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Surprising Science

Are Volcanoes Responsible for Life?

An experiment carried out more than 50 years ago has revealed that volcanoes may have played a crucial role in the formation of the first organic building blocks of life on Earth.

More surprising than volcanoes’ role in creating life is that the supporting research has been lost for fifty years. “Laboratory samples left over from a 1958 experiment in an American university have revealed, with the help of modern analytical techniques, that scientists had unwittingly discovered that gases given off by volcanoes can be used to make the vital sulphur-containing amino acids of proteins. The discovery is further vindication of the pioneering experiments of Stanley Miller, who as a young graduate student demonstrated that a ‘primordial soup’ of water and a few simple gases can produce the more complex organic molecules of life.”


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