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Inorganic Particles In Plasma Displays Life-Like Properties Sunday, August 19, 2007

Posted by henry000 in biology, DNA, evolution, origin of life, physics, plasma, protein, science, science experiment.

Here is another scientific research report published recently at ScienceDaily, this time regarding a discovery made by physicists that inorganic material shows life-like qualities:

Now, an international team has discovered that under the right conditions, particles of inorganic dust can become organised into helical structures. These structures can then interact with each other in ways that are usually associated with organic compounds and life itself.

In essence, the environment is the fourth state of matter – plasma – where electrons are no longer bounded to atoms. The particles in the plasma sate exhibit the ability of self-organisation to form helical structures, where they attract, divide and bifurcate to form two copies of themselves, interact with other particles – and even evolve into stable structures:

Quite bizarrely, not only do these helical strands interact in a counterintuitive way in which like can attract like, but they also undergo changes that are normally associated with biological molecules, such as DNA and proteins, say the researchers. They can, for instance, divide, or bifurcate, to form two copies of the original structure. These new structures can also interact to induce changes in their neighbours and they can even evolve into yet more structures as less stable ones break down, leaving behind only the fittest structures in the plasma.

I was very excited to read this report – imagine the possibilities this discovery opens up! As the article points out, it could even more conceivable now that non-carbon forms of life exist somewhere out there in the universe. As a matter of fact, Imagine a universe where “life” and perhaps even “intelligence” exist in the state of plasma… this is frankly quite freaky and exciting at the same time.

There is one major issue with the report though. It is not clear to me if this discovery is yet another computer simulation or an actual experimentation (emphasis mine):

However, Tsytovich and his colleagues demonstrated, using a computer model of molecular dynamics, that particles in a plasma can undergo self-organization as electronic charges become separated and the plasma becomes polarized..

Anyone has any ideas? I am leaning to interpret it as a computer model was used for the experiment. I will keep an eye out for it, because this is quite a remarkable discovery.

An Update on Chemical Origin of Life Friday, June 15, 2007

Posted by henry000 in chemical catalyst, chemistry, enzyme, natural selection, origin of life, science, scientific model.

According to Science Daily, the study of the origin of life has made further progress.

A pair of scientists have proposed a model where natural selection is the seen as the driving force at chemical level. An enzyme catalyst might produce chemicals that other catalysts require, and they will seek that enzyme, and they stabilise and thus forming a complex. This process is coined as a “search, selection and memory” Darwinian process. For example:

The process could go like this: Catalyst A produces a chemical that catalyst B uses. Now, since B normally seeks out this chemical, sometimes B will be attracted to A — if its desired chemical is not otherwise available nearby. As a result, A and B will come into proximity, forming a complex.

Of course, currently this is only a proposed model. However, it is testable, and depends only on known chemical and physical laws (no skyhook required here).

R.I.P. – Stanley Miller, Father of Origin of Life Chemistry Thursday, May 24, 2007

Posted by henry000 in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, exobiology, Harold Urey, Miller-Urey, origin of life, sarcasm, science, science experiment, Stanley Miller.

Stanley Miller, a leading pioneer in biochemistry, has sadly passed away due to heart failure at the age of 77.

Stanley Miller

He is known for his landmark and famous Miller-Urey experiment conducted as a graduate in 1953. This experiment shows that simple chemical elements can be catalysed into amino acids – the building blocks of protein – that is, simple inorganic chemical compounds can be made into organic elements.

The novel experiment was designed to show that the assumed primitive atmospheric condition of the early Earth could possibly produce life chemical compounds. With only water, hydrogen, methane and ammonia mixed in a flask, zapped with some serious sparks of electrical discharge, amino acids were formed in a “molecular soup” within a week.