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Science

Scientists Are Cracking the Primordial Soup Mystery 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the life-here-began-out-there dept.
derekmead writes "Scientists have had a basic understanding of how life first popped up on Earth for a while. The so-called 'primordial soup' was sitting around, stagnant but containing the basic building blocks of life. Then something happened and we ended up with life. It's that 'something' that has been the sticking point for scientists, but new research from a team of scientists at the University of Leeds has started to shed light on the mystery, explaining just how objects from space might have kindled the reaction that sparked life on Earth. It's generally accepted that space rocks played an important role in life's genesis on Earth. Meteorites bombarding the planet early in its history delivered some of the necessary materials for life but none brought life as we know it. How inanimate rocks transformed into the building blocks of life has been a mystery. But this latest research suggests an answer. If meteorites containing phosphorus landed in the hot, acidic pools that surrounded young volcanoes on the early Earth, there could have been a reaction that produced a chemical similar one that's found in all living cells and is vital in producing the energy that makes something alive."
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Scientists Are Cracking the Primordial Soup Mystery

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  • Spunk? (Score:3, Funny)

    by future assassin (639396) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:06PM (#43442401) Homepage

    Think about it. Who lives in space? Who can shoot hot spunk into space? This spunk then hit the primordial soup pool.

    Now if god created man in his own image, god obviously must have had a penis. So where is god's missus?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:10PM (#43442433)

    There is no "alive" vs "not alive"! It’s a gradient! And there exists, and existed, every step in-between!
    Why is this such a unknown thing in Leeds? Here in Germany, it's already accepted common knowledge.

    It's as if they were completely blind to prions, viruses, and other things that are in-between what they like to call "alive" and what they call "dead". Or, and this is what I think, they are deliberately and obsessively trying to force a hard distinction because their rigid (and in this case willfully ignorant) world view is built on it.

    You get proteins (not DNA) of bigger and bigger size forming from the same basic building blocks. Like Prions and the normal proteins of our bodies. Now get one that is by accident capable of self-reproducing (probably with the environment and other simpler proteins already doing most of job), and voila, you have something alive enough to fit your arbitrary (and varying with the mood of the day) lower limit.

    This is ridiculous and embarrassing for people who call themselves scientists.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      You get proteins (not DNA) of bigger and bigger size forming from the same basic building blocks. Like Prions and the normal proteins of our bodies. Now get one that is by accident capable of self-reproducing (probably with the environment and other simpler proteins already doing most of job),

      "Self-reproducing" is a bit of a stretch there. It's just an existing protein with a mis-folded tertiary structure. It's as alive as a slinky that doesn't slink.

      Though I agree "alive" is an extremely subjective term... still, there are some definitions that allow you to "bin" organisms pretty effectively.

    • Why is this such a unknown thing in Leeds? Here in Germany, it's already accepted common knowledge.

      Just because it's "common knowledge in Germany", that doesn't make it right. Science isn't built on what's "common knowledge". Your insulting tone and wording lend credence to the theory that you're just pulling from your nether regions.

      Further, if you actually read TFA, you'll note that isn't about proteins - it's about ATP, an enzyme. (Something your facile "explanation" doesn't address at all, further raising suspicions as to it's value.)

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Viruses, prions etc are all parasites, incapable of surviving on their own. They appeared after life, they didn't lead to it. You seem to be very confident in your theory, but offer no proof to back it up.

    • by chihowa (366380)

      You get proteins (not DNA) of bigger and bigger size forming from the same basic building blocks. Like Prions and the normal proteins of our bodies. Now get one that is by accident capable of self-reproducing (probably with the environment and other simpler proteins already doing most of job), and voila, you have something alive enough to fit your arbitrary (and varying with the mood of the day) lower limit.

      I would tend to bet that RNA is of the oldest in the development of life. RNA is capable of providing structure (like protein), catalysis (like protein), and information storage (like DNA). Some of the oldest enzymes in our body still use RNA in the active site, too, like the ribosome. Mutation of RNA sequences for information storage is very likely, too, making it a good substrate for finding sequences that "work" in the huge space of possible sequences.

  • by Megahard (1053072) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:17PM (#43442481)

    It's the diet soda theory of evolution.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:20PM (#43442507)

    A nice, crusty Asiago Cheese Bread.

  • This only works when someone explains the non-existent mechanism by which ONLY laevo-rotary DNA molecules were selected . . . because any random assembly not only has the molecule as quickly disassembled but also randomly assembles an equal number of laevo-rotary and dextra-rotary DNA molecules. The latter are not only useless but dangerous to life. Thus, these notions about space rocks are only distractions.
    • Isaac Asimov wrote an essay about this, "The Left-Handed Universe". The book, of the same title, in which it was published is a collection of non-fiction science essays; "Why does ice float?", "Why is the night sky black?", etc.. I don't know if Asimov's ideas in "The Left-Handed Universe" are correct, but Asimov is always fun to read anyway.

    • by kasperd (592156)

      only works when someone explains the non-existent mechanism by which ONLY laevo-rotary DNA molecules were selected . . . because any random assembly not only has the molecule as quickly disassembled but also randomly assembles an equal number of laevo-rotary and dextra-rotary DNA molecules. The latter are not only useless but dangerous to life.

      The probability for a DNA molecule to appear without having used a pre-existing DNA molecule as template is tiny. Maybe it has only happened once in the entire lifeti

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Simple enough - any random assembly will obviously be unstable, except for that vanishingly tiny minority which *is* stable, and capable of self replication, and in an environment that doesn't immediately destroy it. Those will begin to spread, creating a more benign pocket environment by using up the precursers which might otherwise become incorporated into destructive arrangements. By the time something as complicated as DNA arose the planet had probably been largely conquered by RNA at any rate, with r

      • by deimtee (762122)
        The step from prokaryotic to eukaryotic took much longer - 3 billion years. It looks like that may actually be the difficult step.
        Self replication is practically a given in the primordial soup environment. It doesn't need to be A directly creates copies of A.
        It could be molecule A promotes B, B promotes C, C promotes D, .... all the way to ZZ9pluralZAlpha promotes A.
        Any such loop, no matter how many steps, will optimise as it progresses. That's what evolution means.

        ps. Even that is a vast simplf
  • I've always understood life to have arisen from or near hydrothermal vents. These cells thrived via a process known as chemosynthesis.

    I'm sorry, but the idea of valcanos, soup ponds, meteorite, and lightning bolts sound too wacky. Such an environment is also too unstable for delicate life forms to survive IMHO.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Life forms, yes. But they're talking about creating chemicals which could have been later been incorporated into prmitive protolife, but seem unlikely to arise within the primordial open-faced sandwhich.

  • by staalmannen (1705340) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @05:09PM (#43442799)
    One thing that has always stunned me is how fast after the Earths crust had cooled down that life appeared. * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_evolutionary_history_of_life [wikipedia.org] This if anything indicates that the determinig events leading to a self-replicating unit (perhaps RNA) must have happened pretty fast and thus been very probable. Take this perspective to the stars and all the potentially habitable planets out there and the universe is teeming with life! .... pretty cool if you think about it.
    • by femtobyte (710429)

      A related consideration to the observation that primitive life (... based on an unfortunately small sample size of 1) appeared very rapidly once the thermodynamic conditions for stable organic chemistry arose, is that "advanced" life (starting from multicellular organisms) took several billion more years to appear (though once it did, further development was relatively rapid). This indicates that, while the universe may be teeming with single-cell life, that more "advanced" life forms might be much more ra

    • This if anything indicates that the determinig events leading to a self-replicating unit (perhaps RNA) must have happened pretty fast and thus been very probable.

      Or that indicates that the self-replicant unit had a short time window to appear before the environment changed, and thus must be very rare.

      Or there were several hard steps, and those tend to be equaly separated (the antropic principle has some interesting consequences), or it is a coincidence...

  • Why doesn't somebody just ask Gil Gerard? After all, he was there TCB.

  • by noobermin (1950642) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @09:08PM (#43443995) Journal

    The chemical is ATP. Not really ATP completely, but they found that a sample of a meteorite reacted with some acidic solution gave pyrophosphite, a reduced pyrophosphate (I think, chemistry kinda rusty) and thus, they believed they could have found a possible, natural mechanism to give "life" energy without the "irreducibly complex" enzymes for breaking ATP down.

  • Recommend Robert M. Hazen's book on the Origins of Life. This is just one theory. There are many others all probable. There is also a lot of politics here too. The primordial soup camp has starved researchers into alternate theories of funding. Recommend Hazen's book because he covers AFAIK all of them.
  • ... from space.

    So then, it was take-out?

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