Thursday, October 16, 2008

The New Scientist: Origin of life found from 50-year-old samples

In 1953 Stanley Miller used an apparatus like this one to simulate the chemical conditions on Earth before life evolved.

Miller's experiments produced amino acids, complex oily hydrocarbons, and other organic molecules - the building blocks of life. A graduate student at the time, Miller went down in history for
being the first to show that these essential molecules could have been generated on a lifeless Earth.

Stanley Miller passed away in 2007, leaving the contents of his office and lab to a former student.

Here, vials containing samples from the 50-year-old experiments were found and later reassessed using modern techniques.

It turns out that Miller's experiments were even more successful than anyone had imagined. Vials from his volcanic experiments contained a rich mixture of amino acids, including some that have never been found in simulated early Earth experiments before. The New Scientist has the details.

Link to the article: Volcanic lightning may have sparked life on Earth at The New Scientist

Also see:
The Miller Urey Experiment

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Universe on E8

"Whoa, duuuude, I'm a surfer! I surf! Watch me surfing! And I'll talk about some physics too! Whoa!!!"

In a really intriguing TED talk, Garrett Lisi talks about his theory of everything, describing all particles and interactions of said particles as manifestations of mathematics' 'most beautiful structure.' Can't say I'm completely sold on the idea, but it sure is pretty. And it fits in quite nicely with my habit of seeing patterns within patterns within patterns, always thinking there's probably some structure to it. The biggest difference, of course, is that I'm just dreaming and this guy's actually creating maths and theories with it.

And you might not be seeing a video, instead seeing two buttons asking which version of flash you're using. Apparently TED's player is ancient, and a piece of garbage. Just click on 8 and you should be able to see it.