Lee Cronin: Making matter come alive

Before life existed on Earth, there was just matter, inorganic dead “stuff.” How improbable is it that life arose? And — could it use a different type of chemistry? Using an elegant definition of life (anything that can evolve), chemist Lee Cronin is exploring this question by attempting to create a fully inorganic cell using a “Lego kit” of inorganic molecules — no carbon — that can assemble, replicate and compete.


Comments

  1. #1 MadScientist
    September 13, 2011

    I predict failure thanks to the limited chemistry of most elements.

  2. #2 Collin
    September 14, 2011

    I think a more interesting project would be to stick with carbon and instead see what other structures it could make. In particular, I wonder how far life could have gotten if RNA hadn’t developed its symmetrically shaped variant DNA.

    Since DNA has the same shape regardless of what code it carries, it could theoretically mutate by quantum fluctuation. It would be interesting to see if this actually happens, and if so how important it is.

  3. #3 Remo
    September 15, 2011

    Fascinating. Thank you.

    The creation of self-replicating inorganic structure would be a tremendous achievement. While I doubt that there is life in the universe based on metal oxide crystals — or at least the metals Dr. Cronin is using — the proof of concept would have very real applications to piecing together how life could have initially arose.

    (My rational against metal oxide crystal life arising (unless one postulates an ‘intelligent creator’ such as Dr. Cronin) is that metals such as Molybdenum, Tellurium and Vanadium are orders of magnitude rarer in the Universe than elements like H, O, C and N. Just a probability thing)