Article  Did life arise more than once? + Quantum physics proposes a new way to study biology

C C Offline
Did life evolve more than once? Researchers are closing in on an answer

EXCERPT: . . . Abiogenesis could have happened more than once. Earth could have birthed self-replicating molecules several times, and maybe early life for thousands or millions of years just consisted of a bunch of different self-replicating RNA molecules, with independent origins, competing for the same building blocks. Alas, due to the ancient and microscopic nature of this process, we may never know.

Many lab experiments have successfully reproduced different stages of abiogenesis, proving they could happen more than once, but we have no certainty of these occurring in the past.

A related question could be whether new life is emerging by abiogenesis as you are reading this. This is very unlikely though. Early Earth was sterile of life and the physical and chemical conditions were very different. Nowadays, if somewhere on the planet there were ideal conditions for new self-replicating molecules to appear, they would be promptly chomped by existing life.

What we do know is that all extant life beings descend from a single shared last universal common ancestor of life (also known as LUCA). If there were other ancestors, they left no descendants behind... (MORE - missing details)

Quantum physics proposes a new way to study biology – and the results could revolutionize our understanding of how life works

EXCERPT: In a complicated, noisy biological system, it is thus expected that most quantum effects will rapidly disappear, washed out in what the physicist Erwin Schrödinger called the “warm, wet environment of the cell.” To most physicists, the fact that the living world operates at elevated temperatures and in complex environments implies that biology can be adequately and fully described by classical physics: no funky barrier crossing, no being in multiple locations simultaneously.

Chemists, however, have for a long time begged to differ. Research on basic chemical reactions at room temperature unambiguously shows that processes occurring within biomolecules like proteins and genetic material are the result of quantum effects. Importantly, such nanoscopic, short-lived quantum effects are consistent with driving some macroscopic physiological processes that biologists have measured in living cells and organisms. Research suggests that quantum effects influence biological functions, including regulating enzyme activity, sensing magnetic fields, cell metabolism and electron transport in biomolecules.

The tantalizing possibility that subtle quantum effects can tweak biological processes presents both an exciting frontier and a challenge to scientists. Studying quantum mechanical effects in biology requires tools that can measure the short time scales, small length scales and subtle differences in quantum states that give rise to physiological changes – all integrated within a traditional wet lab environment... (MORE - missing details)
Magical Realist Offline
Quote:You can pick any random organism, from the lettuce in your salad to the bacteria in your bioactive yogurt and, if you travel back in time far enough, you will share an actual common ancestor. This is not a metaphor, but a scientific fact.

This is one of the most mind boggling concepts in science, Darwin’s unity of life. If you are reading this text, you are here thanks to an uninterrupted chain of reproductive events going back billions of years. As exciting as it is to think about life repeatedly emerging on our planet, or elsewhere, it is even more exciting to know that we are related to all the life beings in the planet.

I have always suspected that the implications of evolution of life on this planet inspire an almost spiritual sense of kinship of humanity with all other living creatures. There is soulful comfort in the fact that we all share this common ancestry with every organism, and arose as a species over millions of years of natural selection. If there is any paradigm or worldview more in tune with ecological and enviromental values this is definitely one of them. We are all bound together by one big experiment called life. Our presence and survival has meaning only as it includes the presence and survival of all other living creatures.

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