Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search

 


UC researcher looking at how life began on Earth

UC researcher looking at how life began on Earth
 
January 21, 2013
 
The question of how life began on a molecular level 3.5 to 4 billion years ago has been a longstanding problem in science.
 
However, recent mathematical research by a leading New Zealand mathematical researcher from the University of Canterbury (UC) and other experts has shed light on a possible mechanism by which life may have been born out of the chemical soup that existed on Earth.
 
UC mathematics professor Mike Steel said today a necessary condition for early life seems to be the formation of a chemical reaction network.

``We are using maths to help understand how such systems can come about, how large they might have been and whether their formation would be incredibly unlikely or expected if you have sufficiently many molecules of different types floating around.
 
``We are seeking to find out if the formation of these first steps of life were an amazingly lucky accident, or something that might be expected. Many researchers find it hard to imagine how such a molecular network could have formed spontaneously from the chemical environment of early Earth.
 
``But how else did it start?  Some people propose that life was seeded from other parts of the universe, but that poses the question, `how did it start there?’.

``For scientists the aim in origin of life research is not to find out how life actually began, that's something we may never know, but rather how it might have begun so we know a plausible scenario for its formation by natural processes.

``My personal view is that the formation of life, given the conditions on Earth, was not particularly unlikely. But whether there are other life forms in the universe staring out into space and wondering if they are alone or not - that's a totally different question.’’
 
Work by Professor Steel and other researchers on how life began on Earth will be presented at the Origins of Life meeting in Princeton, USA, next week and at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland next month. He said the origin of life is quite controversial among scientists with many theories but relatively little data.  
 
``Our findings are helping to provide a mathematical explanation and they suggest that the spontaneous emergences of the first steps of life are more likely than had been supposed by many working in this field.’’
 
The work is a collaboration with former UC post-doctorate Dr Wim Hordijk from Switzerland, US-based theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman and other scientists working on the origins of life and synthetic biology. They are now making use of the BlueFern supercomputer at UC.
 
They have proposed several competing theories for how life on Earth could have started even before the first genes or living cells came to be.
 
``Despite differences between various proposed scenarios, one theme in common is a network of molecules that have the ability to work together to jumpstart and speed up their own replication — two necessary ingredients for life.
 
``However, many researchers find it hard to imagine how such a molecular network could have formed spontaneously - with no precursors - from the chemical environment of early Earth,’’ Professor Steel said.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 

Cap Bocage: Anti-Mining Campaign Doco Debuts At NZ Film Festival

Playing at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, Cap Bocage is a close-up exploration of the forces that came into play when environmental issues and indigenous rights became intertwined in New Caledonia ... More>>

Film Fest:

More Film:

Sharon Ellis Review: A View From The Bridge

Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge is Circa’s latest big production, it opened on Saturday 19 July and it is a stunning triumph. More>>

Māori Language Week: He Karanga Kia Kaha Ake Te Tīhau Ki Te Reo Māori

The Māori Language Commission wishes to see social media swamped with Māori language tweets and messages for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori using the hashtag #tekupu. More>>

ALSO:

Book Vote: Kiwis Prefer Young Adult & Classics

To compile their Top 100 List for 2014, Whitcoulls again asked New Zealanders to vote for their favourite books and authors. And while classic novels continue to appeal to Kiwi readers, 2014 marks a significant new trend – the increasing popularity of novels for young adults. More>>

ALSO:

Five NZ Cities: Bill Bailey Back To The Southern Hemisphere

The gap between how we imagine our lives to be and how they really are is the subject of Bill’s new show Limboland. With his trademark intelligence and sharp wit, he tells tales of finding himself in this halfway place. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Book Television Is Coming

Carole Beu of The Women’s Bookshop in Auckland, Graham Beattie of The Book Blog and producer Deb Faith of FaceTV have raised enough money via crowd funding at Boosted – just under $7,000 so far – for 12 episodes, which begin production in September, and will be on screen later that month. More>>

Electric Sheep: Light Nelson Exceeds All Expectations

Light Nelson exceeded all expectations drawing over 40,000 people over two nights to the Queens Gardens and surrounds. The event, with over 40 installations from local and national artists, is in its second year, and organisers were hoping they’d top last year’s crowd of 16,000. More>>

MacGyver: Richard Dean Anderson To Attend Armageddon This October

New Zealand’s biggest pulp-culture event, the Armageddon Expo is proud to announce the world’s most recognised DIY action hero will be attending the Auckland event at the ASB Showgrounds from October 24th to 27th. More>>

ALSO:

Barbershop Gold: Māori Party Singing Praises Of The Musical Island Boys

The Maori Party has congratulated four young men on a mission, who in 2002 took up barbershop singing at Tawa College, and tonight took out the Gold Medal in the 2014 International Barbershop Harmony Society competitions in Las Vegas. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Education
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news