Monday, January 14, 2008

Louis J Sheehan Esquire 30085 Y12

Talk about a tough spot. While the Fed may be contemplating another rate cut in response to recession worries, its sworn enemy inflation apparently is still stalking the land.

The price of gold, traditionally considered both a safe haven in times of trouble and an important inflation gauge, notched historical highs today, touching $914 an ounce overnight before easing a bit but staying above the $900 psychological barrier. Analysts proffered various rationales for the runup, citing concerns over inflation, the weakening dollar -- gold like oil is denominated using the venerable buck -- and worries that the U.S. economy may be entering recessionary times. Tensions between inflation and recession worries also twisted up the yield curve for bonds early today, with the short side of the curve sinking in response to the looming rate cut by the Federal Reserve. On the other hand, "the long end of the curve is rising [and] that is suggesting that that market is very concerned about inflation," said Lee Olver, fixed-income strategist for SMH Capital this morning.

Shortly after midday, the longer side of the yield curve eased somewhat, suggesting concerns over inflation may be relaxing. But the inflation warning signs this morning likely have many investors wondering what to make of them. Here's one takeaway: Right now, it's good to not to be Fed chief Ben Bernanke, who finds himself having to contend with a mix of price and economic growth data which -- in an a nightmare scenario -- could conceivably coalesce into a stagflationary environment. Still, few see Mr. Bernanke swiveling his white horse to confront the dragon of inflation with recession concerns at their current pitch. Perhaps his best bet for now is to wait for Wednesday's Consumer Price Index reading to filter out of the Labor Department and pray it doesn't fan inflation fears further.



“That is hot ice, and wondrous strange snow!”
Midsummer Night’s Dream 5.1.59

Rather than in a primordial soup prepared in burning fire and bubbling cauldron, perhaps life originated in ice?

Small amounts of liquid water still exist at -60 degrees F (salt can help maintain liquid water down to -65 degrees F and, under more rare conditions, thin films of liquid water can exist at – 90 degrees F) in an ice field. There are at least one million liquid compartments –- test tubes -- in one cubic yard of sea ice. Sea ice accumulates “pollutants” (ammonia, cyanide, etc.) from the atmosphere and stores and concentrates them in the aforementioned liquid compartments.

The typical assumption is that as the temperature drops, the speed of chemical reactions slows. However, that general tendency does not necessarily apply when chemicals are frozen in ice; when frozen in ice, some reactions increase in speed, especially reactions where small molecules join together to form larger molecules, i.e., e.g., complex polymers. This seemingly counter-intuitive tendency is known as “eutectic freezing.”

Eutectic freezing involves the crystallization of water which necessarily remains unadulterated, i.e., the pollutants are excluded. As such, the pollutants become concentrated in the remaining liquid pockets which, in turn, causes certain pollutant molecules to collide more often which process more than offsets the other slowing effects of cold thus accelerating the reaction(s).

Even more, the structure of ice has a generally regular pattern of positive and negative charges which leads to strong bonding with the liquid water remaining in the compartments. Repeated experiments have established that these electric charges organize the pollutants into chains; further, those shorter chains develop into very long chains IF a single strand of RNA is placed into the compartment to act as a template. ,

Scientists believe cyanide was abundant on primordial Earth more than 2.5 billion years ago. Importantly, cyanide tends to self-assemble into larger molecules and does so efficiently under freezing conditions. Tellingly, cyanide evaporates more quickly than does water so it could only become concentrated in cold temperatures. Cold temperatures also preserve fragile molecules – such as nucleobases – dramatically extending the time they exist thus increasing the opportunity(ies) for further development. Frozen cyanide in the presence of ammonia can form adenine (a nucleotide base).
To state the obvious, the above reasoning has expanded the range of worlds on which to search for extraterrestrial life.

Reference List

Fox, D. (2008, February). Did life begin in ice? Discover. 52-60.

National Public Radio. (2000, March). Analysis: Scientists share results of 25-year experiment of freezing vials of liquid. Retrieved January 11, 2008 from the National Public Radio Home Page: .



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