Friday, June 22, 2012

Primordial Soup (part 2)

Stanley Miller and Harold Urey, working at the University of Chicago, stumbled on a concept in 1953 that would change the approach of scientific investigation into the origins of life on early Earth (Miller/Urey). They were both intrigued about the type of environment that would be needed in order for life to begin. So, like any good scientist with the scent of discovery in the air, they formed a hypothesis and tested it. Miller and Urey placed the gases; methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), water (H20), and hydrogen (H2) into a closed system and manipulated them in order to see if these gases could form amino acids. In their experiment,  they placed water and their gases into their closed system apparatus. The water was boiled till it vaporized. This water vapor then would then move into another flask filled with the ammonia, methane, and hydrogen where a continuous electric current ran through the system. Once thoroughly electrocuted, the gases were condensed and moved through a collecting trap. The water would then move back into the boiling flack to start the process all over again (Miller/Urey). See, the purpose of this experiment was to recreate condition of primordial Earth. An atmosphere that Miller and Urey believed to be deprived of oxygen, swarmed with lightning storms, and constantly fluctuating in temperature. They ran this system continuously for a week before analysis. When they observed the inside of their apparatus, they saw, what essentially amounts to, a whole lot of black goo. Through the use of chromatography, Miller “observed that as much as 10-15% of the carbon was now in the form of organic compounds,”a.k.a black goo  (Miller/Urey). That’s right; Miller and Urey successfully produced amino acids and organic material; the necessary components essential for cellular life. This, as you can come to imagine, caused quiet the commotion. 

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