Sunday, May 19, 2024

New study: Alien life may not be carbon-dependent


Life on Earth depends on organic compounds. These molecules are composed of carbon and often contain other elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. But scientists have long wondered. Alien life Researchers have long speculated that they may form based on dramatically different chemistry, and that silicon may also serve as the backbone of biology.

It is important to explore these possibilities so that we have an idea of ​​what life on Earth might look like,” says senior study author Betul Kashar, an astrophysicist, bacteriologist and evolutionary biologist at the university. Wisconsin-Madison, according to the Space website. “The American.

The type of chemical reaction that is fundamental to life on Earth is called autocatalysis, autocatalyzed reactions that are self-perpetuating and can create molecules that encourage the same reaction to repeat itself. Life is interested in autophagy Reproduction – an essential aspect of life – is an example of auto-catalysis, “Life stimulates the creation of more life and a cell creates two cells, which can become four and so on. Cells double, the number of possible interactions and variety doubles accordingly.”

The scientists focused on so-called categorical cycles, which can make multiple copies of a molecule, and could use these products as starting materials to help these cycles repeat themselves, leading to self-catalysis, said Chen Ping, lead author of the study. An evolutionary biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: “Proportion is unique because it’s a reaction that creates multiples of production. It’s very similar to reproduction.”

To detect these reactions, scientists analyzed digital scientific documents written in various languages ​​over more than two centuries, and using powerful language search and translation tools, we were able to design and conduct this first-of-its-kind assessment. autogenic studies,” says study co-author Zach. Adam, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Ultimately, the researchers discovered 270 different cycles of autophagy. “The autoreaction may not be very rare, but it may be a common feature of many different environments, even ones that are really different from Earth,” Kasher says.

Most of the 270 cycles do not use organic compounds. Some revolve around non-Earth or extremely rare elements such as mercury or the radioactive metal thorium. temperatures or pressures.

The researchers also discovered four autocatalytic cycles involving the noble gases, which rarely react chemically with other elements. If even a relatively inert gas like xenon can participate in autocatalysis, “there is good reason to believe that autocatalysis occurs more easily in other elements,” Peng said.

Only eight of these cycles were relatively complex and contained four or more reactions. Most of the 270 cycles were simple, each consisting of two reactions, and Kachhar said in a statement: “This type of reaction is considered extremely rare.” “We’re showing that it’s actually not that rare, you just have to look in the right place.”

The researchers noted that multiple cycles can be linked together, even if they are very different from each other. This leads to spontaneous chemical reactions that create a variety of molecules to create a large scale of complexity.

Stuart Wagner
Stuart Wagner
"Professional coffee fan. Total beer nerd. Hardcore reader. Alcohol fanatic. Evil twitter buff. Friendly tv scholar."

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