Gabriel Garcia

Every living thing we know of derives from existing biology, but scientists still don’t agree on how abiotic molecules originally bootstrapped themselves into the building blocks of life almost 4 billion years ago. 

"Emergence: A New View of Life's Origin," a new exhibit covering the latest scientific theories about the origin of life on earth, opens this Friday, July 1, 2011, at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque.

SFI scientists led the creation of the exhibit’s scientific content, relying on the latest insights available at the forefront of geology, geochemistry, biology, mathematics, and computation. Development was guided by SFI Professor D. Eric Smith, SFI Science Board Chair Emeritus Harold Morowitz, and SFI Omidyar Fellow Rogier Braakman in collaboration with Museum staff, New Mexico Highlands University media arts students, and Americorps volunteers. The National Science Foundation-funded the exhibit.

Smith says the exhibit covers recent discoveries made possible by the use of improved mathematical and computational techniques. It covers the formation and geologic history of Earth, early life forms, inorganic and organic chemistry leading to life, and the formation of biological structures such as DNA, RNA, and proteins. 

According to Highlands Media Arts Assistant Professor Megan Jacobs, “The exhibit offers insight into important issues like global warming, the potential cure for diseases, and how life could have developed on other planets. Our students grappled with complex scientific ideas to make them visually interesting and understandable for museum patrons of all ages.”

Mimi Roberts, Director for Media Projects at the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, says the exhibit, “allows us to use new technologies to make the exhibit expandable and updatable as new discoveries are made. Origin of life research is happening all over the world, but some of the most important and exciting discoveries are being made right here in New Mexico.”

Visit the online home for the Emergence exhibit, at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History's website 

Read more about SFI's origin of life research (May-June 2011 SFI Update)