Sunday, June 1, 2008

On Discovering The Chemical Origins Of Life: Dissecting Nanofilm Fossils Of Chemical Reactions!

At some stage in Geochemistry chemical reactions acccumulate heredity! Somehow the catalaysts have to couple their existence to their product! So if there is a catalyst that produces some organic compound that HELPS BRING MORE OF THAT CATALYST TO THE REACTION SITE then that catalyzed reaction will explode!

In a sense it's not a matter of the improbability of life but the fact that since the ULTIMATE product, life, is so much better at capturing the most common form of energy flow around, sunlight, then those reactions that moved TOWARDS life would have outcompeted the millions of other possibilities! Is this RIGHT? It's teleological after all? Is the origin of life simply an optimization problem solved by simulated annealing?

So for the origin of life we got to search for the reactions where metal ions will catalyze a reaction that produces a product that helps bring that ion into the reaction arena, or that uses up a reactant that keeps that ion from coming into the reaction arena. Or teams of reactions that help each other out...

Are there any FOSSILS of this era left? hmm... either embedded in current biochemistry, OR in the rocks.

So all sorts of geochemistry was happening. We have to search the rocks that are left from 4.5billion years ago to 3.6billion years ago and analyse each one for HOW IT FORMED. We have to find the ones of sedimentary origin and reconstruct the chemical reactions and their environment that produced them. We might be talking ULTRAMINUTE geochemical fossils! What could POSSIBLY be their chances of having survived to the present???? What we are looking for is the result of some of these geochemical reactions that gets buried beyond reach before the new round of reactions got to the results to rework them!

Could it all be possible; (A) that enough of these has survived? (B) that we can FIND them, they might be widely scattered thin films smaller than bacteria! (C) reconstruct what happened!

Well, science has become a 400 year tradition of ULTRAMASTER CRAFTSPEOPLE with very sophisticated instruments! We'd have to dissect ancient strata atom by atom, perhaps! We'd have to do a LOT of simulations! We'd have to explore ALL MANNER of combinations of crazy reactions between organic compounds and minerals in all kinds of conditions! It'd be a LOT of work. Is it Worth it?

Knowing how life is a natural consequence of the chemistry we can see, play with today? that the universe is so stable that it worked 4billion years ago with the same laws as it works today? That we ARE PART OF this universe and in reconstructing the creation that happened 4billion years ago, we have hope of BECOMING PART OF THE NEXT 4 BILLION YEARS OF THIS CREATIVE UNIVERSE STORY?

God! in order to accomplish that promise, we'd have to become wise. Or clever. Well, either way it means, if we want to survive that long, learn to explore new niches and cooperate! That means GET OFF THIS PLANET!

To explore new niches means colonize other places outside this Earth and get away from each other for awhile, then cooperate with each other's colonies. That's the way it always is!

I imagined this scenario in high school: If humanity is to survive, we have to get off this planet, get into a historic cycle of hopping from planet to planet, where each time we get to a new planet, our technology is basically lost, start from scratch, but we retain history of our social arrangements and as technology keeps resetting, our social wisdom steadily grows over 10s of thousands of years... hmm... not bad.

Just as some clever reaction cycles ultimately covered every niche on this 16million square miles of Earth, life can eventually cover the universe?

more on Homo sapiens learning to master the universe:


barry goldman said...

here's some articles someone found for me:

H.Morowitz, E.Smith;
Energy flow and the organization of life;

and some refs from that:

deborah S. kelley, john a. baross, and john R. delaney. "volcanoes, fluids, and life at the mid-ocean ridge spreading centers" Annu rev earth planet sci. 30:385-491, 2002

christian de Duve Singularities cambr u. pr 2005

Andrea pruess, rolf schauder, and geog fuchs. carbon isotope fractionation by autotrophic bacteria with three different CO2 fixation pathways" Z. naturforsch. 44: 397-402, 1989

Michael J. Russell and william martin "the rocky roots of the acetyl-coa pathway. trends in biochem. sci. 29:358-363, 2004

William Martin and Michael J. Russell. On the origin of microbial physiology: Acetogenesis, methanogenesis, carbonyl sulfide, acetyl phosphate and chemiosmosis at an alkaline hydrothermal origin." proc roy soc. london under review.

Faqing Huang, charles walter bugg, and michael yarus. RNA-Catalyzed Coa, NAD, and FAD Synthesis from Phosphopantetheine, NMN, and FMN. biochemistry 39: 15548-15555, 2000

Here is a nice review of some of it:

A Rocky Start
Fresh take on life's oldest story

Kendall Morgan

here is a lead i must follow:

>In a series of lab experiments that simulate the hot, highly pressurized conditions found in deep hydrothermal vents, Cody's team found that fundamental chemical ingredients, including carbon dioxide and hydrogen, in the presence of iron sulfide, "enter into cycles that look a lot like metabolism." Says Cody: "It's hard to imagine a better catalyst [than iron sulfide], which we know was there in abundance" in the early ocean. "It's guaranteed that on the early Earth, all sorts of organic chemistry was happening," he adds.

Cody's paper?

Science 25 August 2000:
Vol. 289. no. 5483, pp. 1337 - 1340

Primordial Carbonylated Iron-Sulfur Compounds and the Synthesis of Pyruvate

George D. Cody,* Nabil Z. Boctor, Timothy R. Filley, Robert M. Hazen, James H. Scott, Anurag Sharma, Hatten S. Yoder Jr.

Experiments exploring the potential catalytic role of iron sulfide at 250°C and elevated pressures (50, 100, and 200 megapascals) revealed a facile, pressure-enhanced synthesis of organometallic phases formed through the reaction of alkyl thiols and carbon monoxide with iron sulfide. A suite of organometallic compounds were characterized with ultraviolet-visible and Raman spectroscopy. The natural synthesis of such compounds is anticipated in present-day and ancient environments wherever reduced hydrothermal fluids pass through iron sulfide-containing crust. Here, pyruvic acid was synthesized in the presence of such organometallic phases. These compounds could have provided the prebiotic Earth with critical biochemical functionality.

hmm... seems we've been doing some intersting chemistry in the past decade!

barry goldman said...

Cody's web page