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

 
Sheep: Shearing Record Smashed In Hawke’s Bay

Three shearers gathered from around New Zealand have smashed a World record by 264 sheep despite the heat, the pumiced sheep of inland Hawke’s Bay and a year’s wool weighing an average of over 3.5kg a sheep. More>>

ALSO:

Carrie Fisher: Hollywood In-Breeding & The Velocity Of Being - Binoy Kampmark

There was always going to be a good deal of thick drama around Carrie Fisher, by her own confession, a product of Hollywood in-breeding. Her parents, Debbie Reynolds and the crooner Eddie Fisher, provided ample material for the gossip columns in a marriage breakup after Eddie sped away with Elizabeth Taylor. More>>

  • Image: Tracey Nearmy / EPA
  • Gordon Campbell: On The Best Albums Of 2016

    OK, I’m not even going to try and rationalise this surrender to a ‘best of’ listicle. Still…maybe there is an argument for making some semblance of narrative order out of a year that brought us Trump, Brexit and the deaths of Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Alan Vega, who I missed just as much as the Big Three. So without further ado….oh, but first a word from the sponsor More>>

    Emojis: World’s First Māori Emoji App Launched

    It’s here - the world’s first Māori emoji app Emotiki has landed just in time for summer roadtrips and santa stockings, with 200 Māori and Kiwi cultural icons for people to share their kiwiana moments with each other and the world. More>>

    ALSO:

    Howard Davis: Album Of The Year - Van Morrison's 'Keep Me Singing'

    2016 was a grand year for Van The Man - The Belfast Cowboy turned 71, received a knighthood, and reissued an expanded set of soul-fired live recordings from 1973 ('It's Too Late to Stop Now'). In the game for 53 years now, Morrison's albums consistently open new windows into the heart and soul of one of the most enigmatic figures in modern music. More>>

    Review: The NZSO Performs Handel's Messiah

    Max Rashbrooke: Saturday night's performance took the piece back to something like the way it would have originally been performed when premiered in 1742, with an orchestra of 20-30 players and only a few more singers. More>>

    Culture: Rare Hundertwasser Conservation Posters Found After 40 Years

    When Jan and Arnold Heine put a roll of conservation posters into storage in 1974 they had no idea that 42 years later they would be collectors items. More>>

    Get More From Scoop

     
     

    LATEST HEADLINES

     
     
     
     
    Education
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news