Creating Life in a Jar: From Amino Acids to Apes with iPods
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May 20, 2009

Creating Life in a Jar: From Amino Acids to Apes with iPods

Life-in-a-jar For over fifty years we've been figuring out life's starting point, finding how a planet-sized chemical tank turned into tigers, sharks and expressways (but not at the same place, at least until we get Michael Bay to accept our screenplay.)  It all started in 1953, when one man made primordial soup in a jar - and we've been improving on the recipe ever since.

Stanly Miller outperformed every student before and since, mixing up the Cocktail of Life at the age of twenty-three.  He filled a glass jar with water, ammonia, methane and hydrogen, started it circulating and blasted it with electricity until it got interesting.  Protip: if any part of your drink-mixing procedure includes "something to simulate lightning strikes", you're going to see some cool stuff - in this case half of all the amino acids required to make everything alive.  Not bad for a PhD.

Miller's work was energetically verified by professors at McMaster University, using supercomputer simulations to work out the thermodynamic odds of those amino acids combining even without scientists poking them with a stick: their results showed that the starter set of amino acids were indeed thermodynamically favored, a scrabble-breaking way of saying "Physics will make this happen."  And once you have that base set, you can combine to get the rest.

There are still one or two (billion years of) steps between amino acids and apes with Apple iPods, but we've got those as well.  Studies have shown in exhaustive detail how amino acids combine to create larger units called nucleotides.  These posed the ultimate jigsaw puzzle: once they come together into RNA, we've seen how it can evolve and improve (and we do mean SEEN: the Scripps Institute rigged up RNA replicators and watched them evolve before their eyes) and eventually arrive at DNA, but we didn't know how the darn things made RNA to begin with.

Emphasis on "didn't" - University of Manchester scientists decided to solve the problem, and please note that when U of M decides on something they don't mess around: they spent a full ten years smashing together the pre-life pieces until they eventually fit together.  Just as they would have done in early Earth's oceans, which were a couple of orders of magnitude bigger than a beaker and for whom ten years is barely a blink.

So what do you do when you know how it works?  Easy - make a better version!

We're working on our own version, with the Toyama School of Pharmaceutical Sciences engineering entirely artificial DNA based on synthetic basepairs.  The artificial genes are suitable for use in genetic engineering, and have been shown to be more stable, and can even resist DNAase chemicals which dissolve human DNA.

Or as the inevitable human-dissolving-juice-spraying-mutants will call it, "DNA 1.0"

The Primordial Primordial Soup http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2009/05/dayintech_0515

Comments

so, where did these amino acids come from to begin with?

Yup, folks, you are the descendants of slime. Children of soup. A great celestial accident. God doesn't exist, there is no hope for you. You will die and rot, back into soup.

DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT! Science constantly changes its mind to suit it's theories. How about the latest? The newest "missing link" proves we are descended from lemurs and not apes! See? They had it all wrong, all along, and they've still got it wrong.

Ye are Children of God. That has been said from the beginning, and a long continuous line of believers have repeated it unto this very day. Believe what you will. I will never accept any notion that I'm "an accident," that I'm descended from soup. Nothing makes me laugh harder.

yep gary. no soup for me :)

so, where did these amino acids come from to begin with?
Posted by: oldbat | May 21, 2009 at 08:13 AM
-----------------------------------------------------------

"Miller's work was energetically verified by professors at McMaster University, using supercomputer simulations to work out the thermodynamic odds of those amino acids combining even without scientists poking them with a stick: their results showed that the starter set of amino acids were indeed thermodynamically favored, a scrabble-breaking way of saying "Physics will make this happen." And once you have that base set, you can combine to get the rest."

Basically they're saying the amino acid molecules are created via the chemical compounds listed and then thermodynamically stimulated to form.

Yup, folks, you are the descendants of slime. Children of soup. A great celestial accident. God doesn't exist, there is no hope for you. You will die and rot, back into soup.

DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT! Science constantly changes its mind to suit it's theories. How about the latest? The newest "missing link" proves we are descended from lemurs and not apes! See? They had it all wrong, all along, and they've still got it wrong.

Ye are Children of God. That has been said from the beginning, and a long continuous line of believers have repeated it unto this very day. Believe what you will. I will never accept any notion that I'm "an accident," that I'm descended from soup. Nothing makes me laugh harder.

Posted by: Gary | May 21, 2009 at 01:00 PM
-----------------------------------------------------------

"God doesn't exist, there is no hope for you. You will die and rot, back into soup."

First off Gary, indicating such wild conclusions as a result of what this article says just goes to show how far gone your interpretation of such data is. For instance, what does the notion of being created out of chemical compounds (which you can clearly prove to yourself by cutting yourself and watching the iron rich hemoglobin spill out from your wound) have to do with "there's no hope for you?" Hope for what? That good little boys get to go to heaven and bad little boys get to go to hell?

This says nothing of the afterlife and as such, comes to no conclusions on whether or not the Electro-magnetic field that is created via the brain still exists past the shutdown of the body. There's also nothing in here that dictates whether for or against an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent creator, as it can be easily argued that the creator of the reality we live in could only create life in this way by following the laws of the reality it created, not by waving their preverbial magic hand and saying, let there be life out of clay! (even if this goes against omnipotence in some fashion). Someone with the mildest of intelligence would recognize this as a more logical conclusion but people of your ilk rarely show as much do they?

Secondly, indicating Science changes its mind to suit its theories is actually a compliment in some fashion, though you have it actually reversed and are in actuality describing those of your ilk that attempt to use science to prove ideas of the bible to be true when in many instances there is no conceivable way of compatibility without gross mis-interpretation or un-literal intpretation or both (For instance, those that would indicate God creating the earth in six days in reality meant billions of years, he just explained it poorly to the writers of Genesis, duh!). Or for instance, that the light that has travelled billions of years from the far edges of the universe was put there abruptly 6000 years ago at the "moment of creation".

In reality, science changes it's theories based on new evidence that is found to base those theories around. As most people with reason, logical, and rationality know, our understanding of what makes up this universe and reality and how it was formed is limited by what we currently know and do not know. Science is based on observation and understanding of such through testing and replication and repeatability. By those theories changing based on ever new facts being found, it goes to show the humility always present within science that says "Here's what we know so far, you're more than welcome to refute it if you have the facts to back it up". Religion on the other hand, as you have so eloquently pointed out in your self-righteous and egotistical post says "Here's what was written by the very hand of God thousands of years ago, nevermind the fact that it shows no modern understanding of our world and doesn't pretend to need to, and everything found thereafter is refuted by such and needs no evidence or silly 'facts' to back up such claims. It says so, and that's the way it is". In the words of Sam Harris in "Letter to a Christian Nation":

"A book written by an omniscient being could contain a chapter on mathematics that, after two thousand years of continuous use, would still be the richest source of mathematical insight humanity has ever known. Instead, the Bible contains no formal discussion of mathematics and some obvious mathematical errors. In two places, for instance, the Good Book states that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is 3:1 (I Kings 7:23-26 and II Chronicles 4:2-5). As an approximation of the constant Pi, this is not impressive. The decimal expansion of Pi runs to infinity - 3.1415926535.... - and modern computers now allow us to calculate it to any degree of accuracy we like. But the Egyptians and Babylonians both approximated Pi to a few decimal places several centuries before the oldest books of the Bible were written. The Bible offers us an approximation that is terrible even by the standards of the ancient world."

As shown above, this does not indicate a book written by the creator of the universe. Furthermore, your use of the word "Theory" is typical of your ilk as well. I cannot explain any better than Sam, so here is another quote from his book:

"Christians who doubt the truth of evolution are apt to say things like "Evolution is just a theory, not a fact." Such statments betray a serious misunderstanding of the way the term "theory" is used in scientific discourse. In science, facts must be explained in reference to other facts. These larger explanatory models are "theories". Theories make predictions and can, in principle, be tested. The phrase "the theory of evolution" does not in the least suggest that evolution is not a fact. One can speak about "the germ theory of disease" or "the theory of gravitation" without casting doubt upon disease or gravity as facts of nature."

Your comment on the new findings linking us to Lemurs instead of apes shows just how grossly misinterpreted the findings can be in the eyes of your ilk, just like when you say we are descended from Apes. In fact, the findings shows "evidence" that the fossil provides a transitionary link between lemurs and apes and humans. This also reveals what scientists constantly have to explain to your ilk, that apes and humans have common ancestors, not that we directly evolved from apes. The fact that you could so easily misunderstand what has been said (by the probable fact that you just see the headline and refuse or perhaps, cannot understand the evidence presented) and say "See? They had it all wrong, all along, and they've still got it wrong!" shows why people like you cannot come to terms with scientific evidence. You flat out refuse to even attept to truly investigate or understand it. It'd be easier to say you're too stupid to understand it and therefore you just glance over it and interpret it how you want, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and surmise you're a some-what intelligent person, for if I can see what they're saying, surely you can!

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/090519-missing-link-found.html

Even with this finding, science is humble enough to recognize there's still gaps within the records and as such, there's still plenty of knowledge and understanding to be revealed, that could actually refute or change such claims in the future. But they present to you for now: "Here's what we've found, here are the facts, here how they add up".

Well said, Cosmogeist!

Cosmo, I love science and all, but that was a pretty weak shot with the Pi Bible complaint.

It doesnt, as you state, "state that the ratio of circumference to diameter is 3:1"

All that verse states is that King Solomon, when making a pool part of a temple, made it "10 cubits across" and "30 cubits in circumference".

Those are the numbers Solomon choose to make the pool with, instead of making that pool "30.14 cubits in diameter". Finding a fraction of a cubit seems unnecessary if one is just creating a circular pool.

i love how these christians still hold on to their feeble faith lolercoaster

science-infinite
christians-ZERO

Science vs. christians? When did a member of "science" stand up and, on behalf of all "science", declare that it was taking sides in this debate? Science is used, supposedly, by both sides of this argument. SCIENCE IS NOT A SIDE. The two sides, simply put, are those that choose to view the universe as being built out of a random yet convenient series of events, and those that choose to view the universe as being one of great design that implies a designer. To generalize, "creationists" and "evolutionists". Both would do well to use science and mathematics, but neither can claim having ownership. To further my disdain for your childish remark, Randy, to give science the value of "infinite" betrays your ignorance, for we humans are "finite", and science was born of human minds. "Science" is not the undisputed law of the universe, it is merely our observation of the universe and our attempts to explain it. Science, by definition, is limited to what we can observe, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice that our observations are extremely limited in an enormous universe. There is much that goes on in the universe, and, speculatively, outside of the universe, that is far, far, far from our grasp.

Also, please note, Randy, that not a single person so far in this thread has made a claim to be a christian. This betrays the chip in your shoulder. Perhaps you have some issues you would like to discuss with a counselor or therapist before you can approach "science" without bias?

The amino acids have to be combined quickly(not +- a BILLION years)because they like all compounds degrade to simpler compounds. The window of viability for amino acids is probably +- 2 to 3 years.

Plus, amino acids are light and moisture sensitive which makes some evolutionary amino acid BS story even more unlikely as if the odds against evolution aren't overwhelming to begin with.

Qwan_Lee, perhaps you misunderstand what they mean by the amino acids having Billions of years to combine. It doesn't mean that the very first amino acid had a billion years to join with others but that during this billion year process more and more amino acids became plentiful enough to then have combined during this window of viability. Perhaps from the first amino acids being able to form it may have taken a billion years to begin forming into proteins and whatever other necessary intermediary steps towards RNA.


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