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News Release 10-136

The Secret of Life May Be As Simple As What Happens Between the Sheets--Mica Sheets

Several lines of evidence support the idea that life originated with molecules that lay between mica sheets

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Diagram showing biomolecules (gray structures) between mica sheets (green lines) in primitive ocean.

Diagram of biomolecules between sheets of mica in a primitive ocean. The green lines depict mica sheets and the grey structures depict various ancient biological molecules and fatty vesicles. In the 'between the sheets' mica hypothesis, water may have moved in and out of the spaces between stacks of sheets, thereby forcing the sheets to move up and down. This kind of energy may have ultimately pushed biological molecules and/or fatty acids together to form cells.

Credit: Helen Greenwood Hansma, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Helen Hansma of the University at Santa Barbara discusses why the origin of life is an important topic and her new hypothesis that life started between mica sheets that were embedded in rocks that were sitting in an early ocean.

Credit: University of California, Santa Barbara/National Science Foundation