Friday, October 17, 2008

Experiment May Explain Origins of Life

I just stumbled across this article on Wired titled "Forgotten Experiment May Explain Origins of Life." I'm fascinated by all types of science, but have never had a great aptitude for it. However, I do remember making the "volcano-in-a-bottle" experiment, much to the dismay of my poor parents whom, of course, had to clean up after the mess. Come on, you all remember those science fairs where at least one child created a masterpiece- a volcano complete with craters and a great deal of vinegar and red ooze. I always used to think (yes, even when I was 7) that there was NO WAY those children could have done it by themselves. My experiment was much simpler- something to do with the shells of eggs and how they dissolved in certain substances (I was a smart kid back then).

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that the volcano-in-a-bottle experiment actually may have been right on target. This old experiment, widely considered a bunch of bunk, may have brewed essential components of life on this planet.

Wired says that Stanley Miller, a scientist who is famous for his experiments on amino acid formation in said jar full of primordial soup, was the one who discovered the key. However, his experiment was widely accepted as a general example of how the first molecules may have formed.

Miller died in 2007, but Jeffrey Bada, a biochemist and Miller's former student, came across his original experiment, only to find something new: the latest results, derived from Miller's old samples, mimicked volcanic conditions believed to have existed 3 billion years ago.

The amino acids could have been formed when lightning struck pools of gas on the flanks of volcanoes. Basically, areas near volcanoes could have been hotspots for organic chemistry on early earth.


Read the article here.

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