1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Have they been here all along?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Wreybies, Sep 10, 2013.

    Pandoravirus - Aliens among us? :):)[​IMG] :):)

    [​IMG]

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130718-viruses-pandoraviruses-science-biology-evolution/

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=pandoravirus
     
  2. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I heard about this a couple weeks ago. Just another shining example of how little we know...

    Still, all I could think about when I read the article was the Macrovirus from Star Trek: Voyager....:eek:
     
  3. BarlowEnter
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    Interesting, a movie comes to my mind, too. The Fifth Element, one of the main character, Leeloo, who has thousands, or billions (I forgot) strains for the make up of her DNA structure, the scientists in the movie keeps saying she's 'perfection'. Although there weren't further examination of what kind of attributes she'd gained from having the complex DNA structure, she can read in super speed, eats in enormous quantity, good at combat. Although being good at combat can be result of her past life before the scientist rebuild her from scratch.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like the reason they weren't found before - the scientists almost say, "They were so big we couldn't see them!" They were assuming viruses are small, so anything as big as these things can't possibly be viruses.

    Fortunately, they aren't dangerous to humans. Unless, of course, we trip over them, or one of them falls on us from a third-floor window, or backs into us as it's leaving its garage ... :p
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What I find intriguing about this article and this find, beyond the fact that pandoravirus seems so wholly unrelated to anything else that makes use of DNA, is the simple fact that at least some scientists are looking at these things under the label of life. I know perfectly well why viruses are not considered alive, but I think the failure is not in the liveliness of viruses, but in our definition of life. When dealing in matters of looking for life away from Earth, you often hear the phrase life as we know it. How boring. I'm so much more interested in life as we don't know it. It would seem the scientists studying pandoravirus are of the same mindset. Even if pandoravirus is perfectly terrestrial in origin, they point to the possibility of an idea I have pondered from time to time. What if life started on disparate sides of the globe? Two sparks of life coming into being, far apart, utterly unrelated one to the other, with time and space enough to grab hold and prosper. Two (or more) distinct lineages of life.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There are a number of hypotheses proposed to explain why we've yet to find evidence of more than one common ancestor. The most plausible is that despite how many times reproducing organisms arose, there was a period of time that genes and pieces of genetic material were frequently exchanged between organisms. So by the time whole microorganisms began to reproduce, they did so from a pool of material rather than arising separately here and there.

    Genome research so far suggests life arose once and the evidence is against such possibilities as the panspermia theory. One has to cautiously interpret a science reporter's wording "DNA like we've never seen" as they often interpret what they see in a report through an ignorance filter. But the comment is intriguing and I'm interested to see just what "alien" means in this case.
     
  7. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Just like the settlers have sidelined the aboriginal people pandoravirus might be the originals and we are actually the aliens who have dominated formation of 'life as we know it'.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That's the part that makes it an interesting nucleus for a story for me. We currently believe that panspermia is not the dynamic that took place here on Earth, but what if we're wrong? How many times has someone looked down the barrel of a microscope and seen these little critters and assumed them to be some random bacterium and just wrote them off? How often have things been seen through a microscope and because of assumptions that only x, y, and z things exist and they answer to a, b, and c definition, things are written off as being a unusual form of x or an atypical form of y when they are in fact utterly distinct organisms that actually don't answer to any of the aforementioned. Science has made an occasional habit of allowing the methodology of other epistemologies to intrude and allow assumptions to guide what is perceived as "truth". Dinosaurs are "reptiles"; thus, they must have walked like what we know to be reptiles today, so break those knee and hip joints on the museum displays to fit the assumption. Birds are dinosaurs? Preposterous! Dinosaurs are dimwitted, lumbering beasts and they are unequivocally extinct. Birds are bright vivacious extant creatures. No, no, no. I refuse to look at the fact that their skeletons show a ridiculous degree of parity. It happens. My prediction is that they end up creating a different classification for these things that are currently being called viruses. I think virus is just a 'best fit' name until the studies of them overcome the prejudices of what is believed to be known. I also predict that this won't happen any time soon.

    Weird crap like this that I post in the Lounge is always posted from a writer's perspective. I offer this as material for rumination for all you would-be writers of sci-fi ;)
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You shouldn't give science such a hard time. It's within the nature of our brains to interpret newly encountered phenomena through the filter of what we already know. The benefit is you almost instantly recognize a new tree species is a tree. The drawback is you get confirmation bias.

    Science self corrects. It may have taken a decade for the medical community to recognize Dr Snow's very thoroughly laid out case that cholera was coming from the broad street pump in 19th century London and not from 'Miasma', but the medical scientists did eventually break through their confirmation bias to objectively evaluate the evidence.

    As for new microorganisms, a new door opened a while ago. In the past we mostly knew only about the organisms we could grow in a lab. Now biologists are sampling the DNA and RNA of water and soil samples and finding there are thousands of organisms there we had no idea existed because they didn't grow in the petri dish.

    Not to preach to the choir here, but the argument over what is life isn't that complicated. Viruses are little balls of genetic material. They can't reproduce without borrowing the infrastructure of another cell. It's just a semantic argument where you want to draw the line. I'm not sure why it otherwise matters. Is a prion a life form? It's contagious, but it doesn't so much reproduce as cause a chain reaction of abnormal protein folding in the brain. Meh, I don't care if it's alive or not.

    This new organism is no less fascinating. I'd love to know what cells it infects to reproduce. Being that large would have a number of problems getting past a cell wall without killing the cell.
     
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  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    So far the three groups of large "viruses" have been found to infect amoebic cells. And I'm not giving science a hard time, Ginger. I'm saying there is always room for error, and sometimes that error is born of assumptions, but that in the correction of error is new knowledge. Again, my posting of this little ditty is meant as a writer's woolgathering, nothing more. ;)
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Ah, I see. My confirmation bias is currently tainted by recent arguing with the, "science doesn't know everything" crowd over on the JREF forum (the JREF promotes science and critical thinking but the forum draws a steady stream of people who believe in conspiracy theories and what we lump together and call, 'woo').

    That these organisms infect amoebas makes a lot of sense. Amoebas engulf prey. That solves the problem of getting past the cell wall.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Scientists are human, and the workings of science sometimes fall prey to the same trappings that afflict any avenue of human endeavor. Sometimes politics gets in the way, sometimes mistakes are made, sometimes adherence to dogma results in tunnel vision. Ultimately, however, these things are rectified, and I think science is better at this than many other areas of human endeavor (politics, religion, and so on).
     
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  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Amen to that! ;)

    What I get from the different articles I've read online concerning pandoravirus is a sense of willingness from the scientists to question the paradigm of what's what. Questioning paradigms is fun stuff. :)
     
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