Bringing the Big Bang to SMC

According to the Barenaked Ladies, the musicians responsible for ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ show’s theme song, “Our whole universe was in a hot dense state, then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started, and wait...the Earth began to cool, the autotrophs began to drool, Neanderthals developed tools, we built a wall (and the pyramids), math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries that all started with the big bang!” On Thursday, Nov. 3, the Santa Monica College “Eating Well, How Life Begins, & More: Distinguished Scientists Lecture Series,” featured Dr. David Deamer, a research professor in the Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of California Santa Cruz and author and editor recently featured on NOVA.

Deamer provided listeners with information regarding our Earth, the solar system, and the Big Bang theory.

The author, who has done extensive research in astrobiology, gave an evolutionary narrative of how stars give rise to life.

In the process of his research, Deamer formed some possible answers as to how simple hydrogen atoms 13 billion years ago came to become the planets and complex life forms that we know today.

According to Deamer, solar systems are produced when a giant cloud of dust, known as a nebula, begins to form a star.

The dust that is left over after the creation of the star then starts to form planets.

“There is strong evidence that the moon was formed 4.4 billion years ago when a planet the size of Mars collided with Earth and created so much energy that the earth and the moon were extremely hot and red for an extended period, until they both cooled down resulting in the moon,” said Deamer.

When this happened, the heat was so intense that any organic carbon and water that might have existed disappeared.

But given such incredibly long periods of extreme heat, the question over where and when carbon came into the picture still presents mysteries.

“We think it came from the impact of comets and water vapor coming out from the interior of earth from volcanic action. Go out and look at the ocean. It is comet water. We are quite certain that comets contributed much of the early ocean water as well as some of the organic compounds that were required for the beginning of life,” said Deamer.

According to Deamer, for life to begin, we need monomers, such as amino acids, bases like the bases of DNA guanine, cytosine, adenine, and thymine, carbohydrates and phosphates.

In addition, we also need something to make compartments, which are amphiphiles, a soap-like molecule that both “likes and dislikes” water, or hydrophilic and hydrophobic.

“When you have an amphiphile, you can make membranes, an enclosing that acts as a selective barrier within or around a cell. If you have ever blown a soap bubble, you’ve made a membrane – it’s that simple. It’s called self-assembly. Amphiphiles are required to make cellular compartments,” said Deamer.

When a certain meteroid is opened, you discover the monomers of life, such as amino acids and amphiphiles, that with the addition of water can produce membranes.

“We think that this might have been the compartments available for the origin of cellular life, and that’s really what we are getting at here,” said Deamer.

Deamer also talked about the orbiting satellite Kepler and its main function.

When it sets its focus on a single star, it carefully monitors for little dips in the light coming to Earth from that star, an effect that is caused when a planet passes in front of the star.

The last lecture of the “Eating Well, How Life Begins, & More: Distinguished Scientists Lecture Series” will be on Nov. 22 at 11:15 a.m. in the Science Lecture Hall, room 140 on the main campus.

Hsing-Jien Kung, deputy director of the Cancer Center Basic Science at the UC Davis Cancer Center, will be presenting “Self-eating or Self-killing: How to Trick Cancer Cells to Die.”