Peter Ward's "Life" Books
"Life as We Do Not Know It", Beaverton Library 576.839 WAR 2009, Viking
The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life
"A New History of Life" with Joe Kirschvink, Beaverton Library 576.82 WAR, 2015, Bloomsbury
The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth
Peter Ward (co-author of "Rare Earth" with Don Brownlee) is an optimist about extraterrestrial life, and a pessimist about life elsewhere resembling current Earth life.
Ward is hyperoptimistic about sending scientists to look for life on Mars and Titan. But resources are limited, and resources allocated for manned missions cannot also be spent for robotic missions - we must choose. Between 1972 (Apollo 17) and 2016, robots have gotten exponentially better; even resource-challenged India can afford to send one to Mars. As I write this, the world has only two human capable space vehicles - the International Space Station, and the Soyuz spacecraft. New vehicles are promised Real Soon Now, but they will at best be shuttlecraft, not multiyear habitats capable of independent operation for the 13 year round trio journey to Titan and back (presuming Cassini-Huygens travel times). Humans will go there sometime - to robot-prepared habitats on an already-explored Titan. That said ...
Life as We Do Not Know It
- p05 Alvin in late 1970s, black smokers in deep Pacific, 600℉ water, sulfide chimneys, extremophiles
- p11 Life: metabolizes, complex and organized, reproduces, develops, evolves, autonimous
- p18 Virus alive, domains "Ribosa" and "Ribovera"
- p22 Margulis/Sagan: life is cellular . . . Carl Woese. John Baross (+Ward): add protocells, naked genes, organic molecules, etc.
65 tp present
250 to 65
543 to 250
2500 to 543
1st eukaryotic cells
3800 to 2500
4600 to 3800
- p29 4.4 GA first liquid water, 3.9 GA, full volume oceans, 500km bombardment, millenia of steam
- p30 Norman Sleep Stanford 1989 giant impacts vaporize entire ocean, sterilize surface
- p30 10 hour day, dim sun ... p39 dominion Terraoa - Earth life ... p40 Woese "progenote", simpler than cell
p63 1980 Feinberg Shapiro "Life Beyond Earth" ... Silicon life, lost sight of box
- p65 solvents, hot to cold: sulfuric acid, water, methane (Jupiter/Saturn), LN2 (Uranus), LH2
- p73 Benner, ammonia/carbonyl life
- p75 Silane life with carbon side chains
- p83 Cyanobacteria "true living fossils", at least 3.5 GA says Kirschvink, then of Cal Tech
- p92 RNA/ribose difficult, can form with borates
- p95 Dyson dual path, proteins and replication separate, garbage bag world, RNA as parasites
- p103 cellular life driven by the needs of viruses
- p103 early life simple, horizontal gene transfer (part swapP common; complex life tuned, parts not interchangable
My take: Reliable complex parts requires DNA, DNA requires complex parts.
- p113 Woese origin in very early cloud droplets
- p115 Kirschvink and Weiss, formations of downhill steps, linked impact craters on dry land, Mars
- A newly proposed origin: Linked Impact craters
- Steve Benner, hot alkaline, evaporitic minerals of the borate group
- poisonous effects of water on the prebiotic synthesis of RNA, proteins, other complex molecules
a lack of water, or at least a reduction of it, would be favored ca
- KHL - like hydrogen in vents?
- alkaline and calcium carbonate in abundance, clay minerals as templates
- For the borate mineral pathway to work, there has to be a liquid system that repeatedly decants and distills the liquids.
- Kirschvink invokes a system something like Mono Lake in california, where a series of lakes from higher to lower elevation have a linked flow of groundwater.
- p117 no evidence of continents before 3 billion years ago
p121 Robert Shapiro Origins, skeptical of Miller-Urey
- p126 Mycoplasma genitalium, 480 genes, 580Kbases, 130 to 215 genes may be not essential, Venter
- p129 Jack Szostak, Harvard, synthetic selection on RNA,
- p131 Szostak, too many errors, but 100x polymerization 10x fidelity is replication, "alive"
p136 2002, Debbie Kelly UW, mid-Atlantic Lost City white vents
- p138 Venter seawater samples, 148 new bacteria types, 1.2 million new genes
- p139 Identified bacteria phyla 1987#12, 2003#52, 2004#80 ... == Venter types???
- p141 Panspermia p148 revived microbes from 250 MA rock salt
- p149 Melosh spallation p150 Charles Breiterman viable two-way microbe exchange with Mars (no ref, no Google Scholar)
p163 Fossils on Moon p164 Armstrong/Wells/Gonzales "A-W-G" p165 Cretaceous ejecta on Moon
Note KHL: Icarus paper seems to contradict Melosh, that ocean contained all ejecta . . . Still researching this
p166 200 kg/km2 of "moon's surface" . . . A-W-G Fig. 3 suggests burial depths to hundreds of meters before 3.2GA
- p182 Viking, no organics in regolith, surface UV
- p185 Harvard's Andrew Knoll, look for fossils on Apollinaris Patera volcano summit, Dao Vallis channel deposit
- p185 2003 closest opposition, ... KHL mag -2.88 (typical -2.8 to -1.2), -2.78 @ 2018 July 31 will be 10% less bright
- p197 Europa: rock, 80 km ocean, 20 km ice, 86-132 K, Jupiter radiation p214 "too cold for CHON, not enough energy"
- p221 Titan radius silicates to 1800km, 500km ice/ammonia, 240km ammonia/water, 35km ice p234: non CHON life?
- p237 Jill Tartar SETI Institute seeks $12M, hustles Paul Allen (sister Jody Patton) away from Ward
- p247 to 253: send scientists to space - er, Dr. Ward, is it better to spend money on this rather than universities?
A New History of Life
Harder to read - a catalog, not a story, many errors, reference number errors, poorly organized and edited. Sophorific; skimmed after page 80. Still, isolated gems of brilliance. Oh, how I wish they had a diligent editor!
- p11 Figure: New Geologic Timescale (Ediacaran from 635 GA to 542 GA )
- p15 Figure: Which is earthlike? Most uninhabitable by humans
- p20 Figure: PCO2, with unexplained gray bands. Relative to now, dropping over time, 10,000 times more at 3.5GA
- KHL Brainfart: greenhouse Artificial Earth. As the Sun heats, why would we permit "wild" CO2 to heat the whole planet? Imagine, 100 million years from now, we shield the earth with mirrors and glass, letting in enough light on the sunside for biosynthesis, mirroring away the rest, while opening the mirrors at night for cooling. We could keep this up until the Sun expanded to engulf the Earth. Greenhousing 500 M km2 in 100 MY is 5 km2 per year. With 1E9 people working on the task, that is one cm2 per person per "week". Sounds like a manageable rate. If the planet is dead otherwise ...
- p45 3.85 GA, Isua isotope evidence
- p46 3.4 "million???" years old, Martin Brasier "Questioning the Evidence for Earth's Oldest Fossils", Nature 416 (2002): 76-81
- p53 Nick Lane, mineral cell LUCA, "Life Ascending" Book
- p53 William Martin and Michael Russell "On the Origin of Biochemistry ...", Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. B 362#1486(2007): 1887-1925
- p79 2.4 GA, soluble manganese reduction by ancestor of cyanobacteria, no O2 release - AFTER THAT, photosynthesis
- p81 2.9 to 2.7 GA, 3 minor glaciations, more 2.45 to 2.35 GA. 1 million years to flip to oxygen-rich atmosphere.
- p81 Kalahari manganese field 2.22 GA, 50m thick 500 km2, evidence of oxy atmosphere.
- p81 First snowball Earth between 717 and 635 MA (named by Kirschvink 1992) PNAS 97 (2000) 1400-5
- p85 ice isolation and separation drove rapid speciation
- p88 Eukaryotes 1.9 GA closed oxygen cycle
- p91 oxygen graph, "several bars" 2.4 to 1.9 GA, snowball burps 700 to 400 MA, Permian high 25%, Triassic low 14%, 21% now
- Ward says mammals struggle more for oxygen than dinosaur/birds
- p93 Figure - Fe2+ oceans to 1.9 GA, then H2S ocean to 0.8 GA, then Fe2+ to 0.5GA, then O2 until present
- p100 Cryogenian 717 and 635 MA
- p102 Figure, mean temp from -50 to -15C, then popped up to 35C, then settled at 15C, beginning Ediacaran
- p117 China bilateran microfossils, Doushantuo Formation in southwest China
- p119 Princeton's Adam Maloof rapid 60 degree oscillatory shifts in Earth's Rotation Axis, "True Polar Wander", TPW
- p125 Chengjiang beds and Burgess preserve soft parts
- p135 Feud between Stephen Gould (more diversity in Cambrian) and Simon Conway Morris (more now)
- p139 volcanic ash needed for reliable radiometric dating, Morrocan Anti-Atlas Mountains, also Namibia and Siberian Anabar Uplift
- dating first burrowing trace fossil at 542 MA
- p143 mascons rotate towards equator, cause TPW
- p145 SPICE mass extinction (Steptoean positive carbon isotope excursion), ending "Cambrian explosion", beginning Ordovician 500 MA
- p155 Figure, morphology Gould (massive early branching and extinction) vs. Morris (continuing branching)
- p156 John Sepkoski, continuing diversification, them Marshall and Alroy show same amount with sampling bias
- p158 Figure, more oxygen, more genera
- p165 land invasion, 475-300 MA Tiktaalik/Icthyostega 363 MA
- p190 Arthropods 350-300 MA Giant insects, high oxygen
- p193 Carboniferous forest burial, lignin p194 forest fires p195 lightning hotter than a lit match
- p211 Anoxia, "Great Dying" 252-250 MA
- p221 Altitude compression isolates and shrinks biomes, more speciation
- p226 Triassic, temperatures from 40 to 50 celsius
- . . skip . . .
- p345 Futures - giant red star in 7.5 billion years, probably consuming Earth and Mars (unless we move Earth!)
- p346 30% increase in brightness over 4.5 billion years
- p348 at 50 to 60 celsius, oceans lost to space in 2 to 3 billion years
- p348 C3 plant species require 150 ppm CO2, C4 plants require 10 ppm (Kasting 1997)
- p349 "as early as 500 million years from now ..."
p352 Harpending and Hawks: over the past 5000 years, humans have evolved as much as 100 times as quickly as any time since the hominid split 5 MA .
- p353 "We seem to be at a high point of species numbers in all of the 3.4 billion year history of life"
- p356 "Perhaps life did start on Mars, our kind of life. The choice was to leave Mars or die. Survival is literally in our genes."
Out of Thin Air
Dinosaurs, Birds, and Earth's Ancient Atmosphere
Peter Ward, Central, 567.9 W262o 2006
The Flooded Earth
Our Future in a World without Ice Caps
Peter Ward, Central, 363.3492 W262f 2010
Skimmed to get information about hydrogen sulfide extinctions in the past.
KHL: Salts are 0.35% (35g/1000g) of sea water, sulfates (SO₄) are 7.7% of that. Sulfur atomic weight 32, so elemental sulfur is 1/3 of sulfate weight, so seawater is around 0.9 g of atomic sulfur per liter. Ocean mass about 1.4e21 kg, so the sulfur content is around 1.3e18 kg, which could make about 1.3e18 kg of H₂S . Atmosphere mass about 5.2e18, so in theory that is enough to make it 25% H₂S, terribly poisonous; however, the solubility of H₂S in cold water approaches 7%, so the real question is where chemical equilibrium between air and water will be, how quickly that equilibrium is reached, and how fast the deep water sulfates mix to the surface (without oxygen mixing down from the surface). The photic zone is 200 m deep in clear water.
- p186 365MYa: animals missing from fossil record, world ocean was anoxic, water was deep purple with hydrogen sulfide bacteria. This happened many times since 500MYa, especially the 250MYa Permian-Triassic extinction. Permian had ice at both poles, CO₂ rose from Siberian Trap eruptions.
- KHL: what about plant growth absorbing that in a century or two? Were those eruptions instantaneous over a whole continent, and did they prevent the growth of plants after the lava cooled?).
- Ward claims a hydrogen sulfate happen again within several millenia.
- p190 end of North Atlantic conveyor current due to fresh water off Greenland
- KHL no oxygenated bottom water - but that is a lot deeper than 200 meters, and cycle times are centuries anyway.
I don't think we should break the oceans either. The best solutions are efficiency improvements brought by advanced technology, and integral fast reactor nuclear power. Both are more likely to occur outside of the television-stupified United States.