Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mom's soup recipe...

That would be Mother Earth's primordial soup, of course.  It turns out early experiments showing how basic compounds in our planet's early stages contained the ingredients for life to emerge were more prescient than even imagined.
The first experiments remained iconic in their attempt at simulating pre-biotic chemistry, but became irrelevant in detail.

But conditions locally in volcanoes, says Professor Bada, might not have been so different. The trouble was, Miller published only the sketchiest of details of those tests, and the apparatus was lost. It had looked like a dead end, until those dusty boxes turned up with their 200 vials.

"We started sorting through these, and lo and behold, we found a whole collection, almost a complete collection, of the extract samples from the volcanic experiments. And so we just went at it, using the state-of-the-art techniques we have today and analysed these samples.

"We found not only did these make more of certain amino acids than in the classic experiment, but they made a greater diversity of amino acids."

Miller, using the old methods, had found five amino acids; Jeffrey Bada and his teams tracked down 22. What is more, the overall chemical yields were often higher than in the first set of experiments - the mixture appeared to be more fertile.

Professor Bada points out that today, almost all volcanic eruptions are accompanied by violent electric storms. The same could have been true on the young Earth.

"What we suggest is that volcanoes belched out gases just like the ones Stanley had used, and were immediately subjected to intense volcanic lightning.
  "And so each one of those volcanoes could have been a little, local prebiotic factory. And so all of that went into making the material that we refer to as the prebiotic soup." [More]
I have long believed - perhaps against reason - that life was more prolific than our tiny planet suggests. It a big universe and there is room for many more.  As we uncover more about this process, the wrong conclusion is it diminishes humanity.

These advances actually diminish our loneliness.

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