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Primordial Oxtail Soup

The "fetid at home" project.
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Life, eh?

One of the classic experiments in biology was the Miller- Urey experiment, where they brewed up a sterile broth of simple chemicals believed (then) to be present on the early earth, and zapped it with tame lightning. The aim was to see if any life-like molecules would arise and, lo and gadulka, they did. Amino acids and other molecules associated with life were created.

Many similar experiments have been done, with various recipes, and usually without the lightning. The general argument is that, if a litre of brew can produce biomolecules after a short time, then that's a possible indication of how the earliest life could have arisen, given vastly greater space and time in which to arise.

However, none of these experiments has produced life. Nor, given the necessarily small scale of these experiments, is it likely to.

MaxCo. is therefore proposing to implement these experiments on a far larger scale.

Consider the humble tin of Oxtail Soup. It already contains a rich concoction of complex biomolecules and, after sterilization, may spend weeks or months sitting around at comfortable temperatures with very little to do.

If life can arise in the way generally suggested, it seems almost uninevitable that some sort of life would appear, sooner or later, in one of the billions of tins of soups sitting around on shelves throughout the world.

Sadly, such spontaneous life may have arisen many times in the history of canned soup, but been will have gone unreported and, quite possibly, unnoticed.

We are therefore proposing to modify existing soup-tins to facilitate the detection of primitive life. Many possible life-forms will create some form of gaseous emission as part of their biological processes. Therefore, soup tins will be made with a small pop-up dimple in their lids. The dimple will have to be held down while the tins are being heat-sterilised, to avoid being popped by the hot soup vapour; thereafter, however, any up-popping will be a strong indicator of soup-based life.

As a further indicator, the rim of the can will be printed with indicator chemicals responding to pHs different from those of the normal product. As the soup is decanted, a colour change will indicate whether any untoward, and probably biological, processes have taken place.

Approximately 4 billion cans of Oxtail Soup are sold per year, and doubtless Scotch broth, chicken soup and others could be used. That probably adds up to ten billion litres, or more, of Miller-Urey experiments per year.

Some of the current models of the origin of life involve sequestration or adsorbtion of key molecules on the surfaces of clay particles. I am pretty sure that a few milligrams of powdered clay will not interfere with the consumer's enjoyment of the soup.

It could be argued that oxtail soup does not accurately reflect the composition of the primordial seas, and I would find it hard to refute such an argument. Howevertheless, if spontaneous life were detected in soup, it would surely bolster claims that it could have arisen by similar processes in some fortunate rock-pool or oceanic vent.

MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 02 2011

Great, minds think alike! http://www.youtube....watch?v=FZFG5PKw504
[rcarty, Nov 02 2011]


       Regarding the link, the good gentleman has failed to state how he would recognise spontaneous life if it arose.
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 02 2011

       I've always wondered how it would recognize us.
Alterother, Nov 02 2011

       No, that's what evolution is for.
Alterother, Nov 02 2011

       Maybe that's what they're doing wrong. I think [MaxB] has the answer; just let it happen on its own, but expand our scope in the search for it.
Alterother, Nov 02 2011

       Folks, folks, he already dealt with the lightning in paragraph 2.
mouseposture, Nov 02 2011

       Eureka! I have discovered spontaneous life in my canned goods. I dub thee "Clostridium botulinum"
AusCan531, Nov 02 2011

       If this experiment is successful we will know for certain if life is possible.
rcarty, Nov 02 2011

       It's the footprints that give it away.   

       channeling [Vernon]?
methinksnot, Nov 02 2011

       Regarding [rcarty]'s link, I am indebted. I hadn't realized that the early Earth was covered in peanut butter, and it certainly explains a few things (well, five anyway).
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 02 2011

       // If this experiment is successful we will know for certain if life is possible. //   

Alterother, Nov 02 2011

       <obligatory>Waiter, there's a prokaryote in my soup!</obligatory>
pertinax, Nov 08 2011

       If the resulting life form develops sufficiently and progresses towards sentience, [MB] could have an heir in his soup.   

       If sentience isn't a prerequisite, may I say, I've always been inordinately fond of you Uncle Max.
AusCan531, Nov 08 2011

       I shall have to have some very serious discussions with both Sturton and our intercalary twin.
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 08 2011


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