Don't Follow (Just) the Water: Does Life Occur in Non-Aqueous Media?

July 6-10, 2015
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125

Workshop Overview:

Is the origin of life a common or even inevitable outcome of the general evolution of structure in the cosmos? Determining the ubiquity of life in the cosmos requires understanding the range of environments within which chemical self-organization and self-assembly of structures can occur. On Earth, liquid water is the medium that allows molecules to interact and assemble the machinery and compartments of life. But is water especially or exclusively suited for the origin of life? Discovering that self-organization and self-assembly of chemical systems occurs in liquid media other than water, even if these did not cross the threshold of life, would argue that life is an intrinsic property of chemical reactivity.

The proposed KISS study is inspired by and in part an outgrowth of our increasing knowledge, through observations and laboratory studies, of Titan as a global system where atmosphere, surface, and interior interact. The Cassini/Huygens mission in particular has led to discoveries of hydrocarbon lakes and seas on Titan, provided evidence for the presence of a water ocean in the interior, and the formation of high-mass organic molecules in the upper atmosphere. These studies have provided a framework for understanding the formation of complex organic molecules in Titan's atmosphere, the organic cycle operating on Titan, and the further chemical evolution that continues to occur on Titan's surface at cryogenic temperatures. This study will investigate whether life could originate in hydrocarbon fluids using Titan as an exemplar of a low temperature exoplanetary surface. It will also investigate other fluids such as liquid and supercritical CO2 suggested to be present on exoplanets.

Workshop Participants:

Note this is an invitation-only workshop.

  • Jack Beauchamp - Caltech Campus
  • Patricia Beauchamp - JPL/Caltech
  • Steven Benner - Fflame
  • Max Coleman - JPL/Caltech
  • Jessica Creamer - JPL/Caltech
  • Floyd Davis - Cornell University
  • Murthy Gudipati - JPL/Caltech
  • Alexander Hayes - Cornell University
  • Bryana Henderson - JPL/Caltech
  • Robert Hodyss - JPL/Caltech
  • Nicholas Hud - Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Andy Ingersoll - Caltech Campus
  • Jeffrey Kargel - University of Arizona
  • James Lloyd - Cornell University
  • Jonathan Lunine - Cornell University
  • Michael Malaska - JPL/Caltech
  • Heather McCaig - JPL/Caltech
  • Victoria Orphan - Caltech Campus
  • Eric Parker - Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Martin Rahm - Cornell University
  • Christophe Sotin - JPL/Caltech
  • James Stevenson - Cornell University
  • Daniel Thomas - Caltech Campus
  • Peter Willis - JPL/Caltech
  • Yuk Yung - Caltech Campus

Short Course Presentations

R. Hodyss

J. Beauchamp

Escape from Waterworld: Chemistry in Hydrocarbons and Supercritical Carbon Dioxide
(17.3 MB .pdf)
Escape from Waterworld: Chemistry in Hydrocarbons and Liquid and Supercritical Carbon Dioxide
(3.6 MB .pdf)

N. V. Hud
Georgia Tech

Is Water Necessary for the Origin and Evolution of an RNA World? A Self-Assembly Approach to RNA: The Challenges and Advantages of Water
(10.4 MB .pdf)

J. Lunine
Cornell University

Titan: The Only Non-Aqueous Bodies of Liquid in the Solar System... or How we know what we know about the clouds, streams, rivers, lakes and seas of Titan
(8 MB .pdf)

C. Sotin

Planetary Environments Where Non-Aqueous Liquids May Be Present
(1.15 MB .pdf)

Workshop Presentations

M. S. Gudipati

Photochemical Pathways: Monomers to Polymers
(25.64 MB .pdf)

J. Lunine
Cornell University

Titan Briefing
(1.5 MB .pdf)

Poster Session

M. Coleman

What Characteristics of Life Might One Observe
(749 KB .jpg)

F. Davis
Cornell University

Nonthermal Chemistry Induced by Visible Light
(2.9 MB .pdf)

M. S. Gudipati

Photochemical Evolution of Condensed Organics in Titan’s Atmosphere and on the Surface. How Earth-Like is Titan?
(7 MB .pdf)

B. L. Henderson

Energetic Processing of Astrophysical Ice Analogs, Investigated via Two-Step Laser Ablation and Ionization Mass Spectrometry
(1.8 MB .pdf)

E. T. Parker
Georgia Institute of Technology

Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography-Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectometry Detection of Hydroxy Acids in Complex Mixtures from Prebiotic Simulation Experiments
(208 KB .pdf)

P. A. Willis

Non-Aqueous Capillary Electrophoresis (NACE) & Chemical Exploration Of Solar System
(25.4 MB .pdf)