The Asymmetry of Life: From Phase Transitions to Astrobiology

Thursday, April 18, 2013 4 p.m.

Where: Dana Building Room 114

Speaker: Marcelo Gleiser

Organization: Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Dartmouth College

“Life is asymmetric. Amino acids that belong to all living things are “left handed,” while sugars are “right handed”. However, when solutions are synthesized in the lab, they come out 50-50 (racemic). Is life’s chirality an accident, or is it the result of biasing mechanisms that acted during Earth’s infancy? If life exists in other places, will it exhibit the same chiral bias as here? I will examine these questions of fundamental importance to astrobiology, exploring links between prebiotic chemistry and fundamental physics. In particular, I will argue that life’s chirality is a result of the coupling of prebiotic chemistry to the early planetary environment and is thus unique to a particular planetary history.”

Posted in Physics