Understanding the Origins of Life

Talk by Professor Nigel Mason of Kent University


10th September 2021


Suffice it to say that Nigel gave us an excellent insight into the subject and involved his audience by asking questions, some of which we were able to answer! He took us through all the elements needed to produce life and then explained that these elements were not only on Earth but are in space.


Asteroids that hit Earth have been found to contain these elements. The meteorite that crash-landed in a driveway in Winchcombe was the first to land in tact for 31 years. Nigel told us that it was treated with great care not to contaminate it. Pieces of it were distributed to establishments in the UK who were able to analyse it and found that it contained many of the elements to form life. It’s from somewhere between Mars and Jupiter and formed about 4.5 billion years ago.


He told us of experiments that have been conducted to produce life by combining these elements including the Miller-Urey one which was performed in 1952 that simulated conditions thought at the time, to exist on early Earth.


It was realised that life could not have formed on land as the ultra violet light would not have allowed life to form. Therefore life must have formed under the sea. He showed us images of hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor where it is thought life may have begun.


He invited us to Goole “Europlanet” and join in the Citizen Science project.


Nigel left us with this thought by Donald Rumsfeld:


“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”


Marilyn Bentley