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Molecules/Matter & Energy

Sulfur found in life's possible early building blocks, plus fingerprint clues and frozen blood in this week's news

7:16pm, March 27, 2011

Miller-Urey redux: sulfur version

A new analysis of samples left over from a famous experiment done more than 50 years ago may shed light on life’s origins. In the 1950s, chemists zapping a primordial stew of compounds with electricity produced amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Reanalyzing those amino acids using modern techniques reveals the presence of sulfur in the compounds, researchers report online March 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Comparisons to the distribution of amino acids found in some meteorites suggest that hydrogen sulfide played a role in amino acid formation in the early solar system. The work may also inform the chemistry of volcanic plumes, which the famed Miller-Urey experiments simulated. —Rachel Ehrenberg


Fingerprint pick-me-up

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