THE FIRST PLANT - Photosynthesis without sunlight.

THE FIRST PLANT (Photosynthesis without the sun!)

Submitted for your consideration, my speculations on the origins of chlorophyll that were very soon proven true by persons who had no idea that I had predicted their discovery whilst simultaneously I had no idea that they were trying to discover it. What? It is like this. In 2017 whilst rewriting the section on Synonymy, I got to thinking about the spectrum of organic molecules in comparison to the spectrum of light. I had a flash of inspiration. Where, I had been wondering, did chlorophyll come from? What was its original funtion? That’s when it struck me. The spectrum of light! We are not accustomed to thinking of heat as light – but it is! Heat is infrared light. And heat was and still is present beneath the ground and at the bottom of the sea in massive quantities, radiating from the earth’s core and mantle. I thought, What if chlorophyll was first used to harness infrared light? It made sense. Life on earth probably began below ground or under water where it was exposed to infrared light. Any organism that could harness infrared light would have the advantage of an almost limitless source of energy! So, I thought chlorophyll might first have photosynthesized infrared light/heat, and only later, when organisms were exposed to sunlight, did a slight modification of the original chlorophyll molecule allow the use of red light from sunshine, the form of photosynthesis we are so familiar with today. I fancied there were descendents of the ancient infrared-harnesing plants at deep-sea vents, and at hot springs like those at Yellowstone National Park. As it so happened, on February 10th, 2018, Christopher Todd Glenn gave a talk at the JC Raulston Arboretum about a North American Rock Garden Society field trip to Wyoming, with a side trip to Yellowstone National Park. Before the talk I approached Mr. Glenn and asked him what he thought of my notion that chlorophyll might have originally been used to harness energy from heat, infrared light. Mr. Glenn pondered a moment, smiled broadly, then suggested the subject would make a nice Master’s Thesis project for me. I wanted to say, I already have a Master’s Degree, but smiled gratefully and thanked him for taking a moment to consider the idea.

Well well well what do you know, a few months later, as was my wont, I was perusing the topics posted at Science Daily News, when this captured my attention: June 14th, 2018: New Type of Photosynthesis Discovered. And there it was. My speculations had been confirmed! Sort of. The lead researcher was Professor Bill Rutherford, Imperial College, England. “The standard, near-universal type of photosynthesis uses the green pigment, chlorophyll-a, both to collect light and use its energy to make useful biochemicals and oxygen. The way chlorophyll-a absorbs light means only the energy from red light can be used for photosynthesis. Since chlorophyll-a is present in all plants, algae and cyanobacteria that we know of, it was considered that the energy of red light set the 'red limit' for photosynthesis; that is, the minimum amount of energy needed to do the demanding chemistry that produces oxygen. The red limit is used in astrobiology to judge whether complex life could have evolved on planets in other solar systems. However, when some cyanobacteria are grown under near-infrared light, the standard chlorophyll-a-containing systems shut down and different systems containing a different kind of chlorophyll, chlorophyll-f, takes over. Until now, it was thought that chlorophyll-f just harvested the [red] light. The new research shows that instead chlorophyll-f plays the key role in photosynthesis under shaded conditions, using lower-energy infrared light to do the complex chemistry. This is photosynthesis 'beyond the red limit'. Lead researcher Professor Bill Rutherford, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: "The new form of photosynthesis made us rethink what we thought was possible. It also changes how we understand the key events at the heart of standard photosynthesis. This is textbook changing stuff."

For me it was life changing. Bubbling over with excitement, I shared the news with whoever couldn’t get away. John Foushee, owner of Big Bloomers Flower Farm (BBFF) where I worked at the time, was one of my victims. John listened to my story then said with a wry smile, “You should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Mike.” Laughing at my own stupid vanity I replied “Nah, maybe the Nobel Plant Prize.” I must admit, however, all this time later, I still find it very exciting. As Professor Rutherford stated, this has implications for the way we contemplate life on our planet and the possibility of life at distant places of the universe. Our perspective, understanding, and imagination have been broadened. Science requires an open mind – and inspires it too.

Anotado por mjpapay mjpapay, enero 06, miércoles 12:50