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Mica Life Hypothesis

September 22, 2010

A new hypothesis suggests that life began between ultra-thin sheets of minerals.


A possible cradle of life…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Life on Earth might have begun between the sheets … of a mineral called mica. This according to biophysicist Helen Hansma of the University of California at Santa Barbara. She says molecules like DNA fit neatly onto mica’s crystal structure. And in the early ocean, tiny spaces between layers of mica – a million per millimeter – may have shielded organic molecules from the elements.

HELEN HANSMA (University of California, Santa Barbara):
And then the sheets could also move up and down and do work on the molecules between them, and then maybe be an energy source for making big molecules out of little molecules.

She says the mica environment would have provided just the right amount of moisture for cells, and would have been rich in potassium, which is abundant in cells today. She’s now working with other researchers to develop lab models of these processes. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.