The National Air and Space Museum used to show this delightful video in its "Life in The Universe" exhibit, in which Julia Child recreates Stanley Miller's famous experiment, cooking up a delicious hot batch of Primordial Soup!
>Julia Child and the Primordial Soup
>Scientists don't yet know how life began here on Earth. Mineralogist Bob Hazen, who is profiled in the October issue of Smithsonian, thinks that rocks were key to the development of life. Reporter Helen Fields wrote:
>It’s the complexity of the hydrothermal vent environment—gushing hot water mixing with cold water near rocks, and ore deposits providing hard surfaces where newly formed amino acids could congregate—that makes it such a good candidate as a cradle of life. “Organic chemists have long used test tubes,” he says, “but the origin of life uses rocks, it uses water, it uses atmosphere. Once life gets a foothold, the fact that the environment is so variable is what drives evolution."
>The Miller–Urey experiment (or Miller experiment) was a chemical experiment that simulated the conditions thought at the time (1952) to be present on the early Earth and tested the chemical origin of life under those conditions. The experiment at the time supported Alexander Oparin's and J. B. S. Haldane's hypothesis that putative conditions on the primitive Earth favoured chemical reactions that synthesized more complex organic compounds from simpler inorganic precursors. Considered to be the classic experiment investigating abiogenesis, it was conducted in 1952 by Stanley Miller, with assistance from Harold Urey, at the University of Chicago and later the University of California, San Diego and published the following year.
>May 15, 1953: Cookin' Up Some Primordial Soup
>1953: Stanley Miller, just 23 years old, publishes his landmark work on the production of amino acids, a necessary component of life, in a jar.
I love how she uses her well-worn chef's knife as a pointer.
The "Life in the Universe" exhibit was on the first floor of the West wing, from July 1, 1976 through March 1, 1979:
It also featured the original "Powers of Ten" movie:
And they had a cool interactive "Pick-a-Star" display that let you press buttons to select hypothetical planetary systems and extraterrestrial life forms:
Did you ever see the "Person to Person" Telephone Exhibit in the History and Technology museum? My mom was a docent at the Electricity Discovery Corner, right next to that. So we'd go to the museums every Saturday!
More photos of the "Life in the Universe" exhibit (it was cool and dark and really great place to hang out if you were stoned):