Astronomy Cast Ep. 376: The Miller-Urey Experiment

Evolution explains how life adapts and evolves over eons. But how did life originate? Chemists Miller and Urey put the raw chemicals of life into a solution, applied an electric charge, and created amino acids – the building blocks of life.

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4 Replies to “Astronomy Cast Ep. 376: The Miller-Urey Experiment”

  1. Thanks for sharing these insights into a great scientific endeavor. If life appears to have arisen as soon as it possibly could, then that should lead to the re-examination of why it couldn’t have arisen sooner. There’s about half a billion years of evidence missing and that’s why they call it the Hadean Eon. The evidence for land, in particular, is very equivocal. Most discussion for early life implicitly follows the assumption that life’s emergence required the sun to reach the main sequence. Maybe life arose on a planet which resembled a ball of ice, underneath the great ice cap of a world spanning ocean.

    1. Life could not have arisen during the late heavy bombardment, which we know happened 4 billion years ago because of the traces it left on the Moon. Only a fraction of Earth was liquefied by the impacts, most of it was gaseous. The chemistry of life doesn’t do very well in a “silicon atmosphere”, i.e. gaseous rock. The universe is mostly a very hostile place. Later, life did indeed survive “snowball Earth” periods under a global ice cap. Just 0.7 or so billion years ago.

      Life arose early on Earth, but only once, according to all evidence available today. All life is the same family. So there is an argument that life should be common, and an argument for it to be rare. Why did it only happen once during 4 billion years?

  2. As a pantheist I believe the whole shooting match is alive, from micro to macro and probably many instances in-between. How did it start? Good question! Was there even a when, back then?

    Thanks for the link to Radiolab!

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