Science in the News

October 2nd, 2010 | Uncategorized |

Ehrenberg, Rachel. (21 September 2010). Life’s Cold Start. Science News. Retrieved from                                                                         http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/63541/title/Life%E2%80%99s_cold_start

This article discusses new possibilities for the origin of life. Darwin and other scientists have long believed that life probably originated in a very warm setting (if not hot setting) but this study shows that the reactions that could have started life on this planet could possibly occurred in tiny nooks and crevices within ice molecules.

This obviously has many implications for teaching science. To quote the movie “Hitch”, Will Smith says “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been” (even though that line ended up working out badly on a first date, it’s still relevant). This study can be proved relevant to almost any aspect of biology, especially when teaching evolution. In order to best teach evolution, I would start by teaching the origin of life. An RNA molecule that learned how to replicate itself would then want to be enclosed by a membrane. That membrane would clearly be a good adaptation, which could then demonstrate natural selection. If a mutation in the RNA is what caused the membrane to form, then that would be a great example of a beneficial mutation (mutations typically have a bad connotation). The principle behind evolution can explain almost every aspect of biology, and that is a very valuable concept to get across to my students.

I’m thinking I could use this article as a way to get my students to think about how molecules interact with one another. After doing lessons on macromolecules, DNA replication, and possibly protein trafficking, I would have my students read this article and then write a short paper on whether they believe life originated in a cold environment, warm environment, or hot environment, and then justify their answers. This article gives reasons for why life could have possibly originated in a cool environment, but clearly doesn’t answer all the necessary questions. I would grade the assignments based more on their justifications.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/63541/title/Life%E2%80%99s_cold_start

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