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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

Introduction

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 ›

Resuming Peacetime Conscription Bad Idea that Would Clog Courts

There they go again. A few days ago, Rep. Floyd Spence, chair of the House National Security Committee, suggested that if military recruitment and retention continue to erode, Congress might have to consider reinstating the draft, or some form of national service with military and non-military options. No, conscription’s not imminent. But Mr. Spence’s comment may be taken as a Read More ›

Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley
Licensed from Adobe Stock

The Bulldog’s Life: Part I

But even leaving Mr. Darwin’s views aside,” wrote Thomas Henry Huxley in 1863, in Man’s Place in Nature, “the whole analogy of natural operations furnishes so complete and crushing an argument against the intervention of any but what are termed secondary causes, in the production of the phenomena of the universe; that, in the view of the intimate relations between Man Read More ›

alien eye.jpg
Evil eye.

What Would Real Little Green Men Tell Us About Evolution — And God?

They need not be little, of course, nor green, nor, for that matter, come in more than one sex: indeed (with apologies to most episodes of Star Trek), they probably wouldn't recognizably be "men" at all. But extraterrestrial intelligent life would need to be intelligent — meaning, operationally, able to manipulate electromagnetic radiation to carry signals. Read More ›

It’s Time to Quit Diplomatic Dance and Destroy Iraq’s Deadly Weapons

Some episodes in history, you look back and you wonder, “What were they thinking of?” As I write, American forces are converging. By the time you read this, the metallic density of the air over Iraq may have increased significantly. Cruise missiles, perhaps–When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best. But go easy, guys. The assembly line’s cold and Read More ›

The End of Flight As We Know It?

The story in the October 5th issue of “Aviation Week and Space Technology” began: “The successful test of a TRW-designed laser recently has opened the door for a valid demonstration of the device’s usefulness as a weapon against ballistic missiles.” Good news for those of us who would like the government, some decade or other, to get around to its Read More ›

What Should a 21st Century Defense Be?

These are the years Bill Clinton has eaten. Years as abhorrent to the future as to the past. Some periods in history, you look back and you wonder, “What were they thinking of?” We live in such a time. And we know what we’re thinking of. Or do we? The People are quiet. Hard to believe, but they are. The Read More ›