July 13, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Astrobiologists Search for Lefty Life in Chile

The title isn’t meant to imply Chile is dead or devoid of left-handers.  Instead, it announces that astrobiologists are practicing life detection strategies in the high deserts of that South American country, according to Astrobiology Magazine.  Chile’s Atacama desert is one of the driest places on earth, with almost no signs of life.  NASA scientists have developed an instrument with a sure-fire way to separate the quick and the dead: “Life is left-handed,” announces the title, referring to the left-handed amino acids that make up earth life.  The scientists are convinced that finding one-handed polymers would clinch the evidence for life: “We feel that measuring homochirality – a prevalence of one type of handedness over another – would be absolute proof of life,” said Richard Mathies of UC Berkeley.

It’s nice to hear naturalistic biologists admit that homochirality separates life from nonlife.  Now they need to explain how it got that way: see the problem explained in our online book, Ch. 3 and Ch. 4.  After a century since Pasteur discovered this property of the polymers in living things, it remains one of the major stumblingblocks for belief in chemical evolution.  Don’t let an astrobiologist get away with just assuming it happened somehow.  How, now, did we get a left-handed brown cow?

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Categories: Origin of Life

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