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article imageFirst 'spark of life' recreated by scientists

By Stephen Morgan     Dec 11, 2014 in Science
Using a superpower laser, scientists have for the first time recreated the process which probably kick started life on Earth.
It has never been conclusively proven how life began on our planet, but there are two main theories, which have previously divided chemists into two camps.
On the one hand, there are those who believe it was caused spontaneously from the special conditions indigenous to our planet and, on the other hand, there are those who believe that life arrived by asteroids or comets containing organic materials.
However, the latest research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that a combination of the two is more likely and that the necessary conditions, which already existed, were sparked into life by asteroids raining down on us.
Researchers at the Heyrovsky Institute of Physical Chemistry in Prague used a 500ft super laser, called the Prague Asterix Laser System, to test what they described as one of the "central problems of the origin of life."
The powerful laser, which is able to generate around a billion kilowatts of energy, mimicked the force of an asteroid collision with Earth, something far more frequent billions of years ago.
The 7,600 degrees Fahrenheit beam was shot for a split second at a plasma soup and clay, likely around on early Earth. The "laser-asteroid" caused a "high-energy synthesis" which transformed the substances into the four chemical foundations of RNA, adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil, which is the simplest structure to create life.
The Huffington Post quotes Steven Benner, an astrobiologist at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, who was not part of the experiment, who said, "This is, I believe, the first time that all four nucleobases have been made in one set of reaction conditions,”
In the opinion of the researchers, the results of the experiment "suggest that the emergence of terrestrial life is not the result of an accident but a direct consequence of the conditions on the primordial Earth and its surroundings." Though, as a New York Post article points out, there still remain lots of mysteries to be resolved concerning the full process behind the development of life. .
Despite scepticism among some scientists, The International Business News reports that the Czech researchers are confident about their conclusions.
"Based on ... results, as well as theoretical calculations, we present a comprehensive mechanistic model, which accounts for all steps taking place in the studied impact chemistry," wrote the authors.
"Our findings thus demonstrate that extra-terrestrial impacts, which were one order of magnitude more abundant during the LHB period than before and after, could not only destroy the existing ancient lifeforms, but could also contribute to the creation of biogenic molecules."
The original article can be found online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec. 8, .
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