A feature article about our research has appeared in the special X-mas issue of New Scientist.
We appreciate that the author of the article had tried to get to the bottom of our results. Nonetheless, there are some points that we must comment on.
First, about 37, which made its way even into the headline. It’s a mystery for us why it catches most of the attention and is even ascribed some “special meaning” (not only by this author). 37 is certainly not an answer to life and everything, it has a much humbler role in the code. Once you try to systematize codons in a position-dependent manner you get a structure (that we call the ideogram) of nucleotide strings, and this structure reveals a whole system of symmetries, both at the level of individual nucleotides and at the level of triplets. Alternatively, when you systematize codons in a position-independent manner using all available non-arbitrary divisions of the code (there are not many of them), you find that in each of this divisions the code reveals exact equalities of nucleon sums (in essence, another type of symmetries – quantitative symmetries). And only then you find that those nucleon sums systematically reveal distinct notation in the positional decimal system, which, in its turn, is related to the criterion of divisibility by 37 (existing in the decimal system). That’s all – no any special meaning. Why the main 90% of the result are missed by many commentators, while 37 is accented, is something of a head-scratcher to us. All of the patterns would be no less impressing if they revealed distinctive notation, say, in septenary system (where it is related to the criterion of divisibility by 19), or even did not reveal distinctive notation in any numeral system at all.
Also, after reading the article one might have an impression that because the patterns are non-random, we argue that they are artificial. However, non-randomness alone is by no means a sign of artificiality. Unfortunately, the author did not mention any arguments on why we actually consider the signal to be artificial. You might take a look at these arguments here.
Billions of years ago, the planet was barren and lifeless. But then, at some distant and unknowable moment, it was seeded with what Makukov calls an “intelligent-like signal”…
Seeding individual planets is utterly inefficient compared to seeding collapsing clouds that produce star cluster (our Solar system, like the majority of others, is also believed to have formed in a cluster). Besides, saying that it was seeded “with a signal” might be misleading – it was seeded with microbial cells which carried an intelligent signal.
The idea goes back to 1973, when Francis Crick published a paper in the planetary sciences journal Icarus
In fact, the idea of directed panspermia goes back even further, to Carl Sagan and Iosif Shklovskii in 1966, and to J.B.S. Haldane in 1954.
Unlike genomic DNA, the code is stable. Genomes mutate over time, but the code is passed down the generations without alteration…
Actually, the genetic code did have minor alterations in some lineages of simple organisms and organelles. There are about a dozen known variations of the code. But that does not affect the major point, since the vast majority of organisms still use the code inherited from the last universal common ancestor (which is the original seeds in case of directed panspermia).
Their arguments are often dense and impenetrable, filled with complex mathematical formulae
No, no, no. Actually, it’s all very easy to grasp, and we do not use any formulae to retrieve the signal (not to mention complex formulae). If it were so complex, it would make little sense for us to argue that it has intentional origin – why inserting an intentional signal if it’s utterly complex to retrieve?
“It was clear right away that the code has a non-random structure,” says Makukov.
To clarify: as the code was cracked (in 1960s), it was clear right away that it has a non-random structure. It is not that everyone thought that the code is random until recently. E.g., any researcher in the field knew that the code has a block structure and is highly robust to misreadings.
That might sound inevitable, but it is not. In 1996, mathematician Olga Zhaksybayeva of the al-Farabi Kazakh National University calculated that the probability of it occurring by chance is 3.09 × 10-32.
Any biologist will probably turn against this number, since in that paper the probability for Rumer’s pattern was calculated out of any biological context. If one assumes that, as a requirement of biological efficiency, the code should have a block structure, this number is increased, though, of course, not to 1.
All in all, the Kazakhs have identified nine patterns in the code
Nine? :) Is the entire ideogram with all the symmetries in all of its strings counted here as a “one pattern”?
If you think that all sounds a bit like The Da Vinci Code for DNA, you’re not alone. “It’s flat out numerology,” says Myers, who also notes the similarity to the pseudoscience of intelligent design
We had commented on PZ Myers’ “numerology” here. Regardless of the validity of our results, it is surprising that one of the most ardent ID-critics has confused our approach with ID (we never use ID methods – irreducible complexity, statistical analysis out of evolutionary context, etc.).
Davies is also quite forgiving. “If you crunch numbers long enough, you’ll find patterns in almost anything,” he says. “It was very clear to me at the outset that what this boils down to is an assessment: what is the probability that you might find something like this by chance?
This is a default standard in all of the empirical sciences – when one observes some patterns – expected or not – the first thing to do is to perform statistical analysis to be sure that they are not a statistical fluke.
To that, Makukov and shCherbak have an answer: about 10-13, or 1 in 10 trillion
This is only an upper estimate, since there were simplifications in the statistical analysis.
As to what – or who – planted the message, Makukov stresses that he doesn’t know.
Does anyone expect “little green men” here as an answer? No way – it’s pink fluffy fairies! ;)