Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life

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Springer Science & Business Media, Oct 15, 2008 - Nature - 339 pages
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How did life begin on the early Earth? We know that life today is driven by the universal laws of chemistry and physics. By applying these laws over the past ?fty years, en- mous progress has been made in understanding the molecular mechanisms that are the foundations of the living state. For instance, just a decade ago, the ?rst human genome was published, all three billion base pairs. Using X-ray diffraction data from crystals, we can see how an enzyme molecule or a photosynthetic reaction center steps through its catalytic function. We can even visualize a ribosome, central to all life, translate - netic information into a protein. And we are just beginning to understand how molecular interactions regulate thousands of simultaneous reactions that continuously occur even in the simplest forms of life. New words have appeared that give a sense of this wealth of knowledge: The genome, the proteome, the metabolome, the interactome. But we can’t be too smug. We must avoid the mistake of the physicist who, as the twentieth century began, stated con?dently that we knew all there was to know about physics, that science just needed to clean up a few dusty corners. Then came relativity, quantum theory, the Big Bang, and now dark matter, dark energy and string theory. Similarly in the life sciences, the more we learn, the better we understand how little we really know. There remains a vast landscape to explore, with great questions remaining.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Historical Survey
3
12 The Middle Ages
6
13 Recent Times
9
14 The Problem of Defining Life
12
References
16
The Cosmos the Solar System and the Primeval Earth
17
22 Formation of the Bioelements
21
541 Prebiotic Peptides
131
542 Prebiotic Proteins
138
55 New Developments
139
References
143
The RNA World
145
62 The Synthesis of Nucleosides
146
63 Nucleotide Synthesis
147
64 The Synthesis of Oligonucleotides
150

23 The Formation of the Solar System
23
24 The Formation of the Earth
26
25 The Primeval Earth Atmosphere
31
26 The Primeval Ocean the Hydrosphere
36
References
39
From the Planets to Interstellar Matter
43
312 Venus
44
313 Mars
45
314 Jupiter
47
315 Jupiters Moons
48
316 Saturn and Its Moon Titan
53
317 Uranus and Neptune
57
318 The Dwarf Planet Pluto and Its Moon Charon
58
32 Comets
59
322 The Structure of the Comets
60
323 Halleys Comet
61
324 Comets and Biogenesis
62
33 Meteorites
65
331 The Classification of Meteorites
66
332 Carbonaceous Chondrites
67
333 Micrometeorites
71
34 Interstellar Matter
72
341 Interstellar Dust
73
342 Interstellar Gas
76
343 Interstellar Molecules
77
References
81
Chemical Evolution
86
42 Other Amino Acid Syntheses
89
43 Prebiotic Syntheses of Nucleobases
92
44 Carbohydrates and their Derivatives
100
45 Hydrogen Cyanide and its Derivatives
103
46 Energy Sources for Chemical Evolution
107
461 Energy from the Earths Interior and from Volcanoes
108
462 UV Energy from the Sun
110
463 HighEnergy Radiation
111
464 Electrical Discharges
112
465 Shock Waves
113
47 The Role of the Phosphates
114
472 Condensed Phosphates
116
References
122
Peptides and Proteins the Protein World
125
53 Activation
127
532 Biological Activation
128
54 Simulation Experiments
130
65 Ribozymes
162
66 Criticism and Discussion of the RNA World
165
67 The PreRNA World
167
References
178
Other Theories and Hypotheses
181
72 Hydrothermal Systems
185
722 Geological Background
186
723 Syntheses at Hydrothermal Vents
188
724 Other Opinions
190
725 Reactions under Supercritical Conditions
191
726 FischerTropsch Type Reactions
192
73 The Chemoautotrophic Origin of Life
193
74 De Duves Thioester World
204
75 Prebiotic Reactions at Low Temperatures
208
76 Atomic Carbon in Minerals
210
References
211
The Genetic Code and Other Theories
215
82 The Genetic Code
216
83 Eigens Biogenesis Theory
222
84 Kuhns Biogenesis Models
227
85 Dysons Origins of Life
231
86 The Chemoton Model
235
Basic Phenomena
237
92 The Thermodynamics of Irreversible Systems
240
93 SelfOrganisation
243
94 The Chirality Problem
247
References
254
Primeval Cells and Cell Models
256
102 The Problem of Model Cells
263
1021 Some Introductory Remarks
264
1022 The Historical Background
266
103 The Tree of Life
273
References
280
ExoAstrobiology and Other Related Subjects
283
111 Extraterrestrial Life
284
1112 Extrasolar Life
293
112 Artificial Life AL or ALife
306
113 The When Problem
308
References
310
Epilogue
315
List of Abbreviations
317
Glossary of Terms
321
Index
327
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