“The laser produced a shockwave in the plasma, generating radiation and temperatures of over 7,600 degrees Fahrenheit. This triggered a cascade of chemical reactions, leading to the formation of four RNA…”
“…In conclusion, all these findings suggest that the emergence of terrestrial life is not the result of an accident but a direct consequence of the conditions on the primordial Earth and its surroundings,”
The above quotes are excerpts from a recent study attempting to explain the mysteries of all mysteries – how life got started on the planet earth.
But, they have never worked out how the organisation of the first building-blocks of life got going. Below is a copy of the article from Huffington Post, or click the image for original article…. Further on I will discuss another science paper that goes some way to explaining how life may have got organised after being triggered into existence in the first place.
Scientists Use Super-Powerful Laser To Simulate ‘First Spark Of Life’
It’s long been known that life on Earth arose about 4 billion years ago. But what caused the first “spark of life?” That remains a topic for debate.
Some scientists believe microorganisms from outer space hitched a ride to Earth aboard an asteroid or a comet, since life arose during a period when our planet was pelted with space rocks. Other scientists say life arose from spontaneous chemical reactions on Earth.
Now, chemists in the Czech Republic say they have evidence to support a theory that combines both ideas–that an asteroid impact triggered the production of RNA bases, the building blocks of life’s genetic code.
To test the theory, the researchers simulated the energy of an asteroid impact on Earth using the Prague Asterix Laser System, a powerful laser that can generate around a billion kilowatts of energy at its peak, the Associated Press reported. The laser was directed for a fraction of a second at plasma containing formamide, a substance scientists believe was likely around on ancient Earth.
What happened next? The laser produced a shockwave in the plasma, generating radiation and temperatures of over 7,600 degrees Fahrenheit. This triggered a cascade of chemical reactions, leading to the formation of four RNA nucleobases: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil.
“This is, I believe, the first time that all four nucleobases have been made in one set of reaction conditions,” Steven Benner, an astrobiologist at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, who was not involved in the new research, told Science.
That may suggest that it’s possible an asteroid could have triggered the synthesis of RNA’s building blocks. Of course, the question of how these “blocks” joined to form more complex molecules remains.
“In conclusion, all these findings suggest that the emergence of terrestrial life is not the result of an accident but a direct consequence of the conditions on the primordial Earth and its surroundings,” the researchers wrote in an article describing their findings.
The article was published online on Dec. 8 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
End of of first article
Which came first the Chicken or the Egg?
So, it would appear that there are natural forces in nature that, given a particular level of directed high energy shock,
“… triggered a cascade of chemical reactions, leading to the formation of four RNA nucleobases: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil. to plasma.”
Now, as amazing as this sounds, the experiment did not ORGANISE the RNA nucleobases A, G, C, U (It would be ‘T’ instead of ‘U’ if it was DNA. RNA is a more primitive, yet flexible version and it is becoming increasingly clear that RNA preceded DNA in evolutionary terms. This is known as the RNA First Hypothesis), but it did produce the essential components, building blocks of RNA without the meaningful sequence of instructions (code). In order to begin answering the catch 22 situation, i.e. you can’t have functional cells without genetic code or functional code without the cells, (chicken & egg problem in terms of which came first in the origins of first life), we may be looking at co-evolution and a complex interaction of molecules (triggers and cascades of chemical bonds, electro-magnetic/chemical) cascading under multiple primordial conditions. Chemical and environmentally driven processes and self-organising natural processes are found to operate throughout the natural world and cosmos – and have been empirically tested and well understood for a very long time within our more traditional sciences such as chemistry and physics/maths. (See other articles on this blog and other publications by the writer for more info on this exciting and deeper understanding of self-organisation of complex biological systems and specifically Alan Turing Morphogenesis as referred to in an on this site). Now, an increasing number of scientists are beginning to see the value of applying these well understood natural processes of self-organising within complex systems to non-linear complex biological systems.
Theoretically, by applying this self organising/self-evolving principle, even earliest life becomes more explicable: For example, lipids with fatty acids could form and bond and replicate with organised structure without even containing genetic information. And, in principle, the electro-chemical components and interactions could give rise to meaningful code and instructions so that life did not have to invent itself every time it replicated, differentiated and/or gave rise to new forms of its own molecular self. Cells and the meaningful organisation (self-organisation/self-evolution) of the building blocks (chemical source of genetic code) could have co-evolved using electrical and informational chemical signalling to form meaningful chemical bonds and meaningful informational signalling pathways and networks in conjunction with the initial spark of life (trigger and catalyst of first life) to activate a whole sequence of cascades of self-organisation and biological life itself.
For example biological proto-cells could theoretically replicate and form in an ordered (structured way) without requiring the genetic information. This is called morphogenesis/epigenesis when applied to biology. The coded – organised, assembly of efficientl chemical bonds such as the more primitive form of DNA – RNA could be explicable by the principle of self organisation in combination with the formation of lipids (fatty molecules) to protocells to the division of stem-cells and formation of an embryo. In other words, this principle could explain a great deal about the origin of origins as it is a non-linear process of cascades and natural triggers that self-organise under natural conditions.
Below is an excerpt from the Introduction of an interesting science paper, published in the journal Prion. 2008 Jan-Mar; 2 (1): 1–8), entitled Preformed cell structure and cell heredity by Janine Beisson relating to this proposition.(note LUCA means Last Universal Common Ancestor, but research has shown that there are many origins of life and that the ancestor may not be a thing, an entity, but a process – see forthcoming publications by O’Hare – the Third Way?).
“Our understanding of biological processes is constrained within a circular relationship resembling the “hen-egg dilemma” which might be called the “DNA-cell dilemma”: if all the information necessary to make a cell (or a tyrannosaurus, as the fiction goes) is stored in DNA sequences, why does a cell only arise from a preexisting cell? The uninterrupted cell continuity since LUCA suggests that cell heredity might require more than DNA. Aside from membranes, which, like DNA, cannot form de novo, what does a cell transmit to its daughters that allow them to recapitulate the exact morphology of their mother, despite the profound remodeling that accompanies division?
Such a question may come to the mind of any biologist watching his/her favorite cell dividing; however, some cell types are undoubtedly more suggestive of the existence of a cellular memory than others…”
The same science paper concludes in the discussion that the role of EPIGENETIC/environmental triggers (meaning beyond the genes and environmental triggers and shock can change chemically how genes are expressed without changing the code or DNA sequence itself. See free e-book link on this site to The Epigenetic Caterpillar), is the means of cellular information and signalling directing the formation structure and replication of cells beyond the genetic code (via cellular memory). Cells/neurons that fire together: Wire together (look up Hebb’s Law. I have referenced this research which has been verified by recent studies in O’Hare forthcoming – Evolution: A third way?). This has profound implications for how we view biology and evolution as it mean that epigenetics once again can begin to explain even seemingly mind-boggling complexity.