Stanley Miller's Forgotten Experiments, Analyzed

Stanley Miller, the chemist whose landmark experiment published in 1953 showed how some of the molecules of life could have formed on a young Earth, left behind boxes of experimental samples that he never analyzed. The first-ever analysis of Miller’s old samples has revealed another way that important molecules could have formed on early Earth. Watch graduate student Eric Parker talk about the findings and demonstrate a spark discharge experiment.


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  1. Miller produced tars and a  racemic mixture! A poison to life! He also used a trap filtration system. He never even came close to producing proteins! The entire experiment  fails in any sort of unguided natural prebiotic environment!

  2. the origin of life? but we know the answer to that. it all started with a man and a woman in a garden with a talking snake and some vegetarian lions who all appeared out of THIN AIR BY MAGIC approximately 5,900 years ago.
    foolish scientists

  3. Bride of Franken-Miller, or The Test Tube Slime That Wouldn't Die!
    The Miller-Urey Experiment Rises From The Grave
    Remember, this was originally done in 1953, the era of Mushroom Men from outer space, and giant atomic lizards and Amazing Colossal Men. Now science fiction has once again invaded our research labs, trying to resurrect the Miller-Urey Experiment. Can life spontaneously arise from non life? Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Darwin's Science Fiction Theater
    A few problems:
    (1) They still used the wrong gasses: methane, ammonia, and water vapor. For decades, geochemists have not considered it likely these gasses were abundant in the early Earth atmosphere.
    (2) They still ignored the presence of oxygen, which destroys the desired products. Wells explained that oxygen was likely abundant due to photodissociation of water in the atmosphere. The oxygen would remain, while the hydrogen would quickly escape to space.
    (3) Even if trace amounts of ammonia or methane and other reducing gasses were present, they would have been rapidly destroyed by ultraviolet radiation.
    (4) No amino acids have been generated in spark-discharge experiments using a realistic atmosphere of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor, even in the absence of oxygen.
    To this we could add more problems:
    (5) The amino acids produced were racemic (mixtures of left- and right-handed forms). Except in rare exceptions, life uses only the left-handed form. Astrobiologists need to explain how the first replicator isolated one hand out of the mixture, or obtained function from mixed-form amino acids initially, then converted to single-handed forms later. Neither is plausible for unguided natural processes — especially when natural selection would be unavailable until accurate replication was achieved.
    (6) Undesirable cross-reactions with other products would generate tar, destroying the amino acids. Only by isolating the desired products (a form of investigator interference — one might call it intelligent design) could they claim partial success.
    (7) Amino acids tend to fall apart in water, not join. Under the best conditions with cyanamide, Bada and Parker only got dipeptides. Repeated cycles of wetting and drying would need to be imagined for polymerization, but many astrobiologists today think life originated at deep sea hydrothermal vents.
    (8) The desired reagents would be extremely dilute in the oceans without plausible concentrating mechanisms. Even then, they would disperse without plausible vessels, like cell membranes, to keep them in proximity.
    (9) Lifeless polypeptides would go nowhere without a genetic code to direct them.
    (10) The Miller experiments cannot speak to the origin of other complex molecules needed by life: nucleic acids, sugars, and lipids. Some of these require vastly different conditions than pictured for amino acid synthesis: e.g., a desert environment with boron for the synthesis of ribose (essential for RNA).
    See "Squeezing the Last Life Out of the Miller Experiment" at

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