The best 'Fundies Say the Darnedest Things' EVER, in which a Creationist almost discovers the Sun:
"One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it. [emphasis added]"But the Sun isnt the only energy source available to life on this planet! Dont forget the 'fire' below our feet, and the science that can happen where that energy is released-- Like at hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean!
Thermal vents' place in abiogenesis didnt totally make sense to me before. I was thinking of their potential contribution as like, a natural PCR machine. When DNA is close to a thermal vent, the high temperature causes the double-stranded DNA to 'melt' into single-stranded DNA. As the ssDNA rises via convection through the thermal column, DNA replication machinery can get in to replicate the ssDNA into dsDNA. Floats down, gets close to the thermal vent again, and the process happens again! Lots and lots of copies! Neato!
Well, um, yeah that 'makes sense'... but it leaves more questions than it answers. Where the hell did the first DNA strand come from? Whered all the replication machinery come from? Whats keeping everything contained? Huh??
Leave it to the folks at NAS to turn a kinda weird idea up on its head and twist it into a viable hypothesis. They go back further than DNA. Further than the RNA World. They go back and try to explain the development of the RNA World itself!
Extreme accumulation of nucleotides in simulated hydrothermal pore systems
hehe So in other words, forget everything I just typed about thermal vents and DNA!
Just picture a hydrothermal vent: a chimney through the earth. But this chimney is composed of a maze of iron-sulfide compartments instead of bricks (is, not maybe, these still exist today). When combined with the energy from the hydrothermal vent, this maze acts like a sieve, first collecting mononucleotides. The nucleotides utilize the abiotic catalysts in the iron-sulfide rock (FeS and NiS) to generate strings of nucleotides: RNA (in their experiments, Baaske easily get strands ~100 bp long this way). As the strands are pushed further away from the thermal vent by convection, the temperature lowers enough that the strands are able to ligate to one another and recombine, exploring the sequence space (all possible base-pair combinations) even further.
This essentially allows hydrothermal vents to turn into little RNA factories! Every possible impossible RNA sequence can be tested. Invented, lost to degradation, and invented again! Impossible events happening all the time! Ribozymes, polymers, replicases, tons of stuff! Abiotically!
Alas, always remember your assumptions! What are these folks needing to assume? The presence of mononucleotides. Drat! The answer to life, the universe, and everything still remains elusive. But as the PNAS commenter so aptly put it:
"...the transition from a solution of small organic molecules to a population of RNAs, now appears much less mysterious than before."Edit 5/31/o7-- Head over to VWXYNot? for more tricks RNA can play!