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Darwin's theory of biological evolution helps us understand how simple life forms can give rise to complex lifeforms, but how did the first reproducing creatures come about? The origin of life needs its own explanation.
Scientists don't currently have a complete explanation for life's origins, but different labs around the globe are looking into the idea that life may have emerged from chemistry. In this animation you will learn why they are studying this idea, and you'll get to see a few of the fascinating things they have discovered.
Here are some links for further learning (organized by topic):
OVERVIEW OF CURRENT RESEARCH
Here David Deamer gives a wonderful overview of our current understanding of the origin of life. This hour long lecture is presented in clear language for all to follow:
News article on the self assembly of gene-like columns: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/12/origin-of-life-rna_n_2670326.html
Video series on the self assembly of primitive cell membranes:
Video interview with chemist Jack Szostak. In it he goes over his work on self-assembling membranes and genes.
Scientific journal exploring molecules with self-assembly properties. (You need a subscription to the journal to get past the abstract)
Video on John Sutherland's production of RNA nucleotides
David Attenborough explores the lives of early organisms found in the fossil record. This video explores the evolution of early organisms but does not go over the origin of the first living things.
This research explores a primitive metabolic pathway which could have easily formed through chemical evolution on the ancient earth (you need a subscription to the journal to get past the abstract) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11084-006-9059-9
Websites for further learning:
This Interactive website outlines many of the discoveries made by life origin researchers. http://exploringorigins.org/
This website explains the research goals and findings of the Center for Chemical Evolution at Georgia Tech: http://centerforchemicalevolution.com/