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Austin Cline

Creating Life Out of Plasma

By September 24, 2003

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It has long been assumed that life is only a function of combining chemical elements - but what if some of the characteristics of life can arise in other contexts? Researchers have found just that in plasma, suggesting two things. First, the complexity and organization required for life may appear more readily than assumed, and second that life may not have to be based solely on chemicals.

New Scientist explains:

Most biologists think living cells arose out of a complex and lengthy evolution of chemicals that took millions of years, beginning with simple molecules through amino acids, primitive proteins and finally forming an organized structure. But if Mircea Sanduloviciu and his colleagues at Cuza University in Romania are right, the theory may have to be completely revised. They say cell-like self-organization can occur in a few microseconds.
But perhaps the most intriguing implications of Sanduloviciu's work are for life on other planets. "The cell-like spheres we describe could be at the origin of other forms of life we have not yet considered," he says. Which means our search for extraterrestrial life may need a drastic re-think. There could be life out there, but not as we know it.

This is one area where research on the origins of life really hasn't been conducted - and why would it? Who would think to look for this sort of thing in plasma? It just goes to show you how really basic research can provide the most amazing and unexpected information on topics you would never expect to hit upon.

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