Biosignatures & Paleobiology: November 2008

Members of NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington, Indiana University, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Teams and their colleagues have revisited the Miller-Urey experiments, and found some surprising results.

A classic experiment proving amino acids are created when inorganic molecules are exposed to electricity isn't the whole story, it turns out. The 1953 Miller-Urey Synthesis had two sibling studies, neither of which was published. Vials containing the products from those experiments were recently recovered and reanalyzed using modern technology. The results are reported in Science.

An ecosystem discovered 2.8 kilometers underground in the Mponeng Gold Mine near Johannesburg, South Africa two years ago has now been shown to comprise only a single species of microbe, existing on energy from radioactivity, completely independently of the Sun. The community of rod-shaped bacteria of the species Desulforudis audaxviator was discovered in 2005-06 by members of the NAI's Indiana-Princeton-Tennessee Astrobiology Initiative (IPTAI) Team. Their current results are presented in the October 10th issue of Science.