Latest improbable scenario for the origin of life, from New Scientist:
Did life begin in the freezer? Early Earth may not have been as hot and hellish as we thought. In fact, it may have become a snowball around the time life first emerged.
This is according to a fresh analysis of rocks from South Africa that formed about 3.5 billion years ago, during the Archaean period. Previous research suggested that the ocean in which these rocks formed was warm – perhaps around 85̊C.
But Maarten de Wit at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, now says the ocean temperature was similar to today’s – and that there is even evidence that ice was present.
The problem is that cold temperatures are a reliable predictor of low biomass, so it isn’t clear how they would assist the origin of life overall, apart from flukes. For example,
“Studies from our laboratory and others have shown how frozen conditions could benefit the emergence of an RNA world,” says Holliger. Ice enhances the synthesis of some important molecules, and it slows the breakdown of fragile molecules once they do form.
Alternatively, life could have still formed in hot conditions, around hydrothermal vents within those cold waters. There’s no obvious way to work out which of the competing ideas is correct. More.
OOL 101 …
See also: Maybe if we throw enough models at the origin of life… some of them will stick?
Welcome to “RNA world,” the five-star hotel of origin-of-life theories
With Enceladus the toast of the solar system, here’s a wrap-up of the origin-of-life problem
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