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The Origin of Life

   [My story in today's Style section.]

   In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. And He said: Let there be Chemistry.

   And he looked upon the Chemistry and He saw that it was good. And then He said: Wait, we need more carbon. Also more water. Tap is fine.

   Soon there was something new upon the waters of the Earth, this thing called Life. It oozed, multiplied, diversified. It learned to swim, crawl, even fly. Eventually a new form of life appeared, a creature large of brain, compulsively inquisitive, with an obsession for asking the really big, hairy, gnarly questions, such as: Where did I come from?

   That's when things got really complicated.

* * *

   There is a tendency to think of science as a series of established facts and consensual theories -- "a bunch of things we know, to be memorized," in the words of Robert Hazen, the science popularizer and researcher into the origin of life.

   What Hazen will tell you is that science is actually a very human enterprise. It's full of unknowns and uncertainties, of raging controversies, of passions and prejudices. Of all the great unknowns, the origin of life is particularly daunting. Direct evidence of the origin is essentially nonexistent: It happened too long ago, in too subtle a way. There's no fossil of the First Microbe. If there were, some skeptical scientist would surely raise a ruckus, saying: That's just a blob of mud.

   The field has attracted people with strong personalities. They argue. They grumble. They snipe. Their debates are much more intense, and more grounded in the rules of science, than the much-hyped debate about evolution and intelligent design.

   They are wrestling with basic questions: What is life, exactly? Does it always require liquid water and those long Tinkertoy carbon molecules? Does life require a cell? Did life begin with a hereditary molecule or with some kind of metabolic chemical reaction? Where did life begin on Earth? Was there a single moment that could be described as the "origin of life," or did life sort of creep into existence gradually?

   [Click here to read the entire story.]

   [In-blog news: Just to be perfectly clear for once, I actually liked the Achenblog T-shirts and the We Click motto. I was pretending to take umbrage. That was the "fake umbrage" voice. Also I am hoping we can also find a way to merchandise some Carbucks coffee mugs.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 8, 2006; 10:48 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: "Get Me the Legal Department, Pronto"
Next: The Origins of Lobbying and Life


In the spirit of the end-of-day discussion of last Friday's Boodle--and to tie in, in a wacky, somewhat-off-topic way, to today's Kit, I offer the following from today's San Antonio Express-News:

In February, the American Association for Nude Recreation is coordinating a Caribbean cruise for 2,200 nude passengers that will hold daily church services. In Virginia, Allen Parker is planning his next "Christian Nudist Convocation," a coming-out event for closeted nudists. It will include workshops on how to relate to other nudists and also to "textiles," the term they use for people who wear clothes.

From the latter part of the same article:

For example, Jim T. and his wife, Shirley, a nudist couple from the Tampa, Fla., area, said that they believe that the Apostle Paul's call for modesty targeted not nudity but ostentation, an egotistical display. Shirley, who is 55, said it's the women in church wearing "designer clothes and $90 haircuts" who are the immodest ones.

Philip A. Wahba, Columbia News Service, as printed on page 3K in the S.A. Life section of the San Antonio Express-News.

pj, thanks so much for the poem about swimming.

Posted by: Loomis | January 8, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Great article Joel. Nobody does this kind of science writing better. Anyway, any thoughts about Panspermia - the idea that OOL came from outer space? Despite having the famous Crick as an advocate, is this considered a crank theory? Or is there such a thing in OOL?
I also liked the way you implicitly pointed out the underlying truth that there are many ways to interpret the same observable facts. The story one accepts seems to have a lot to do with some subjective notion of aesthetics. Which means your final point is pretty universal. There are a lot of debates that will never end.
Except regarding the need for the Skins to kick up their offensive. I think that's ones pretty well agreed upon.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 8, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

A nice complement to Joel's article, the op-ed by Alan Cutler, author of "The Seashell on the Mountaintop" (one of my summer reads), in today's Wshington Post, the conclusion below:

In 1925, the mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote that the future course of civilization depended on the decision his generation in the 20th century made as to the relations between science and religion. We face the same decision, with even more urgency, in the 21st century.

The historical relationship between science and religion has been as complex as any human relationship. There is no reason to think that this will change. The warfare thesis suits the polemical purposes of partisans in certain social and political debates. But it harms religion by portraying it as overly dogmatic and reactionary. It also harms science by portraying it as hostile or at least indifferent to the average person's spiritual needs.

Posted by: Loomis | January 8, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"From our perspective in the twenty-first century, it is easy to look back to the time of Copernicus or Darwin and think, 'How could they have *not* realized that the earth goes around the sun and that life evolved?' And yet the pre-Copernican and pre-Darwinian worldviews were as real for those folks as our scientific worldviews are for us. Can we really afford the smug self-aggrandizement that wells up whenever we lose our historical perspective when, four centuries from now, our descendants may laugh at the risible notions that we accept as factual today?

". . . . Science, if we think of it as a set of methods to answer questions about nature instead of a body of facts to be dogmatically distilled, is intimately dependent upon its heretics and skeptics who have the courage and insight to challenge the status quo."

-- From "Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown," by Michael Shermer

Posted by: Dreamer | January 8, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Science Tim, this Kit's for you! And anyone else who cares to comment - Science Tim had just noted there hadn't been many scientific Kits lately...Wouldn't want anyone to take umbrage. All I can add is - scientist cat fights - kewl...

Speaking of umbrage, glad to see Joel was just kidding in the previous Kit - which is what I thought, or at least hoped.

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 8, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Why is there no Magazine today? What am I supposed to read while I'm on the toilet?

Posted by: jw | January 8, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad he was joking, too -- I was starting to feel guilty for having purchased one of the illegal T-shirts.

I prefer the term "IN the toilet." I just think "ON the toilet" is a little too descriptive. When I was growing up, my sister and I would often take umbrage because my father, when taking a telephone message for either of us from one of our friends, would sometimes say, "She can't come to the phone right now -- she's on the toilet." I can't count the number of times we asked him to use an alternative phrase to spare the caller that particular mental image.

That's an area in which Americans are more polite than Australians -- an American would say, "she's in the bathroom." Also, when Americans say "Excuse me," they usually mean, "I'm sorry," whereas Australians usually use it to mean "I need to get by, and you're in my way." (We also tend to say "That's OK" instead of "You're welcome.") (We are weird.)

Posted by: Achenfan | January 8, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

A colleague of mine hates when people say "No problem" in response to "Thank you" - which I have, um, no problem with myself. I also will say "That's OK" - "You're welcome" just sounds so formal to me.

I have a bad habit of saying "ExCUSE me" in a snarky tone when I mean "WTF - are you daring to question me?!?"

And I agree with your toilet/bathroom points - just say someone can't come to the phone right now - sheesh!

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 8, 2006 1:08 PM | Report abuse

If you were at a little bit more than an arm's length, I'd loan you my copy of "Uncle John's Sixth Bathroom Reader," (guaranteed to bowl you over) actually a Christmas gift to my husband. It's the only book we have of this ilk, but considering your particular penchant, you could conceivably collect the entire series and erect a bookshelf in your bathroom.

However, a good serving of prunes or legumes would enable you to pursue reading as a pasttime in more spacious and well-ventilated environment.

But, if you think about Joel's Kit for a moment, and the Krebs cycle, and the chemical ring of fire, and all those GTPs, NADHs, CO2s and water molecules--well, all part of the greater life cycle. I consume energy, I burn energy, therefore I am, and you know the rest...

Posted by: Loomis | January 8, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

You say you'd loan jw your copy of that bathroom reader, but think about it for a sec -- do you *really* think you'd want him to return it to you? [It's been flagged!]

["BOWL you over"! Ha!]

jw could always follow the Castavets' example and buy a copy of "Jokes for the John," eh?

[Oh boy. Joel posts an article on the origin of life and here we are talking about toilets. I do apologize. Excuse me.]

Posted by: Achenfan | January 8, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

faux umbrage, does that mean I can get a t-shirt?

Posted by: newkidontheblog | January 8, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse


The New York Times is also taking the week off, magazine-wise. It's freeing up my weekend; I might even have time to get the laundry done!

But, on the other hand, the depression I'm experiencing could be attributed to Sunday Magazine withdrawal. I generally start checking the web on Friday night, and on any given weekend I can tell you whether the Post or the Times got their magazine up first. My back-up is the LA Times--they have that west coast viewpoint, which is interesting, but it's no substitute for my regular fare.

I guess I'll appreciate the magazines more next week.

Posted by: Reader | January 8, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse


Scroll about 3/4ths down this page and look for a book by Frank Muir. It should help your difficulties regarding reading materials while using the facilities:


Please bring your shirt page back up and ask your daughter to work on Carbucks stuff as well. Sounds like a great idea.

Posted by: pj | January 8, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Or "Flushed with Pride" at the following website...

Should we be celebrating on January 17, or on January 27?

Posted by: Loomis | January 8, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the nice words about the Loudon Wainwright song. I first heard it on Kate and Anna McGarrigle's first album and have loved it ever since. Kate McGarrigle is one of Wainwright's ex-wives and is they are the parents of Rufus (his dad wrote a song about Rufus's breast-feeding on his album "Unrequited") and Martha Wainwright, both singer-songwriters. A family that certainly puts their lives in their songs. Martha has a loving song that is supposed to be about her father called "Bloody Mother F---ing A--hole." Honest. Although there is a clear Dylan influence in the song, so it can't be taken too literally.

Posted by: pj | January 8, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse


This is the lyric/stanza I liked best:

This summer I swam in a public place and a reservoir to boot,
At the latter I was informal,
At the former I wore my suit,
I wore my swimming suit.

The men on the blog have written much of sex, but almost nothing of sensuality. (I think) if one can pull off the opportunity on occasion, (I think) swimming in one's birthday suit is one of life's best and most delicious and sublime pleasures.

I also think that still waters run deep. I've seen your picture from the BPH, pj, and always thought you looked rather like a lawyer or economist. Then the Wainwright song, followed rapidly on its heels by the Muir book reference. to give us a little bit more of your own story?

Posted by: Loomis | January 8, 2006 6:07 PM | Report abuse

A non sequitur for a Sunday night. One thing posting comments to this blog has taught me is how hard it is to write. When I look back upon my posts, I invariably see run-on sentences, ridiculous typos, pretentiousness, and a general lack of coherence. I suspect I am not alone in this. Writing is hard. My deep admiration to those who make it look so easy.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 8, 2006 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh no, RD, you do just fine. I feel the same way about my posts, only it's more in the content area that I feel lacking. Most of the time I'm just saying "me too", being a smart aleck or passing on bad info (I felt so bad about posting that the 12 miners were alive - I knew I shouldn't trust Anderson Cooper!).

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 8, 2006 6:57 PM | Report abuse

pj: Just because Joel says he likes the shirt design, that doesn't mean he was happy about the site being up. Here's an alternative idea: I can send you the graphics files and you can order a shirt from one of the many companies available. E-mail me.

The Carbucks idea is a whole different league, because it is using the Starbucks name/logo to promote something else. I didn't think that using the Achenblog or Washington Post names was bad because we're promoting the site and the newspaper; they should thank us, not sue us. But Starbucks doesn't benefit from the Carbucks mug, so I feel differently about it. Anyway, Joel was kidding when he said that. I can tell he was kidding, because it made me laugh.

Posted by: Reader | January 8, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a lawyer, but I think the "Carbucks" mug would only be a problem if it were to cause consumer confusion. Otherwise, I think it could be considered a parody.
Personally, I am still not sure what the official Washington Post position is on the Achenshirts. Were those messages from a real lawyer? Sometimes, I can't tell who is serious and who is just kidding. Which, considering my job, can be sort of a problem. And mostlylurking, thanks for the kind words. Your chagrin over the miner incident is totally unjustified. You were a victim of bad information.
You weren't alone.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 8, 2006 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Yep, Reader, I bet Starbucks would sue in a New York, er, Seattle minute!

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 8, 2006 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Case in point. Instead of "unjustified" I suddenly realize I should have said "unwarranted....."

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 8, 2006 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Intellectual property rights...woohoo!

mostlylurking, I agree that Starbucks would be all over Joel's Carbucks in a Seattle second. Parody, yes, O.K., a one-timer; product merchandising, not on your Achenlife!

A similar story from our neck of the woods:

Texas Roadhouse Blues

So there's a national franchise called the "Texas Roadhouse", and there's a privately owned watering hole in La Vernia called the True Blue Texas Roadhouse. Put 'em together and what do you get? Right. A lawsuit.

RD Padouk,
You have no reason to doubt yourself about your writing.

Posted by: Loomis | January 8, 2006 7:40 PM | Report abuse

....and God said "let there be loser and there was Achenbach".....

This Blog stinks and so do those who post on it.

Posted by: The Lonemule | January 8, 2006 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh! One more thing....CORNHOLE!!!!!!!!1

Posted by: The Lonemule | January 8, 2006 8:05 PM | Report abuse


That is my favorite stanza from that song, too. I also like the stanza:

This summer I swam in the ocean
Swam in the swimming pool
Salt in my wounds, chlorine in my eyes,
I'm a self-destructive fool,
Self-destructive fool.

I always heard the middle line as "Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes" with the nouns used as verbs. I think that's a lot more effective.

Went skinny-dipping once. I was always afraid that if someone saw me nekkid that I'd be arrested for impersonating a human being. That's also the only time I was with others who were skinny-dipping. I'm modest around more than one person.

I am neither a lawyer nor an economist. (TA's an economist. I wish more economists looked like her. It wouldn't be such a dismal science.) I'm just a humble government worker bee in an administrative/computer position with the U.S. House of Representatives. I enjoy things that go on outside my job and am very happy that my job generally allows me the time and money to enjoy them. I studied history and sociology in college and think that I still look at things through those perspectives.

I was very lucky to grow up in the DC area. Musically, especially with radio, this was a very fertile area. Mention of these radio stations has occurred in this blog before: WHFS, WGTB, WMAL-FM (all of which are now, sadly, gone). They were part of 'underground' FM in the early 70s. (WHFS was still a great station into the 1990s.) I then went off to college and heard more music there. I'd be a lot happier if there was something resembling college radio around here now. I also liked classical music station WETA which has now gone talk/public affairs. Finding outlets that play music have become increasingly difficult and the situation increasingly frustrating.


You are much better off with Joel than with Starbucks, that's for sure. I don't know what sort of trademark status has over Achenblog, but I suspect that Starbucks would not be at all happy with Carbucks products, as much fun as they might be. Joel seems like a very straight-forward fellow, so if he or the Post suits have trouble with the t-shirts, they will say so. And, if you stop, that will be the end of it. It would be fun to have the page with the shirts back up. It would be like the Sprint commercial where the punch line is that the man is sticking it to himself. That's a fun commercial.

Posted by: pj | January 8, 2006 8:27 PM | Report abuse

a Tshirt idea in my honor:

achenBlog--where toilets are a frequent topic of discussion.
aBlog--where sex is rarely frontally discussed, although the group gets off on verbal sex play.
Achenblog--where urogenital waste is our biz.

Posted by: Lonemule | January 8, 2006 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Today's Elvis Presley's birthday. He'd only be 71. I can't think of those Sun Records songs without hearing Scotty Moore's lead guitar lines in my mind. They are to me as essential as Elvis's voice to the power of those songs.

Other Elvis songs? I'll vote for John Haitt's "Riding with the King" or "Tennessee Plates" or Paul Simon's "Graceland" as good homages. I know "Elvis is Everywhere" is out there somewhere, but are there other suggestions?

Happy Birthday, Elvis!

Posted by: pj | January 8, 2006 9:08 PM | Report abuse

My mother tells me that it is very hard for anybody under 50 to fully appreciate the impact Elvis had on people. His sound was so new (to white teenagers at least) that it was overwhelming. I guess it was a bit like seeing the opening scenes of Star Wars for the first time.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 8, 2006 9:57 PM | Report abuse

I think she really means under 60, but we have this agreement to pretend that we are younger than we really are...

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 8, 2006 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Joel, for your great article about the origin of life debate, discussion, theories. You clarify many things and help us lay people understand complexities by your descriptions.

It makes one wonder if there is another planet or celestial body out there in the vast universe where life is beginning ever so gently or not so gently. What would that be like? Will we ever find it?

Hopefully you will find a way to make the T-Shirts available again, Reader. Since I'm out here in fly-over land, I can't attend BPHs but I had visions of all of you lining up in your green T-Shirts and creating a song. The Archenchorus.

I can remember slightly the beginnings of Elvis. Since I was more interested in Classical music at the time I did not swoon that I remember. It was only later when putting music genres (SCC in advance) in perspective that I began to appreciate his contributions. Same with the Beatles. I still prefer Classical music but realize one must have an open mind. I even went to a Bob Dylan concert last year so I could see a legend.


Posted by: boondocklurker | January 9, 2006 3:22 AM | Report abuse

OK, so Achenblog belongs to The Post. What about Achenboodle? Or would no one want to wear that on a t-shirt? We have plenty of names here to come up with a t-shirt that makes The Post happy but is still boodleicious enough for us.

Posted by: TBG | January 9, 2006 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Four billion years ago? That seems kind of extreme. How old is the Earth? I had thought that the Earth had to have time to cool off or heat up or something before "life" could develop. These big numbers kind of give me a headache, but I thought life was relatively recent compared to the planet's existence. Somebody help me understand the timeline and I will have learned something today.

Posted by: Reader | January 9, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

A little historical footnote is that for geophysicists, the seminal experiment in origin of life research is the Urey-Miller experiment, whereas for chemists, it's the Miller-Urey experiment, or simply the Miller experiment.

From time to time, you may see breathless press releases or news articles about the discovery of "a building block of life" in space, a sugar or amino acid. Invariably, these discoveries are connected to nebulae, giant molecular clouds, proto-stellar disks, and other non-life-supporting environments. There is an interesting body of research on the subject of whether comets delivered basic organic molecules to the Earth. To me, the critical outcome of the Urey-Miller experiment is that it turns out to be really pretty easy to form these molecules with a minor application of ionizing radiation to the basic inorganic constituents, in space, on a planet, anywhere. Organic molecules can come from anywhere and be formed anywhere, it seems, so I think there is no great significance to finding them in interstellar or circumstellar space. Big deal. It's what these molecules do when you swirl them together in solution that makes things interesting. Of course, Fred Hoyle had the idea of a living nebula, so it's entirely possible that I'm too narrow in my thinking by asking for the chemicals to be in solution.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 9, 2006 8:40 AM | Report abuse

The oldest continental rock on Earth is about 3.9 billion years old, if I recall correctly. The oldest rocks in our solar system, found from radionuclide dating of meteorites, are about 4.6-5.2 billion years old. The oldest microfossils that are generally agreed to represent the presence of microbial life are about 3.7 billion years old. Those microfossils already were pretty widespread, indicating that they are not the first flourishing of life, it was solidly established. The general outcome of theoretical work on planet-formation is that the formation of the Earth probably took only a few 10's of million years, at most. That's an inconsequential period compared to the life of the Earth.

There is some question as to when did the atmosphere and oceans arrive. Did they outgas from the formation of the rocky Earth, or did they arrive later? The general thinking is that the Earth's formation would have been so vigorous and hot that gases would simply have escaped to space and had to be replaced later by impacts from comets. This is really just a minor trimming around the edges of planet-formation theory, but it did give me the opportunity to write some new words to a familar tune, which I use when I talk about comets to the public:

Air Because of Comets
Dinosaurs Extinct!
Fortunately, Good for Humans (that is what I think).
Icy Junk, Kohoutek,
Lurking Massive Nuclei.
Orbits Perturbed, Quietly
Race across the Sky.
Telescopic Ultraviolet Views of Water.
X-Rays! You like comets?
Zounds, I think you oughter!

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 9, 2006 8:56 AM | Report abuse

RD Padouk, writing is indeed hard, more so for some than for others. But you're right up there with the best! And besides that, you're awfully nice too.

pj, my 12 yr. old g-girl, a beginner violinist, set up a roadside stand (at the end of my driveway) selling songs. She made a cardboard sign reading "Songs, 25 cents each, This Old Man, Frere Jacques, Bingo, The Bear Went Over the Mountain and many more". Folks slowed at the sight of a young girl and her violin and then bought some songs. God, I love kids.

Tim, I knew your heart was in the right place! Good news to read this morning.

Dreamer, have you seen Lily Tomlin's one-woman show, Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe? Some other pithy quotes from Trudy the bag lady:

"Infinity could just be time on an ego trip"

"If we had survival of the wittiest, then the people who didn't survive could have died laughing"

"I think we developed language because of our deep down need to complain."

Cassandra S and the rest - good morning!

Posted by: Nani | January 9, 2006 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Reader, this is an area I don't have a lot of knowledge about, but I think Joel's point about the origin of life on earth is that no one really knows.

The oldest fossils of life on earth that I'm aware of - some sort of bacteria, IIRC - date to about 3.5 billion years ago.

Joel's 4B year comment isn't so farfetched based on what little I know. Life seems to be fairly hardy, and I suspect that those bacteria that were around 3.5B years ago might find today's earth rather inhospitable.


Posted by: bc | January 9, 2006 9:05 AM | Report abuse

What happened more recently in the life of the Earth was the conversion to an atmosphere that you and I would recognize as being sort of breathable. That happened at approximately the half-way mark. About 2.2 billion years ago, the Earth produced copious supplies of iron-oxide sedimentary deposits, worldwide (there were earlier occurrences, but not on such a grand scale). It is a lovely irony that iron oxide deposits like this could form only if there were NOT any oxygen around. Iron dissolves in water only when there is no oxygen; if there is oxygen, it immediately oxidizes and precipitates to the bottom. Widespread iron deposits required an oxygen-free atmosphere, with local sources of oxygen -- photosynthesizing cyanobacteria -- to form the iron oxide and precipitate the iron. About 1.7 billion years ago, the formation of iron oxide deposits in the seabed shut off. Iron oxide deposits on continents appeared, instead, indicating that the air had become full of oxygen so that the iron dissolved from mountains by rain no longer stayed dissolved in water long enough to reach the ocean. The Earth had sustained a cataclysmic change in ecology, killing off 1.5-2 billion years worth of microbial life that preferred an oxygen-free environment, replacing it with oxygen-pooping plants and oxygen-ingesting animals.

Neat, huh?

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 9, 2006 9:10 AM | Report abuse


Most excellent to see you back with greens across the control panel.


pj should give JA some marketing lessons...

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 9, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

And before I forget again...

New FAQ entry ??
Fumbrage: Faux umbrage displayed for humourous purposes.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 9, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

New kit...Drat.

From "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe" by Peter D. Ward, professor of geological sciences, and Donald Brownlee, professor of astronomy, both at University of Washington Seattle.

Life seems to have appeared on this planet somewhere between 4.1 and 3.9 billion years ago, or some 0.5 to 0.7 billion years after Earth originated. However, the fact that no fossils were preserved at this time in Earth's history clouds our understanding of life's earliest incarnation. The oldest fossils tht we do find are from rocks about 3.6 million years of age, and they look identical to bacteria still on Earth today. They may have been earlier types of life that are no longer represented on Earth, but our present knowledge suggests that bacteria-like forms were the first to fossilize. ...

Once RNA has been synthesized, the path toward life is open because RNA can eventually produce DNA. Thus, how the first RNA came into existence--under what conditions, and in what environments--became the central problem confronting chemists. As de Duve [Nobel laureate, 1995 book "Vital Dust"] notes, "We must now face the chemical problems raised by the abiotic synthesis of an RNA molecule. These problems are far from trivial." The abiotic synthesis of RNA remains the most enigmatic step in the evolution of the first life, for no one has yet succeeded in creating RNA.

The diagram on page 74 is helpful--three branches/trees meeting at a common juncture:

Archaea (exhibit a cell type known as prokaryotic that, along with bacteria, have no internal nucleus and no membrane-bounded organelles)
Eukaryotes (compartmentalizing cell functions in membranne-bound organelles, such as the nucleus, the mitochondria, chloroplasts, and others)

Last common ancestor (the place where these three branches of life meet)

Cells with primitive, unregulated ATP-synthetases and protein synthesis

DNA genomes

Origin of protein synthesis

RNA world


Prebiotic broth

Posted by: Loomis | January 9, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Before I forget:
Achenshirt ideas:

Achenblog: Where Infield Fly Rules
Achenblog: Where Mootown Sounds Abound
Achenblog: Where Buffaloes Roam and Anti-lopers Play (And Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day)

Posted by: Loomis | January 9, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Brownlee is indeed at the UW here. I read Rare Earth a few years ago when I took an astronomy class. Interesting stuff. Brownlee is studying cosmic dust - part of the Stardust mission - which returns to Earth this weekend. At least I think I'm mostly correct in what I've said (but you'd be advised to get other sources to confirm!).

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 9, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

yes.this is my site Thanks.

Posted by: keno software cheat | January 14, 2006 6:09 AM | Report abuse

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