In “Ancient mud volcanoes perfect for early life: study” (MSNBC October 17, 2011), Charles Choi reports, “Rocks, more than 3.7 billion years old, examined as part of research”
The researchers found these ancient rocks once were permeated with lukewarm alkaline fluids rich in carbonates. These liquids resemble those seen today in so-called serpentine mud volcanoes located in the deep sea near the Mariana Islands, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean formed by the summits of volcanoes; the conditions would have made the area off the coast of Greenland an especially friendly place for amino acids, helping keep them stable in the distant past. Amino acids are key ingredients of life, serving as the building blocks of proteins.
“These serpentine mud volcanoes would have been the best environment for sustaining life,” researcher Francis Albarede, a geochemist at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon in France, told LiveScience. “These findings mean that you could have sparked life at those places and also have it survive there.”
But who “could have sparked life at those places”?
One thing about these OOL news stories is that you find out what’s wrong with the earlier theories marketed to the public in documentaries a couple of years ago. Now that a substitute implausible theory is fronted, that’s okay. Remember deep sea hydrothermal vents?
Scientists have long thought that life might have begun at deep-sea hydrothermal vents typically found near volcanically active locales. These are rich in chemical and thermal energy, often helping sustain vibrant ecosystems. However, the vast majority of hydrothermal vent fields seen now are too hot and too acidic for a soup of free-floating amino acids to have survived.
“It’d be like trying to make life evolve from hot Coca-Cola,” Albarede said.
Hmmm. Many claims made for Coke often feel that way.
Here’s a small mud volcano: