Life’s Soupy Start

Primordial soup? Yum! 


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.


Scientists propose that life on earth started as a warm primordial puddle of life-sustaining compounds. But HOW? 


Zhong Yin and team from ETH Zurich and the University of Geneva wanted to find out. 


They developed a new method of observing the chemistry that may have taken place in said soup. They looked specifically at urea, the main component of urine! They subjected urea to radiation similar to cosmic radiation, high-energy beams that travel through space. 


They found that this radiation turns urea into a more reactive form! This new form can undergo SUPER fast reactions –  less than two hundred QUADRILLIONTHS of a second! This superfast reaction forms malonic acid, one of the building blocks of DNA. 


Understanding this reaction may help explain the first steps of life’s beginnings. Scientists can use this information to explore the rest, like other building block molecules! 


To think, we mighta began in a bowl of PEE SOUP!


Yin, Z., Chang, Y.-P., Balčiūnas, T., Shakya, Y., Djorović, A., Gaulier, G., Fazio, G., Santra, R., Inhester, L., Wolf, J.-P., & Wörner, H. J. (2023). Femtosecond proton transfer in urea solutions probed by X-ray spectroscopy. Nature.