Sci-(Non)Fi: Life on Earth IS From Outer Space

September 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Comet Halley
Comet Halley. Credit: ESA/Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research

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(I discovered this on theconversation.com.) There’s a theory that’s been floating around since the early 1960’s that comet impacts on Earth could produce enough energy to create amino acids, one of the major building blocks for life as we know it.  The process is called “shock synthesis,” and famous astrologer Carl Sagan tinkered with the idea.  More recently, Mark Price and some other folks at the University of Kent created a different experiment that produced the same result:

“… we shocked ice mixtures analogous to those found in a comet with a steel projectile fired at high velocities in a light gas gun to test whether amino acids could be produced. We found that the hypervelocity impact shock of a typical comet ice mixture produced several amino acids after hydrolysis. These include equal amounts ofD- and L-alanine, and the non-protein amino acids α-aminoisobutyric acid and isovaline as well as their precursors. Our findings suggest a pathway for the synthetic production of the components of proteins within our Solar System, and thus a potential pathway towards life through icy impacts.”

In other words, shooting blocks of ice has proved that life came from outer space, yo.

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