(Roughly) Daily

It’s (still… er, always been…) alive!…

There’s news breaking all along the last frontier of dynamism:  the “life” of inanimate objects.  Consider, for example, the study recently published in American Mineralogist

Evolution isn’t just for living organisms. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution have found that the mineral kingdom co-evolved with life, and that up to two thirds of the more than 4,000 known types of minerals on Earth can be directly or indirectly linked to biological activity…

What ultimately had the biggest impact on mineral evolution, however, was the origin of life, approximately 4 billion years ago. “Of the approximately 4,300 known mineral species on Earth, perhaps two thirds of them are biologically mediated,” says [study leader Robert] Hazen. “This is principally a consequence of our oxygen-rich atmosphere, which is a product of photosynthesis by microscopic algae.” Many important minerals are oxidized weathering products, including ores of iron, copper and many other metals.

Microorganisms and plants also accelerated the production of diverse clay minerals. In the oceans, the evolution of organisms with shells and mineralized skeletons generated thick layered deposits of minerals such as calcite, which would be rare on a lifeless planet.

“For at least 2.5 billion years, and possibly since the emergence of life, Earth’s mineralogy has evolved in parallel with biology,” says Hazen. “One implication of this finding is that remote observations of the mineralogy of other moons and planets may provide crucial evidence for biological influences beyond Earth.”

Stanford geologist Gary Ernst calls the results “breathtaking”…  Of course, Tom Robbins was all over this in 1990 in Skinny Legs and All.

As we regard our front steps with new respect, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933, that Federal Judge John M. Woolsey, ruling on an action precipitated by Bennett Cerf as a test case, that the James Joyce’s novel Ulysses is not obscene.  Woolsey reserved judgement on the book’s treatment of inanimate objects.

Cover of the first edition

Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 6, 2008 at 1:01 am

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