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Physical Chemistry

Origin of life

October 2, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 40

I found Rudy Baum's editorial "The Origin of Life" interesting (C&EN, June 26, page 3). However, we can also look at this enigma from a different perspective.

Let us begin with the "Big Bang." The primordial energy present at that moment gave rise to all that ever was and ever will be in the universe. This primordial energy gave rise to the elementary particles, which in turn gave rise to atoms and molecules. Isn't it astonishing that energy turned into matter spontaneously? It is also astonishing that the elementary particles self-assembled into the intricate nuclear and electronic structure of atoms. Therefore it is not surprising that following the same laws of the universe, living matter also formed spontaneously.

As for the origin of life on Earth, I understand that we still do not know even the origin on Earth of life's most crucial component, namely water. Maybe the origin of life and the origin of water on Earth are interwoven.

Lancelot Fernando
Pittsburg, Calif.

Baum's editorial, which summarized a conference that was sponsored by the Nobel Foundation and held in Stockholm earlier this summer, explained that the meeting was organized to bring "together about 75 scientists, most of them chemists, who are probing various aspects of how the primitive cell that gave rise to all of life—the last common ancestor—came into being." The editorial also highlighted Richard Zare's prediction in 1997 (on the occasion of C&EN's 75th anniversary) that "one of the greatest challenges of the next century will be for chemists to make life"; that is, a system that is self-replicating, self-organizing, and capable of evolving into other things.

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