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Into Titan’s Haze

2 Mar 2021, 15:46 UTC
Into Titan’s Haze
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

I can remember when I first read about the experiment that Stanley Miller and Harold Urey performed at the University of Chicago in 1952 to see if organic molecules could be produced under conditions like those of the early Earth. It was a test of abiogenesis, though that wasn’t a word I knew at the time. Somewhere around 5th grade, I was a kid reading a book whose title has long escaped me, but the thought that scientists could re-create the atmosphere the way it was billions of years ago seized my imagination.
Never mind that exactly what was in that atmosphere has been controversial. What thrilled me was the attempt to reproduce something long gone — billions of years gone — and to experiment to find out what it might produce. I just finished Samanth Subramanian’s elegant biography of J. B. S. Haldane, the polymathic geneticist, mathematician, physiologist (and too much more to list here), whose work on the chemical formation of life was strongly supported by the Milley and Urey results, as was that of the Soviet biochemist Alexander Ivanovich Oparin, to whom Haldane always deferred when asked who should be given priority for the idea.
The biography, ...

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