Government gives Seattle a chance to purge its ‘soul’

For all of you who have been wringing your hands over Seattle’s supposed loss of its “soul,” the federal government may have an answer that’s almost too good to bear. By proposing to break up Microsoft, the Justice Department and 17 state attorneys general are offering to help the company’s hometown find at least temporary solutions to some of its Read More ›

Proprietary Rights: Privilege and Confidentiality In Cyberspace Proprietary Rights

At the recent Internet Law Symposium 95, sponsored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, noted technology author and pundit George Gilder stated that “[i]n the twenty-first century, all law will be Internet law.” The proof of this statement is the debate already taking place among lawyers, scholars, technologists, and Netizens about security, privilege, and confidentiality in cyberspace. It is common currency Read More ›

Photo by Tadas Sar

Goliath at Bay

GOLIATH IN THE VALE of Elah roared his contempt at the weapons and zeal of David: “Do you think me a dog that you contest me with sticks and stones?” Bill Gates, the Goliath of software, sees himself similarly beset by zealous rivals with risible weapons. Entering his modest second-floor office on the edge of the Microsoft campus on a Read More ›

Wishful Thinking About a World Without Saddam

Many years ago, a young psychoanalyst approached The Master for guidance. Replied Mr. Freud directly: “Don’t try to save people. They don’t want to be saved.” Wise counsel for America, as Saddam Hussein continues his game of playing us like a yo-yo. For the issue involved here has come to transcend Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and their locales du Read More ›

An Effective Missile Defense

What do “Seinfeld” and the Clinton administration’s missile defense policies have in common? Obvious answer: Neither is about anything. It’s too late for Seinfeld. But the Boeing Company recently received a modest (by Beltway standards) contract to design yet another missile defense system. Boeing can deliver. But will success be welcome? Probably not. But then, success has never been welcome. Read More ›

Public’s Role in Preventing Armageddon

Way back in 1980 (Long Time Passing), as Jimmy Carter staggered through the final days of an unsuccessful attempt to get his contract renewed, he announced that his daughter had told him her greatest fear was nuclear proliferation. The media guffawed, many wondering whether L’il Amy was old enough to spell nuclear proliferation, let alone fret over it. Given recent Read More ›

U.N.’s Military Efficiency Inherently Flawed

Defense intellectuals are a curious breed. Some, especially those who’ve never served in uniform, grow so infatuated with their theories that you just want to cut them off with: “Excuse me, which battalion did you say you were in?” Others, who have worn the suit, come to regard their own experiences as the standard of truth and limit of the Read More ›

Rush Limbaugh and George Gilder, Together Again

My friends, it would behoove you to study everything you can get your hands on by George Gilder, a true American genius. Here is the second interview he was kind enough to grant me for my newsletter. Learn it, love it, live it. Rush Limbaugh RUSH: You are very gracious, sir, to consent to undergoing another grilling. What I primarily want Read More ›

The RNA World


One of the earliest published suggestions that RNA-catalyzed RNA replication preceded and gave rise to the first DNA-based living cells was made by Carl Woese in 1967, in his book The Genetic Code1. Similar suggestions were made by Crick and Orgel2, for reasons that are not difficult to grasp. Prior to the discovery of catalytic RNAs, proteins were considered by many to be the only organic molecules in living matter that could function as catalysts. DNA carries the genetic information required for the synthesis of proteins. The replication and transcription of DNA require a complex set of enzymes and other proteins. How then could the first living cells with DNA-based molecular biology have originated by spontaneous chemical processes on the prebiotic Earth? Primordial DNA synthesis would have required the presence of specific enzymes, but how could these enzymes be synthesized without the genetic information in DNA and without RNA for translating that information into the amino acid sequence of the protein enzymes? In other words, proteins are required for DNA synthesis and DNA is required for protein synthesis.

This classic “chicken-and-egg” problem made it immensely difficult to conceive of any plausible prebiotic chemical pathway to the molecular biological system. Certainly no such chemical pathway had been demonstrated experimentally by the early 1960s. So the suggestion that RNA molecules might have formed the first self-replicating chemical systems on the primitive Earth seemed a natural one, given the unique properties of these substances.

They carry genetic information and (unlike DNA) occur primarily as single-stranded molecules that can assume a great variety of tertiary structures, and might therefore be capable of catalysis, in a manner similar to that of proteins. The problem of which came first, DNA or proteins, would then be resolved.

Self-replicating RNA-based systems would have arisen first, and DNA and proteins would have been added later. But in the absence of any direct demonstration of RNA catalysis, this suggestion remained only an interesting possibility.

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AT&T’s Wireless Debacle

Mr. Gilder and Mr. Vigilante produce the monthly Gilder Technology Report. Everyone from Alan Greenspan to Al Gore understands that prosperity now feeds on the explosive advance of new technologies. But most fail to acknowledge that business success in the new era will require mastery of technological paradigms and performance. Ordained by the towering sage of Caltech, Carver Mead, the Read More ›