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origins of life

3D illustration of a complex atomic structure.
Abstractions blog

Origin-of-Life Study Points to Chemical Chimeras, Not RNA

September 16, 2019

Origin-of-life researchers have usually studied the potential of pure starting materials, but messy mixtures of chemicals may kick-start life more effectively.

Art for "Researchers Rethink Ancestry of Complex Cells"
evolution

Researchers Rethink the Ancestry of Complex Cells

April 9, 2019

New studies revise ideas about the symbiosis that gave mitochondria to cells and about whether the last common ancestor of all eukaryotes was one cell or many.

Photo of Stromatolites
Abstractions blog

World’s Oldest Fossils Now Appear to Be Squished Rocks

October 22, 2018

Evidence for life in 3.7-billion-year-old rocks appears to be crumbling away.

Photo of a diver between two tectonic plates in Silfra. reykjavik. Iceland
geophysics

Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life

June 7, 2018

Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The findings carry major consequences for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

520px for Heavy Late Bombardment
geophysics

Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start

January 22, 2018

A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar system’s beginnings.

Illustration: altered DNA in bears
synthetic biology

Is a Bigger Genetic Code Better? Get Ready to Find Out

January 2, 2018

Evolution settled on a genetic code that uses four letters to name 20 amino acids. Synthetic biologists adding new bases to DNA will be free to improve on nature — if they can.

RNA Peptide 520
origins of life

The End of the RNA World Is Near, Biochemists Argue

December 19, 2017

For decades, an origin-of-life story starring RNA has prevailed. New research may be shaking that theory’s hold on our understanding of life’s beginnings.

origins of life

Life’s First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests

November 2, 2017

Which mattered first at the dawn of life: proteins or nucleic acids? Proteins may have had the edge if a theorized process let them grow long enough to become self-replicating catalysts.

origins of life

First Support for a Physics Theory of Life

July 26, 2017

Take chemistry, add energy, get life. The first tests of Jeremy England’s provocative origin-of-life hypothesis are in, and they appear to show how order can arise from nothing.