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Energy and Environment

Lecture 2
Dr. Mamta Awasthi
• Introduction
• Today we start into our review of the history of Life
• We will look at the origins of the earth and its features that
may have made it suitable for life.
• The layers of atmosphere

• Key Points
• Earth and the Solar System formed at the same time
approximately 4.6 Billion Years ago.
• The earth's size and position made it suitable for life to
• Life probably originated around 3.8 billion years ago.
• The origins of the Universe
• Layers of the atmosphere
Origin of Earth
• Earth, along with the other planets, is believed to have
been born 4.5 billion years ago as a solidified cloud of
dust and gases left over from the creation of the Sun.
• For perhaps 500 million years, the interior of Earth
stayed solid and relatively cool, perhaps 2000°F.
• The main ingredients, according to the best available
evidence, were iron and silicates, with small amounts
of other elements, some of them radioactive.
• As millions of years passed, energy released by
radioactive decay—mostly of uranium, thorium, and
potassium—gradually heated Earth, melting some of
its constituents.
• The iron melted before the silicates, and, being heavier,
sank toward the center. This forced up the silicates that
it found there.
• After many years, the iron reached the center, almost
4,000 mi (mile) deep, and began to accumulate.
• No eyes were around at that time to view the turmoil that
must have taken place on the face of Earth—gigantic
heaves and bubblings on the surface, exploding volcanoes,
and flowing lava covering everything in sight.
• Finally, the iron in the center accumulated as the core.
• Around it, a thin but fairly stable crust of solid rock formed
as Earth cooled.
• Depressions in the crust were natural basins in which
water, rising from the interior of the planet through
volcanoes and fissures, collected to form the oceans.
• Slowly, Earth acquired its present appearance.
A. Nebular theory (LaPlace)

• “...the whole of the matter of the solar system

once formed a globular or spheroidal mass of
intensely heated gases, extending beyond the
orbit of the outermost planet, and having a slow
motion of revolution about an axis. As it cooled
and contracted, its rate of revolution increased,
and this became so great that at successive
epochs it threw off rings, which, owing to slight
irregularities, broke up, and, gravitating together,
formed the planets. The contraction continuing,
the sun, as we now see it, was the result.” (A. R.
Wallace, 1904, p. 112.)
B. Planetesimal Hypothesis of
Chamberlin & Moulton:
• generic condensation produces dust and
smaller bodies
• formation of protoplanetary disc
• "Colder" planetesimals accumulate due to
• Accretion theories: updated planetesimal view
A. Homogeneous vs. heretogeneous
• 1. Homogeneous accretion asserts that the accumulation of
planetisemals initially formed a well-mixed Earth that
began to undergo differentiation as gravitational collapse
resulted in the release of heat. Convection and escape of
heat through surface begins, but as Earth gets too big,
convection cannot handle heat buildup and partial melting
occurs. (Partial melting is required to generate the core
without completely melting the mantle). Fe-rich core
forms, differentiation now begins.
• Hetrogenous accretion theory is the idea that the internal
layering of Earth began in time with denser, Fe-rich
materials to which were added lighter, silicates that
compose the mantle and crust.
The last common ancestor
• When the earth formed some 4.6 billion years ago, it
was lifeless and inhospitable to living organisms.
• One billion years later it was already teeming with
prokaryotic life forms, ancestors to all present living
• What would these early progenitors of life be like?
• If we make the reasonable assumption that the last
common ancestor of all presently living organisms
must have had those characteristics which are now
shared by the organisms which constitute the five
living kingdoms, then a listing of the common
characteristics of living species also describes the
minimum characteristics of the last common ancestor
All life is cellular
• All living things are from 50 to over 90% water,
the source of protons, hydrogen and oxygen in
photosynthesis and the solvent of biomolecules.
• The major elements of covalently bound
biomolecules are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen,
oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.
• There is a universal set of small molecules: (i.e.
sugars, amino acids, nucleotides, fatty acids,
phospholipids, vitamins and coenzymes.)
• The principle macromolecules are proteins, lipids,
carbohydrates and nucleic acids.
• There is a universal type of membrane structure
(i.e. the lipid bilayer)
• The flow of energy in living things involves
formation and hydrolysis of phosphate bonds,
usually ATP.
• The metabolic reactions of any living species is a
subset of a universal network of intermediary
metabolism (i.e. glycolysis; the Krebs cycle, the
electron transport chain)
• Every replicating cell has a genome made of DNA
that stores the genetic information of the cell
which is read out in sequences of RNA and
translated into protein.
• All growing cells have ribosomes, which are
the sites of protein synthesis.
• All living things translate information from
nucleotide language through specific
activating enzymes and transfer RNAs.
• All replicating biological systems give rise to
altered phenotype due to mutated genotypes.
• Reactions that proceed at appreciable rates in
all living cells are catalyzed by enzymes.
How did they get there?
What mechanism(s) could produce such a complex
organism from inanimate matter? Darwin offered two
answers, one public and the other private.
In the final chapter of the "Origin of Species", he wrote
"the Creator... originally breathed life.... into a few
forms or one. ... From so simple a beginning endless
forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been,
and are being evolved".
In private correspondence he suggested life could have
arisen through chemistry "in some warm little pond,
with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light,
heat, electricity, etc. present".
Biologists and paleontologists have
defined five basic questions that need
to be answered when discussing the
origin of life
(1) Where did the raw materials for life come
(2) How did monomers develop?
(3) How did polymers develop?
(4) How did an isolated cell form?
(5) How did reproduction begin?
The extraterrestrial origin of life?
Svante Arrhenius in 1908 proposed the
"panspermia theory" - that life originated on
Earth with the arrival of spores that had drifted
through space from some other planetary or
solar system.
Among those who favor this hypothesis, Francis
Crick argues that the overwhelming biochemical
and molecular evidence suggests that the last
common ancestor was already on earth 3.5 to
3.6 billion years ago when the history of life
began on earth.
Is the Panspermia idea a viable one?
The possibility that life once existed on Mars made much
news last year.
The evidence is questionable but still a possibility.
Is it likely that microbial life came to earth from Mars or some
more distant extraterrestrial source?
"Deinococcus radiodurans, a bacterium highly resistant to
radiation, would be a good vector for panspermia, said Dr.
[Kenneth W.] Minton [of the Uniformed Services University
of Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD].
While drifting through interstellar space for many thousands
of years, it might acquire a shell of interstellar crud that
could protect it [from the intense heat generated] when it
entered some planet’s atmosphere space"
Layers of the atmosphere
• Troposphere. (0 km to 10 km) The lowest shell is the
region of water vapor, clouds, and all of our weather.
• It extends from sea level up to about 18 km at the
equator or about 8 km at the poles. This is a zone of
turbulence and rapid mixing.
• Localized surface heating, topographic rises, and water
phase changes, all cause significant changes in
atmospheric temperature and pressure called
weather. However, the most significant effects are
primarily due to gravity. Because of this, the
temperature, pressure, and density generally decrease
with altitude.
• Stratosphere. (10 km to 50 km) This is the layer
above almost all water vapor where the
temperature rapidly increases with altitude.
• Here the density is low enough that direct
heating by light from the sun is much more
significant than conduction or convection from
below as it was for air in the troposphere.
• This makes it vertically stable and "stratified",
hence the name. This is the zone where most of
our protective ozone layer resides. This
stratosphere extends up to about 50 km.
Mesosphere and Ionosphere
• Mesosphere. (50 km to 80 km) This is the
"middle sphere". Here the temperature again
decrease with altitude This is the zone where
most of our protective ozone layer is produced
by ionizing solar and cosmic radiation. The
mesosphere extends up to about 80 km.
• Ionosphere. Above about 80 km, most of the
particles are ionized by high-energy light from
the Sun as well as cosmic rays. This vast region
is usually broken thermosphere, exosphere and
• Thermosphere. (80 km to 700 km) The thermosphere is
characterized by large temperature variations (> 300°C).
• There are very few molecules and so heat retention is very
• This is the region of the Low Earth Orbit, where the Space
Shuttle, the Hubble Telescope, and many earth observing
satellites reside.
• By human standards, this is almost a perfect
vacuum. However, the few atoms and molecules that exist
here are easily ionized by sunlight and cosmic radiation.
• This ionization leads to the production of the hauntingly
beautiful Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis as well as
the so-called D, E, F1, & F2 layers that make long distance
radio communication possible by reflecting radio waves
back to earth.
Exosphere and Magnetosphere
• Exosphere. (700 km to 5000 km) The exosphere is
the zone from which atoms and molecules are
continuously escaping into space.
• Magnetosphere. (5000 km to >> 60,000 km) The
outermost shell is enormous and is strongly
influenced by the interaction of Earth's magnetic
field and the solar wind. It contains the Van Allen
radiation belts where high energy charged
particles are trapped and concentrated. This is the
region occupied by Geosynchronous Satellites.