Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Completing the Abiogenesis jigsaw

I noticed this little story yesterday, on the surface it doesn't look like much but when you read the detail you quickly realise that this line of enquiry has the potential to fill in a hugely important piece of the abiogenesis puzzle. Abiogenesis is the branch of science that concerns itself with working out how life could have emerged from inorganic matter 4 billion years ago. It is distinct from Evolution which concerns itself with how life evolved via natural selection from simple forms to present day, something that I often find people are confused about.

You can read the full story here.

This seemingly impossible task inched a step closer toward a potential solution with this discovery that RNA molecules could be created via a set of straightforward chemical steps that given the right conditions could have occurred in nature spontaneously. RNA is a very important chemical, it is a close relative of the DNA molecule, in fact some viruses have RNA instead of DNA as their main information carrying molecule.

Here's an exert from the article.

Scientists have long suspected that the first forms of life carried their biological information not in DNA but in RNA, its close chemical cousin. Though DNA is better known because of its storage of genetic information, RNA performs many of the trickiest operations in living cells. RNA seems to have delegated the chore of data storage to the chemically more stable DNA eons ago. If the first forms of life were based on RNA, then the issue is to explain how the first RNA molecules were formed.

This discovery could finally close the loop in terms of explaining, soup to nuts, how we got here and why we are like we are, and some people still say that science can't answer the "big questions".


Elizabeth said...

I'm so impressed with this post. I can see I'm going to have to do a lot of background studying if I am going to make any worthwhile comments.

You must be a scientist??

do you ever make any silly posts that I could respond to?? :)

Steve Borthwick said...

Elizabeth, I confess, I am a scientist but a computer scientist not a biochemist, although all things scientific fascinate me, as you can probably tell..

Silly posts, yes, must do more of those; you've got me thinking now.

For me science is an inspiration, it provides purpose (alongside my family of course) and it is great fun; you could say its transcendent! ;-)

Elizabeth said...

Well, you did a sort of silly post today, and I enjoyed that. So a mix would be good.

Where do you work? I work at Nokia in Farnborough in mobile phone development.

Steve Borthwick said...

You are absolutely right Elizabeth, a mix is good, you seem to do a really good job of that on your blog, what's your secret? For me there are so many dumb things happening in the world I find it hard to resist jumping in with both feet!

re. Work, interesting, Nokia has a reputation for being a good company to work for, is that true?

I am fortunate enough to have my own little software company (20 people), over in Winnersh, when we're not playing on our XBOX360 we are busy creating the next big thing! (that' what we all hope anyway!)

Elizabeth said...

You probably don't have a shallow side like I do to easily find stoopid things to post about.

I get RSS feeds from a lot of sites and when I see something amusing, I put it up. You never know what people are going to respond to.

Xbox 360 - My family obsessively plays Guitar Hero on ours. The songs are starting to drive me insane.

Steve Borthwick said...

Hold on E, you blog, you're already "un-shallow" in my book!

Yes Guitar Hero is a firm favourite; my son is a devotee of console games, he and I often "tour" together on GH3 (lots of fun) my daughter sings sometimes too, I shudder to imagine what the neighbours think;

If the songs are driving you crazy you can always download some fresh ones, its interesting (worthy of a blog post in fact) the whole GH3/Rockband2 phenomena strikes me as a brand new way of buying music, along with iTunes etc. there's a revolution happening around us, how music consumption has changed in the last 10 years. I wonder how many people have a box full of vinyl and CD's gathering dust in their lofts these days.