Chemical Nursery - A Brief on Life’s Beginnings

Science has come a long way ever since the rise of the earliest civilization. From simple phenomena like photosynthesis to more oblivious concepts like radiation, science always aims to provide conclusive, and factual answers to the various questions that arise. But one of the most controversial questions that science still doesn’t have an answer to is: How did life on earth begin?

Currently, there are many speculations as to how life began. Among the most credible are the Abiogenesis hypothesis, the Deep Sea Vent theory, and the Panspermia Hypothesis.

Abiogenesis states that the very first “life” transitioned from a group of inanimate compounds. This hypothesis was further backed up by Stanley Miller’s experiment in 1952. Primitive earth was rather hostile, with extreme volcanism and active plate tectonics.

Early Earth also had an atmosphere that was mostly devoid of oxygen. Instead, it was mostly composed of ammonia, hydrogen, methane, and water vapour. Stanley recreated these conditions by filling an air-tight container with these gases and then, subjecting them to electric sparks to simulate lightning.

He continued his experiment for a few weeks and by the end of it, he had observed a reddish-brown substance that had accumulated on the surface of the container. When he analyzed the substance, he found that it contained organic compounds and certain amino acids, which are essential for life.

It was speculated that from these compounds, self-replicating materials were believed to have formed, such as precursors to RNA. However, the experiment failed to actually create such self-replicating material because the positions of these molecules have to be just right in order to create a “proto-RNA”. Furthermore, these organic compounds would have been destroyed due to the intense UV rays which would have destabilized or damaged their chemical structure.

But today, advancements in the field of organic chemistry have enabled scientists to revisit Stanley Miller’s experiment and found that the findings are still valid. But due to the lack of substantial evidence, scientists are exploring other theories which could potentially be more feasible.

To explore more concepts related to the origin of life or any other related topic, please register at BYJU’S Biology.

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