Are asteroids responsible for the creation of life on Earth? Recent experiments back up a theory that the basic ingredients for life came from beyond the stars... which makes us all aliens. Battlestar Galactica was right!
Scientists have long thought that the Earth wasn't formed with a lot of organic matter, due to the planet's proximity to the sun, but were unsure where we got the necessary chemical compounds for life to thrive on the planet. Now scientists believe that the answers may lie on meteors and comets passing through Earth's atmosphere.
New Scientist reports on experiments carried out by Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and Seiji Sugita of the University of Tokyo, Japan, which suggest that, although organic compounds on the objects would get burned up on atmospheric entry, that's not the end of the story. Schultz:
The idea in the past has been, 'Any of this stuff coming through the atmosphere would be heated to the point where it would get wasted... What this new work did was to show that we might actually revive these compounds.
What Schultz and Sugita believe is that the flashes resulting from objects burning up on entry produces cyanide, which they believe could have reacted with the Earth's already existant compounds to form more complex, carbon-containing molecules that would ultimately prove essential to Earth-based life. It's not as dramatic as cylons and humans landing on our planet, but it's a possible answer to a long-standing question... and an appropriately cosmic origin for life on the planet.
Was life founded on cyanide from space crashes? [New Scientist]