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Rigoletto

Primordial life and lower energy state

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People,

The first form of life on Earth came about by combining key molecules together (amino acid chains, etc etc) "by chance", perhaps spanning over a millions years or so. One assumes this requires energy (lightning, heat from a cooling Earth, chemical reactions, Laws of diffusion, etc), but would this process be in opposition to the laws in physics/chemistry where an environment tends to favor lowest states of energy? If so, the low state of energy would favor the opposite of the creation of the first life forms and even evolution. 

I am  a bit puzzled here, and admit confusion so, comments/clariification is much welcome and appreciated in advance.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Rigoletto said:

People,

The first form of life on Earth came about by combining key molecules together (amino acid chains, etc etc) "by chance", perhaps spanning over a millions years or so. One assumes this requires energy (lightning, heat from a cooling Earth, chemical reactions, Laws of diffusion, etc), but would this process be in opposition to the laws in physics/chemistry where an environment tends to favor lowest states of energy? If so, the low state of energy would favor the opposite of the creation of the first life forms and even evolution. 

I am  a bit puzzled here, and admit confusion so, comments/clariification is much welcome and appreciated in advance.

I think this is a very interesting question and, as far as I'm concerned, I understand your puzzlement.

Planets are not closed systems. They're rather thermodynamically characterized by incoming and outgoing fluxes of energy, highly variable due to multiple factors, like the albedo effect, currents and winds, and so on. Organisms aren't closed systems either.

The principle that all systems tend to a minimum energy is only valid for statistical systems that have completely thermalized. That means that disorder has reached a maximum. In those conditions, statistical mechanics does allow you to use the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, which implies that any parts of the system spend most time at their minimum energy. But that's not true in general. Living things store comparatively large amounts of energy in the form of free energy, or usable energy. In biology the most useful form is Gibbs' free energy. E.g., your body stores enormous amounts of mostly ATP, GTP and other tri-phosphate nucleotides ready to be used for anything needed. As soon as they're spent (the phosphates hydrolize,) they're regenerated again by complex chemical cycles. Open systems are more similar to complex self-organizing systems governed by fluxes than to "lazy" thermalized systems.

1 hour ago, Rigoletto said:

"by chance"

I don't understand the quotation marks here.

Also, it's estimated that life took somewhere in the range of 1 billion years to evolve. Very energetic action must have been needed at first. But after the first redox reactions to extract energy from the environment and store it in the form of usable energy (energy stored in chemical potentials) started going, it probably initiated a much more peaceful and quiet cycle of self-maintenance. For life to evolve, one of the most important things you need is reducing power (a donor of electrons) and oxidative power (an acceptor.) Plus a mechanism to cycle everything again. When complexity sets in, there appear other different molecules that play the role of modest oxidative agents, or carriers, that take the electron from one part to another and release it to the more powerful oxidant.

Life is amazingly complicated.

Edited by joigus
minor addition and correction (GTP)

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Why do you think that complex molecules are in a higher energy state than an aggregate of simpler ones?

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Thanks, Joigus, for the explanation and perspective.  Now have a better feel for all of this. 1 billion years is , for most people, unimaginable. Much "chance" can happen. The quotes are meant to mean any type of random interaction, bumping, diffusion, functional groups linking, on and on.   A better word than chance- perhaps exists. But you are right- life is still, such a mystery, although Biologists deserve much credit for their contribution to slowly unraveling the mystery. Their perspective so far has more credibility than others.

4 minutes ago, studiot said:

Why do you think that complex molecules are in a higher energy state than an aggregate of simpler ones?

Many thanks for your reply, Studio. I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that the molecules of life (one example- DNA/RNA) require much investment of energy and organization- higher energy state(?). To me, disorder (stable system/environment) would disfavor that. I  think Joigus clarified that a bit. 

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23 minutes ago, Rigoletto said:

Thanks, Joigus, for the explanation and perspective.  Now have a better feel for all of this. 1 billion years is , for most people, unimaginable. Much "chance" can happen. The quotes are meant to mean any type of random interaction, bumping, diffusion, functional groups linking, on and on.   A better word than chance- perhaps exists. But you are right- life is still, such a mystery, although Biologists deserve much credit for their contribution to slowly unraveling the mystery. Their perspective so far has more credibility than others.

Many thanks for your reply, Studio. I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that the molecules of life (one example- DNA/RNA) require much investment of energy and organization- higher energy state(?). To me, disorder (stable system/environment) would disfavor that. I  think Joigus clarified that a bit. 

 

Take a single carbon atom.

Set fire to it, in a restricted atmosphere.

You now have carbon monoxide, a twice as complicated molecule.

Set fire to that in a higher oxygen concentration.

You now have carbon dioxide, with 50% more complication.

Or consider some molten gold, copper or other metal.

Just let it cool.

The metal solid that forms is effective one superlarge molecule.

Those who promote the idea that everything tends to minimum energy aare journalists, not scientists.

A scientist would say

Which energy ? That is only true of some forms of energy.

And furthermore there is a second driver in the physical universe.

That of maximising entropy.

Sometimes these two drivers work in the same direction, sometimes they oppose and sometimes only one of them is deployed.

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Take a universe uniformly filled with hot plasma(*), with just tiny random variations in temperature and pressure. Allow it to expand and cool. See what marvels crystallise out.

 

(*) Autocorrect made that "hot llama". A universe full of hot llamas?

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39 minutes ago, Strange said:

A universe full of hot llamas?

That would be a mighty interesting universe. :D 

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59 minutes ago, Strange said:

Take a universe uniformly filled with hot plasma(*), with just tiny random variations in temperature and pressure. Allow it to expand and cool. See what marvels crystallise out.

 

(*) Autocorrect made that "hot llama". A universe full of hot llamas?

We really do need separate laughter points.

+1

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Posted (edited)

OK, I had to look up entropy as it has been many decades since Chem.

Regarding Carbon reacting- I learned in Organic that it is very difficult to make C react with anything, so in the example from  Studio  that, C reacts to form CO2, but just how difficult would that be? (Maybe Im stuck on the idea that charcoal will never react with anything in nature being mostly  pure C). 

 

Edited by Rigoletto

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10 hours ago, Rigoletto said:

OK, I had to look up entropy as it has been many decades since Chem.

Regarding Carbon reacting- I learned in Organic that it is very difficult to make C react with anything, so in the example from  Studio  that, C reacts to form CO2, but just how difficult would that be? (Maybe Im stuck on the idea that charcoal will never react with anything in nature being mostly  pure C). 

 

Barbie anyone?

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Sorry for late reply, people. 1st chance this week to get back to the forum. So what does barbie mean, Studio? A doll? Maybe code in the forum , kinda like hot Llama, but I want to know.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/10/2020 at 10:53 PM, Rigoletto said:

Sorry for late reply, people. 1st chance this week to get back to the forum. So what does barbie mean, Studio? A doll? Maybe code in the forum , kinda like hot Llama, but I want to know.

Barbecue, wherein the fuel for the fire is charcoal. Thus contradicting your doubt that charcoal will react with anything in nature.

The contraction "babrbie" is, I think, an Austrlianism and as such should be avoided by any true Englishman. Shame on you Studiot.

Edited by Area54
An afterthought attempt at humour.

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On 6/8/2020 at 8:33 AM, Rigoletto said:

Regarding Carbon reacting- I learned in Organic that it is very difficult to make C react with anything, so in the example from  Studio  that, C reacts to form CO2, but just how difficult would that be? (Maybe Im stuck on the idea that charcoal will never react with anything in nature being mostly  pure C). 

CO2 that is dissolved in water allows reactions that involve Carbon to occur that don't occur in air. Life chemistry is all (mostly?) chemistry within liquid water.

eg Aqueous carbon dioxide, CO2 (aq), reacts with water forming carbonic acid, H2CO3 (aq). Carbonic acid may lose protons to form bicarbonate, HCO3- , and carbonate, CO32-. Reactions involving those ions are not so difficult to initiate.

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