Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Science  15 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5562, pp. 2006-2007
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5562.2006

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MUNICH, GERMANY-- Overturning long-cherished theories, especially ones that underpin a whole field, can be a thankless task. Few theories are as iconic as the prevailing explanation of how simple chemicals in a cozy puddle of primordial soup first assembled themselves into the precursors of the earliest forms of life some 4 billion years ago. But such an elevated status does not prevent Germany's Günter Wächtershäuser from wanting to tear down the theory and replace it with one that puts the origins of life in seemingly hostile environments such as deep under the sea, on mineral surfaces around hydrothermal vents.