Organic Matter in the Universe
The term organic matter was originally created to refer to compounds derived from natural living things which are fundamentally different from those derived from nonliving substances (inorganic matter). It was believed that living things posses a "vital force" which is absent in nonliving things. By the early nineteenth century, advances in chemical techniques had let to the isolation and discovery of an increasing number of molecules from living biological organisms.
At the same time it was commonly and firmly believed by many chemists that these moloecles could only be produced by living organisms. While inorganic matter could be produced in he laboratory by chemical means, scientists thought organic matter could not synthesized from inorganic matter because it lacked the "vital force".
Now our definition of organic matter has evolved from something that posses a special nonphysical element such as the "vital force" to a group of molecules and compounds based on the chemical element carbon (C). The element carbon is unique in its versatility for forming different chemical bonds (...) it can also combine with other elements such as hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S) and phosphorus (P). This group of elements froms the basis of living organisms. We note that four elements - hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen - make up more than 99% of the mass of most cells. These four elements are also the first, third, fourth and fifth most abundant elements in the Universe.
We might think of most of the Universe as a vast, cold, uncaring place where elements rule… But we’d be wrong. Astronomers are now reporting that organic compounds of high diversity exist throughout the Cosmos and aren’t the primary property of life. Are we all just “star stuff”? You bet. Complex organic materials can be produced by stars!
While these complex compounds bear a resemblance to our Earthly coal and petroleum, they’re out there. Professor Sun Kwok and Dr. Yong Zhang of the University of Hong Kong have found that organic compounds exists throughout the Universe. These stellar by-products are mixture of aromatic (ring-like) and aliphatic (chain-like) components that closely resemble fossil fuels – a remnant of life. Does this raise eyebrows? Darn right it does. It means that “complex organic compounds can be synthesized in space even when no life forms are present.”
Not only are the stars producing complex organic materials, but they’re pumping them into interstellar space as well. And the idea isn’t new. Kwok had proposed stars as compound factories and this current research supports his vision. “Our work has shown that stars have no problem making complex organic compounds under near-vacuum conditions,” says Kwok. “Theoretically, this is impossible, but observationally we can see it happening.”
Read more: www.universetoday.com...
An international team of scientists has just detected a new interstellar molecule in our galaxy. This molecule, called the propynylidyne ion (C3H+), is part of the hydrocarbon family, which composes one of the major energy sources on Earth, petroleum and natural gas.
The discovery of this molecule at the heart of the famous Horsehead Nebula in the Constellation of Orion confirms that this nebula is an active petroleum refinery for the interstellar medium.
But how do these hydrocarbons form? In their article, Jérôme Pety and his team propose that they result from the fragmentation of giant carbonaceous molecules named PAHs. These giant molecules could be eroded by ultra-violet light, giving a large amount of small hydrocarbons. This mechanism would be particularly efficient in regions like the Horsehead Nebula where the interstellar gas is directly exposed to the light of a nearby massive star. « We observe the operation of a natural refinery of petroleum of gigantic size », concludes Jérôme Pety.
Life deep down under
For the first time, scientists have discovered microbes living deep inside Earth’s oceanic crust — the dark volcanic rock at the bottom of the sea. This crust is several kilometres thick and covers 60% of the planet’s surface, making it the largest habitat on Earth.
The microbes inside it seem to survive largely by using hydrogen, formed when water flows through the iron-rich rock, to convert carbon dioxide into organic matter. This process, known as chemosynthesis, is distinct from photosynthesis, which uses sunlight for the same purpose.
Life in Asphalt
Environmental scientists at UC Riverside have discovered that the Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, Calif., house hundreds of new species of bacteria with unusual properties, allowing the bacteria to survive and grow in heavy oil and natural asphalt.
Trapped in soil that was mixed with heavy oil nearly 28,000 years ago, the bacteria are uniquely adapted to the pits’ oil and natural asphalt, and contain three previously undiscovered classes of enzymes that can naturally break down petroleum products, the researchers report.
“We were surprised to find these bacteria because asphalt is an extreme and hostile environment for life to survive,” said Jong-Shik Kim, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Sciences, who initiated the study. “It’s clear, however, that these living organisms can survive in heavy oil mixtures containing many highly toxic chemicals. Moreover, these bacteria survive with no water and little or no oxygen.”
Deep Surface Life
Life extends far deeper into the Earth's subsurface than presumed possible 30 years ago. In the past, it was assumed that life is a surface phenomenon, and that even ‘hardy prokaryotic types’ are not capable of living deeper than tens of meters below the surface. In the 1990s, it became apparent that genetically and metabolically diverse microbial communities existed under highly reducing conditions in the deep subsurface. Today we know that life in the deep subsurface is ubiquitous and comprises a large proportion of the biomass on Earth.
We were wrong...?
The facts have changed, now we must change too. For the past 10 years an unlikely coalition of geologists, oil drillers, bankers, military strategists and environmentalists has been warning that peak oil – the decline of global supplies – is just around the corner. We had some strong reasons for doing so: production had slowed, the price had risen sharply, depletion was widespread and appeared to be escalating. The first of the great resource crunches seemed about to strike. (...)
Governments, businesses and voters who seemed impervious to the moral case for cutting the use of fossil fuels might, we hoped, respond to the economic case.
So this is where we are. The automatic correction – resource depletion destroying the machine that was driving it – that many environmentalists foresaw is not going to happen. The problem we face is not that there is too little oil, but that there is too much.
John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil interviewed on CNBC, February 2012
"I think OPEC is about maxed out. when people talk about spare capacity in OPEC, I don't see it. I just don't see it coming through and I'm not sure it's there. And it's not just that they're greedy, but they're really producing what they can produce."
Gerald Schotman, Shell’s chief technology officer, February 2013
“We, as an industry, are now able to see what we had previously not been able to see, and find what we previously had not been able to find. But we are also able to make more out of these reserves, by being cleverer about the ways we manage them.”
International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2010, November 2010
"Crude oil output reaches an undulating plateau of around 68-69 mb/d, by 2020, but never regains its all-time peak of 70mb/d reached in 2006."
Yves-Louis Darricarrere, President of Total's oil and gas exploration division at CERAWEEK, March 2012
"We think it will be difficult to produce more than 95 to 97 million barrels per day in the foreseeable future."
OPEC reacts to US Shale Boom April 2013
The first signs are emerging that key Persian Gulf members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are adjusting their strategies to cope with the growing threat that North American shale oil is making to their long-term dominance in global energy markets. (...)
Back in the 1980s, vertical integration was a key strategy employed by OPEC’s largest producers to cope with the encroachment of rising non-OPEC production and a related price collapse. The question remains whether the market is about to see a déjà vu or whether geopolitically-driven supply disruptions from traditional production regions like the Middle East or Venezuel
"Oil is ultimately controlled by events in the geological past which are immune to politics."
Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data.
"The nebula contains 200 times more hydrocarbons than the total amount of water on Earth!", said IRAM-astronomer Viviana Guzman.
But we are extremely short of care for our planet and for each other as witnessed by the pollution and wars we generate daily as a species. Maybe one day we will learn. I hope it's not too late on that day