Like DNA, the dust spirals can store information. They do so in the scaffolding of their bodies, as they have two stable states – one with a large diameter and the other with a small one – so a spiral could carry a series of wide and narrow sections.Scientists plan to search for real-life analogues within planetary rings.
The specific order of these sections can be copied from one dust spiral to another, like a genetic code. The researchers aren't sure how it happens, but they think each narrow section of spiral creates a permanent vortex of moving dust outside it. So if another spiral drifts alongside it, that vortex pinches the same length into its narrow state.
The spirals even feed, in a sense, as they need fresh plasma to survive and grow, suggesting they may compete with one another for food. Since they are also capable of passing on their genetic code, then perhaps they could evolve into more complex structures.
But that is very speculative, says Morfill, explaining that the simulation is far too simple to include such complex processes as evolution. "It has a lot of the hallmarks for how we define life at present, but we have not simulated life," Morfill told New Scientist. "To us, they're just a special form of plasma crystal."
Aug 11, 2007
simulating DNA-like helixes made of dust
Those looking for life in space might have to once again expand the horizons of their search--this time to include plasma-devouring dust helixes.