Why there might be life out there unlike any on Earth

Tuesday, June 6, 2023 - 10:33 in Physics & Chemistry

Imagine the possibility of life forms on other planets that don’t resemble any on Earth. What might they look like, and why would they be so different? Juan Pérez-Mercader says it may be possible and the answer may be that they developed from a different type of chemistry. For more than 10 years, the senior research fellow in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences and the Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard has studied how to produce synthetic living systems — without relying on biochemistry, or the chemistry that has enabled life on Earth. “We have been trying to build a non-biochemical system, which unaided is capable of executing the essential properties common to all natural living systems,” Pérez-Mercader explained. The Pérez-Mercader lab’s latest study, published last month in Cell Reports Physical Science, even finds such a system engaged in what Charles Darwin called “the struggle for life.” The paper features Pérez-Mercader with...

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