Plan Your Day 2014


Could Life Have Started On Mars?

Exhibit Code: GOS-0014
Zone: Science Center
Location: Thomas Gosnell Hall (GOS/008) - Atrium, raised level
Time: All Day
Age Group:

Our exhibit will consist of a scientific presentation for all ages, including a display of the experiment we performed and a discussion about our methods and results. There will be a large poster with our information, as well as photos of the experiment in progress. Interactive activities will involve samples of the chemicals in the experiment, molecular models, and martian rock. We will be discussing the following: " There is a theory that life as we know it did not start on Earth, and instead came from another world by meteorite--this is called the Panspermia theory. A branch of this theory believes that the building blocks for life originated on ancient Mars about 4 billion years ago. Our goal was to lend evidence to this theory by simulating an ancient Martian environment in which organic chemicals could potentially be formed spontaneously. In order to do this, we are using a re-creation of the Miller-Urey experiment. The Miller-Urey experiment was originally conducted in 1952 and simulated what was thought at the time to be early Earth's atmospheric conditions. Stanley Miller and Harold Urey filled a multi-chambered container with carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane gas, and boiling water. The water vapor carried the gases into a large reaction chamber where they were catalyzed by simulated lightning. The gases were then condensed to liquid which flowed back into the boiling water chamber to start the cycle again. After about a week of experimenting, what Miller and Urey found was that the simulated lightning started chemical reactions between the gases, resulting in the spontaneous formation of organic molecules. The success of the Miller-Urey experiment inspired us to use it to test our own hypothesis. Our plan had three parts: First, we re-created the original Miller-Urey experiment as a control, changing the simulated lightning to UV radiation for safety purposes. Secondly, our modern Miller-Urey design was used to simulate ancient Earth with more up-to-date and accurate data. Finally, we changed the simulation to that of ancient Mars and looked for signs of organic molecules. "

Roger Dube, Noah Gubernick, Anika Aftab, Kara Morrison, Sydney VanWinkle, Colby Pastel, Christopher Scofield, Meghan Buldo, Erin Durkin, Chelsea Yanowiak, Paige Belfield, Scott Adelman, Michael Greene, Luke Laffey

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Engineering, Environment, Science, Technology, Multidisciplinary, STEM

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