Wednesday, December 03, 2008

New frontiers in the evolution of life

To me geologists are the greatest of detectives. They work from the tiniest bits of evidence, and painstakingly build their case.

I'd never have the patience.

The NYT profiles advances in geologistt's understanding of the early earth, along with implications for the evolution of life ...
A New View of the Early Earth, Thanks to Australian Rocks -

... Genetic studies of current life support that notion, pointing to an organism that lived in a high-temperature environment as the last common ancestor. That does not mean that life started there, but that is almost certainly where survivors of the giant impacts would have huddled...
The evolution of earthly life has been problematic. We thought the earth dropped below the boiling point and, bang!, life happened.

Too fast. That's why scientists have tried to imagine how prebiotic chemistry could occur outside of the early earth, in the relatively benign environment of outer space.

If the new theories are right, earth cooled a lot sooner than thought, and the massive asteroid impacts of the time might have spared a few extremophiles. Life wouldn't have to reboot every time the oceans boiled.

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