Is science sometimes in danger of getting tunnel vision? Recently published ebook author, Ian Miller, looks at other possible theories arising from data that we think we understand. Can looking problems in a different light give scientists a different perspective?

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My last post her related to the use of quantum mechanics in chemistry, and it was intended as a prelude to a post about the ebook I had written and was editing. As you may see from looking at the dates, this has taken somewhat longer than I expected. This book outlines a methodology by which, ignoring minor effects, the chemical bond length and energy for covalent bonds involving only s and p electrons can be calculated often within less that 1% error solely by means of wave properties, the quantization of action, and the electric field coupling at the wave antinode. The only inputs are quantum numbers, the Exclusion Principle, and the number of electrons, hence simple analytical functions are obtained. The procedure uses atomic orbitals that do not correspond to the excited states of hydrogen, and this leads to a previously unrecognised quantum effect, and then counts the number of interactions, and for bonds between different sized atoms, especially hydrides, a wave reflection procedure is proposed that has the consequence that the less the sharing, the shorter the bond. The effects of lone pair interactions and delocalization are presented. A new hybridisation effect is proposed that, in the absence of lone pair back donation, leads to bond lengthening and weakening when n = 3 and 5.
The basis of this is what I call a guidance wave. The concept of this is very similar to the de Broglie/Bohm pilot wave, but it has some significant differences. The wave function ψ is, in all quantum mechanic interpretations of which I am aware, given by ψ = A exp (2πiS/h), where S is the action, and an important point is that action evolves. That means that from Euler, the wave function becomes real at the antinode. I then make the assumption that the wave front has to travel at the same velocity as the particle, the reason being that in the two slit experiment, the diffraction does not depend on the distance to the slits and the particle should get there at the same time. That means the square of the amplitude is proportional to the particle energy and that is why you can calculate the bond properties from any position of the antinode (because the particle can only have one energy). It remains to be seen whether anyone has any interest in this, and the results are not totally accurate, nevertheless a molecule like Sb2 has a bond energy within a few kJ/mol of the calculated value. At the risk of self promotion, "The Covalent Bond from Guidance Waves" is at
Posted by Ian Miller on Aug 12, 2018 3:53 AM BST
The February edition of Chemistry World had an article on the prospects for life throughout our solar system, and this was of interest because I intend to give a paper at an International Conference on Astrobiology in Rotorua in June. In my opinion, many of the statements in this article were overly optimistic, which raises the question, when would chemical signatures indicate the possibility, even, of life. The problem is, a chemical signal only indicates one thing when the set of possible causes leading to the signal has one element.
The article stated that there were three essential needs for life: an abundance of chemical building blocks (although these were unspecified), liquid water, and an energy source. The article seems to think that heat is adequate for an energy source, but I disagree. I think photons are critical. The reason comes from the thought that one key requirement for life is that it can reproduce. To do that, it needs a functional group that can link the information-carrying mers into a polymer, and that requires two bonds. Such links also need to be able to be hydrolysed, but not too readily. The reason for this is that initially we are going to get random polymerization, and if the consequences are effectively locked away for ever, we run out of raw materials before something sensible appears. Finally the link needs a variable solubilizing ability because to reproduce, there has to be a way to pull the strands apart so they can act as scaffold for new duplexes. (Without a duplex you have no means of transferring information to the new entity.) The only trifunctional linking group that I see as satisfactory is phosphate, which links through ester formation. Further, it is only marginally satisfactory, because divalent cations usually precipitate phosphate. Our modern life forms might be able to use very dilute phosphate solutions, but the initial life forms would not.
The only way I know of that has been shown to lead to adenosine monophosphate (as well as ATP) was powered by light. Accordingly, anything under permanent ice will not get such light. The issue here is not whether life could live there; it is whether it could evolve there. That alone, in my opinion, rules out the ice moons. Equally, if they do have liquid seas, we would expect some weathering of the dust, and the extraction of calcium and magnesium into the waters. That would remove most phosphate from the waters.
A further issue with reproduction is the necessity of having prodigious amounts of reduced nitrogen material. The Saturnian moons avoid this difficulty, as they seem to have or seem likely to have, ammonia in their oceans, if they have oceans. Enceladus has had ammonia detected in its geyser effluent. Europa has an extremely tenuous atmosphere. The most common species are oxygen and hydrogen, which are products from the photolysis of water. Also present are oxygen atoms, hydroxyl radicals, sodium, and at up to five orders of magnitude less common than oxygen, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide.  These species are believed to be formed by photolysis of surface ice, or ice fragments ejected by sputtering due to high-energy particle impacts. Despite measurements over five orders of magnitude in concentration in barely detectable pressures, there are no nitrogen species detected. This, at least, is in accord with what is outlined in my ebook "Planetary Formation and Biogenesis": Saturnian moons potentially have nitrogen because they were formed by the coalescence of dust/ice, where the ice had methanol and ammonia within it. By the time the dust got to the Jovian system, the ammonia and methanol had boiled away in the higher disk temperatures.
Accordingly, in my opinion, there will be no life in the outer solar system. So what about Mars? That is a more complicated story.
Posted by Ian Miller on Mar 4, 2018 8:44 PM GMT