Approaches to the Origin of the Life

January 22nd (Wednesday), 12 p.m. / noon, JH Senior Center – Open to Public. Presentation: “Approaches to the Origin of the Life, Presented by John Guslander, Geologists of JH

Most scientists think that life arose spontaneously on the early Earth however, there is only circumstantial evidence to support this idea. We will discuss three approaches which attempt to acquire hard evidence in support of a spontaneous origin. The first approach, starting from the bottom up, is to recreate the chemistry of the early earth in a laboratory setting. Sidney Becker et al have done this and succeeded in producing for the first time all the building blocks for RNA in a one pot synthesis, published in Science 2019. This is a significant result that people have been trying to achieve since the 1950’s and it is the reason why it is worthwhile to take a new look at what people are doing in this field.

The second approach, starting from the top down, is to try and reverse engineer life back to some earlier nonliving state. Xianrui Cheng and James E. Ferrell Jr. published a surprising example of this also Science 2019. They took Xenopus eggs and homogenized them killing the cells. Subsequently the cytoplasm extract from this operation was observed to spontaneously form cell like membrane structures which under some circumstances divided into daughter cells even though they were not alive.

The third approach is to construct a theoretical framework for describing the spontaneous origin of complex objects in nature. Structures like DNA, membranes and proteins are not life, they are things you can buy and store in a jar. Life is an organized activity, a dynamic thing. A cell has a clock at its heart just like a computer.  A clock or oscillation coupled with diffusion gives patterns in space and time. The clock in a cell is a nonlinear chemical system with feedbacks just like nonliving chemical clocks.