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BIOTA INSTITUTE PRESS RELEASE JULY 20, 2022 –
A Property of Planetary Bodies That Can Support an Origin of Life
By David Deamer, Francesca Cary and Bruce Damer
The terms habitability and habitable zone were introduced in 1993 and are now commonly used to describe planets with liquid water in which life might exist. However, even though a planet might be habitable, it does not necessarily follow that life could begin there. To call attention to this gap in our knowledge, we have proposed a novel and related term – urability — to describe planets that are not only habitable but also have a set of conditions that allow life to begin. Urability is introduced in an essay published this month in the journal Astrobiology which describes a series of chemical and physical processes that must exist on a planet’s surface if life is to begin. These conditions are primarily based on what we know of life’s origin on Earth, but also provide a framework for estimating the chances that life might begin on early Mars, icy moons like Europa and Enceladus and thousands of recently discovered exoplanets. The new word is pronounced ur-able, (not yur-able) derived from the German prefix ur meaning primitive, original, or earliest.
Find the full article here:
Urability: A Property of Planetary Bodies That Can Support an Origin of Life
David Deamer: How We’re Studying the Origins of Life
Prof. David Deamer of UC Santa Cruz explains the basic principles and demonstrates the laboratory approaches behind the science in this special interview for Quanta Magazine.
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In Warm, Greasy Puddles, the Spark of Life?
In the Beginning: The Origin & Purpose of Life
For the first time presented to the public, Dr. Bruce Damer illustrates a novel approach to how life started on the Earth, four billion years ago. In this 2015 TEDx Santa Cruz talk he brings the hypothesis to life using the playful example of a Swiss army knife assembling random tools into the first molecular toolset able to divide into living cells.
Explore further how Dr. Damer links the origin of life to Humanity’s future in space in this second TEDx talk on
SHEPHERD, a spacecraft which can encapsulate an asteroid
An excerpt from the Screen Australia documentary Living Universe which features Prof. David Deamer and Dr. Bruce Damer performing origin of life research field work at Bumpass Hell, Mount Lassen Volcanic Park in California. See how their experiments, fail, and then quite possibly succeed in a trial and error process as the hot springs steam.
Find more information on the full documentary
Did asteroids bring life to Earth? | Catalyst
Fifty years ago, a meteorite landed near the town of Murchison in Australia. We now know that some of these ancient space rocks carry complex organic compounds that can form membranous compartments and the building blocks of biopolymers. Deposited in pools on volcanic landscapes on the early Earth four billion years ago, these organics provided some of the starting ingredients stirring a primordial chemical soup into the first cellular life. Using these clues, University of New South Wales researchers Anna Wang and Luke Steller join forces with the University of Auckland to carry out exciting new research at hot springs in Rotorua, New Zealand.
This excerpt is part of the larger Australian documentary series
Catalyst: Asteroid Hunters
Origin of life experiments come to a hot spring near you
In a 2018 collaboration between Dr. Bruce Damer and colleagues from UC Santa Cruz and the University of Auckland, new research on the origin of life is carried out at hot springs in Rotorua, New Zealand. The New Zealand Herald captured this first attempt to bring laboratory experiments to form RNA-like polymers and encapsulate them into lipid compartments in live hot spring conditions.
Find the original New Zealand Herald story here:
Local Focus: American scientist researches the origins of life in Rotorua
HADEAN Volcanic Island featuring hot spring geyser filling a hot cycling pool
This 3D animation by Ryan Norkus and Dr. Bruce Damer is set on a conceptual Hadean volcanic island 4 billion years ago in which a periodic geyser erupts and sends a pulse of acidic water downstream into a pool. We then travel around the edges of the pool to a place where solutes and fatty acids form a “bathtub ring”, a key locale which we believe is important to life getting its start. This piece was rendered in 2014 to illustrate the developing Hot Spring Hypothesis being proposed and tested by Prof. David Deamer, Dr. Bruce Damer and colleagues.