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The State

April 03, 1985

Evidence to support an emerging theory that life on Earth might have evolved from clays, rather than from the primordial seas, was presented in Mountain View by National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists. At a scientific symposium at Ames Research Center, the researchers said they have verified that clay can store and transfer energy--two properties essential for the generation of life. "The functional attributes that we associate with life are not necessarily confined to organic systems," said Dr. Lelia Coyne, a San Jose State University chemist who led the research team. "The recognition that many of the specific functions of living systems can be performed by inorganic molecular systems is forcing us to reexamine, at a real fundamental level, the definition of life," she said. The "clay-life theory," set forth in the 1930s by Soviet scientist A.I. Oparin, challenges the long-favored notion that life emerged from the primitive oceans after millions of years of chemical reactions between simple organic molecules.

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