Re: Life in the Lab -- Fox and the Nobel Prize

Arthur V. Chadwick (
Fri, 07 May 1999 08:56:11 -0700

Thew absurdity of the proteinoid microsphere route to a living cell begins
not with the proteinoid microsphere for which Kevin claims living
properties, but with the very idea that proteinoids could ever have been a
part of the prebiotic world. In order to make proteinoids you must have
essentially pure amino acids, with a great proponderance of Glu and Asp.
Then you must heat the purified amino acids in the absence of water, then
dump them into water to make the microspheres. Before you get too excited
about the outcome, note:
1) Proteinoids are not proteins; they contain many non-peptide bonds and
unnatural cross-linkages.
2) The peptide bonds they do contain are beta bonds, whereas all biological
peptide bonds are alpha.
3) His starting materials are purified amino acids bearing no resemblance
to the materials available in the hypothetical "dilute soup." (estimated
between .0001 and .000001 g/l -about the range of concentrations in the
mid-atlantic today). If one were to try the experiment with condensed
"prebiological soup," tar would be the only product.
4) The ratio of 50% Glu and Asp necessary for success in these experiments
bears no resemblance to the vastly higher ratio of Gly and Ala found in
nearly all primitive earth synthesis experiments.

Now lets examine the claims of those who feel they are on the track of
creating a living cell

>> 1. "Delineate itself from its environment through the production and
>> maintenance of a membrane equivalent, most probably a rudimentary or
>> quasi-active-transport membrane necessary for selective absorption of
>> nutrients, excretion of wastes, and overcoming osmotic and toxic

This is something a simple membrane of cellophane can do. That does not
make cellophane alive.

>> 2. Capture, transduce, store, and call up energy for utilization (work),

Capturing energy is something any soap bubble or cellophane membrane can
do. Transducing that energy is what happens when it is carried across the
membrane to the inside, where it can be stored, and used for work
(expansion of the bubble). Anyone who has carried out experiments on
osmosis in high school biology class has done all of these with a passive
cellophane membrane.
>> 3. Actively replicate, not just passively polymerize or crystallize, and

If you can explain what you mean by "active" and "passive" process is, I
will understand what the difference between the growth of a crystal and the
growth of a proteinoid microsphere is, in physical terms. The crystal is
supplied with elements externally that then accrue to the crystal and
increase its size. It may also bud off into new crystals as well. The
proteinoid microspheres are supplied with elements externally that accrue
to the microcell and increase its size. It may also bud off into new
microspheres as well. The difference is.....?

>> 4. Write, store, and pass along seemingly conceptual information that
>> orders' for what is to be manufactured in the future, and to actually
>> to pass those processes and "factory products" out of linguistic-like
>> (codon) messages ('recipes') into physical biochemical, biological, and
>> thermodynamic reality."

Here absurdity reaches new heights. Certainly in every sense that
proteinoid microspheres are capable of these things, inorganic crystals are
also. They are capable of giving 'orders' about what is being added in the
future, and actually bringing to pass those processes and products out of
linguistic-like coded messages (ordered arrays of molecules that are part
of the crystal surface) into reality.

Are the cellulose membranes or soap bubbles or crystals alive according to
the above definition?