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Custodio, Marjorie Z.

DB1 - Genbiol
Magnaye, Ara Marie L. Nov. 08, 2018

Origin of Life: How Life Started on Earth

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In this documentary headed by Mineralogist Robert Hazen, rocks and minerals played a
big role in the origin of life and its evolution into complex creatures. Our planet was formed about
four and a half billion years ago, as a lifeless molten rock and emerged as what it is today through
undergoing extreme chemical changes. Hazen conducts observations from an ancient Moroccan
market to the Australian Outback to prove that as lifeless rocks and minerals can be, without
them, life could not have existed. He considers them as the building blocks of modern civilization.
He divided the evolution of Earth into six (6) stages, each associated with a different color.
The first stage was the Black Earth, formed by rocks. Together with Adam Aaronson, a meteorite
expert, they investigated meteorites or rocks that have fallen from space. In this stage, it was said
that small fragments of orbiting rocks and dust present in the solar system collided and formed a
planet, which is Earth. At first, Earth was molten with hell-like temperature and its surface was
composed of volcanoes that spewed lava. However, because of the cold vacuum of space, these
lava were cooled and covered Earth with the first rock called basalt, which turned its color into
black. Earth has a desolate landscape at this time but some ingredients of life are present in these
rocks which contained minerals.
Because of intense heart, new minerals were formed that shifted the Earth from black to
gray, mainly because of granite, the foundation of the continents. After this, water was present
and turned the gray Earth into a blue one. Since water is solvent, it was believed that it contained
creatures which can interact together. To prove this, Hansen, together with Kranendonk and
Valley, went to find zircons, a chemical with structures that contained evidences of its environment
and age. Old rocks contained zircons which proved that at that time, the earth was a habitable
environment since they could only be formed in the presence of liquid water. This supported
Darwin’s theory that a warm pond might be Earth’s birthplace as it is an environment where
molecules can interact and form life.
This also conformed to Miller-Urey’s experiment about the early Earth’s soup of chemicals.
Flasks containing water and gases were used to simulate the oceans and atmosphere and a
spark was added to represent lightning, an ever-present process on Earth. Chemical changes
happened to the water afterwards. This showed that amino acids, organic compounds that make
up protein, the building blocks of life, were formed. However, scientists found out later that amino
acids can still be formed in a different setting, for instance in an hot, underwater, mineral-rich
vents. This confused the former theory that life started in a small pond.
Mud, formed through rain and soil, can also be associated with Earth’s origin because it
contains clay which has a chemical structure of sheets and spaces that can create more complex
molecules. Minerals in clay provided ingredients and surfaces where chemical reactions took
place. Stromatolites, the earliest fossils of life, has microbes on its top layer that captures minerals
and sand in the water and cement them into solids. The microbes in the stromatolites lived off the
sun’s energy through photosynthesis. The leftovers of those chemical reactions carry chemical
footprints that lead to the formation of oxygen. The iron in the early oceans combined with oxygen
formed rust and sank to the sea, which turned the Earth red.
These interactions once again created new minerals that formed new continents which
were eventually broken down apart and triggered climate change. Life was nearly wiped out as
the Earth turned icy freeze dominated in white. Luckily, the heat emitted by volcanoes melted the
ice. After the ice was melted, about 540 million years earlier, the Green Earth with its diverse
plants and spectacular creatures was born. With different environment, survival of the fittest
became the way of life. The three-person team found fossils of trilobites, the oldest animals ever
discovered, in an unusual rock formation. These trilobites formed shells made up of calcium
carbonate that enabled it to adapt through change. In a beach, Hazen collect shells and fossils of
gigantic sea creatures that existed way back in time. This clearly proves the immensity of life and
constancy of change in our environment.
Through the information gathered by Hazen and other life research experts, the theory
that microbial life helped give birth to hundreds of minerals and creatures and that rocks and life
have an intertwined history, was supported but will still remain a great mystery yet to be unfold.