Sugar in Spice? That’s Nice.

You’ll have to overlook our Cockney-accented title, dear reader. We just couldn’t control ourselves. This is the kind of article we like to see from time to time. We found it at the website of ESO — the European Southern Observatory: Building blocks of life found around young star.

No, it doesn’t tell us exactly how life originated on Earth (or elsewhere), and it doesn’t end any debates with creationists (nothing ever will), but this is the sort of thing that gives creationists nightmares — and that’s good.

News like this reminds us that we’re continuously building new instruments and acquiring new information. That means we’re not confined to the limited knowledge that was available in the days of the Babylonian empire, when the creationist worldview was conceived.

Okay, you know all that, so let’s get on with the news. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has spotted sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star. This is the first time sugar been found in space around such a star, and the discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star.

Whoa! We’ve known that organic molecules are found in space, but we didn’t know about sugar. Let’s read on:

The astronomers found molecules of glycolaldehyde — a simple form of sugar — in the gas surrounding a young binary star, with similar mass to the Sun, called IRAS 16293-2422. Glycolaldehyde has been seen in interstellar space before, but this is the first time it has been found so near to a Sun-like star, at distances comparable to the distance of Uranus from the Sun in the Solar System. This discovery shows that some of the chemical compounds needed for life existed in this system at the time of planet formation.

Here’s some info on Glycolaldehyde. Wikipedia already has a footnote about this news.

We know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering why this is a big deal. [Cockney accent again: “Sugar ‘n spice? That’s nice … gov’nor.”] Perhaps this will impress you:

“What it is really exciting about our findings is that the ALMA observations reveal that the sugar molecules are falling in towards one of the stars of the system,” says team member Cécile Favre (Aarhus University, Denmark). “The sugar molecules are not only in the right place to find their way onto a planet, but they are also going in the right direction.”

And here’s one more excerpt:

A big question is: how complex can these molecules become before they are incorporated into new planets? This could tell us something about how life might arise elsewhere, and ALMA observations are going to be vital to unravel this mystery,” concludes Jes Jørgensen [(Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark), the lead author of the paper].

There’s more at the ESO article, and their paper is going to appear in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. Be assured, dear reader, that the creationists don’t like this sort of thing. We can hear them sputtering in their dank dungeons: “This is an outrage! Why … if organic molecules, including sugar, are routinely to be found out there, then — gasp! — maybe life on Earth isn’t a miracle after all!”

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Sugar in Spice? That’s Nice.

  1. The Curmudgeon notes:

    Be assured, dear reader, that the creationists don’t like this sort of thing.

    Indeed. They don’t like it up ’em, Captain Mainwaring.

    The question here for the Discoveroids is, “One lump, or two?”

  2. This is also important because sugar is the backbone of RNA. It was the last component of RNA that hadn’t been found in nature. That it spontaneously forms and heads towards planets is another notch on the belt for abiogenesis.

    Although, since it is impossible that RNA and proto-cells could form from biological precursor molecules “randomly” interacting (because, you know, there are no laws of chemistry), it doesn’t matter anyway, does it?

    That is my prediction for AIG’s and the Discoveroids’ response. Money on it.

  3. Curmudgeon: “Be assured, dear reader, that the creationists don’t like this sort of thing.”

    As long as everyone but me needs to shoot themselves in the foot with the C-word, I guess I have to chime in. Yes, many, but far from all, evolution-deniers on-the-street get uncomfortable with stories like that. But the anti-evolution activists love it. To them it’s just more data and quotes for them to mine and spin to play their “heads I win, tails you lose” game. I can hear them already: “Just more chemicals, no life; score another one for our side.”

  4. Frank J says: “I guess I have to chime in.”

    As you know, I don’t share your concern for the fence-sitters. They’re not players in this game. When the hard-core creationist promoters are ridiculed out of existence (we can never reason with them), then the fence-sitters won’t have a fence to sit on.

  5. The Curmudgeon dreams of a day when

    When the hard-core creationist promoters are ridiculed out of existence

    which is probably the equivalent of “the first Thursday after never.” It is not only reason they lack, they also want any sense of shame.

    The benighted will ever be with us; I’ve come to terms with that. It is a matter of perfect indifference to me what anyone chooses to believe, whether privately or in groups of like-minded (or in the case of Creationists, like-un-minded). The only issue, I think, arises from what some folk or groups of folk sometimes feel obliged to inflict on the rest of us in the name of their specific reality-denying beliefs. And the evidence for a very specific political/theocratic agenda being pursued by the Discovery Institute and similar of that ilk is particularly disturbing.

  6. Sugar, bah!

    How about 400 trillion trillion pints of beer? Now, that’s a discovery!!!

    Beer here!

  7. Retired Prof

    megalonyx’s question “One lump or two?” suggests evidence for Bertrand Russel’s hypothetical teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. That other star must have a teapot too; the sugar is provided to sweeten the tea.

  8. So there may be a restaurant at the end of the universe after all? Or a pastry shop at least?