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Assembling LifeHow Can Life Begin on Earth and Other Habitable Planets?$
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David W. Deamer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190646387

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190646387.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 October 2021

Geochemical and Geophysical Constraints on Life’s Origin

Geochemical and Geophysical Constraints on Life’s Origin

(p.12) 2 Geochemical and Geophysical Constraints on Life’s Origin
Assembling Life

David W. Deamer

Oxford University Press

Bernal's quote is a bit wordy, but he was basically saying that life can be understood as a continuous chemical reaction, and I agree. Throughout this book I will be describing ideas about how life can begin on habitable planets, which are defined as planets with orbits not too close and not too far from a star so that the temperature permits liquid water to exist. The conditions in which life can begin must have sufficient complexity to permit primitive life to assemble from organic chemicals dispersed in a sterile environment which then begin to react and evolve into more complex structures. This chapter will describe the main parameters of geochemical and geophysical complexity, and then consider them in terms of scales from the nanoscopic to the macroscopic. Questions to be addressed: What scales must be considered to understand how life can begin? What are the properties of the scales? How do the scales relate to the origin of life? The physical dimensions related to the origin of life can be described in terms of four scales—global, local, microscopic, and nanoscopic— and these dimensions must be related to the chemical and physical properties of each scale. The global scale is easiest to understand because the parameters are averages of very broad variables. For instance, we can state that the global temperature today is 15° C and even follow changes in the temperature to accuracies of a tenth of a degree on a year to year basis. However, within the global scale are extreme variations between winter temperatures of - 60° C at the poles and summer temperatures of 50° C in Death Valley, California. Of course, even higher temperatures are associated with hydrothermal fields, up to boiling at 100° C, but sometimes nearer to 90° C because the fields are usually at higher elevations associated with volcanoes. Table 2.1 summarizes the main parameters of the global scale on Earth and Mars today and compares their values with those near the time that life began on the Earth 4 billion years ago.

Keywords:   Montmorillonite, clay interfaces, global scale, hydrothermal vents, ionic solutes, local scales

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