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The Declaration of White Independence: Fourth Political Theory

A unilateral assertion offered to and for consideration by the European Descended People of the fifty united States of America and all ...

29 October 2013

Want a Starship? Think Big. Think Really Big


Pushing humanity into the stars is certainly no cakewalk. There are light-years of interstellar space to bridge. Mind boggling energies are needed. We’ll have to comprehend years, decades or even centuries of time before we can even consider calling ourselves an interstellar race.
 
Are these concepts insurmountable? No. But, according to advanced propulsion expert and science/science fiction writer Les Johnson, we need a paradigm shift before these interstellar dreams become a reality. This isn’t necessarily a paradigm shift in technology, however. We need to change the way we think about time, space, distance and energy.
 
Most importantly, we have to start thinking big. Really big.
 
Speaking at the Eve Online players conference in Las Vegas, Nev., on Oct. 20, Johnson, who also serves as Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., discussed one of the biggest and most profound searches of our age: the hunt for extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, in the ultimate hope of finding a bona fide second Earth.
 
In this golden age of exoplanetary studies, astronomers don’t have to rely on science fiction predictions, they can make a scientific estimate that there are 100-400 billion exoplanets in our galaxy. “How do we go? I wish that I could say that we could generate a wormhole and be there right away,” he added.
 
We live in a Universe where time is of little concern and the possibilities are, from our perspective, infinite. It’s up to us, as a species, to think big before we can ever hope of becoming masters of our own solar system, let alone the interstellar ocean.

Les Johnson is our Make EVE Real guest speaker for EVE Vegas. He is a scientist, an author of both science fiction and popular science books, and the Deputy Manager of NASA's Advanced Concepts Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. In his presentation titled 'Going Interstellar', Les will discuss how mankind might someday visit and settle other habitable planets - using technologies that don't violate the known laws of physics.

28 October 2013

Neuroscientists discover new 'mini-neural computer' in the brain

This is a dendrite, the branch-like structure of a single neuron in the brain. The bright object from the top is a pipette attached to a dendrite in the brain of a mouse. The pipette allows researchers to measure electrical activity, such as a dendritic spike, the bright spot in the middle of the image. Credit: Spencer Smith
 
Dendrites, the branch-like projections of neurons, were once thought to be passive wiring in the brain. But now researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have shown that these dendrites do more than relay information from one neuron to the next. They actively process information, multiplying the brain's computing power.
 
"Suddenly, it's as if the processing power of the brain is much greater than we had originally thought," said Spencer Smith, PhD, an assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine.
 
His team's findings, published October 27 in the journal Nature, could change the way scientists think about long-standing scientific models of how neural circuitry functions in the brain, while also helping researchers better understand neurological disorders.
 
"Imagine you're reverse engineering a piece of alien technology, and what you thought was simple wiring turns out to be transistors that compute information," Smith said. "That's what this finding is like. The implications are exciting to think about."
 
"All the data pointed to the same conclusion," Smith said. "The dendrites are not passive integrators of sensory-driven input; they seem to be a computational unit as well."

A network of pyramidal cells in the cerebral cortex. These neurons have been simulated using a computer program which captures the beautiful dendritic architecture of real pyramidal cells. These dendrites have now been shown to carry out sophisticated computations on their inputs. Credit: UCL

27 October 2013

EXPLICIT Whiteness

Viking 'Parliament' Discovered Under Parking Lot in Scotland


A Viking parliamentary site that dates to the 11th century has been found beneath a parking lot in Scotland.

The site, located in the town of Dingwall, Scotland, was dubbed a "Thing" site, referring to its name in antiquity. Like other Thing sites, this one was likely a place where ancient Norsemen gathered to settle legal disputes, uphold laws and make key political decisions.

"It's a fantastic find, really," said Oliver J. T. O'Grady, the director of the site's excavations and an archaeologist who runs an archaeological consulting firm called OJT Heritage. "No one's had dating [information] from a Thing site in Scotland."

24 October 2013

Biggest GOP donor: US should nuke Iran

 
The biggest donor to the US Republican Party, Sheldon Adelson says America should begin negotiations with Iran only after nuking it.

Adelson made the comments at Yeshiva University in New York, criticizing Washington's recent diplomatic outreach to Tehran. The gambling mogul donated nearly a hundred million dollars to Republicans last year. He's seen as an influential figure in devising US policies in favor of Israel. The 80-year-old is also a powerful figure inside Israel. He owns a Tel Aviv newspaper that frequently magnifies warnings from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel.

What Junk DNA? It’s an Operating System

Noncoding gene sequences control gene expression and influence disease processes
 
Stretches of regulatory DNA once thought functionless may orchestrate networks of genes. [© Mopic - Fotolia.com]
 
In the August 1 issue of CELL, researchers from the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at Sydney's Centenary Institute revealed another function of introns, or noncoding nucleotide sequences, in DNA. They reported that gene-sequencing techniques and computer analysis allowed them to demonstrate how granulocytes use noncoding DNA to regulate the activity of a group of genes that determines the cells’ shape and function.
 
Their report adds to growing experimental support for the idea that all that extra stuff in the human genes, once referred to as “junk DNA,” is more than functionless, space-filling material that happens to make up nearly 98% of the genome. The paper adds to a growing body of knowledge establishing a considerable role for this material in the regulation of gene expression and its potential role in human disease...
 
Over the past few years, as high-powered analytical tools and genomic information have become available, the function of introns, such as transcription factor recognition sequences, has become better understood. And, as John Stamatoyannopoulos, M.D., associate professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington, points out, while only about 2% of the human genome codes for proteins, “Hidden in the remaining 98 percent are instructions that basically tell the genes how to switch on and off." His laboratory focuses on disease-associated variants in regulatory regions of DNA.
 
The footnote to all of this is probably that knowing individual gene sequences that encode specific proteins is only the beginning of understanding the complexity of the human genome, but it may show how introns and other mechanisms control gene expression and ultimately shed light on many human diseases.

23 October 2013

New galaxy 'most distant' yet discovered

Astronomers have found a galaxy so distant that when they look at it, they see conditions going back to when the universe was in its relative infancy
The galaxy, shown in this artist's impression, is 1-2% the Milky Way's mass
 
The system is small: about 1-2% the mass of the Milky Way and is rich in heavier elements. But it has a surprising feature: it is turning gas and dust into new stars at a remarkable rate, churning them out hundreds of times faster than our own galaxy can. It is the second far-flung galaxy known that has been found to have a high star-production rate.
 
Prof Finkelstein said: "One very interesting way to learn about the Universe is to study these outliers and that tells us something about what sort of physical processes are dominating galaxy formation and galaxy evolution. "What was great about this galaxy is not only is it so distant, it is also pretty exceptional." He added that in the coming years, astronomers are likely to discover even more distant galaxies when Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is launched and other ground-based telescopes come online.
 
Commenting on the research, Dr Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, told BBC News: "This, along with some other evidence, shows that there are already quite surprisingly evolved galaxies in the very early Universe . "This high star-formation rate maybe is a clue as to why these galaxies can form so quickly."
 
Prof Alfonso Aragon-Salamanca, from the University of Nottingham, added: "This is an important step forward, but we need to continue looking for more. "The further away we go, the closer we will get to discovering the very first stars that ever formed in the Universe. The next generation of telescopes will make this possible."

Should We Remake Mars in Earth's Image?

The density of Mars is 3.9 gm/cm3, just a bit higher than the Earth's Moon (3.34 gm/cm3). It orbits the Sun at an average distance of 1.52 AU (227,940,000 km). Mars takes 687 days (1.88 Earth years) to orbit the Sun. The length of the Martian "day" is nearly the same as Earth, as Mars rotates once per 24 hours and 37 minutes. The spin axis of Mars is even tilted at similar angle, 25o, to that of Earth, so it has four seasons just like Earth (a "sol" is a Martian day)

We will eventually have the technology to make Mars a more habitable planet — but for whom? Earthlings, or Martians? By definition, Mars terraforming would make it more Earth-like. Alternatively, Mars renovation would seek to resuscitate any native life that might have survived in environmental niches for billions of years. Astrobiologist Chris McKay, of NASA’s Ames Research Center, favors a non-geocentric term: planetary ecosynthesis, for establishing a robust biosphere on a planet’s surface.
 
Mars is certainly a prize for colonization. The Red Planet has as much surface area as all of Earth’s continents combined, making it the focus of several grassroots space pioneering groups. But this presents a conundrum. McKay asks if a biologically rich and diverse Mars is more valuable than largely preserving the beautiful, but seemingly dead, world we are exploring today.
 
Regardless of the tenants, the first task at hand is to change the Martian atmosphere to make the Red Planet a warmer and wetter world. Mars’ large flood features indicate there is a lot of water locked in the planet; there was likely even an ocean 4 billion years ago. The world first needs to be thawed out.
 
Super greenhouse gasses — such as chlorofluorocarbons — could be introduced. This would warm the Red Planet and release frozen carbon dioxide for further warming. This would eventually allow for rivers and streams to again flow under a denser atmosphere. The Big Thaw would take a few centuries by McKay’s estimates.
 
“Restoring that (Martian) life to global diversity would have to be the best possible option for Mars,” McKay wrote. “However if life on Mars is genetically related to life on Earth or if there is no life to revive on Mars, then, a Mars teaming with Earth life is the next best option.”
 
This is a decision that humanity will ultimately face. It will open our first major extraterrestrial dilemma. As the most advanced form of life in the solar system, are we entitle to assert a biological Manifest Destiny over other worlds?
 
Do we reshape Mars in man’s image, or reboot a Martian Genesis II?

22 October 2013

Ancient Twisted Pattern of Light Reveals New Information About the Early Universe

The European Space Agency's Planck Observatory has delivered many discoveries in its 4.5 year career, ranging from our Milky Way backyard to the first few moments of the Universe, 13.82 billion years ago.

The journey of light from the very early universe to modern telescopes is long and winding. The ancient light traveled billions of years to reach us, and along the way, its path was distorted by the pull of matter, leading to a twisted light pattern.

This twisted pattern of light, called B-modes, has at last been detected. The discovery, which will lead to better maps of matter across our universe, was made using the National Science Foundation's South Pole Telescope, with help from the Herschel space observatory.

Scientists have long predicted two types of B-modes: the ones that were recently found were generated a few billion years into our universe's existence (it is presently 13.8 billion years old). The others, called primordial, are theorized to have been produced when the universe was a newborn baby, fractions of a second after its birth in the Big Bang.

"This latest discovery is a good checkpoint on our way to the measurement of primordial B-modes," said Duncan Hanson of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, lead author of the new report published Sept. 30 in the online edition of Physical Review Letters.

The elusive primordial B-modes may be imprinted with clues about how our universe was born. Scientists are currently combing through data from the Planck mission in search of them. Both Herschel and Planck are European Space Agency missions, with important NASA contributions.

The oldest light we see around us today, called the cosmic microwave background, harkens back to a time just hundreds of thousands of years after the universe was created. Planck recently produced the best-ever full-sky map of this light, revealing new details about of our cosmos' age, contents and origins. A fraction of this ancient light is polarized, a process that causes light waves to vibrate in the same plane. The same phenomenon occurs when sunlight reflects off lakes, or particles in our atmosphere. On Earth, special sunglasses can isolate this polarized light, reducing glare.

The B-modes are a twisted pattern of polarized light. In the new study, the scientists were on a hunt for the kind of polarized light spawned by matter in a process called gravitational lensing, where the gravitational pull from knots of matter distorts the path of light.

The signals are extremely faint, so Hanson and colleagues used Herschel's infrared map of matter to get a better idea of where to look. The researchers then spotted the signals with the South Pole Telescope, making the first-ever detection of B-modes. This is an important step for better mapping how matter, both normal and dark, is distributed throughout our universe. Clumps of matter in the early universe are the seeds of galaxies like our Milky Way.

Astronomers are eager to detect primordial B-modes next. These polarization signals, from billions of years ago, would be much brighter on larger scales, which an all-sky mission like Planck is better able to see.

"These beautiful measurements from the South Pole Telescope and Herschel strengthen our confidence in our current model of the universe," said Olivier Doré, a member of the U.S. Planck science team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "However, this model does not tell us how big the primordial signal itself should be. We are thus really exploring with excitement a new territory here, and a potentially very, very old one."

Read the European Space Agency feature about this work at here.

Are We Observing Extraterrestrial Intelligence Without Realizing It?


Philosophy and the physical sciences have a long and interesting past spanning the entirety of human history. Philosophers have played the role of logically deducing the existence of certain physical phenomena that were untestable. Physical scientists have then either empirically confirmed or refuted the philosophical speculation proposed when the necessary technology and/or method were developed.
 
Sometimes the philosophical speculations failed to describe the nature of reality, like the Ancient Greek proposition that the heavens were composed of a fifth element: aether . However, on several occasions, the philosophical speculations turned out to be quite exact. For example, in the 4th century B.C.E. philosopher Democritus deduced that the universe was composed of indivisible units of matter known as "atoms." This belief was substantiated over 2,000 years later by the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein (you may have heard of him).
 
A similarly impressive academic partnership manifested when the Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno read the On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres by astronomer Nicholas Copernicus. Bruno found Copernicus's heliocentric model of the solar system ground breaking (which it was), and logically deduced that all stars in the night sky were fundamentally similar to our own Sun, and that they had worlds gravitationally bound to them.
 
In the modern world some believe that this ancient relationship between philosophy and the physical sciences is dead, or dying, or functionally redundant. But I most certainly disagree. Last week I had a chance to meet with philosopher (and systems theorist) Clément Vidal. Vidal has pointed out that there are certain binary star systems that astrophysicists have had difficulty explaining with conventional astrophysical models. These binaries are semi-detatched stars that exhibit an energy flow that is irregular, but not out of control. Vidal argues that instead of an astrophysical model, we need an astrobiological model to describe these strange systems.
 
In essence Vidal is claiming that these systems are not typical binary stars, but rather civilizations that have advanced well passed a Type 1 civilization on the Kardashev scale and are now actively feeding on their parent star. He calls these hypothetical civilizations starivores. And if he is right... then there are approximately 2,000 known starivores in our galaxy alone.
 
Surely this idea is worthy of scientific attention and empirical testing. Democritus's speculation was tested after the introduction of the special theory of relativity. Bruno's speculation was tested as our telescope technology improved. Is there any theoretical model or technology we could use today that could validate or refute Vidal's speculation?
 
Perhaps, the necessary test is related to understanding the nature of the binary systems "metabolism." Metabolism is one of the fundamental and necessary conditions for complex living systems because it allows them to draw and sustain order from the surrounding non-living chaos. So if these binary systems are actually intelligent civilizations feeding on their parent star then we should expect a degree of energy flow control that cannot be described by the laws of physics alone.
 
This idea may come as a shock. Over the past 50 years scientists have been disappointed by data indicating that we are alone in the Milky Way. Physicists like Max Tegmark have even gone so far as to suggest that we are the first intelligent civilization to arise in the entire universe. And he might be right... but he might be very wrong as well.
 
Major breakthroughs in the sciences can come from ideas that at first seem bizarre... even impossible. But the universe has also proved to be stranger than we ever imagined. In my opinion Clément Vidal has called our attention to an interesting phenomenon that our current theories cannot describe fully. I strongly suggest reading his Ph.D. thesis discussing the possibility of starivores (Chapter 9 -- PDF here). And if you are a researcher interested in putting his speculation to the test, the Evo Devo Universe community has just announced the creation of the High Energy Astrobiology Prize. The community is interested in receiving a research study that can either positively or negatively test the starivore hypothesis.

17 October 2013

Sleep 'cleans' the brain of toxins

The brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day's thinking, researchers have shown.

The US team believe the "waste removal system" is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep.

Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean. They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.

One big question for sleep researchers is why do animals sleep at all when it leaves them vulnerable to predators? It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that "housework" may be one of the primary reasons for sleep. "The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states - awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up," said researcher Dr. Maiken Nedergaard.

"You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time." Their findings build on last year's discovery of the brain's own network of plumbing pipes - known as the glymphatic system - which carry waste material out of the brain. Scientists, who imaged the brains of mice, showed that the glymphatic system became 10-times more active when the mice were asleep.

Cells in the brain, probably the glial cells which keep nerve cells alive, shrink during sleep. This increases the size of the interstitial space, the gaps between brain tissue, allowing more fluid to be pumped in and wash the toxins away. Dr. Nedergaard said this was a "vital" function for staying alive, but did not appear to be possible while the mind was awake. She told the BBC: "This is purely speculation, but it looks like the brain is losing a lot of energy when pumping water across the brain and that is probably incompatible with processing information." She added that the true significance of the findings would be known only after human studies, but doing similar experiments in an MRI machine would be relatively easy.

Commenting on the research Dr. Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert, said: "This is a very interesting study that shows sleep is essential downtime to do some housekeeping to flush out neurotoxins. "There is good data on memory and learning, the psychological reason for sleep. But this is the actual physical and chemical reason for sleep, something is happening which is important."

Dr. Raphaelle Winsky-Sommerer, a lecturer in sleep at Surrey University, said: "It's not surprising, our whole physiology is changing during sleep. "The novelty is the role of the interstitial space, but I think it's an added piece of the puzzle not the whole mechanism. "The significance is that, yet again, it shows sleep may contribute to the restoration of brain cell function and may have protective effects."

11 October 2013

Integration of syntactic and semantic properties of the DNA code reveals chromosomes as thermodynamic machines converting energy into information

 
Understanding genetic regulation is a problem of fundamental importance. Recent studies have made it increasingly evident that, whereas the cellular genetic regulation system embodies multiple disparate elements engaged in numerous interactions, the central issue is the genuine function of the DNA molecule as information carrier.
 
Compelling evidence suggests that the DNA, in addition to the digital information of the linear genetic code (the semantics), encodes equally important continuous, or analog, information that specifies the structural dynamics and configuration (the syntax) of the polymer. These two DNA information types are intrinsically coupled in the primary sequence organisation, and this coupling is directly relevant to regulation of the genetic function.
 
In this review, we emphasise the critical need of holistic integration of the DNA information as a prerequisite for understanding the organisational complexity of the genetic regulation system.

Watery asteroid discovered in dying star points to habitable exoplanets


Astronomers have found the shattered remains of an asteroid that contained huge amounts of water orbiting an exhausted star, or white dwarf. This suggests that the star GD 61 and its planetary system – located about 150 light years away and at the end of its life – had the potential to contain Earth-like exoplanets, they say. 

 This is the first time that both water and a rocky surface - two "key ingredients" for habitable planets - have been found together beyond our solar system.
 
Earth is essentially a 'dry' planet, with only 0.02% of its mass as surface water, so oceans came long after it had formed; most likely when water-rich asteroids in the solar system crashed into our planet.
 
The new discovery shows that the same water 'delivery system' could have occurred in this distant, dying star's solar system – as latest evidence points to it containing a similar type of water-rich asteroid that would have first brought water to Earth.
 
The asteroid analysed is composed of 26% water mass, very similar to Ceres, the largest asteroid in the main belt of our solar system. Both are vastly more water-rich compared with Earth.

Astronomers at the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick say this is the first "reliable evidence" for water-rich, rocky planetary material in any extrasolar planetary system.
 
All rocky planets form from the accumulation of asteroids, growing until full size, so asteroids are essentially the 'building blocks' of planets.
 
"The finding of water in a large asteroid means the building blocks of habitable planets existed – and maybe still exist – in the GD 61 system, and likely also around substantial number of similar parent stars," said lead author Jay Farihi, from Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy.
 
"Our results demonstrate that there was definitely potential for habitable planets in this exoplanetary system."

 "This supports the idea that the star originally had a full complement of terrestrial planets, and probably gas giant planets, orbiting it – a complex system similar to our own."
 
Artist's impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star GD 61. Similar objects in the solar system likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth and represent the building blocks of the terrestrial planets. Credit: © Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick and University of Cambridge

10 October 2013

Speciation: Ancient Hunter-Gatherers And European Farmers Lived Together For 2,000 Years, Rarely Interbred

Fossil skeletons taken from 'Blätterhöhle' cave near Hagen in Germany, reveal that indigenous hunter-gatherers lived alongside immigrant farmers for 2,000 years.  Wikimedia Commons

Bones excavated from a German cave shed light on how hunter-gatherers and farmers lived side by side 7,500 years ago.
 
Fossil skeletons taken from the Blätterhöhle cave near Hagen in North Rhine-Westphalia reveal that indigenous hunter-gatherers lived alongside farmers who migrated to Central Europe from the Near East, archaeologists say. While the two groups tolerated each other, they did not mesh, the Washington Post reports.
 
Bones excavated from a German cave shed light on how hunter-gatherers and farmers lived side by side 7,500 years ago.
 
Fossil skeletons taken from the Blätterhöhle cave near Hagen in North Rhine-Westphalia reveal that indigenous hunter-gatherers lived alongside farmers who migrated to Central Europe from the Near East, archaeologists say. While the two groups tolerated each other, they did not mesh, the Washington Post reports.
 
Mitochondrial DNA results taken from 25 of the skeletons indicated that some were hunter-gatherers while others were farmers. It was only when the isotope content of the samples were analyzed did researcher discover that the hunter-gatherers sustained a diet of fish while farmers relied on domesticated animals, Bollongino said. The two groups rarely interbred.
 
“It wasn’t until we saw the isotopes that we realized we were going to have to rewrite the paper completely,” Bollongino told the Washington Post. “They shared the same burial place for something between 400 and 600 years, so it would be very hard to explain that they did not know each other. We believe that they were close neighbors and had contact with each other and traded with each other. But still they didn’t mix.”

04 October 2013

Evolution, Speeded by Computation


The evolution of species, as Darwin taught us, relies on natural selection. But Dr. Valiant argues that if all the mutations that drive evolution were simply random and equally distributed, it would proceed at an impossibly slow and inefficient pace.
      
Darwin’s theory “has the gaping gap that it can make no quantitative predictions as far as the number of generations needed for the evolution of a behavior of a certain complexity,” he writes. “We need to explain how evolution is possible at all, how we got from no life, or from very simple life, to life as complex as we find it on earth today. This is the BIG question.”
      
Dr. Valiant proposes that natural selection is supplemented by ecorithms, which enable organisms to learn and adapt more efficiently. Not all mutations are realized with equal probability; those that are more beneficial are more likely to occur. In other words, evolution is accelerated by computation.
 
This is an ambitious proposal, sure to ignite controversy. But what I find so appealing about this discussion, and the book in general, is that Dr. Valiant fearlessly goes to the heart of the “BIG” questions. (I don’t know him, though we share an editor at Basic Books.) He passionately argues his case, but is also first to point out the parts of his theory that are incomplete, eager to anticipate and confront possible counterarguments. This is science at its best, driven not by dogma and blind belief, but by the desire to understand, intellectual integrity and reliance on facts.

02 October 2013

Researchers propose new theory to explain seeds of life in asteroids

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
 
(Phys.org) —A new look at the early solar system introduces an alternative to a long-taught, but largely discredited, theory that seeks to explain how biomolecules were once able to form inside of asteroids. In place of the outdated theory, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute propose a new theory – based on a richer, more accurate image of magnetic fields and solar winds in the early solar system, and a mechanism known as multi-fluid magneto-hydrodynamics – to explain the ancient heating of the asteroid belt. 
 
Although today the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is cold and dry, scientists have long known that warm, wet conditions, suitable to formation of some biomolecules, the building blocks of life, once prevailed. Traces of bio-molecules found inside meteorites – which originated in the asteroid belt –could only have formed in the presence of warmth and moisture. One theory of the origin of life proposes that some of the biomolecules that formed on asteroids may have reached the surfaces of planets, and contributed to the origin of life as we know it.
 
Roberge and Menzel reviewed the second of the two theories, which is based on an early assessment of the young sun and the premise that an object moving through a magnetic field will experience an electric field. According to this theory, as an asteroid moves through the magnetic field of the solar system, it will experience an electric field, which will in turn push electrical currents through the asteroid, heating the asteroid in the same way that electrical currents heat the wires in a toaster.
"It's a very clever idea, and the mechanism is viable, but the problem is that they made a subtle error in how it should be applied, and that's what we correct in this paper," said Roberge. "In our work, we correct the physics, and also apply it to a more modern understanding of the young solar system."

"We're just at the beginning of this. It would be wrong to assert that we've solved this problem," Roberge said. "What we've done is to introduce a new idea. But through observations and theoretical work, we know have a pretty good paradigm."