Scientists Revisit Experiment About Life Formation

More than 50 years after it was first performed, scientists are revisiting a famous experiment which sought to identify the conditions needed for the formation of life. In the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment, a flask containing water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen was heated and exposed to electrical sparks.

Over time, organic compounds including amino acids and sugars formed within the flask — suggesting that warm, wet conditions on the early Earth could have been suitable for creating the basic compounds needed for life.

Now, scientists are re-examining these experiments, including a more detailed look at the compounds formed in Miller and Urey's flasks using modern analytical equipment. Antonio Lazcano, professor of the origins and evolution of life at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, discusses the new work, which was published this week in the journal Science.

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