Better Life Origin Through Chemistry
Jeffrey Bada went digging through Stanley Miller’s old 1958 spark-discharge vials and found more amino acids. When Miller added rotten-egg gas (hydrogen sulfide, H2S) to the mix, more amino acids were produced: “A total of 23 amino acids and 4 amines, including 7 organosulfur compounds, were detected in these samples,” his team reported in PNAS.1 Apparently Miller never reported the results of that experiment.2 Some of the amino acids found occur in life; others do not. They comprised a 50-50 mixture of left-handed and right-handed forms.
What’s the upshot of this? “The simulated primordial conditions used by Miller may serve as a model for early volcanic plume chemistry and provide insight to the possible roles such plumes may have played in abiotic organic synthesis,” the paper said. Maybe a volcano erupted under Darwin’s warm little pond. Maybe that is how it got warm. At least any organisms hadn’t yet evolved noses to have to worry about the awful smell – something Bada had to contend with as he analyzed the samples. He also believes the experiment shows amino acids could have formed within space rocks.
BBC News article, the headline read, “Classic ‘life chemistry’ experiment still excites,” without explaining who, or what, got excited. Bada said he wants to repeat old Miller experiment with modern equipment.
1. Parker, Cleaves,… Bada et al, “Primordial synthesis of amines and amino acids in a 1958 Miller H2S-rich spark discharge experiment,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print March 21, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019191108 (open access).
2. Perhaps Miller failed to report the results because the analytical methods he used in the 1950s were not as sensitive as today’s methods which are up to 10 orders of magnitude greater. On the other hand, Bada reported that yields from the sulfide run were an order of magnitude greater than those from Miller’s earlier spark-discharge apparatus. Furthermore, Miller could have used such techniques as they improved up till his death in 2007.
Go ahead and cook your amino acids by intelligent design. We’ll give you as many as you want. In fact, we’ll give you a whole earth packed with amino acids, arranged in sets, all left-handed (to overcome one huge improbability, see book), and assume they are combining and recombining at fantastically rapid rates. Conditions could not be better for forming a usable protein molecule! Now read chapters 6 and 7 from our online book.
See also the 05/02/2003 about the “useful lie” made out of the Miller experiment, and Miller’s own attempts with other ingredients in 2002 (10/31/2002) before his death. If hydrogen sulfide added such powerful magic to the potion, one would think Miller would have concentrated on it more between 1958 and 2002. He was more honest about the problems with chemical evolution than many others. They get an F in chemistry for turning his iconic experiment into the building blocks of lie (03/19/2008).