Intelligent Design

Have Glycine – but no life

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Earlier this year, the work of Nir Goldman and colleagues was noted (here). Using sophisticated computer modeling tools, it was concluded that cometary impacts could generate C-N bonded oligomers that subsequently break apart to form a glycine-containing complex. This research has now been published in Nature Chemistry, resulting in a new flurry of discussion about the shock synthesis of life.

It is known from Stanley Miller’s experiments that amino acids can be synthesized in a reducing atmosphere. However, the evidence for such an atmosphere has become less convincing with time – and even a neutral atmosphere means the Miller route for generating amino acids is unproductive. Cometary impacts, however, can make this point irrelevant, as is explained by John Timmer here.

“One of the problems facing origin-of-life research is that building complex organic chemicals requires a reducing environment, but the early Earth’s atmosphere is now thought to have been weakly oxidizing. None of this matters as the comet hits. A typical shockwave quickly reaches conditions where the simple compounds break down, liberating hydrogen ions. These create local reducing environments no matter what the atmosphere looks like.”

For more, go here.

6 Replies to “Have Glycine – but no life

  1. 1
    SCheesman says:

    Perhaps soon we will see the following headline: “Comets may have produced first novels” followed by the sub-line: “Letters ‘c’ and ‘x’ found in impact debris”.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Slightly off topic, the types of molecular machines found in cells just increased by one:

    Piston Engine Joins Rotary Engine in Cells
    Excerpt: The mechanism proposed by Leonid Sazanov’s group at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge is “almost completely unexpected,” ,,, Unlike the ATP synthase, which “drives protons across the membrane in a rotary turbine-like motion,”,,, the transfer of electrons from NADH cause a slight widening of one part of the complex, forcing the long helix to move like a row of pistons that shove the protons across the membrane.

    One faculty member “predicts that it will become one of the most cited papers in respiratory chain research, as important to our complete understanding of energy generation as is the mechanism of ATP synthase.”

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Molecular picture of the newly christened ‘Piston Engine’ is here

    more articles and videos on various molecular machines are here:

  4. 4
    tragic mishap says:

    I identify. I also have glycine and no life.

  5. 5
    ellazimm says:

    Tragic: hahahahahahahahhahaha. Or, should I say, how tragic? 🙂

  6. 6
    gpuccio says:


    Very funny! 🙂

    I suppose that vowels, typewriters and typing monkeys could have come out from some primordial soup…

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