Researchers revisit Stanley Miller’s famous spark experiments from the 1950s and find some new results.
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Volcanic lightning may have sparked life on Earth
by Catherine Brahic
NewScientist.com news service
New Scientist Environment
16 October 2008
One of the most famous experiments of all time has just been found to have been even more successful than anyone realised. The Miller-Urey spark flask experiment could hold the key to the origin of life on Earth.
Jeffrey Bada of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and colleagues re-analysed the original 50-year-old samples left by Stanley Miller of the University of Chicago, in 1953 and 1954. His was the first experiment ever to produce amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, from inorganic molecules and a spark of electricity.
Bada’s team discovered more organic molecules than Miller had been able to detect, and also showed that a secondary experiment – one that Miller carried out but never published – offers the best clue to how life on Earth began some 4 billion years ago.