A team of investigators led by University of Arizona graduate student Sarah Horst has approximated, in a French lab, atmospheric conditions on Saturn’s moon Titan. Through a series of experiments, they bombarded the gases with radiation, producing a number of compounds, including amino acids.

Could these molecules be the basis for the development of life on Titan?

Imagine a puree of plant matter in a blender. Then imagine an army of very tiny tweezers selecting and throwing out most of the important chemicals and elements, like the lipids, vitamins, metal ions, phosphates, sugars, and most of the amino acids. Then add a broad mixture of thousands of other random chemicals to the few remaining but now pulverized and randomized plant-derived chemicals. Finally, imagine tossing the brew into the atmosphere and claiming that it is now ready to serve as a “springboard to life.”1

Imagine no more.

Horst and the other researchers supplied radiation powerful enough to break the triple bond between the two nitrogen atoms that comprise nitrogen gas―a known constituent of Titan’s atmosphere―which freed the nitrogen atoms to bond with other nearby atoms, including carbons.

What was in the resulting concoction? “Assuming there are at least three or four structural variations of each, we are talking up to 20,000 molecules that could be in there,” including a handful of some of the smallest chemical units found in cells, according to University of Arizona information.2….

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