Scientists attempt to re-create how life began
Scientists attempt to re-create how life began (Thinkstock)
Scientists attempt to re-create how life began
Lexile: 790L

Assign to Google Classroom

How did life on Earth begin?

Scientists in a lab used a powerful laser to re-create what might have been the original spark of life.

The researchers zapped clay and a chemical soup with the laser. It simulated the energy of a speeding asteroid smashing into the planet. They ended up creating what can be considered crucial pieces of the building blocks of life.

The findings do not prove that this is how life started on Earth. That was about 4 billion years ago. Some scientists were unimpressed with the results. But the experiment does bolster the long-held theory.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The laser-zapping produced all four chemical bases needed to make RNA. It's a simpler relative of DNA, the blueprint of life. From these bases, there are many still-mysterious steps that must happen for life to emerge. But this is a potential starting point.

Scientists have been able to make these RNA bases other ways. They use chemical mixes and pressure. But this is the first experiment to test the theory that the energy from a space crash could trigger the crucial chemical reaction.

Researcher Svatopluk Civis said the scientists used a laser almost 500 feet long. It zapped the chemical soup with an invisible beam. The power was intense and concentrated. Civis said that for less than a billionth of a second, it was equivalent to the output of a couple of nuclear power plants. It generated heat of more than 7,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the earliest life on Earth seemed to coincide with a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment. That's when the solar system's asteroid belt was bigger. Stray space rocks hit our planet more often, said study co-author David Nesvorny. He is a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute.

At the time, asteroids were bombarding Earth 10 times more frequently than before or after.

Outside experts were divided about the importance of the experiment.

There also is an alternative theory of early life on Earth. It says that microbes arrived here from space. They were aboard a comet or an asteroid. That could have been a sort of seed theory of life.

Civis' work bolsters what would instead be a fire theory of life. It is a theory of both creation and destruction.

Critical thinking challenge: How is this experiment different than others seeking the origins of life?

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 8 times

  • SAlexander-Sti
    12/18/2014 - 09:40 a.m.

    People may have been born a different way. Some people say that microbes arrived here from space, and that they were aboard a comet or asteroid. This could be a good thing because maybe we can figure out how we really came to be. people may have come from a different place then earth.

  • sean11-Bla
    12/18/2014 - 01:08 p.m.

    I didn't even know that lasers existed! I wonder how the universe began?

  • ben13-Bla
    12/18/2014 - 01:11 p.m.

    so is it possible that different living thing cold be first put on earth all different ways. also is it possible that there where living thing that got extincted with in the first year of life on earth.

  • John0724-YYCA
    12/18/2014 - 07:34 p.m.

    So I think think that this article is talking about that scientist trying to re create how our life has started and I just think that this is a really stupid idea because if they make a mistake you do not know what bad stuff could happen. But any ways If they are trying to find out if we were monkeys and we transformed to people the answer is that we were created from God. I just wish the scientists do not do this re creating the life that was here the first because if it makes a mistakes we could all die.

    • Jason0421-YYCA
      12/22/2014 - 01:41 p.m.

      REBUTTAL: John, I disagree with you that scientists are actually going to recreate life. I think that they are just trying to recreate the process of the Big Bang theory. I think that God would be mad that scientists are trying to disagree with what he made, but I think that it doesn't mean that God would kill all of us. I also think that you didn't read this since you said, "I think that this article is talking about that scientist trying to re create how our life has started." You are just guessing what the article was talking about.

    • Eugene0808-YYCA
      12/23/2014 - 12:50 p.m.

      John, this is not stupid because the scientists are trying to recreate what might have happened that life started to exist. The scientists are very careful about the laser so you wouldn't want to worry about it because that is the scientist's job to do. If the scientists do make a mistake, then it wouldn't do much damage since it is a laser and we will not die from it. Don't worry about a thing because you don't have to be worried about it.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment