News And Notes -- By: Anonymous
BSP 7:1 (Winter 1994) p. 19
News And Notes
Pop! A New Theory Of Genesis
[As if we didn’t have enough straw-grasping theories on the origin-of-life, here is a “serious” new one. We comment on this excellent article from a recent issue of Newsweek,]
“However life began on earth, it got the hang of things pretty quickly. Life could not even gain a foothold, many biologists think, until the last barrage of killer asteroids stopped 3.8 billion years ago; the first primitive creatures appeared 300 million years later...
[Note the uncertainties we have highlighted in the following paragraphs.]
“How, then, did wisps of gas and specks of clay come to life?. .. 405 researchers gathered in Barcelona for the International Conference on the Origin of Life to offer some answers. Carl Sagan and colleagues reported on organic molecules in the atmosphere of Saturn’s giant moon Titan, which hints that the solar system is full of[?] the ingredients of life: others gave papers how comets might have seeded Earth with life and how molecules learned[?] to replicate themselves. No one has worked it all out, but they may have made progress by moving sideways asking not how but where life was born. Louis Lerman of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab in California lofted one intriguing trial balloon. Or trial bubble. He suggested that frothy, filmy, iridescent bubbles of seawater served as life’s delivery room[?].
“Chemists thought they had the puzzle all figured out years ago.. .. Proteins are one of the two basic ingredients of life. The other is nucleic acids like DNA, and experiments similar to Miller’s managed to make them, too. But recently, geologists concluded that the early Earth had nothing like the atmosphere in Miller’s flask. Then theorists stepped in. Maybe clay turned inanimate gunk into life: perhaps volcanoes or deep-sea hydrothermal vents provided the spark of life. But these ideas all fell short. Although some of the proposed chemical reactions do produce complex organic compounds including amino acids, they aren’t exactly a bumper crop. And that’s a problem: a smidgen of amino acids created on a bed of clay over here would never meet up with the other organic molecules necessary for life.
“Lerman’s bubbles could bring the ingredients together. In his model, bubbles floating on the ocean trap carbon-containing molecules, bits of clay and metals sprinkled in the atmosphere by volcanoes or delivered by comets. When the bubbles popped, they left behind droplets rich[?] in the precursors of life that Miller’s flask and other experiments show can breed DNA and amino acids. From these concentrated chemicals, ultraviolet radiation or lightning sparked the creation of complex molecules-...
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