Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stanley Miller dies; Biogenic chemistry lives

The death of chemist Stanley Miller was reported last week, and a number of bloggers commented on his legacy. Miller was an anti-darling of Creationists, owing to his pioneering work (with Harold Urey) on the development of biologically-important molecules from simpler precursors leading to the origin of life. He published the results of his famous experiment in 1953 and Creationists have been denying their validity ever since.

Miller continued his research for decades, but Creationists remain unsatisfied with each new result. I guess that means they will be unfazed by a report in the 11 May 2007 issue of Science, "The Process of Tholin Formation in Titan's Upper Atmosphere." Tholins are hydrocarbon-nitrile aerosols; Titan is the large satellite of Saturn visited by the (unmanned) spacecraft Cassini. The paper discusses evidence for tholin and other complex organic molecule formation in Titan's atmosphere (about 1,000 kilometers up). Here's the line that won't bring a smile to the lips of Creationists:
The chain of molecular growth that we have identified in this study is similar to that first identified in the Miller-Urey experiments.

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