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"Origin of Life" --Astrobiologists Find Mechanism that May Have Triggered It





The question of how life began on a molecular level has been a longstanding problem in science. However, recent mathematical research sheds light on a possible mechanism by which life may have gotten a foothold in the chemical soup that existed on the early Earth. Researchers have proposed several competing theories for how life on Earth could have gotten its start, even before the first genes or living cells came to be. Despite differences between various proposed scenarios, one theme they all have in common is a network of molecules that have the ability to work together to jumpstart and speed up their own replication — two necessary ingredients for life. However, many researchers find it hard to imagine how such a molecular network could have formed spontaneously — with no precursors —from the chemical environment of early Earth.

"Some say it's equivalent to a tornado blowing through a junkyard and assembling the random pieces of metal and plastic into a Boeing 747," said co-author Wim Hordijk, a visiting scientist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina, and a participant in an astrobiology meeting held there last year.

In a previous study published in 2004, Hordijk and colleague Mike Steel of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand used a mathematical model of simple chemical reactions to show that such networks might form more easily than many researchers thought. Indeed, biochemists have recently created such networks in the lab.

In a new study published this year, Hordijk, Steel, and colleague Stuart Kauffman of the University of Vermont analyzed the structure of the networks in their mathematical models and found a plausible mechanism by which they could have evolved to produce the building blocks of life we know today, such as cell membranes or nucleic acids.

"It turns out that if you look at the structure of the networks of molecules [in our models], very often they're composed of smaller subsets of molecules with the same self-perpetuating capabilities," Hordijk explained. By combining, splitting, and recombining to form new types of networks from their own subunits, the models indicate that these subsets of molecules could give rise to increasingly large and complex networks of chemical reactions, and, presumably, life.

"These results could have major consequences for how we think life may have originated from pure chemistry," Hordijk writes.

The study will appear in the December 2012 print issue of the journal Acta Biotheoretica.

The Daily Galaxy via The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is a nonprofit science center dedicated to cross-disciplinary research in evolution. 

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Let me just preempt the God Squad: No one here cares about your little "God did it" posts. There are plenty of religion websites out there - go blab about your God to people who care.

And even if there is a God, he/she/it created a universe of rules, and those rules permit the creation and existence of life. Science is about discovering and understanding those rules, and science is what we're here to read about, not what is says in your little book, written back when people thought the world was flat and thunder was the sound of God in the john after eating an infinite bean salad.

That being said... f'ing cool, eh? One step closer to understanding where we all came from - and how likely it is that there's more like us out there, somewhere.

Did the above article really say anything? And did it really say anything that hasn't been speculated about before on these pages (or at this site)? I don't think so. In fact, quite a lot was suggested in Thomas Gold's The Deep Hot Biosphere a decade ago that has been demonstrated over and over again where life comes from--from abiotic processes deep within the earth. True, we still don't know a lot, but the article about is just talk, and it's quite vague as to what these tremendous discoveries might be. Slow news day, I guess.

Is life just the ability to spontaneously copy yourself?

Derrick: Just where does it hurt you if someone chooses to believe in God? Does it hurt your hand or foot or what? Why do you start out attacking believers? Just the fact that there are believers reading these articles and posting shows they apprently have a more open mind than you are showing.

Go give it a break. Post your outlook or comment without having to belittle others. Or do you need to make yourself right and smart by arguing that others are wrong and dumb?

You cannot hold a man down without being right there on the floor with him.

Cade wrote:
>>> Derrick: Just where does it hurt you if someone chooses to believe in God?

Perhaps this can clue you in

Religion is holding us back as a species, it hurts everyone.

Because life from an abiotic origin has not been explained yet does not attribute any supernatural origin to it any more than what was once thought of a supernatural origin in planetary motion by even the greatest scientists (let alone any evangelical theist) of their day before it was discovered how those physical forces between multiple planetary bodies worked.

The fact that organic carbon as an atom has the electron valence potential to form more molecular compounds due to its unique quantum electrical shell distribution beyond all the other natural elements of the periodic table combined......places it in a privileged position as a precursor to life.

Electromagnetic attraction and the resultant combination of complex molecules leading to life, given enough time appear to be a normal process with the organic carbon atom to express within proper random environments.

You cannot assume that non-organic elements or other non-organic molecules act in such a way at all......this is why the analogy of a machine or a design built by humans could never appear spontaneously in nature is a horrible and inaccurate comparison to the way organic carbon acts and how self-replicating organic molecules behavior in nature....of course a non-organic structure will never attract itself within a molecular structure or replicate those molecules into any kind of system no matter how much time is given to them in a random environmental stimulus.........but not so with organic covalent bonds of carbon and its molecular structures…………so comparing the two systems (i.e. the watchman's argument) an epic fail of ignorance often expressed in the so called intelligent design proclamations.

However, once organic based molecular combinations are able to replicate their pattern of design (and here is where we continue to search for that process) then the race is on to multicellular replication (we call that life) and over time if conditions are right complex intelligent life (i.e. able to contemplate its own existence)......

There is nothing supernatural about that process and we are finding evidence of this process occurring even within star nebulas.....this does not mean that life is not precious……that it certainly is……..…..but there is no evidence demonstrating that life has an interacting sanctity to it within the natural world.

I am not saying that GOD created life or that the Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, Satanic religions are true in anyway I think a GOD created space, time and particles to make atoms or energy itself the evidence to me that something created space is that it exists and we have never found the "end" to space the fact that its so massive and that a big bang happened must of took energy that had to of came from something the things science cant explain like black holes in space and what is inside or other dimensions we just don't know no theories or math equations or human text can explain it all they can explain how it works why it works but not why it exists science has never explained why space exists why time moves in one direction if anything fixed variables in the world is a clue to me that god does exist and could be a computer why does water boil at a certain temperature something is controlling particles that cant be seen how about quantum entanglement that right there proves there is a god how can a particle communicate with another with no links something controls the sub atomic world and sets up the show for atomics

@ derrick, since these researchers understand so well how life started, why don't they just whip us up a batch of new life using their theory? That's when I will sit up and take notice.

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