Frankenstein’s Comet: Sparks of
Perhaps Dr. Frankenstein was on
Aug 21, 2009
monster is brought back to life in
James Whale’s 1931 film adaptation,
with the help of a high-voltage
electricity discharge passing
through his cold lifeless corpse.
Today, doctors use electricity to
shock a stopped heart back into
In 1953, Stanley Miller and Harold
Urey at the University of Chicago
published a paper entitled
“Production of Amino Acids Under
Possible Primitive Earth
Conditions”. The pair explain how
they sealed a sterile flask
containing just four inorganic
chemicals, water, methane, ammonia,
and hydrogen, and then used
electrodes to create artificial
lightning in the vapour.
After a week of operation, the
scientists discovered that a soup of
organic compounds, the building
blocks of life, were created,
including amino acids, sugars and
lipids. Five amino acids were
originally detected, but a recent
reanalysis found a total of 22, the
most common being glycine.
Perhaps comets best mimic the
The inorganic chemicals in the
Miller-Urey experiment have all been
detected in comet nuclei, and just
recently, so has the amino acid
glycine. We know that the Miller-Urey
experiment required artificial
lightning to produce its amino
acids, so perhaps glycine on comets
is evidence of electrical activity
too – no problem in an Electric
First Discovery Of Life's Building
Block In Comet, Science Daily
(August 18, 2009).
experiment (on Wikipedia)
Contributed by Ian
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