Scientists look at origin of life and RNA world issues, the Cambrian, evolution of legs, and human evolution

April 6, 2008

Some scientists are not slowed much by the creationist assault on evolution and other science education.

While we’ve been talking here, people like Andrew Ellington are advancing the science with regard to what we know about origin of life and “RNA world” issues. See “Misperceptions meet state of the art in evolution research,” from Ars Technica. For speed’s sake, and accuracy, I’ll quote extensively from John Timmer’s article at Ars Technica.

Four scientists laid out the state of the art in their respective fields in a session sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialog on Science, Ethics, and Religion, in late February 2008, at AAAS’s annual meeting. [Where? I don’t know.] Andrew Ellington spoke about origin of life research, Douglas Erwin explained new findings on fossils from the Cambrian, Ted Daeschler detailed the state of knowledge about how fish turned into tetrapods on land, and John Relethford addressed human evolution.

The discussion of life’s origins was handled by Andy Ellington of the University of Texas – Austin. He started by noting that simply defining life is as much of a philosophical question as a biological one. He settled on the following: “a self replicating system capable of Darwinian evolution,” and focused on getting from naturally forming chemicals to that point.

Ellington noted that chemicals necessary for life can and do form without living things. He said research shows that the first replicating chemicals led to the first reproducing life forms. And finally, he said that RNA activities reveal a lot about how the “RNA World” — before DNA — could function and carry on without DNA, which is in all known life forms today.

RNA ligase ribozyme, from Ars Technica

An RNA ligase ribozyme

[More, below the fold]

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Top 25 guitar riffs of all time? This school needs a history class

April 6, 2008

Guitar-X students — from London Tech Music School — picked what they consider to be the top 25 guitar riffs of all time.

You can listen to the top 25 in The Sun’s video below linked to below [I can’t get the video to embed correctly, alas]. The entire list is below that.

The Beeb’s report:

Here’s the full 25 on the list, courtesy of Reuters’ wire:

1. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple (1973)
2. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (1991)
3. Walk This Way – Aerosmith (1975)
4. Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix (1967)
5. Sweet Child O Mine – Guns N Roses (1987)
6. Paradise City – Guns N Roses (1987)
7. Ace Of Spades – Motorhead (1980)
8. Enter Sandman – Metallica (1991)
9. Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chilli Peppers (1992)
10. Welcome To The Jungle – Guns N Roses (1987)
11. Run To The Hills – Iron Maiden (1982)
12. Walk – Pantera (1992)
13. Johnny Be Goode – Chuck Berry (1958)
14. Back In Black – AC/DC (1980)
15. Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin (1970)
16. Wake Up – Rage Against The Machine (1992)
17. Highway to Hell – AC/DC (1979)
18. My Generation – The Who (1965)
19. 7 Nation Army – The White Stripes (2003)
20. Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf (1968)
21. Give It Away – Red Hot Chilli Peppers (1991)
22. Paranoid – Black Sabbath (1970)
23. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix (1967)
24. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor (1982)
25. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits (1984)
(Editing by Paul Casciato)

A spokesman for the school seemed quite proud that a lot of the top 25 are 20 years old; no one who ever listened to rock and roll between 1957 and 2008 will think this list to be perfect, though. There is too much good guitar riffing absent. The Idolator, obviously more current than I, complains:

As you’d expect from a list based on the opinions of young guitar students, you’ve got some Hendrix, some Angus, three from Slash in the Top 10. But two Frusciantes? A Dimebag? A Knopfler?

. . . Duuuuuuude, no “Stone Cold Crazy?” And if you’re going to bother with Jack White, you have to go with “Icky Thump.” Maybe it’s just my patriotism talking, I think an American school would have made a much fiercer list. One with some Kerry King! Some John Petrucci! Some John Mayer!

John Mayer? Things that pass for value these days! (No Steely Dan licks made the list.)

How about the Beatles? No “Ticket to Ride?” How about the Stones, for the love of blues roots: No “Satisfaction?” This can’t be the list ’cause it doesn’t list the same guitar riffs as me!

No Santana? Nothing from Clapton, not even Cream? “Sunshine of Your Love” doesn’t rate over something on that list? “Layla” isn’t mentioned!? What sort of time warp list warping is that! Where is one of the three dozen great riffs from Motown? Duane Allman? How about the Beach Boys and “Surfin’ USA?”

The list seems limited by genre, too. Surely Wes Montgomery or George Benson, or both of them, should be in there. Somebody’s version of “Malagena” ought to be in there.

Comments are wide open, Dear Readers: What guitar riff ought to be in the top 25, that is not included on that list?


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