: The God Hypothesis - Dawkins contends that if god really created life, then who created god in the first place? He goes on to remind us that the whole problem we started with was to explain the statistical improbability on the origin of life. Thus it makes no sense to take the god position because there is the larger problem of who designed the designer. In comparison, evolution by natural selection becomes a more probable and hence preferrable theory. Evolution of complex organs is possible - creationists argue that complex organs like the eye could not have evolved in a piecemeal fashion over time. This is be

Ten Key SETI Moments

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, was founded fifty ago. Here are 10 notable moments that deserve honourable mention. Interesting enough, the invention of the Drake equation was noted as one of those key moments. Of all listed candidates, my vote goes to the Arecibo Message. With our technology today, it is difficult to conceive that we will discover extraterrestrial life forms in the near future. We may as well let a technologically superior alien civilization track us down from our interstellar broadcasts. What is your favourite moment? -PTS

The Drake Equation

Ever heard of the Drake equation? Devised by Dr. Francis Drake in 1960, the equation estimates the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy with which we might come into contact. The main purpose of the equation is to allow scientists to quantify the factors that determine the number of such extraterrestrial civilizations. The Drake equation states that: where: N is the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible; and R * is the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy f p is the fraction of those stars that have planets n e is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets f ℓ is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point f i is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life f c is the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space L is the

A Prelude to the Origin of Life on Earth

I was looking to do a deep dive into the origin of life on Earth, a topic that has always intrigued me. Two main schools of thoughts today generally revolve around creationism or abiogenisis. Before engaging in serious research however, I came across this interesting post . Scientists theorize that Earth's oceans may have been 'delivered' by comets during massive collisions. It was comets and not asteroids because of specific amounts of iridium found in Greenland's rocks. In case you are wondering, here are the common differences between comets and asteroids: Comets display comas and tails due to sublimation of water and ejection of dust particles from solar radiation. Comets have more eliptical orbits than asteroids around the sun. Comets may become asteroids when they run out of watery particles. This article is exciting because it opens up a whole new perspective on the origin of life. It is commonly believed that life first formed in bodies of water. Is it pos

Using Math to Explain Evolution

One question that has always intrigued me is how did life originate on Earth? In fact, will be spending quite a bit of time on this topic as the blog develops. Here is a great article by Scientific American on using mathematics to simulate the dynamic forces of evolution. The idea is to create mathematical formulas that can describe the simplest of chemical systems which evolve over time. I am no geek -- or so I would like to think -- but the article does make one appreciate the beauty of mathematics. - PTS