10-year-old comes up with a novel new chemical

That’s pretty cool in its own right, but the best part is that it sounds like it may have sparked an interest in science for the young girl. #seb #science #discoveries

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5th Grader Accidentally Makes Explosive in Class, Gets Co-Authorship on Subsequent Paper
Kenneth Boehr wasn’t expecting more than the usual from his ten-year-old students when he started a lesson on the Periodic table and handed out the molecule modeling kits. Then Clara Lazen handed him a model constructed from oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon atoms, and asked if she’d made a real chemical or not. Boehr found himself stumped. So he took a cellphone picture of the whole deal, and sent it to an old college buddy: Robert Zoellner , professor of chemistry at Humbolt State University.

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Scientists another step closer to how life on Earth began.

Scientists are closing in on discovering how life got its start on planet Earth. The most recent breakthrough involved figuring out how to synthesize RNA in a way consistent with conditions at that time:

RNA is now found in living cells, where it carries information between genes and protein-manufacturing cellular components. Scientists think RNA existed early in Earth’s history, providing a necessary intermediate platform between pre-biotic chemicals and DNA, its double-stranded, more-stable descendant.

However, though researchers have been able to show how RNA’s component molecules, called ribonucleotides, could assemble into RNA, their many attempts to synthesize these ribonucleotides have failed. No matter how they combined the ingredients — a sugar, a phosphate, and one of four different nitrogenous molecules, or nucleobases — ribonucleotides just wouldn’t form.

Sutherland’s team took a different approach in what Harvard molecular biologist Jack Szostak called a “synthetic tour de force” in an accompanying commentary in Nature.

“By changing the way we mix the ingredients together, we managed to make ribonucleotides,” said Sutherland. “The chemistry works very effectively from simple precursors, and the conditions required are not distinct from what one might imagine took place on the early Earth.”

[…] They mixed the molecules in water, heated the solution, then allowed it to evaporate, leaving behind a residue of hybrid, half-sugar, half-nucleobase molecules. To this residue they again added water, heated it, allowed it evaporate, and then irradiated it.

At each stage of the cycle, the resulting molecules were more complex. At the final stage, Sutherland’s team added phosphate. “Remarkably, it transformed into the ribonucleotide!” said Sutherland.

According to Sutherland, these laboratory conditions resembled those of the life-originating “warm little pond” hypothesized by Charles Darwin if the pond “evaporated, got heated, and then it rained and the sun shone.”

This is a huge breakthrough and puts us one step closer to solving the puzzle. The most amazing part is that it appears as though life is an inherent result of basic chemistry:

Intriguingly, the precursor molecules used by Sutherland’s team have been identified in interstellar dust clouds and on meteorites.

“Ribonucleotides are simply an expression of the fundamental principles of organic chemistry,” said Sutherland. “They’re doing it unwittingly. The instructions for them to do it are inherent in the structure of the precursor materials. And if they can self-assemble so easily, perhaps they shouldn’t be viewed as complicated.”

It seems that given the right conditions, conditions that may be more common than we realize, life is inevitable.