September 11th, 2021

curious kodama

Extraterrestrial lockdowns?

Viruses May Exist 'Elsewhere In the Universe,' Warns Scientist (theguardian.com)

Astrobiologist Paul Davies suggests viruses may form a vital part of ecosystems on other planets. The Guardian reports: "Viruses actually form part of the web of life," said Davies. "I would expect that if you've got microbial life on another planet, you're bound to have -- if it's going to be sustainable and sustained -- the full complexity and robustness that will go with being able to exchange genetic information." Viruses, said Davies, can be thought of as mobile, genetic elements. Indeed, a number of studies have suggested genetic material from viruses has been incorporated into the genomes of humans and other animals by a process known as horizontal gene transfer. "A friend of mine thinks most, but certainly a significant fraction, of the human genome is actually of viral origin," said Davies, whose new book, What's Eating the Universe?, was published last week.

According to Davies, while the importance of microbes to life is well known, the role of viruses is less widely appreciated. But he said if there is cellular life on other worlds, viruses or something similar, would probably exist to transfer genetic information between them. What's more, he said, it is unlikely alien life would be homogenous. "I don't think it's a matter that you go to some other planet, and there will just be you one type of microbe and it's perfectly happy. I think it's got to be a whole ecosystem," he added. While the thought of extraterrestrial viruses may seem alarming, Davies suggests there is no need for humans to panic. "The dangerous viruses are those that are very closely adapted to their hosts," he said. "If there is a truly alien virus, then chances are it wouldn't be remotely dangerous."

Davies [...] said it is also important should humans attempt to colonize another planet. "Most people think about, well, we would need to have very large spacecraft, and then sort of recycle things for the very long journey, and then all the technology you'd need to take," he said. "Actually, the toughest part of this problem is what would be the microbiology that you'd have to take -- it's no good just taking a few pigs and potatoes and things like that and hoping when you get to the other end it'll all be wonderful and self sustainable." While Covid has left most of us with a dim view of viruses, Davies said they are not all bad. "In fact, mostly, they're good," he said. [A]s Davies notes, a significant fraction of the human genome may be remnants of ancient viruses. "We hear about the microbiome inside us, and there's a planetary microbiome," said Davies. But, he argues there is also a human and planetaryvirome, with viruses playing a fundamental role in nature. "I think without viruses, there may be no sustained life on planet Earth," he said.
quark structure

Sounds like holy trinitron.

First Evidence of Elusive 'Triangle Singularity' Shows Particles Swapping Identities (livescience.com)

LiveScience reports that physicists sifting through old particle accelerator data "have found evidence of a highly-elusive, never-before-seen process: a so-called triangle singularity."

Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shares their report: First envisioned by Russian physicist Lev Landau in the 1950s, a triangle singularity refers to a rare subatomic process where particles exchange identities before flying away from each other. In this scenario, two particles — called kaons — form two corners of the triangle, while the particles they swap form the third point on the triangle.

"The particles involved exchanged quarks and changed their identities in the process," study co-author Bernhard Ketzer, of the Helmholtz Institute for Radiation and Nuclear Physics at the University of Bonn, said in a statement.

It's called a singularity because the mathematical methods for describing subatomic particle interactions break down.

If this singularly weird particle identity-swap really happened, it could help physicists understand the strong force, which binds the nucleus together.