lunes, 18 de mayo de 2009
Origin of Life in a Jar
On this day, 56 years ago, Stanley Miller published his milestone work in study of the origins of life, reporting on the production of amino acids from primordial soup in a flask zapped by electricity.
Miller published the paper in the journal Science at the tender age of 23 while working under the Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Harold Urey, at the University of Chicago. We wrote up the story over on our sister blog, This Day in Tech, “Cookin’ Up Some Primordial Soup.”
Here’s a snippet:
The experiment was simple. Miller and his advisor at the University of Chicago, Harold Urey, built the apparatus you see at the right to “duplicate a primitive atmosphere of the earth.” They combined ingredients they believed were part of Earth’s primordial soup — circulated water, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen — and zapped the concoction with electricity as a stand-in for lightning flashes.
“During the run the water in the flask became noticeably pink after the first day, and by the end of the week the solution was deep red and turbid,” Miller wrote.
When he took the water out and analyzed it, sure enough, half of the amino acids used to make proteins in living cells appeared, as you can see from the hand-labeled chromatograph above.