Is it possible that humans and aliens could have the same genetic foundation? Common formation patterns of amino acids in meteorites tell a possible tale of thermodynamic laws with universal applications. If so, what does this really mean in terms of life on other planets? Read on and look up ET’s number, for maybe it is us who will eventually figure out a way to phone home!
According to news sources, a pattern found in the formation of amino acids in meteorites, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and simulations of primordial Earth appears to follow basic thermodynamic laws that are applicable throughout the known universe. This translates into the possibility that humans and aliens may share the same genetic makeup.
In the words of astrophysicist, Ralph Pudritz of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario:
“This may implicate a universal structure of the first genetic codes anywhere. There are exactly 20 standard amino acids; those complex molecules that combine to form proteins, which carry out instructions specified by RNA and DNA… Thermodynamics is fundamental. It must hold through all points of the universe. If you can show there are certain frequencies that fall in a natural way like this, there is an implied universality. It has to be tested, but it seems to make a lot of sense.”
In 1953, ten of these amino acids were synthesized in the famous Miller-Urey experiments, which simulated conditions believed to exist in Earth’s early atmosphere. Considered to be the classic experiment on the origin of life, this project actually took place in 1952 and in 1953; Stanley Miller and Harold Urey published the results at the University of Chicago.
The 10 amino acids synthesized in these early experiments tended to arise at relatively low temperatures and pressures, and are chemically simple. The connection lies in the fact that these same 10 amino acids have also been discovered in meteorites, a fact which has sparked much discussion over their role in the creation of life on Earth and elsewhere. Although the internal conditions of meteorites are unknown, some scientists believe that certain large meteorites are both warm and hydrated, making them somewhat similar to the relatively temperate environment of Earth’s youth.
The debate rages on and is far from settled. New information does serve however, to suggest that basic amino acids are a lot more common than originally thought. The idea that the emergence of life is the same for all living things is no less than mind boggling.
Once again according to Ralph Pudritz:
“The most frequent amino acid that forms is the one that’s least-demanding, energetically. There’s less and less amino acids that require more energy to form. That’s very sensible, from a thermodynamic point of view… If simulations of interactions between these 10 acids indeed support molecules that can copy themselves, then it’s possible that they could support an ur-genetic code on Earth and elsewhere…There’s a possible universality for any code that would use amino acids.”
Irene Chen, a Harvard University systems biologist who specializes in the evolution of molecules, called the work “interesting,” but noted that “in the absence of some experimental backup, it’s generally difficult to know if this kind of analysis is a Panglossian (overly optimistic) argument.”
The only way to test these theories with certainty is of course to support it with experiments performed on aliens themselves. Until that day, no one will ever be able to say for sure.
But for now, saying maybe is astounding enough, don’t you think?