September 21, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Can Chemicals Be Fertile?

Simon Conway Morris wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for the following entry in Current Biology.1  Ostensibly he was trying to be light-hearted and funny about mass extinctions.  We’ll see if anyone is laughing about whether massive impacts are a blessing or a curse:

Manna from heaven.  So yet more violence, with the Earth subject to cataclysmic destruction?  Indeed yes, but there is a silver, or rather organic, lining.  It appears that Earth’s position, relatively close to the Sun, was highly precarious.  This was because the light elements, essential for life, were swept by solar radiation far beyond our planet, out to the so-called snow-line.  So no oceans, and life is cancelled?  Yet help was on the way, with a delivery system that via asteroids and comets resupplied Earth with both an ocean and a fertile brew of organic molecules. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)


1Simon Conway Morris, “Quick Guide: Mass Extinctions,” Current Biology, Volume 15, Issue 18, 20 September 2005, pages R744-R745.

The only redeeming quality in his mythoid is an offhand reference to the fact that our earth occupies an unlikely and privileged position.  Let’s offer simple Simon our Comet Cocktail Blaster and see if he thinks he will remain fertile: a teaspoon of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (07/21/2005), one microgram each of L-glycine and one of D-glycine, carbonated with HCN in ammonia with water ice.  Delivered inside a rock thrown at 120,000 mph.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Solar System

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