This news item was created by students Matthew Martin del Campo, Azubuike Ukabam, Troy Fouche, Melissa King, Josh Weathers and Andrea Schweizer as part of their Chemistry 210 Semester Project in WS99 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 2. Structure and Properties of Organic Molecules.


For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

CARBONS FROM HEAVEN
by Kenneth Chang, Science News from ABC.com, February 19, 1999.


Editorial Comments

Life on earth may indeed have started from organic compounds accumulating on the earth from outer space. A collaborative research project has been conducted by NASA, SETI and Stanford University that proves that some conditions in outer space are conducive to the formation of the substances that may have begun life on earth.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are one of the substances from which life may have originated. Refer to the link to see that the structure of PAH's are flat, large compounds that are similar in structure to benzene. Unlike benzene, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are carcinogenic. PAH's are oxidized in the liver and they can chemically react with DNA. Sometimes, the DNA permanently attaches to the PAH, causing cancer.

Many people wonder where scientists obtain pure PAH's to research. Interestingly enough, they are obtained by isolating them from roofing tar. Scientists with NASA and SETI are charged with the responsibility of obtaining PAH's.

These extensive experiments may prove another creation theory that has not yet been considered by the general population. These scientists may have answered the long-asked question of how life on earth began. Another question to yet be answered is where these meteorites obtained the organic materials that are building blocks for life on earth.


Pertinent Text References
Chapter 2: Structure and Properties of Organic Molecules
Section 2-14: Hydrocarbons
Section 2-15: Organic Compounds containing Oxygen



Questions

Question 1: Diagram the basic structures of ketones, alcohols, and esters.


A. Any textbook.


Question 2: Are the compounds in the PAH's similar to molecules of living things today? If so, what are they similar to?


A. Yes they are similar to aloe, henna, and St. John's wort.


Question 3: Explain the reaction that occurred to form the building blocks of life.


A. UV radiation hits the molecule and knocks out and electron. A chemical reaction occurs that leads to molecules that are more complex. Icy grains containing the organic molecules gather in the comets. The comets hit the earth and spread the organic material.


Question 4: According to the link on meteorites, what evidence exists for life on Mars?


A. Several unusual mineral phases that are known products of primitive microscopic organisms on earth. Structures that could be microscopic fossils seem to support all of this.


Question 5: After reading the article and links, do you believe that there could be life on other planets?


A. What ever you personally believe!!