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Origin of life: Ice cube life on frozen Earth?


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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"Very cold land areas tend to be “barren.” As do very hot areas. And the thing both have in common is very low levels of precipitation. Both the Arctic and Antarctic are classified as deserts with respect to precipitation. I have not read the research on this ool theory, but it appears to have some merit. Criticism of other theories is that they require high concentrations of precursors and the precursors must be stable. Freezing environments are good at both. Algorithm Eh
Good point, Algorithm Eh, but those organisms are most likely adapted to the interstitial spaces of arctic ice - just as the polar bear is adapted to life on top of the ice. In both cases, one doubts it all got started there. Very cold land areas tend to be "barren." News
Very nice video. I liked all 4. Thanks! GaryGaulin
Larry Moran is a big fan of "metabolism fist". Unfortunately, like RNA world specialist who use tax payers money to never prove their point, he has no evidence to prove his point either. So, I say to professor Moran; since no one has even had one bit of proof that life originated on its own, why can't you accept ONE ALTERNATIVE? Isn't science supposed to follow the evidence wherever it leads? J-Mac
"The problem is that cold temperatures are a reliable predictor of low biomass,..." Actually that is not true. My master's research was studying the life in interstitial spaces under the arctic ice. Aside from questioning my sanity at spending my summers in the deep cold, I was amazed at the biomass in and under the ice. Growth rates are slower, but the ultimate biomass is high. Which explains why whales feed in the arctic and Antarctic waters. Algorithm Eh

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