Through The Wormhole: How Did We Get Here?

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In the next chapter of “Through the Wormhole”  Morgan Freeman asked the ultimate question, “how did we get here?”   “Did the first earthlings rise from a chemical soup bubbling in a primordial pond, or did the seeds of life crash down from outer space?”    The accepted theory for years has been that we arose from this chemical primordial soup.  As we gain more understanding of our universe, we begin to expand on that theory.  We may still have evolved from this chemical soup, but did this chemical soup have its origins on planet Earth?  We have yet to find out how these chemicals evolved into something that is alive.

Freeman said “To solve the mystery of our genesis we have to rewind evolution.  Go back to the time and place the first living beings came to be.”  He takes us back to our solar system 4 billion years ago to the Hadean.  It is named the Hadean because it was “hell on Earth.”  This was the time of the Late Great Bombardment where comets and asteroids were smashing into Earth at thousands of miles per hour. 

Professor Stephen Mojzsis with the University of Colorado geology department believes that it was possible for life to live during the Hadean period.  He paints a picture for us of what Earth would have been like 4 billion years ago during the Hadean period.  The sky would have been red instead of blue, the moon would have been bigger in our sky because it was closer to the Earth, and the seas would be green with high concentrations of iron.  This Earth would have been incapable of supporting human life, but Professor Mojzsis is certain that some life could have survived during the Hadean period. There are environments on earth that life flourishes in extreme environments. 

We study life that existed thousands of years ago by studying fossils, but rocks that survived the Hadean period are hard to come by.  Professor Mojzsis has found an outcrop of Hadean rock in Greenland.  In the rock from this outcrop, he found something very interesting.  He found a carbon life signature.  Freeman explained carbon 12 and carbon 13 or heavy carbon.  Carbon is all around us and in us, but how do geologists differentiate between geological carbon and carbon that is found in living organisms?  Carbon that is found in life is made up of carbon 12 only.  It discriminates against carbon 13.  The carbon that was found in these 3.8 billion year old rocks was made up of carbon 12 only.  Professor Mojzsis has a computer simulation of the late bombardment and it shows that life could have survived. 

What actually caused life to start on Earth?  That is the next question Freeman asked.  In 1953 Stanley Miller and Harold Urey performed an experiment that would simulate how life may have begun on early Earth.  In one flask they put the gases methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water.  They then ran an electrical current through the system that would be like lightning on early Earth.  “Perhaps inspired by the book of Genesis they left their experiment to run for 7days.” The flask that represented the ocean began to slowly change to a brown sludge.  In this brown sludge they found amino acids. 

Jennifer Blank of SETI believes that life “came from the sky at 20,000 miles per hour.”  In 1999 Stardust voyaged to a comet to get a sample of the comet.  Thee samples that they retrieved showed complex amino acids.  She has performed experiments to see if these building blocks of life could survive the entry into the atmosphere along with the impact.  She found that if the comet came in at just the right angle it could survive the impact.  She took a bullet and filled it with 2 amino acids and fired it with just enough power to simulate an impact on Earth.  What she found was exciting! She found that the 2 amino acids that she had in the bullet actually combined to make even more complex amino acids.  “They helped amino acids join together.  Perhaps, even forming primitive proteins.” 

“Why did the tree of life grow in the first place?  To solve that mystery we have to find the seed.”  We are then given a lesson in biology.  Every living organism on Earth shares something in common.  We all have a cell that is surrounded by a membrane.

Dr. Jack Szostak is a professor at Harvard’s school of medicine and a recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology.  He explains that cells have to be surrounded by a membrane or everything inside would diffuse out.  Dr. Szostak is in search of what primitive cell membranes would have looked like, and he turns to the common soap bubble for comparison.  Soap bubbles are made up of fatty acids.  Dr. Szostak recreated the conditions of a geyser in his lab because he believes that the hydrothermal vents could have binded the molecules to make fatty acids.  He then mixed them in with water, salt, and amino acids.  The result of this experiment was tiny hollow bubbles formed.  The chemicals formed membranes, and this could be how the first cell membranes formed.  This may be how the first cell membranes came to be, but as Freeman points out, there can be no life unless cells can grow and divide.  Szostak shook the membranes and the membranes started to expand and grow.

“To be truly alive those cells need one vital ingredient, genes.”  DNA determines everything about life and how it looks.  As Freeman points out, every time a gene divides it places a copy of itself in both cells.  Scientist believe that early life could have originated with RNA which is a single stranded molecule.  RNA is made up of sugar molecules and nuclear molecules.  Scientists for years were unable to reproduce the condition in which sugar and nuclear molecules could have come together.  Finally scientist recreated what early Earth would have been like and were able to produce 2 of the 4 basic building blocks of RNA.

Paul Davies is a cosmologist and he believes that we are not the only forms of life on Earth present day.  He believes that simple life forms as well as complex life forms co-exist on Earth today, and that life has formed many times on Earth.  Paul Davies coined the term “shadow biosphere”, and this is simply a biosphere on Earth that we wouldn’t normally search for life.  It is a microbial biosphere, and the microbial world has not been studied as in depth as our own.  The theory is there may still be living organisms that consist of RNA, and they may go undetected because they do not contain ribosomes.  Ribosomes are used today to detect living organisms.

Felisa Wolfe-Simon is studying mud and searching for “shadow biospheres”.  In 2009 Dr. Wolfe-Simon took a sample of mud from Mono Lake in California, and she found a very high levels of arsenic.  She searched and found the microbe that is able to withstand these high levels of arsenic.  Arsenic resembles phosphorus and it tricks our cells into exchanging one for the other.  The result is fatal.  However, these microbes were able to take in high levels of arsenic, and this would make these organisms seem alien to life on Earth.  Freeman states “They do not fit on our tree of life.”  These bugs could be from a separate genesis from our own.  This would show that life has happened more than once on Earth.

Is life a “cosmic norm”?  Where do the seeds of life come from?  Freeman says the answer “could be out of this world.”  Planetary scientist Benjamin Weiss has pieces of Martian rocks and “he believes that microscopic Martians may have hitched a ride on some of them.”  One Martian rock, ALH84001, is a Martian meteorite that was knocked off of Mars and landed on Earth in Antarctica during the last great bombardment.  The rock is magnetized, and this means that there must have been a global magnetic field on Mars 4 billion years ago.  Our own magnetic field protects us from the sun.  Weiss believes that 4 billion years ago Mars had an atmosphere which would have supported life.  Mars is smaller than Earth so it would have cooled faster than Earth.  Life on Mars could have evolved faster than life on Earth. 

Freeman leaves us with these thoughts; “You and I are the latest chapter of a story that has been unfolding for billions of years.  How that story begins is still unknown.  Did comets seed the Earth with the raw ingredients of life.  Was Mars our original birthplace before we jumped to a new planet, or are we the Earth’s second or third incarnation of life. Aliens might be living among us.  We might all be Martians.  In the end, the stuff of science fiction might lead us to a cosmic truth, and answer that eternal question how did we get here?”

Thank you for reading about this episode of “Through the Wormhole”.  Please feel frClick to visit Redone68 (Sandra) on Twitter!ee to leave comments or suggestions.  The next episode Freeman talks about what we are made of, and it delves into particle physics.  It is sure to be a blast to write about!

Feel free to leave a comment here or click my avatar to visit me on Twitter. Thank you.

RedOne68 (Sandra)

Redone68

Hey Wormholeriders! I like to think of myself as a career student because i've been attending university since I graduated high school many many years ago. I have enough hours to have received a degree, but because I had changed my major 3 times I still lacked enough for a bachelors degree. Medicine was finally where I settled and was attending school to become a nurse when I had to return to work. So, I have an associates in behavioral science and that's all I can say towards an education. I like to think i'm educated on life. I work in the administrative side of healthcare and I enjoy doing that. I have one child and he is the love of my life. Children are truly one of our greatest treasures. I am a twin and my sister doesn't live close enough to me for my liking, but she is not too far away. I am a science fiction junkie!! Ever since I got my first Star Wars x-wing fighter as a child I have been hooked. I was somewhat of a nerd in school and science was always my favorite subject. I dreamed of being an astronaut or a astronomer because I loved looking at the stars and planets. It wasn't long after I started university that I found out I could not do the math that was required to get a degree in astronomy. So, I settled for something more realistic and just decided to watch and learn about the heavens on television. Bio Questions and Answers 1. Handle/Screenname: Redone68 for Wormholdriders and Twitter. Most peoople call me Red and that also works. 2. Education/Awards/Etc: Associates in behavioral science. Let's see awards, does band nerd count?! Lots of awards in music which is my first love. 3. Favorite Stargate characters: My favorite Stargate Universe characters would have to be Dr. Rush and Eli. I like brains what can I say! A close runner up would have to be Chloe. My favorite SGA characters would have to be Dr. Rodney McKay and Lt. Colonel John Sheppard. 4. Favorite Actresses: #1 is Evangeline Lilly. I also like Anna Torv, Ming-Na, Emily Deschanel, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, Meryl Streep, and Meg Ryan. I'm sure the list could be a lot longer, but these are the actresses I watch regardless of the role they are playing. 5. Favorite Actors: Josh Holloway...yes ladies...Josh Holloway!! The rest are Joe Flannigan, David Hewlett, John Noble, Robert Carlyle, David Blue, and Harrison Ford. There are lots more but I could spend all day listing them. 6. Favorite Band/Performers: I am a classic rock junkie! Anything classic is good and my favorite is Led Zeppelin. New stuff is good too. I like Stone Sour, Black Label Society, Disturbed, and even Metallica. With me louder and faster is better! 7. Hobbies: I love outdoors so one of my favorites is camping. It's been a family vacation for 35yrs. I also love to fish but never get to go. Hiking is another thing I like to do when I get to. I do some painting but nothing you would pay money for. 8. Pets: I have a cat named Chloe, yes that Chloe. 9. What's your theme song?: I've never really given this much thought. I can relate to many songs during the course of one week. Today I could say "Another One Bites the Dust". Tommorow maybe a little different. 10. If you could have a sidekick, who would it be?: I'll go off into fantasy land and say Sawyer from "Lost" just because he is so tough and sexy. In real life my everyday sidekick is my son. He's my buddy. 11. Favorite Food: Junk food 12. What would you keep in a utility belt?: Tools of course! 13. Favorite Stargate Episode: I can't really say. I enjoyed the movie but didn't start watching the show until Atlantis. 14. Favorite Stargate Atlantis Episode: All of them. There isn't one that I don't love. This comes from the heart. I have watched the reruns over and over and never skip one! 15. Favorite Stargate Universe Episode: Again, I love all the episodes for this show as well. If I had to pick one this season that I would watch an infinite number of times it would be "Human". 16. Favorite Fringe Episode: All of them! 17. Favorite Caprica Episodes: The first episode was the one that i've enjoyed the most. I watch all of them and enjoy them all, but the pilot was great! 18. What was your sci-fi gateway?: I watched the original "Star Trek" with my mother when I was young, but I didn't get into it until "Star Wars". Yeah, I was a huge fan. I was even in the "Star Wars" fan club. That made me an official nerd! 19. What's under my bed?: A monster i'm sure of it! 20. Favorite TV shows (not Stargate): Lost, Fringe, Caprica, Deadliest Catch, Paranormal State, and Bones. Must see all of them! 21. What is your dream job?: Oncologist because I would love to join the fight against cancer. If I could go back 20yrs and start my education over, I would definately be a healer. 22. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?: On a beach somewhere. I'm not picky. I just need sun and fun! 23. If your life could be written by any author who would it be and what genre?: Easy Stephen King because 1. I love him and 2. my life seems pretty scary at times. I believe King gave away the genre. If not, horror would definately be the genre. I am exaggerating a little of course, but some days seem kinda mad. 24. Favorite movies: "Star Wars", "Empire Strikes Back", the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Gone with the Wind", "Hellraiser", and all the Indiana Jones movies. 25. What are your goals/dreams/aspirations for WormholeRiders.com?: This is going to be something I enjoy and I hope that the readers get some enjoyment out of what I write as well.

2 thoughts on “Through The Wormhole: How Did We Get Here?

  1. Good post. I just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

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