Researchers Propose New Way to Explain How Life Began on Earth
December 13, 2012 5:19 PM
comment(s) - last by
By looking at information stored in chemistry, says former NASA fellow, life from non-life can be explained
An outstanding question in the
field of evolutionary biology
and biochemistry is how the complex, fragile biochemicals that made up life
arose and transformed biomaterial
in the early Earth from non-living to the earliest "living" organisms. Some researchers have looked for quasi-alive constructs
like prions or viruses
But a new paper by Paul Davies, an
Arizona State University
Regents' Professor and director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and Sara Walker, a NASA post-doctoral fellow at the Beyond Center,
in the journal
suggests that researchers are approaching the problem in the wrong way.
They suggest that rather looking at the "hardware" (biochemicals), they look at the "software" (chemically encoding information). The authors suggest that the defining line between the living and non-living is the ability to manage encoded information, thus the key question is how this information handling arose.
Could the clue to how life arose lie in how it encodes information?
Comments Prof. Walker, "When we describe biological processes we typically use informational narratives -- cells send out signals, developmental programs are run, coded instructions are read, genomic data are transmitted between generations and so forth. So identifying life's origin in the way information is processed and managed can open up new avenues for research."
"Chemical based approaches have stalled at a very early stage of chemical complexity -- very far from anything we would consider 'alive.' More seriously they suffer from conceptual shortcomings in that they fail to distinguish between chemistry and biology."
"We propose that the transition from non-life to life is unique and definable," Prof. Davies adds, "We suggest that life may be characterized by its distinctive and active use of information, thus providing a roadmap to identify rigorous criteria for the emergence of life. This is in sharp contrast to a century of thought in which the transition to life has been cast as a problem of chemistry, with the goal of identifying a plausible reaction pathway from chemical mixtures to a living entity."
"To a physicist or chemist life seems like 'magic matter. It behaves in extraordinary ways that are unmatched in any other complex physical or chemical system. Such lifelike properties include autonomy, adaptability and goal-oriented behavior -- the ability to harness chemical reactions to enact a pre-programmed agenda, rather than being a slave to those reactions."
"We believe the transition in the informational architecture of chemical networks is akin to a phase transition in physics, and we place special emphasis on the top-down information flow in which the system as a whole gains causal purchase over its components. This approach will reveal how the logical organization of biological replicators differs crucially from trivial replication associated with crystals (non-life). By addressing the causal role of information directly, many of the baffling qualities of life are explained."
Crystals are also self-replicating, but they lack the flexibility of life.
[Image Source: Giovanni Dall'Orto]
If that all sounds a bit abstract, it is.
But basically it seems that the pair are arguing that by looking at differences between the self-replicating information in biochemicals (e.g. RNA) verus self-replication information in inorganic/non-living constructs (e.g. crystals), researchers may be able to retrace the process of how life arose on Earth more easily than if they merely focus on painstakingly mixing chemical constituents, hoping something arises.
Interface [via Arvix]
Arizona State Univ.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
12/14/2012 1:14:29 PM
Why is it arrogant to believe that life arose independently on earth? Given the information that we have, it's clearly the most likely scenario. Also, it's not arrogant because it's likely been repeated countless times across time and space.
Think about your scenario for a minute. You've got "life" starting in just one place and then somehow spreading out across vast interstellar distances while remaining reproductively viable in some way and then ending up in a place that's similar enough to where it started that it can thrive??? Does that really seem more likely than life appearing independently in places that are conducive to it? Not to me...
Plus, there's no evidence at all regarding the likelihood of your scenario. Until there is, I'll stick with "life, as we know it, started here."
"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton
Study: Single Gene, Plus Some "Junk" DNA Turned Ape Ancestors Into Modern Man
November 23, 2012, 11:03 AM
Study: Protected by Ice, RNA Could Generate, Evolve Into Life
September 22, 2010, 12:09 PM
Scientists Discover Virus that Infects Other Viruses
August 7, 2008, 9:55 AM
Creationists are Mad About Google Doodle Depicting Evolution
November 24, 2015, 8:48 PM
DHS and TSA: Whoops, We Missed That 73 Airport Employees May be Terrorists
November 19, 2015, 2:16 PM
Star Wars Spinoff Film "Rogue One", Theme Park Attractions Announced
August 17, 2015, 12:20 PM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information