Fundamental question on how life started solved?

May 09, 2011

For carbon, the basis of life, to be able to form in the stars, a certain state of the carbon nucleus plays an essential role. In cooperation with US colleagues, physicists from the University of Bonn and Ruhr-Universitat Bochum have been able to calculate this legendary carbon nucleus, solving a problem that has kept science guessing for more than 50 years.

The researchers published their results in the coming issue of the scientific journal .

"Attempts to calculate the Hoyle state have been unsuccessful since 1954," said Professor Dr. Ulf-G. Meißner (Helmholtz-Institut für Strahlen- und Kernphysik der Universität Bonn). "But now, we have done it!" The Hoyle state is an energy-rich form of the carbon nucleus. It is the mountain pass over which all roads from one valley to the next lead: From the three nuclei of helium gas to the much larger carbon nucleus. This fusion reaction takes place in the hot interior of heavy stars. If the Hoyle state did not exist, only very little carbon or other higher elements such as oxygen, nitrogen and iron could have formed. Without this type of carbon nucleus, life probably also would not have been possible.

The search for the "slave transmitter"

The Hoyle state had been verified by experiments as early as 1954, but calculating it always failed. For this form of carbon consists of only three, very loosely linked helium nuclei - more of a cloudy diffuse carbon nucleus. And it does not occur individually, only together with other forms of carbon. "This is as if you wanted to analyze a radio signal whose main transmitter and several slave transmitters are interfering with each other," explained Prof. Dr. Evgeny Epelbaum (Institute of Theoretical Physics II at Ruhr-Universität Bochum). The main transmitter is the stable carbon nucleus from which humans - among others - are made. "But we are interested in one of the unstable, energy-rich carbon nuclei; so we have to separate the weaker radio transmitter somehow from the dominant signal by means of a noise filter."

What made this possible was a new, improved calculating approach the researchers used that allowed calculating the forces between several nuclear particles more precisely than ever. And in JUGENE, the supercomputer at Forschungszentrum Jülich, a suitable tool was found. It took JUGENE almost a week of calculating. The results matched the experimental data so well that the researchers can be certain that they have indeed calculated the Hoyle state.

More about how the Universe came into existence

"Now we can analyze this exciting and essential form of the carbon nucleus in every detail," explained Prof. Meißner. "We will determine how big it is, and what its structure is. And it also means that we can now take a very close look at the entire chain of how elements are formed."

In future, this may even allow answering philosophical questions using science. For decades, the Hoyle state was a prime example for the theory that natural constants must have precisely their experimentally determined values, and not any different ones, since otherwise we would not be here to observe the Universe (the anthropic principle). "For the Hoyle state this means that it must have exactly the amount of energy it has, or else, we would not exist," said Prof. Meißner. "Now we can calculate whether - in a changed world with other parameters - the Hoyle state would indeed have a different energy when comparing the mass of three helium nuclei." If this is so, this would confirm the anthropic principle.

Explore further: How the hummingbird achieves its aerobatic feats

More information: E. Epelbaum, H. Krebs, D. Lee, Ulf-G. Meißner, Ab initio calculation of the Hoyle state, Physical Review Letters, 2011. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.192501

Abstract
The Hoyle state plays a crucial role in the helium burning of stars heavier than our Sun and in the production of carbon and other elements necessary for life. This excited state of the carbon-12 nucleus was postulated by Hoyle as a necessary ingredient for the fusion of three alpha particles to produce carbon at stellar temperatures. Although the Hoyle state was seen experimentally more than a half century ago nuclear theorists have not yet uncovered the nature of this state from first principles. In this Letter we report the first ab initio calculation of the low-lying states of carbon-12 using supercomputer lattice simulations and a theoretical framework known as effective field theory. In addition to the ground state and excited spin-2 state, we find a resonance at -85(3)  MeV with all of the properties of the Hoyle state and in agreement with the experimentally observed energy.

Related Stories

Extra large carbon

Feb 09, 2010

An exotic form of carbon has been found to have an extra large nucleus, dwarfing even the nuclei of much heavier elements like copper and zinc, in experiments performed in a particle accelerator in Japan. ...

First evidence for a spherical magnesium-32 nucleus

Feb 02, 2011

Elements heavier than iron come into being only in powerful stellar explosions, supernovae. During nuclear reactions all kinds of short-lived atomic nuclei are formed, including more stable combinations – ...

Physicists pin down the proton-halo state in Flourine-17

May 26, 2010

A halo nucleus has one or more nucleons that are only weakly bound to the nuclear core. Consequently, they drift far away from it, forming, in effect, a halo. These nuclei are difficult to study because their lives are both ...

Proton's party pals may alter its internal structure

Nov 18, 2009

A recent experiment at the DOE's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has found that a proton's nearest neighbors in the nucleus of the atom may modify the proton's internal structure.

Recommended for you

How the hummingbird achieves its aerobatic feats

13 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The sight of a tiny hummingbird hovering in front of a flower and then darting to another with lightning speed amazes and delights. But it also leaves watchers with a persistent question: How ...

New terahertz device could strengthen security

Nov 21, 2014

We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures ...

CERN makes public first data of LHC experiments

Nov 21, 2014

CERN today launched its Open Data Portal where data from real collision events, produced by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will for the first time be made openly available to all. It is expected ...

User comments : 54

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TabulaMentis
1.5 / 5 (8) May 09, 2011
Correction. For carbon, the basis of 'most' life.
ShotmanMaslo
4.7 / 5 (15) May 09, 2011
How life started? Sensational much? Carbon nucleus is not life. The article title falsely implies abiogenesis discovery.
J-n
5 / 5 (8) May 09, 2011
Hey, TabulaMentis, just wondering, which life is not carbon based? I am just curious as i thought all life that we knew about was carbon based.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (26) May 09, 2011
Hey, TabulaMentis, just wondering, which life is not carbon based? I am just curious as i thought all life that we knew about was carbon based.
I assume you are talking about life as we normally see it, not ghosts, etc.. Besides that there are a couple that I figured out, but I will release the information on those gems some other time, but non-carbon-based life forms do exist, we just do not see them very often.
J-n
5 / 5 (19) May 09, 2011
I assume you are talking about life as we normally see it, not ghosts, etc.. Besides that there are a couple that I figured out, but I will release the information on those gems some other time, but non-carbon-based life forms do exist, we just do not see them very often.


I see.
Mungaman
5 / 5 (10) May 09, 2011
LOL TabulaMentis.
FTL4Life
3.7 / 5 (3) May 09, 2011
I thought they discovered some arsenic-based life?
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (16) May 09, 2011
LOL TabulaMentis.
I cannot help it if you are not very smart, though it is good to start the week off with a laugh!
Yellowdart
5 / 5 (4) May 09, 2011
Hey, TabulaMentis, just wondering, which life is not carbon based?


Daleks
emsquared
5 / 5 (13) May 09, 2011
I thought they discovered some arsenic-based life?

Not arsenic-based, they found life that can substitute arsenic for the phosophorous molecule in parts of it's bio-chemistry.
Kingsix
4.4 / 5 (7) May 09, 2011
Ah how could I have been so blind? It's so plain to me now that this is know. The purpose of my life that is, the meaning of life.
The meaning of life, the purpose of why we are here is.... to figure out the final digit that completes the number of Pi! Oh that and to party!
nayTall
4.6 / 5 (11) May 09, 2011
i eagerly await the release of your findings, tabulamentis. if einstein had access to the internet, he would have been laughed off forums as well. personally, i hope you've found peanut butter lifeforms, as i do love me some peanut butter.
Doug_Huffman
5 / 5 (2) May 09, 2011
Yeech! Peenut butter smells like mousetraps and aflatoxin.

As to not-carbon based life, one needs only to understand just a little chemical physics to see that only Group 14 the Carbon Group has four valence electrons available to bond and that Carbon only forms arbitrarily long complexes, the others at best form lattice crystals simple compared to carbon ring chains and, at worst, are so late in stellar synthesis as to be rare.

Maybe there will be Silliputty based life but it will be complex enough only to entertain FrankSHerbert for a few minutes. And the rules of the Universe have not been observed as so variable.

Good people ought to be armed as they will, with wits and Guns and the Truth. Retire. Strike! If you moochers can't strike, ask yourselves why?

Graeme
not rated yet May 09, 2011
There is a difference in the energy of the Hoyle state, at http://www.nscl.m...Neff.pdf we read that the exitation energy is 7.654 Mev whereas here it says -85 MeV. So what is the real energy level of this state?
unknownorgin
not rated yet May 09, 2011
This seems to imply that heavy elements can form in large stars without the need for a super-nova.
SemiNerd
5 / 5 (3) May 10, 2011
This seems to imply that heavy elements can form in large stars without the need for a super-nova.

Not so. Elements up to iron release energy when they are formed from lighter elements. Elements heavier than iron consume energy to be created, and any reactions that form them VERY strongly favor iron as the end product...

It is only in the extremely neutron rich environment of a supernovae that nuclei can capture extra neutrons to form heavier elements.
DavidMcC
not rated yet May 10, 2011
I thought they discovered some arsenic-based life?


Arsenic is supposed to replace phosphorus, not carbon, which remins essential. Still, some phosphorus is probably essential.
DavidMcC
5 / 5 (2) May 10, 2011
There is a difference in the energy of the Hoyle state, at http://www.nscl.m...Neff.pdf we read that the exitation energy is 7.654 Mev whereas here it says -85 MeV. So what is the real energy level of this state?

Graeme, I suspect that the -85MeV is the nuclear binding energy of ground state C12. That would mean that the net binding energy of this excited state would be 7.654-85 = -77.346meV, Yes?
DavidMcC
5 / 5 (2) May 10, 2011
"Without this type of carbon nucleus, life probably also would not have been possible."
ShotmanMaslo, the above quote is why I don't think the article was tying to say anything about abiogenesis itself. Rather, they are trying to test the validity of Hoyle's claim that carbon was unlikely to have been made in stellar cores in the first place, a pre-condition for abiogenesis to occur later, on planets formed from the debris of stars in which the carbon was one of the "heavy" elements formed. ("Heavy" only in the sense of being more massive than H and He.)
RealScience
not rated yet May 10, 2011
It is not the article that implies that this is about the start of life. The article is clear that it is just about the creation of one of the necessities of life (or at of least life as we know it).

It just some annoying headline writer who either didn't read the article or didn't understand the article, or who simply didn't care and wanted a more 'sensational' headline.
Javinator
3 / 5 (1) May 10, 2011
i hope you've found peanut butter lifeforms, as i do love me some peanut butter.


Peanut butter is carbon based ;)
Modernmystic
1.4 / 5 (5) May 10, 2011
You people make fun of good old TabulaMentis for his statements that there is non-carbon based life (and rightly so), but the fact of the matter is I've seen most of you use the same logic to say that you're quite sure life exists beyond the Earth.

Gave me a chuckle...
Royale
5 / 5 (3) May 10, 2011
Modern,
I don't quite follow your logic. How would extra-terrestrial life be argued that would give you the impression that anyone was arguing against carbon based life? While it may be possible for life to exist in some yet-unknown way, I still don't see how the logic arguments even compare? He gave no evidence or reason why it might exist, just that he knew. How is that in any way like arguing for the *probability* of life existing off Terra.
emsquared
5 / 5 (10) May 10, 2011
You people make fun of good old TabulaMentis for his statements that there is non-carbon based life (and rightly so), but the fact of the matter is I've seen most of you use the same logic to say that you're quite sure life exists beyond the Earth.

Gave me a chuckle...

I'm pretty sure people are making fun of him because he says he figured it out but is withholding that "gem" for later...
TabulaMentis
1.4 / 5 (9) May 10, 2011
You people make fun of good old TabulaMentis for his statements that there is non-carbon based life (and rightly so), but the fact of the matter is I've seen most of you use the same logic to say that you're quite sure life exists beyond the Earth. Gave me a chuckle...
Chuckle all you want, but I have personally seen three different types/technology, plus twice seen ETs appear/disappear before my eyes sort of like in StarTrek. All of this is related to my research. I do not want to get into the details now. That is why I am holding-out.
J-n
5 / 5 (4) May 10, 2011
Modernmystic - Most folks here who talk about ETs also use Qualifiers in their statements. You know things like "I think" "I would guess" "My guess is" "I Believe" "My thinking is" etc...

I hope this helps clarify the difference between someone who says "I know" "I have found out" "I have discovered" "I have witnessed" and the qualifiers listed above.
Modernmystic
4.3 / 5 (7) May 10, 2011
You people make fun of good old TabulaMentis for his statements that there is non-carbon based life (and rightly so), but the fact of the matter is I've seen most of you use the same logic to say that you're quite sure life exists beyond the Earth. Gave me a chuckle...
Chuckle all you want, but I have personally seen three different types/technology, plus twice seen ETs appear/disappear before my eyes sort of like in StarTrek. All of this is related to my research. I do not want to get into the details now. That is why I am holding-out.


I highly recommend you seek professional help. I'm not kidding at all here, they can help you if you let them.
TabulaMentis
2 / 5 (4) May 10, 2011
I highly recommend you seek professional help. I'm not kidding at all here, they can help you if you let them.
So you are one of those who believe earth including humans are at the center of the universe? Maybe you think the earth is flat?
Modernmystic
3.4 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011
I highly recommend you seek professional help. I'm not kidding at all here, they can help you if you let them.
So you are one of those who believe earth including humans are at the center of the universe? Maybe you think the earth is flat?


No I'm one of those who sincerely cares about people, and when they exhibit clear signs of mental illness I encourage them to seek the help they need. I'm not trying to ridicule you or make fun of you, but honestly trying to help you.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
No I'm one of those who sincerely cares about people, and when they exhibit clear signs of mental illness I encourage them to seek the help they need. I'm not trying to ridicule you or make fun of you, but honestly trying to help you.
Thanks for the stupid advice. I think you need to take some of those brain pills so you will become smarter. Then I suggest you start studying M-theory or something!
Believing is seeing. I love it when people say teleportation is fantasy. And also when people say UFOs do not exist. I have not seen a flying saucer, but I have seen several other things that are just as amazing, if not even more, especially one of them.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (4) May 11, 2011
Another thing or two. Future teleporters will not teleport the carbon atoms, only the information about the carbon atoms. Then when someone is teleported to another parallel universe where carbon is not the basis of all life, then that information will be applied to the particles that are the basis of life in that universe. Do ghosts scare you? LOL
PaulieMac
5 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
Thanks for the clarification... I was up all night worrying about future teleporters wishing to gain access to parallel universes. Phew!
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (8) May 11, 2011
Thanks for the clarification... I was up all night worrying about future teleporters wishing to gain access to parallel universes. Phew!
Those future teleporters will also be used as immortalizers, replicators, time machines, reincarnators, alchemisers and mind readers. We need to read Modernmystic's mind to see why he or she is so stupid.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (6) May 11, 2011
I'm pretty sure people are making fun of him because he says he figured it out but is withholding that "gem" for later.
You know, it is all about money, right? Though some are genuinely curious. However, I would say most are looking for something for nothing like many of those big bangers, right? After I found illegal tracking devices in my vehicle and discovered the news media was illegally spying on me inside my home, I stopped being so generous! Who in the Hell works for twenty years for nothing, really? Your right, it is a great big joke, except I am very serious! So go ahead and give me a bunch of one stars if it turns you on! Next thing you know Modernmystic will say microphones have not been invented yet!
Skultch
5 / 5 (6) May 12, 2011
I have personally seen three different types/technology, plus twice seen ETs appear/disappear before my eyes sort of like in StarTrek


After I found illegal tracking devices in my vehicle and discovered the news media was illegally spying on me inside my home, I stopped being so generous!


Are these the only 'strange' things that happen to you?

My brother claims almost identical experiences. He has paranoid schizophrenia. The difference is that he now knows it and can identify his delusions and hallucinations. Usually.

Twenty years you've been working on this? I genuinely feel sorry for you. Have you ever sought a professional opinion on your mental state? What could it hurt, besides the momentum you feel?

Or, are you just a con artist "magician" like google says?
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
My brother had the same problem. He thought people on the television were talking to him sort of like a two-way conversation. After I learned a home I lived in during 2001 was wired like a Christmas tree with eavesdropping devices, then I began to believe him. I even found listening/tracking devices in my vehicle.

One group of people during the 1980s made a point of bankrupting me and another group did what they could to bankrupt me during the 1990s. Under those adverse conditions it would probably have take you twenty years as well. Most people would have given up after a few years considering the complexity of the ideas and desire to become immortal here on earth before dying, not afterwards!

P.S.: Yes, you too would be hungry for money and a little bitter.
Royale
4 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
Here's one quick question for you Tabula. Why you? What makes you so special that covert groups would try to bankrupt you twice?
I don't believe or disbelieve you, however I don't understand what separates you from the 'rest of us'.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
Here's one quick question for you Tabula. Why you? What makes you so special that covert groups would try to bankrupt you twice? I don't believe or disbelieve you, however I don't understand what separates you from the 'rest of us'.
Very good question. In 1981 I came up with a name for something that was very controversial. The name gave my enemies the ammunition to attack me from all directions. People just did not understand what I was trying to do, including myself, because I had forgot about the dream of wanting to be immortal before then. Finally, in 1991 when I started studying physics and just happened to luck-out and hit the Holy Grail by accident then the religious groups began to accept me as one of theirs, but then another group became very angry. You know the old saying, You cannot make everyone happy. My problem is I did it in a very very big way. One of the ideas I created in 1991 is all over the world now and most people do not even know what it is or stands for.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
My problem is I did it in a very very big way. One of the ideas I created in 1991 is all over the world now and most people do not even know what it is or stands for.
Well since you already did it you should be able to tell us what it was. The claim that it will be in a book doesn't hold water this time. Though I am pretty sure you will come up with some dubious excuse for not telling us.

Ethelred
Royale
5 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
This reminds me of the whole John Titor thing. Anyone remember that from around 2000-2001? He 'his family' got a book deal. He claimed to be a time traveler and was just about vague enough to sort of seem correct. But then most of what he said about the future turned out to not hold much water. You should check it out if you haven't, it's fascinating. Of course it was much better back in 2002 when you weren't able to look toward the past as the future he described. Anyway, Tabula you remind me of him. There's still no way to prove he was lying, but there's very very little on the way of evidence that he provided.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
Anonymity is important. No, I am not lying, however I do have indirect proof. Video footage would have been very helpful. I will let my finished works speak for itself, then you can decide.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (9) May 14, 2011
Typical non answer. You really do need to seek out help. There are effective anti-psychotics these days.

This is not meant as a personal attack. Your statements on this thread show such ample signs of serious mental problems that I will simply have to ignore you for the future as nothing you say can assumed to be from someone connected with reality. There will never be a book, there will never be evidence to support you and the only way you will reconnect with reality is to seek help.

Ethelred
RealScience
5 / 5 (6) May 14, 2011
Listen to Ethelred, for he gives wise counsel.
Your statements sound like a classic case of a smart person diconnected from reality.
John Nash of the Nash Equillibrium is a good example, reasonably well portrayed in "A Beautiful Mind".
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) May 15, 2011
Maybe you should tell everyone that goes to church, etc. every week that they are crazy and that you have the ultimate solution. Go ahead and preach to everyone that everything came from NOTHING. Seriously, some of you are truly preaching 'MAGIC' here! Those who are preaching this magic are the ones that need serious help!
CSharpner
3 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
You people make fun of good old TabulaMentis for his statements that there is non-carbon based life (and rightly so), but the fact of the matter is I've seen most of you use the same logic to say that you're quite sure life exists beyond the Earth. Gave me a chuckle...
Chuckle all you want, but I have personally seen three different types/technology, plus twice seen ETs appear/disappear before my eyes sort of like in StarTrek. All of this is related to my research. I do not want to get into the details now. That is why I am holding-out.

Normally, I'd vote a comment like this a 1, but it's so out there I had to give it a 5 for both entertainment value and balls for posting that publicly.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) May 15, 2011
Anonymity is important. No, I am not lying, however I do have indirect proof. Video footage would have been very helpful. I will let my finished works speak for itself, then you can decide.
Better hurry up. You haven't got much time.
http://www.ebible...s/may21/

I know- post your details here and I will help you disseminate them throughout the Internet. Perhaps we can get others to help. This way Jesus will know what a champ you are when he shows up next weekend.

No no wait, I'm only joking! You know me, always a kidder. Come on, what was the name you came up with? What is all over the world? I think you need a little preliminary feedback, test the waters you know. Physsorg is just the place to do this. Nobody ever visits this place, just nerds with no clue. They'll be happy to help.

Come on. Spill.
CSharpner
5 / 5 (6) May 15, 2011
After I found illegal tracking devices in my vehicle and discovered the news media was illegally spying on me inside my home, I stopped being so generous!

I feel bad for making fun of you above. I didn't realize you were a paranoid schyzophrenic.

I realize you're not aware of it. Please ask someone you trust, then please seek professional help.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) May 18, 2011
Have you ever heard of Anthony Pelicano? Maybe you do not believe they do the things they do, but I bet you believe in the rumors acquired from spying they spread about!
CSharpner
5 / 5 (1) May 19, 2011
I implore you to talk to someone you trust and ask them if they think you should seek professional help. Please do this.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet May 19, 2011
I implore you to talk to someone you trust and ask them if they think you should seek professional help. Please do this.
I think tabula dementis is just playing little games with everybody. Are you bored sir? Need some attention perhaps? You didn't invent the Internet and call it www did you? Because I heard that actually means 666 in roman numerals. Is somebody in Rome pissed off about that? I also heard some things about the bank of Rome. Is this all interweaved?
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) May 19, 2011
The word 'Mom' on the telephone equals 666. That should give you something to think about for a while.
Royale
5 / 5 (1) May 20, 2011
Because the laid out the alphabet in order on a phone? Come on now. Don't be ridiculous. dad on the phone is 3,2,3 added together 8. 8 = 4X2. 4+2 is 6. Does that make fathers partially evil as well? The forum is turning into nonsense. 420 is HIGH B, 0 nevermind I'm not even going to bother with this anymore.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) May 20, 2011
Once you figure out the #6 button idea on the telephone and who it is related to, then I will let you take all of the credit for the discovery, including the rocks the antichrist's will be throwing at you!
Royale
5 / 5 (2) May 23, 2011
Maybe we should just skip the 6 button thing just like they do with buildings for the 13th floor. Move 7 8 9 and 0 and where the zero was just make it a theta or Pi, or even a happy unicorn with rainbows. Ya know, NO MONO is 666 twice. This is silly.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.