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LIFE ON EARTH

Urey and Miller Experiments


There is evidence that the first living organisms appeared on Earth billions of years
ago. There are many scientific approaches to justify how life began. One theory
engages in the interaction between hydrocarbons, ammonia, and lightning.
Stanley Miller and Harold Urey performed experiments in 1952 and published their
results in 1953. The aim was to observe if substances now made by living things
could be produced simulating the conditions of Earths early atmosphere. The MillerUrey experiment supported the theory of a primordial soup the idea that complex
chemicals needed for living things to develop could be produced naturally on the early
Earth from inorganic molecules under the conditions of early earth. This hypothesis
was initially put forward by Oparin and Haldane called Chemosynthetic origin of life.
The two scientists secured a mixture of water, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen in a
sterile flask. The mix was heated form water vapour. Electric currents moved through
the mixture of water vapour and gases, therefore reproducing lightning. After a week,
the substances of the liquid pool were
evaluated, and they found that amino acids, the
building blocks of proteins were present and
had formed from inorganic raw materials. The
results of the test supported the initial
hypothesises as proteins and living cells were
formed from the inorganic materials.
a. Reason for experiements
Urey and Miller carried out this
experiment in 1952 and published their
results in 1953, to determine if organic
molecules could form in the primitive
conditions of early Earth. Their aim was
to observe if substances made by living
organisms were able to be formed in the
primitive circumstances of Earth. They
wanted to simulate the hypothetical
conditions of early Earth, testing
Alexander Oparin and J.B.S Haldane initial
hypothesis, that complex chemicals needed for living things to develop could be
produced naturally on the early Earth from inorganic molecules under the
conditions of primitive Earth inflicting chemical reactions required in creating
chemical compounds of life: water, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic
acids; Chemosynthetic Origin of Life. Further reinforcing the scientific view of
the origins of life.
b. Results
Miller and Urey were able to produce organic molecules using the simulation of
Earths early atmosphere and conditions. They produced amino acids which are
the building blocks of protein, therefore being the building blocks of life. Their
experiments, along with geographical, biotic, and chemical evidence supported
the theory that the first life forms occurred automatically through naturally
occurring chemical reactions. After a week of analysis, it was observed that 1015% of carbon in a closed system was now in the form of an organic compound,

and 2% of the carbon had formed amino acids. The amino acid findings support
Oparin and Haldanes hypothesis as amino acids are used to make proteins in
living cells. The results from the experiment supported the initial hypothesis
made by Oparin and Haldane.
c. Nature and practice of science
The nature of science refers to asking questions about the world around us and
producing evidence-based answers to these questions in a valid and repeatable
way. It also refers to important ideologies and concepts which stipulate a
description of science as a way of knowing and scientific knowledge. The nature
of science is different to religion and cultural beliefs as science is based on
primary evidence that has been found and further investigated to come up with
theories, questions, and, answers, where as religion is based on belief and what
someone tells you with barely no primary evidence of the time being studied or
believed.
Science is the experimenting of hypothesis and theories about the natural
world. Two of the most talked about fields of science are early Earth and
evolution. The scientific method is the procedure that has characterised
natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation,
measurement, experimentation, and the formulation, testing, and modification
of hypothesis.
Our current knowledge regarding evolution has been achieved through
systematic experimentation and observations that led to the development of
hypothesises that had to be tested. The results achieved by any scientist has to
be tested and repeated, and must be able to achieve the same result. Only
then can the results be validated and accepted. However, if any hypotheses are
found to be incorrect, the theories are rejected and new testable hypothesises
are developed.
The Urey-Miller experiment was important in illustrating the nature and practice
of science, as the experiments performed were under the influence of a testable
hypothesis of the natural world. In this situation Oparin and Haldane represent
the nature of science as they came up with the hypothesis and understood
Earth and its origin. Then the experimentation taken out by Urey and Miller
represent the practice and scientific method, as they tested Oparin and
Haldanes hypothesis to further confirm their theory.
Through their experiment, Urey and Miller showed that amino acids, nucleic
acids and other simple organic molecules were able to be synthesised
organically under primeval conditions with only lightning striking pools, hence
providing the building blocks of life. Miller theorised that a combination of
water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen but no oxygen simulated the
environments of early Earth. The mixture was kept in circulation by constantly
boiling and condensing water. The gases passed through a cavity containing
two electrodes with a spark passing between them. At the end of the week,
Miller used paper chromatography to show that the flask now contained several
amino acids and other organic molecules.
d. Contribution
The original hypothesis proposed by Oparin and Haldane stated that, inorganic
molecules already present on Earth, and under the conditions that already
existed, could combine into organic molecules. Through their experiment, Urey
and Miller were able to prove the original hypothesis. The results of the Urey-

Miller experiments confirmed a theory of the origins of life with substantial


evidence, and refuted the many theories of the origins of life: community clay,
where the first molecules of life were met on clay, and then further elaborated
by Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith, the deep sea vent theory which suggests
that life began at submarine hydrothermal vents emitting out essential
hydrogen-rich molecules, or the idea that life was brought from elsewhere in
space; Panspermia.