Abiogenesis


Expanded abiogenetic experiment: let us study the origin of life in an enough open system

 
 
 
 

What is it about

A general scheme of an experiment, potentially capable for the first time to create self-reproducing structures (replication) from completely non-organic initial components, is described below. We are looking for partners, ideas, equipment and sponsors for the implementation of the experiment with us in Kharkiv (Ukraine) or in other suitable place.
 
There is a Law or a Power which compels enough diverse and open systems with sufficiently many degrees of freedom and large enough gradients in distribution of system’s parameters to self-organization and self-development (more usual this Power’s name is God) 15

(Hypotesis) 

Background

Origin of life as one of the greatest enigma is obviously the best touchstone for hypothesis of this kind. For more than 60 years since the first experiment (Miller 1953) no radical breakthroughs achieved. As well as diverse attempts to launch replication from RNA, metabolism, sulfides and others give a lot of useful information about dozens biochemical processes — but nothing more. While trying to reproduce the origin of life as a tricky combination of some pre-designed reactions, we arrogantly are trying to guess and recreate the way for which nature has spent a billion years instead of trying to create conditions for a significant acceleration of this path (and to learn in the process).
Numerous repetitions of Miller's experiment with various additions and variations give something like tar; even more numerous and diverse attempts to launch replication from RNA 8, metabolism 9, sulfides10 and others give a lot of useful information about dozen biochemical reactions — but nothing more. While trying to reproduce the origin of life as a tricky combination of some pre-designed biochemical reactions, we arrogantly are trying to guess and recreate the way for which nature has spent a billion years instead of trying to create conditions for a significant acceleration of this path (and to learn in the process).
For any open system capable of self-development according to the above hypothesis, there is a limit of reproducible structures complexity (at least because of the limited size and quantity of matter in the system).
 The idea from the epigraph was formulated 6 in an attempt to express in one sentence the main thoughts of Prigogine4 and von Hayek5, but so far no one, including them, has been able to establish what "many" and "large" may mean in the above formulation. Perhaps this Force has its own field that pervades the universe (in the form of, may be, "dark energy" or "dark matter"), but we are not yet capable of registering it directly - but only as a result, as a "counterweight" to the Second Law of thermodynamics.

 Top-down or bottom-up

Now for clarity let us represent any living creature as a tree branch, starting from it’s zygote, spore, etc. and ending with the death or decay. Somewhere in between these two ends of the "branches" some new (child) branches can start, continuing (in the presence of natural selection’s "blessing") growth and increasing density of branches "up" - in the future. Fluctuations in habitat conditions and "grinding" by selection (evolution is the action of some more general law, which we shall dare to formulate below) permanently improve living, gradually lengthening (or rather, making them more structured or “poly-articular”) “branches” and hence complicating even the simplest organisms.
 
At this time, from current "tops" of these "branches" it is almost impossible (through billions of increasingly complex branching ) to see their common beginning as the most simple replication cycles. The simplest known and available for our study replication cycles are still too far from the original, the first ones. Any detailed study of the composition, geometry and other characteristics of the Rhine in Mannheim gives very little information about Rheinwaldhorn Glacie in the Swiss Alps. Or imagine how any Martian can "guess" the form of the first transistor, picking in millions of current ones constituting any mobile phone processor (which itself is not much surpassing in size the first Bell Lab’s transistor). So while trying to reproduce the origin of life as a tricky combination of some biochemical reactions, we arrogantly are trying to guess and recreate the way for which nature has spent a billion years instead of trying to create conditions for a significant acceleration of this path (and to learn in the process).
 
Most likely, replicators began from some simple vibrations of the "chemical clock" [4] type. Their gradual complexity growth by inclusion of additional degrees of freedom sooner or later lead to the appearance in those cycles (or Eigen’s hypercycle) some auto-catalitic phase, i.e. reproduction. Reproduction naturally started to decrease a quantity of resources available in the discussed place - and therefore, “turning on” the fight for them and natural selection.
 
 
Various kinds of Miller's experiment for a few months give several amino acids and in the time limit – tar, the Earth for a few giga-years produced biosphere. Our task is to accelerate the processes of self-development as much as possible in a system of limited size and mass, up to cycles-replicators obtaining.
 
Thus, similar to the plants finding how to grow toward the light, in a rather complex and different-phased system, subjected to the broadband energy duct with flux density above a certain threshold, replicators in a form of Eigen hypercycles can find their “ways” in a space-temporal “net” of chemical reactions and natural selection should start working. Obviously the simplest replication cycle produced self-copying directly, leaving no place either for “chiken-and-egg” problem nor for mutations, just like stimulated emitted photons are precise copies of initial ones. And only later, under the pressure of both natural selection and above postulated law (although the first is the part of the second) replication cycles were complicated up to modern level.

  Micro-planet : "svityk"

We believe that for enhanced abiogenesis experiment it is necessary to reproduce as much as possible the widest feasible set of physical conditions for a variety of chemical reactions in the gas and liquid phases and on the surfaces of various minerals, including foaming, drying, freezing and wetting with fresh water in confined and isolated volume - namely make a "micro-planet" 15.
So, it is necessary to ensure in the initially sterile environment the circulation of the liquid and gas phases, cycles of drying - wetting, thawing - hardening, periodic condensation of fresh water, foaming, lighting and the impact of electrical discharges in both gas and liquid phases. The circulation of the liquid and gas phases can be easily realized by the heater-refrigerator pairs in each of the phases (cooler 2 - heater 2 and cooler 1- heater 3 in figure below, respectively). Performing dehumidification and wetting with fresh water in conditions of complete and reliable isolation of the volume of the experimental setup from the external environment is significantly more complicated. To implement them, a semi-insulated part of the installation is needed, which we shall call a "dry room" (DR). In it, due to the relief of the "Terra firma", "lakes" with fresh water can be realized. Let the average area of their surface is s1 let the surface area of the "ocean" into the "dry room" be s2, so we obtain for a limited water surface (LWS at figure) in the DR LWS = s1 + s2. LWS quantity will allow us to calculate the required power of the desiccant (or water desalter , it is also the rain generator - RG at figure ). So, RG includes a heater 4 and a part of the cooler 1 placed into the DR, as well as a reservoir for fresh water collecting (and regularly draining it to ice and dry and wet mineral surfaces of “Terra firma 3”, “Terra firma 1” and “Terra firma 2” at figure respectively). This reservoir will be emptied after reaching the level shown in figure and will be filled again with condensate collected.
Foam generator FG at figure can be as simple as (periodically turned in and out) electrical boiler placed under funnel-shaped and curved tube, so that foam produced can reach both “terra firma1” in dry room and “terra firma 2” at wet one. “Terra firma 3” represents an ice produced by Freezer 1. The arrow “Quakes” displays the periodic installations for simulating tides, including impact on “Terra firma” of diluted "oceanic" water by partially mixing the contents of the "lake" with the "ocean" portions. Since the complex of "dry room" will greatly weaken the "sun" light in it, it will need a separate light source, designated by “DR Sun” in figure
So the proposed experimental setup (let us call it for short "svityk"[1]– this Ukrainian word means a small world or "little world") must include at least the "ocean" with a sufficient amount of sea water, "Terra firma" as an island or islands, in addition to the "shores" of "the ocean" with relief, providing space for "lakes" and "shoals" with coating of a variety of minerals, including, of course, sulfides of iron, zinc and other prospective catalysts and photovoltaic substrates, as well as the "dark rooms” both in air and under water as well as different kinds of clays [14].
 
Proposed experiment scheme
 
Then, in such a system, "penetrated" by gradients and mixing, there are many places with different combinations of conditions for the occurrence of a variety of reactions and for their products spreads all over the limited volume of installation. This volume limitation in our "Earth model" by eliminating dilution and increasing gradients gives hope for "compression" of the time-line for several (5-7? – of course linear estimations cannot be correct in this sufficiently nonlinear case) orders, as well as a decrease in “daytime” period and “annual” cycles, for example, to minutes and hours (2-3 orders of magnitude), which in total can give "transformation" or "compression" to the required 7-10 orders to come from 2-3 billion years to acceptable months or years.
We plan to create (design, production, preliminary testing and adjusting - 1 year) and continuous parallel test (second year) of 2-3 geometrically identical "micro planets" with different atmospheres and/or cycling programs for impacts (lighting, electric discharges, "rain", foaming, etc.). A comparison of the changes rates and complexity of the resulting structures will be made by periodically connecting each of the units to a common laser spectrometric system by simile of richness of the absorption, luminescence and scatterings spectra for the liquid phase and by the size and growth rate of nano-particles (big biomolecules), as well as by chemical composition analysis of the resulting "broth". A website for the project will be created for discussions, on-line installations video-broadcasting, posting of spectra received, possible additional or future crowd-funding, etc.
 Similar in terms of implementation, amount of financing needed (about 1 year/100,000 Euro) and the technical effects used, our works (all of them will be used in the proposed project): "Technology to Reduce Foaming in a Boiler", "Compact Boiler Design/Technology"- , "Agitated reactor with in situ nanoparticle size control by light scattering photon correlation spectroscopy" (Ukrainian patent pending). Videos in the first two links show fulfillment of the main quantitative parameters by preliminary (month aged) samples, not final versions.
 
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