¶ » First reports from the European Union pathbuilder mission to 70 Ophiuchi B I indicate that the first world of the primary star in this binary system supports life. However, the organisms found are of an unusual and primitive variety, surviving at temperatures that are usually well below 0 centigrade.
¶ » As lead researcher Nadine Dussault reported, “What we have found is a life form that does not have a constantly extant xenogenetic code. Instead, it has a a two part xenogenetic system. The first part is a protein ‘hub’ which is inert except during reproduction. The protein ‘spokes’ that migrate to and insert themselves into this hub are the second part of the system: they contain both reproductive data for the cell, and direct its metabolic processes.”
¶ » According to Dussault, when the cell’s internal chemistry changes in anticipation of reproduction, the hub “summons” these protein spokes and the entire urchin-like matrix undergoes a process broadly analogous to meiosis. The new copy of this matrix is what then carries the genetic code for the new cell that is split off from the parent cell.
¶ » Once that new cell has grown to the point where its structures are all clearly expressed, it seems that the protein strands then detach from the hub and begin regulating the new cell’s metabolic functions. Dussault explained: “It is like nothing we have ever seen before—or imagined. We did not even know to model this.”
¶ » Dr. Dussault’s comment about “not knowing to model this” refers to assertions within the exobiology community that, with enough data, expert systems and computer modelling programs should be able to predict all possible macroogranic combinations and simple life forms. The discoveries by Dussault’s team are yet another indictment of such automated “xenomodeling” as a means of creating a compendium of most, or all, possible unicellar biochemical bases even before encountering them.
¶ » On a similar note, the leading voices in what is now calling itself the “convergent evolution” movement were somewhat muted in their response to Dussault’s findings. Professor Herve Sarsilla, the Llul Chair of Exobiology at the University of Madrid, commented that, “Dr. Dussault’s findings are very interesting, but do not, in any way, undermine the growing theoretical indicators and physical evidence that genetic structures and proteins that are roughly analogous found to those in Earth’s double-stranded helix model are nature’s preferred biological control paradigm.”
¶ »When asked if most convergent evolutionists also attribute that “preferred biological control paradigm” to the influence of “intelligent design,” Sarsilla responded that, “Some certainly do; some certainly do not. We are not an official organization, and therefore lack the power—as well as the inclination–to make matters of faith a prerequisite in expressing support for the theory of convergent evolution.”
¶ » When asked how, within the theoretical limits of convergent evolution, he would explain the existence of such xenobiologically disparate life forms as those found on 70 Ophiuchi B I, Dr. Sarsilla observed that, “This is not the first such exception we have found, of course. The flora and fauna of Tau Ceti II, while carbon-oxygen-water based, have such radically different xenogenetics that we were, at first, utterly uncertain about the location and transfer mechainsm of their reproductory codes. One can hardly call the evolutionary pathway of such life forms to be in any meaningful way, convergent with our own. However, on the true Green Worlds—particularly Delta Pavonis III, Zeta Tucanae II, and Rho Eridani V—the conformity of the indigenous genetic retention and transfer mechanisms is simply too close and consistent to be a matter of chance. Certainly, there are other means of transferring the information necessary for replication and reproduction,but—as we saw on Tau Ceti II, and now on 70 Ophiuchi B I—those simpler mechanisms cannot build structures as complex as vertebrates.”
¶ » The biots found on 70 Ophiuchi B I are vastly different metabolically, as well as xenogenetically. Using both heat and infrared light as the sources of metabolic energy input, they all evince a propensity to produce alcohol—usually propanol—as an integral part of their respiration and energy conversion activities. This lowers the temperature at which the cell’s cytoplasm continues to remain functional, serving as a kind of natural anti-freeze in the often bitterly cold and barren biomes of 70 Ophiuchi B I.
¶ » From a political standpoint, the discovery of life on 70 Ophiuchi B I was welcome, but was not the news that the European Union’s Ophiuchi Pathbuilder mission had been hoping to deliver to its bloc’s development and colonization communities. Although having found one other life-bearing world during its exploration of the Ophiuchi group (specifically, in the 36 Ophiuchi cluster), the organisms there were, again, disappointing divergent and primitive
¶ » After the extraordinary discoveries of the numerous “shirt-sleeve” green worlds of the Big Green Main (stretching from Epsilon Indi to Rho Eridani) and the Little Green Main (which boasts habitable worlds in both the Tau Ceti and 82 Eridani systems), the Union was hoping to open up a profitable Main of its own. Unfortunately, by the end of the first day of trading, those companies which had invested heavily in the Ophiuchi Pathbuilder mission were showing valuation drops of 10-15 % and the trading-pit slang which affixed itself to this collection of unpromising systems—”the Brown Main”—already shows signs of becoming a permanent nickname
¶ » Meanwhile, EU government sources remain optimistic about further worlds along the “Brown Main,” pointing to the excellent possibilities for a true ‘green world’ in the 70 Ophiuchi A system, which the pathbuilder mission should reach some time in 2116.
¶ » When asked if the EU should have chosen a different pathway for exploration, Senior Associate Administrator Helmut Kling of the ESA-I commented, “There was no other place for us to go. Although we have an 8.3 light year shift range, as does the Commonwealth and the Federation, they had already extensively exploited their Mains by the time we launched this Pathbuilder mission. While there are many stars we can visit with our shift carriers, there weren’t any more pathways—or mains—where several G and K stars lay in a convenient sequence for surveying. If we had a longer shift range, that would change—but for the time being, the Wasserman drive seems to have reached its reasonable range limit.”
¶ » As Administrator Kling’s optimistic hopes for discoveries in 70 Ophiuchi A reached the financial news tickers, early morning trading in Mumbai showed only a weak .5 % increase in the Ophiuchi Pathbuilder mission’s supporting companies