It’s (Almost) Alive! Scientists Create a Near-Living Crystal
2013-02-04 0:00

By Brandon Keim | Wired.com

Three billion years after inanimate chemistry first became animate life, a newly synthesized laboratory compound is behaving in uncannily lifelike ways.

The particles aren’t truly alive — but they’re not far off, either. Exposed to light and fed by chemicals, they form crystals that move, break apart and form again.

“There is a blurry frontier between active and alive,” said biophysicist Jérémie Palacci of New York University. “That is exactly the kind of question that such works raise.”




Palacci and fellow NYU physicist Paul Chaikin led a group of researchers in developing the particles, which are described Jan. 31 in Science as forming “living crystals” in the right chemical conditions.

Their experiments are rooted in the researchers’ interest in self-organizing collective behaviors, which are easier to study in controlled particle form than in schooling fish or flocking birds.

Each particle is made from a microscopic cube of hematite, a compound consisting of iron and oxygen, sheathed in a spherical polymer coat. One corner is left exposed.

Under certain wavelengths of blue light, hematite conducts electricity. When the particles are placed in a hydrogen peroxide bath under blue light, chemical reactions catalyze around the exposed tips.

As the hydrogen peroxide breaks down, concentration gradients form. The particles travel down these, aggregating into crystals that also follow the gradients.

Random forces pull the crystals apart, but eventually they merge again. The process repeats again and again, stopping only when the lights go out.

The ultimate goal of the work is to study how complicated collective behaviors arise from simple individual properties, perhaps informing molecular self-assembly projects, but it’s hard not to think about the origin-of-life implications.

“Here we show that with a simple, synthetic active system, we can reproduce some features of living systems,” Palacci said. “I do not think this makes our systems alive, but it stresses the fact that the limit between the two is somewhat arbitrary.”

Chaikin notes that life is difficult to define, but can be said to possess metabolism, mobility, and the ability to self-replicate. His crystals have the first two, but not the last.

[...]

Read the full article at: wired.com





Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

An Occupied Country
2016-02-06 5:42
When people refer to occupation governments or occupied countries, the first thought is often of military occupation—the garrisoning of foreign troops in one’s cities and civil administration by their military executives. The other vision is the trope of a cabal of Haredim sitting in a darkly-lit boardroom with a map of the world on the wall, a dated reading of ...
Immortal Symbols 1941
2016-02-06 2:07
Youtube description: Dutch film "Eeuwig Leevende Tekens" by Hamer - "Volksche Werkgemeenschap" (Folkish Study Group) - ancestral heritage, solar wheel, sun cross, tree of life, etc. Subs by Otharus - http://fryskednis.blogspot.com Source: youtube.com
Ex-German media boss admits on live radio the national news agenda is govt controlled
2016-02-06 1:32
f you really want a lesson in how the Western popular press works, this is it. Without question, Germany is the leading power in Europe. ZDF is its state broadcaster and most popular channel. Together with sister network ARD; German's are obliged to pay €17.98 per month to fund it. This week, during a radio event in Berlin, the retired head of ZDF ...
British teenager is gang raped by 'Moroccan' men after being dragged into a car in Spain
2016-02-06 1:09
A British teenager claims to have been gang-raped in a Spanish resort after being dragged into a car by a group of Moroccan men, it was reported today. The 18-year-old claimed she was attacked while walking home from work late at night in Sabinillas, near Marbella. Police are said to be investigating a group of Moroccan men in the area. A British teenager ...
8 Ways Racially Diverse Schools Hurt White Kids
2016-02-06 1:02
Description from YouTube: I argue against Mother Jones Propaganda Link to the original Mother Jones Article: 3 Ways White Kids Benefit Most From Racially Diverse Schools Links to all the articles and other citations mentioned in my video can be found here: docdro.id/6CpKvgA Source: youtube.com
More News »