A Florida biochemist claims to have evidence that life began on Mars and eventually arrived on Earth by way of a meteor.
In his own words, that would mean that—yes—"we are actually all Martians." There is no easy way to break it to you. It is sort of like finding out that you're a wizard, but without the invitation to Hogwarts.
To prove this claim, BBC reports, Prof. Steven Benner is demonstrating "how the first molecules necessary for life were assembled." Apparently, the minerals needed to form RNA would not have been able to withstand Earth's bodies of water. Hence, Mars:
Scientists have long wondered how atoms first came together to make up the three crucial molecular components of living organisms: RNA, DNA and proteins. [ . . . ] RNA needs to be coaxed into shape by "templating" atoms at the crystalline surfaces of minerals.
The minerals most effective at templating RNA would have dissolved in the oceans of the early Earth, but would have been more abundant on Mars, according to Prof Benner.
Brenner, of The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Florida, explained his theory this week at the Goldschmidt Meeting in Florence, Italy, an annual conference that does not typically draw international media attention.
"This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because 3 billion years ago, the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did," he argued, according to the New York Post. He speculated that "there might not have been a story to tell" had life not made its way to earth.
Reactions have been mixed. Outside of the biochemistry community, it's hard not to be charmed by the audacity of Brenner's claim. But among scientists, skepticism abounds. Paul Davies, an Arizona State astrobiologist, described Brenner's theory as "suggestive but not overwhelming." William Bains, an M.I.T. biochemist, called it "a neat idea, but not yet proven," since scientists aren't sure to what extent early Earth was covered by oceans. Nor is Pascale Ehrenfreund, a George Washington University astrochemist, convinced.
Brenner, to his credit, concedes that his theory will be difficult to prove. "Building a time machine will help," he said.
But if we are all from Mars, the question remains: when can we go back?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.