Towards Molecular Complexity: At the crossroads between astrophysics and biochemistry

  • Start: May 2, 2022
  • End: May 6, 2022
  • Location: Haus der Astronomie
  • Host: Thomas K. Henning
Towards Molecular Complexity: At the crossroads between astrophysics and biochemistry

The Origin of Life is one of the most fascinating and challenging scientific questions. Collaborative efforts from observational, laboratory and theoretical studies in various scientific disciplines are needed to begin to address this question. This HIFOL conference will bring together the experts from a broad range of scientific disciplines pursuing OoL studies from astrophysical, chemical, biological, geological, etc. perspectives. A key aspect of this conference is the focus on controversial topics that trigger intense scientific debates and remain unresolved. Our aim is to provide a convenient conference venue for about 40-50 participants (per invitation only) and to give them ample time for presentations and in-person discussions. We have chosen the following key OoL topics:

1. How complex was the prebiotic organic matter and what processes led to its emergence on the early Earth? Exogenous vs. in situ routes for the synthesis and evolution of prebiotic organics on the early Earth.

2. Hydrothermal vents in the first ocean vs. hydrothermal fields on the first continental units and volcanic islands as environments where the first life could have originated.

3. How plausible is the RNA World hypothesis for the origin of life? Are there other biomolecules that could have served as genetic storage, catalysis, and metabolism "carriers"?

4. The role of autocatalysis and autocatalytic sets in the origin of life. The first steps towards abiotic molecular evolution and self-sustained molecular systems.

5. Inferring the principles leading to self-organization, prebiotic aggregates and minimum cell assemblies.

This is a timely initiative, driven by the rapid progress in detection and characterization of exoplanets and their atmospheres, in understanding the chemical complexity in space, new organic synthesis routes toward amino acids, nucleotides, and fatty acids, the role of autocatalysis for the emergence of the first coupled organic synthesis cycles, as well as new insights from paleogeology, biochemistry, biology, etc. We decided to give the opportunity for many young scientists to present review and contributed talks at this meeting, while also inviting more senior colleagues to lead and "ignite" the discussions during the meeting.

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