SETI Fw: [evol-psych] New form of pure carbon found in Mexican meteorite; possible player in origin of life

Ron Blue (
Wed, 14 Jul 1999 21:57:34 -0400

----- Original Message -----
From: Ian Pitchford <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 1999 2:38 PM
Subject: [evol-psych] New form of pure carbon found in Mexican meteorite;
possible player in origin of life

> FOR RELEASE: 14 JULY 1999 AT 14:00:00 ET US
> University of Hawaii
> New form of pure carbon found in Mexican meteorite; possible player in
> of life
> A University of Hawaii researcher and her colleagues from NASA's Space
> Division have confirmed that a new form of carbon previously made in the
> laboratory also exists in nature. The finding indicates that the pure
> molecules known as fullerenes could have been a factor in the early
history of
> Earth and might even have played a role in the origin of life. The
> report will appear in the July 15 issue of the British journal Nature.
> also will share their findings with fellow scientists during the triennial
> meeting of the International Society on the Origins of Life July 11-15 in
> Diego, Calif.
> "It's not every day that you discover a new carbon molecule in nature;
> what makes this interesting," Becker says. "If it played a role in how the
> earth evolved, that would be important."
> Fullerenes are soccer-ball shaped molecules (hence their name, which
> geodesic-dome designer Buckminster Fuller) of 60 or more carbon atoms.
> discovery in 1985 as only the third form of pure carbon (along with
> and graphite) earned U.S. scientists Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E.
> and British researcher Harold Kroto the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
> The trio accidentally synthesized these three-dimensional forms of carbon
> molecules in the laboratory while trying to simulate the high-temperature,
> high-pressure conditions in which stars form.
> Scientists hypothesized that fullerenes also exist naturally in the
> Becker, who earlier discovered the presence of fullerenes in deposits at
> site of the Sudbury impact crater in Ontario, Canada, and her colleagues
> able to document naturally occurring fullerenes by exploiting a unique
> characteristic of organic molecules. Unlike their pure-carbon cousins,
> maintain a solid state, fullerenes can be extracted in an organic solvent.
> Becker crushed a piece of the Allende meteorite, demineralized the sample
> acids, and used the organic solvent to extract fullerenes from the
residue. The
> scientists found not only the C60 and C70 molecules believed to be most
> prevalent, but also significant quantities of C100 to C400 molecules. This
> the first discovery of higher fullerenes in a natural sample.
> Because the multiple atoms in the molecule form a hollow, closed cage that
> trap gasses inside, they may have delivered from their stellar birthplace
> the carbon that is an essential element to life and the volatiles that
> contributed to the planetary atmospheres needed for the origin of life. At
> very least, the molecules and their contents will tell scientists more
> the early solar nebula or presolar dust existing when meteorites like
> were formed.
> The research is supported by a grant from the NASA Cosmochemistry Program.
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