The Science of The Callisto Incident
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Can clay really make proteins? It can help made amino acids, by trapping minerals in their lattice. And the clay can also help link the amino acids together. In a water solution, an effect called hydrolysis prevents long polypeptide chains from forming. But adding a clay template can help speed up the polymerization (linking of amino acids). Clay has recently been observed to allow long chains of amino acids (and also nucleotides) to form [J.P. Ferris et al., Nature 381, 59 (1996)]. Not only does the clay allow long chains to form, but the same article claims that the minerals actually help bind the amino acids together, mainly by electrostatic interactions. Clays can accomplish other pre-biotic chemistry feats as well [K. Kawamura and J.P. Ferris, J. Am. Chem. Society 116, 7564 (1994)]. And some people have even speculated that clays could actually be alive! Well, in the reproduction sense, anyway...