Primordial Soup

4100 MYA

The stage is set for life, but how does the play open?

Seeking to answer this question, some scientists investigate liquid and atmospheric chemical combinations that, when sparked, spontaneously generate the components of all life. Others investigate RNA and DNA, key information molecules that make up genes. Yet others explore the potential for life to begin at deep-sea vents, or in "bubbles," meaning greasy, bubble-like, pre-life droplets which might have provided hospitable enclosures. The surface of these droplets permit communication and exchange between inside and outside.

Absorbing solar energy, as well as organic matter from Earth, comets, and asteroids, these pre-life forms become increasingly complex. Growing, maintaining, and self-regulating, they transform subtly, amazingly, into living cells.

Billions of bytes of satellite information allow us to view life today as a planetary phenomenon. (Photograph courtesy NASA)

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