The Big Bang Of Biology  updated October 3, 2005  D. Carrigan carrigan@fnal.gov (subject line must be sensible)

Fermilab
Home
Pillars site map
Channeling Adv. Accel. Infrared/Dyson SETI Biography Bibliography Nobel Prizes

Big Bang of biology
Like particle cosmology, biology has a big bang with associated parts like quarks and leptons. Life on the earth may have originated from a soup of natural organic molecules including amino acids. In one picture something happened and RNA formed. DNA evolved out of the RNA world . Complex life arose out of DNA. This process is the Big Bang part. The linked action of DNA and RNA propagates the genetic code very well and also generates the proteins needed for life. It is as though one had a computer code capable of producing central processors as needed.

A word of caution is in order here. This is not your granddaddy’s biology. The tree of life at the start of our hundred years is only a small part of what is now recognized. New arrivals include the archaea with the halophiles, biota that flourish in salty environments, and thermophiles.

? The origin of life is not understood. An interesting place to read about this is de Duve’s 2002 book "Life Evolving". De Duve argues that getting RNA by chance is implausible. A complex chemical environment is needed. Catalysts may or may not be required. Clays might help. Perhaps there is a natural selection for molecules. One interesting clue may be chirality, handedness in molecules. The history of the first billion years on earth also should offer hints. For the first 0.1 Gyr there was a hot atmosphere of water, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen and oxygen. Then the rain came and a rocky crust appeared in the 0.2 to 0.4 Gyr period. Biologically processed carbon appeared at 1 Gyr generated from self-replicating, carbon-based microbial life. This was anaerobic life without much free oxygen around. Then photosynthesis began to produce oxygen. One point is that life started relatively early!