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Press Release 07-182

Did Life Originate in a Mica Sandwich Sitting in Primordial Soup?

New "soup and sandwich" hypothesis suggests spaces between mica layers may have provided exactly the right conditions for earliest life

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Biological molecules in spaces between mica sheets.

This sketch shows Hansma's hypothesis for the evolution of different types of biological molecules in the many spaces between mica sheets. Image width is ~50 nm.

Credit: Helen Greenwood Hansma, UC Santa Barbara


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Molecules on a mica surface.

Biological molecules tend to bind well to mica. This atomic force microscope [AFM] image shows two yellow molecules on a blue mica surface with a damaged purple-red area on the right, where some of the top [blue] layer of mica peeled off.

Credit: Helen Greenwood Hansma, UC Santa Barbara


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Water with air bubbles is shown between mica layers.

Photo of mica from an abandoned mica mine, with water between some layers, showing edges of mica sheets [e.g., black arrows] and air bubbles in the water [red arrows] and brown bands of organic crud and dirt.

Credit: Helen Greenwood Hansma, UC Santa Barbara


Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (650 KB)

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