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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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III. A Revolutionary Organic Habitable UniVerse

H. An Astrochemistry to Astrobiological Fertility

Puzzarini, Cristina. Astronomical Complex Organic Molecules: Quantum Chemistry Meets Rotational Spectroscopy. International Journal of Quantum Chemistry. 117/2, 2017. A University of Bologna chemist whose laboratory studies “computational astrochemistry and molecular astrophysics” reviews this fertile field as it comes upon a natural cosmos filled with complex, precursor organic compounds. This entry points out how quantum principles can well serve this endeavor. See also a concurrent posting Anharmonic Interstellar PAH Molecules by Alessandra Candian and Cameron Mackie.

Astrochemistry is an interdisciplinary field involving chemistry, physics, and astronomy, which encompasses astronomical observations, modeling, as well as theoretical and experimental laboratory investigations. In the frame of the latter, this contribution provides an overview on the computational approaches supporting and complementing rotational spectroscopy experiments applied to astrochemical studies. The focus is on the computational strategies that permit accurate computations of structural and rotational parameters as well as of energetics and on their application to case studies, with particular emphasis on the so-called “astronomical complex” organic molecules. (Abstract)

For many years, the interstellar medium (ISM) was considered too hostile for organic species to be formed. This paradigm of thought began to deteriorate roughly forty years ago with the discovery of molecules containing carbon chains and rings. As time has gone on, the pace of molecular discovery has accelerated, and the detection in the last decade of molecules showing some significant complexity, like for example, glycolaldehyde (CH2OHCHO), acetamide (CH3C(O)NH2), and methyl acetate (CH3OC(O)CH3), has changed this view dramatically. Indeed, the detection of almost 200 molecules in interstellar or circumstellar shells suggests that the ISM is characterized by a rich chemistry. (1)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) are a class of molecules which is very common on the Earth, being the byproduct of combustion. It is now known that PAHs are widespread in the entire Universe. They are accepted almost unequivocally as the carriers of a family of bands, the aromatic infrared bands (AIBs), detected in emission in the spectrum of astronomical objects ranging from dying stars to entire galaxies. In space, PAH molecules absorb ultraviolet or visible photons, then undergo fast internal conversion by which the absorbed energy is transferred to the vibrational degrees of freedom. (Candian & Mackie)

Puzzarini, Cristina and Vincenzo Barone. A Never-Ending Story in the Sky: The Secrets of Chemical Evolution. Physics of Life Reviews. Online July 5, 2019. Organic chemistry in space is nowadays a matter of fact. University of Bolonga and Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa researchers first survey 21st century findings which affirm a universal propensity for biological precursors to arise and complexify across the galaxies. Going forward, an array of advanced methods are cited and proposed such as quantum chemical predictions of relative energies, computational astrochemistry, virtual reality perceptions, and more. The paper closes by harking back to Galileo’s experiental glimpses so as to look ahead as our whole Earthkind research endeavor as it seems to quantify and discover a creative ecosmos genesis.

Cosmic evolution is the tale of a progressive transition from simplicity to complexity. The newborn universe started with the simplest atoms and proceeded toward the formation of astronomical complex organic molecules (aCOMs), most with a clear prebiotic character. To disclose the “secrets” of chemical evolution across space, the first step is to learn how small prebiotic species came to be and chemical complexity can further increase. This review addresses the role played by molecular spectroscopy and quantum-chemical computations. We present how signatures of molecules can be found in space, and move to a computational view to derive molecular spectroscopic features, investigation of gas-phase formation routes of prebiotic species in the ISM, and onto astrochemical evolution. Finally, an integrated strategy by way of high-performance computers and virtual reality will be discussed. (Abstract excerpts)

Robles, Jose, et al. A Comprehensive Comparison of the Sun to Other Stars: Searching for Self-Selection Effects. http://arxiv.org/abs/0805.2962. Posted May 22, 2008. A team from Australia, Finland, and Germany that includes Charles Lineweaver finds that old Sol with its orbital planets is not a rarity but seems to be a common occurrence across the Milky Way.

These values quantify, and are consistent with, the idea that the Sun is a typical star. If we have sampled all reasonable properties associated with habitability, our result suggests that there are no special requirements for a star to host a planet with life. (1)

Rospars, Jean-Pierre. Trends in the Evolution of Life, Brains and Intelligence. International Journal of Astrobiology. 12/3, 2013. The French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) integrative biologist and director connects an earthly development of cognitive creatures with the potential likelihoods of organic beings and becomings across celestial galaxies. In contrast to prior pessimisms, by way of recurrent convergences in cerebral encephalization, neuron numbers, modularity, behavioral repertoires, and many more instances, life’s oriented procession is in fact well verified. By this view, human-like collaborative entities would be a common occasion on similar bioplanets in this increasingly conducive cosmos.

The fI term of Drake's equation – the fraction of life-bearing planets on which ‘intelligent’ life evolved – has been the subject of much debate in the last few decades. Several leading evolutionary biologists have endorsed the thesis that the probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is vanishingly small. A discussion of this thesis is proposed here that focuses on a key issue in the debate: the existence of evolutionary trends, often presented as trends towards higher complexity, and their possible significance. Measurements of quantitative variables that describe important features of the evolution of living organisms – their hierarchical organization, size and biodiversity – and of brains – their overall size, the number and size of their components – in relation to their cognitive abilities, provide reliable evidence of the reality and generality of evolutionary trends. Properties of trends are inferred and frequent misinterpretations (including an excessive stress on mere ‘complexity’) that prevent the objective assessment of trends are considered. Finally, several arguments against the repeatability of evolution to intelligence are discussed. It is concluded that no compelling argument exists for an exceedingly small probability f I. (Abstract)

Several quantitative variables that describe important aspects of the evolution of living organisms – their hierarchical organization, size, and biodiversity – and of brains – their overall size, the number and size of their components – were measured on dated fossils or reconstructed from extant animals, and related to behavioral flexibility. The evolution of the maximum value across species of these variables as a function of geological time was found to be increasing, often according to exponential-like functions and during long periods. They offer reliable evidence of the reality and generality of evolutionary trends. (16) The overall lesson of biology is that man is much closer to animals and his separation from them less profound than he used to believe. His brain is an enlarged primate brain and most of his features traditionally considered as unique are shared at various degrees by other species. There is no strong reason to believe that the path leading to an abstract thinking and tool-making creature is so exceptional that it would appear only rarely or never when the tape is replayed. (19)

Ruf, Alexander, et al. Data-Driven Astrochemistry: One Step Further within the Origin of Life Puzzle. Life. 8/2, 2018. Technical University of Munchen and University of Aix-Marseille biogeochemists contribute to ways to identify and arrange the vast array of increasingly complex biochemical precursors that now compose a celestial organic broth for life’s origins and development.

In this review, clarifications on astrochemistry, comet chemistry, laboratory astrophysics and meteoritic research with respect to organic and metalorganic chemistry will be given. The seemingly large number of observed astrochemical molecules necessarily requires explanations on molecular complexity and chemical evolution, which will be discussed. Special emphasis should be placed on data-driven analytical methods including ultrahigh-resolving instruments and their interplay with quantum chemical computations. The precise description of astrochemical organic and metalorganic matter as seeds for life and their interactions within various astrophysical environments may appear essential to further study questions regarding the emergence of life on a most fundamental level that is within the molecular world and its self-organization properties. (Abstract excerpt)

Rushby, Andrew, et al. Habitable Zone Lifetimes of Exoplanets around Main Sequence Stars. Astrobiology. 13/9, 2013. A paper by University of East Anglia, and University College, London, environmentalists, including Andrew Watson, in an issue on “The Future Science of Exoplanets,” see Lammer above. What can our surmise be – a grand new universe, hardly yet realized, of orbital bands of bioworlds upon which life and mind are favored to appear, evolve, and develop to a collective self-sentience. In regard, solar systems could be seen as energizing incubators. And on one very special, valiant, Earth sapient collaborative peoples begin to sense a celestial neighborhood to choose and sustain life for.

The potential habitability of newly discovered exoplanets is initially assessed by determining whether their orbits fall within the circumstellar habitable zone of their star. However, the habitable zone (HZ) is not static in time or space, and its boundaries migrate outward at a rate proportional to the increase in luminosity of a star undergoing stellar evolution, possibly including or excluding planets over the course of the star’s main sequence lifetime. We describe the time that a planet spends within the HZ as its ‘‘habitable zone lifetime.’’ The HZ lifetime of a planet has strong astrobiological implications and is especially important when considering the evolution of complex life, which is likely to require a longer residence time within the HZ. The HZ lifetime should be considered in future models of planetary habitability as setting an upper limit on the lifetime of any potential exoplanetary biosphere, and also for identifying planets of high astrobiological potential for continued observational or modeling campaigns. (Abstract excerpts)

Sadjadi, SeyedAbdolreza and Quentin Parker. The Astrochemistry Implications of Quantum Chemical Modes Vibrational Analysis. arXiv.1811.08547. We note this entry by University of Hong Kong, Laboratory for Space Research astroscientists for its evidence of how cosmic materiality seems innately made to form biomolecular complexities, and as another instance of how collective human intellect can so readily explore and quantify any width and depth of this universal spacescape. Surely there must be some grand reason and purpose if me + We might just be able to ask.

Saitoh, Takayuki. Chemical Evolution Library for Galaxy Formation Simulation. arXiv:1612.02260. An Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology astrophysicist offers a detailed proposal for a “library of cosmos” catalog of celestial material formations based on an array of structural and dynamic properties. Our interest is to view this achievement as an example of human intellect taking on a functional, constructive role with regard to the whole universe.

We have developed a software library for chemical evolution simulations of galaxy formation under the simple stellar population (SSP) approximation. In this library, all of the necessary components concerning chemical evolution, such as initial mass functions, stellar lifetimes, yields from type II and Ia supernovae, asymptotic giant branch stars, and neutron star mergers, are compiled from the literature. Various models are pre-implemented in this library so that users can choose their favorite combination of models. Subroutines of this library return released energy and masses of individual elements depending on a given event type. Since the redistribution manner of these quantities depends on the implementation of users' simulation codes, this library leaves it up to the simulation code. In these simulations, we can easily compare the impact of individual models on the chemical evolution of galaxies, just by changing the control flags and parameters of the library. (Abstract)

Sanchez-Lavega, Agustin. ‘Planetodiveristy:’ the Variety of Planets and Planetary Systems in the Universe. Contemporary Physics. 47/3, 2006. The author, at the Universidad del Pais Vasco, Bilbao, Spain, coined the title akin to ‘biodiversity’ as a way to illustrate the wide array, filling every niche, of orbital or free-floating objects and of their solar hosts from one to several stars. A good survey article as earthkind begins to populate the galaxy and cosmos with neighbors to a degree unthinkable a decade ago.

The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia. www.exoplanet.eu. A researcher at CNRS - Paris Observatory posts this comprehensive website all about earth’s new abilities to detect a grand array of planetary objects in the galaxy and cosmos. Across such a spectrum, a profusion of worlds where life and mind naturally evolve and flourish as so many seeds or eggs indeed implies a creative organic universe.

Seager, Sara. Alien Earths from A to Z. Sky & Telescope. January, 2008. The active search for extrasolar planets by novel instruments which can detect and characterize by their transit across the face of the star they orbit, which this MIT professor of planetary science participates in, has now recorded over 250 and counting (late 2010 some 500). They come in all sizes and kinds such as all iron, silicate-rich, carbon-rich, pure water, carbon monoxide, or totally hydrogen. See Seager's update "The Hunt for Super Earths" in the October 2010 Sky & Telescope. To so reflect, out of an amniotic universe appears our conducive, ovular world, whereupon matter vivifies into a collectivity of intelligent creatures able to scan from whence they came, ask why for, and maybe bear forth a cosmic child.

Planet formation appears to be a random, chaotic very diverse process with all sorts of outcomes depending on all sorts of initial flukes. The overall process seems to be a standard byproduct of star formation – and there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy. With the planetary dice being thrown so many times, countless types of worlds imagined and unimagined must be out there. (25)

Seager, Sara, et al. Toward a List of Molecules as Potential Biosignature Gases for the Search for Life on Exoplanets and Applications to Terrestrial Biochemistry. Astrobiology. 16/6, 2016. As a sign of the rapid progress being made by an instant global community, MIT scientists now move on from detecting exoworld atmospheres (the very idea that we Earthlings can do this all is incredible and auspicious) to assessments by virtue of organic traces whether it harbors organic life. As a guideline, a long inventory of our own Gaian biochemical components is listed. For another aspect, see Chemical Complementarity between the Gas Phase of the Interstellar Medium and the Rocky Material of Our Planetary System by Haiyang Wang and Charles Lineweaver at arXiv:1605.05503.

Thousands of exoplanets are known to orbit nearby stars. Plans for the next generation of space-based and ground-based telescopes are fueling the anticipation that a precious few habitable planets can be identified in the coming decade. Even more highly anticipated is the chance to find signs of life on these habitable planets by way of biosignature gases. But which gases should we search for? Although a few biosignature gases are prominent in Earth's atmospheric spectrum (O2, CH4, N2O), others have been considered as being produced at or able to accumulate to higher levels on exo-Earths (e.g., dimethyl sulfide and CH3Cl). Life on Earth produces thousands of different gases (although most in very small quantities). Some might be produced and/or accumulate in an exo-Earth atmosphere to high levels, depending on the exo-Earth ecology and surface and atmospheric chemistry.

To maximize our chances of recognizing biosignature gases, we promote the concept that all stable and potentially volatile molecules should initially be considered as viable biosignature gases. We present a new approach to the subject of biosignature gases by systematically constructing lists of volatile molecules in different categories. An exhaustive list up to six non-H atoms is presented, totaling about 14,000 molecules. About 2500 of these are CNOPSH compounds. An approach for extending the list to larger molecules is described. We further show that about one-fourth of CNOPSH molecules (again, up to N = 6 non-H atoms) are known to be produced by life on Earth. The list can be used to study classes of chemicals that might be potential biosignature gases, considering their accumulation and possible false positives on exoplanets with atmospheres and surface environments different from Earth's. The list can also be used for terrestrial biochemistry applications, some examples of which are provided. We provide an online community usage database to serve as a registry for volatile molecules including biogenic compounds. (Abstract)

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