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  • Writer's pictureJames Paulson

The Chances of Life: Urey-Miller

Our sun is a star in the Milky Way galaxy. It is one star of about 100 billion stars. That number written out would be 100,000,000,000.

Our galaxy is one galaxy in a universe that we believe now has about 2 trillion galaxies in it. That is 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies out there.

Scientists tell us that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the Earth, and they estimate that there are about 7 sextillion sand grains. That’s a lot of sand.

Yet they tell us that there are 10,000 stars in the universe for every single grain of sand on Earth.

Right now you are on a piece of debris going around one of those stars. In fact you are on the third piece of debris out from that star, and it is not even the largest piece of debris going around that star. There are stars right in our neighborhood that are so large they could consume our entire solar system, just to give you an idea.

No matter how spectacularly we try to describe space, we can never imagine the magnitude of it, except to say we are an insignificant part of it that quite literally could almost not have existed at all, and we are still stuck here trying to comprehend if we are unique or not.

If we really got our act together, we could prove that we are not alone within 100 years, all we need to do is probe for organic matter in likely places, like the poles of the moon and Mars, or on moons like Enceladus and Titan, and with a bit of practice, a comet or two would be a bonus.

According to Wikipedia,

“The Urey-Miller experiment sought to simulate what would happen with the right chemicals and the conditions of the early Earth to simulate what could be made. the experiment used water (H2O), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), and hydrogen (H2).

The chemicals were all sealed inside a sterile 5-liter glass flask connected to a 500 ml flask half-full of water. The water in the smaller flask was heated to induce evaporation and the water vapor was allowed to enter the larger flask. Continuous electrical sparks were fired between two electrodes, in the larger flask, to simulate lightning in the water vapor and gaseous mixture, and then the simulated atmosphere was cooled again so that the water condensed and trickled into a U-shaped trap at the bottom of the apparatus.

After a day, the solution collected at the trap had turned pink in colour, and after a week of continuous operation the solution was deep red and turbid. The boiling flask was then removed, and mercuric chloride was added to prevent microbial contamination. Miller identified five amino acids present in the solution. “

Five amino acids…the building blocks of life….in a test tube.

I must contend therefore that the universe is itself a laboratory for creating life. What is required to sustain and foster life is another story. The planet needs to have the right conditions for life to survive and thrive, like ours does. Things like a magnetic field to protect it from the radiation, and an atmosphere that exists in harmony with all the other life forms on the planet, the same environment that we today are destroying by upsetting the balance of the chemical composition resulting in global climate changes that seek to endanger all life, not just ours.

And I really don’t think we are the first species to fall into this trap, but on the scale of the universe we certainly do not appear to be an intelligent species. An intelligent species would recognize how vital the planet and its environment are to its sustenance and work to protect that because they would realize just how unsustainable the majority of the universe is to its survival.

So while the universe may be a natural environment for the creation of life, it may just be a bit lean on the essentials to keep it around. The amazing thing is that the earth itself has an incredible capacity to self cleanse itself, even of us, and to quite naturally heal itself as well, much as it will do when we are extinct.

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