– What kind of questions can
science not currently answer, but might soon? When you think about the
problems and the mysteries before us that may be
within reach of science? – I think an obvious one
is the origin of life. We don’t know how that happened. There’s a difficulty in knowing
how it happen historically, actually literally on
Earth, but starting life from non-life is something I kinda think we’re close to, right? We’re really–
– You really think so? – I do, I do.
– How difficult is it to start life? – Well, I’ve talked to people,
including on the podcast, about this, life requires three things, life as we know it. So there’s a difference between life, which who knows what it is, and life as we know it,
which we can talk about with some intelligence. So life as we know it
requires compartmentalization, you need a little
membrane around your cell, metabolism, you take in food and eat it, and let that make you do things, and then replication. Okay, so you need to have some information about who you are that you pass
down to future generations. In the lab, compartmentalization
seems pretty easy, not hard to make lipid bilayers that come into little cellular walls pretty easily. Metabolism and replication are hard, but replication we’re close to. People have made RNA-like
molecules in the lab that, I think the state of the
art is they’re not able to make one molecule
that reproduces itself, but they’re able to make two molecules that reproduce each other. – (laughs) Yeah.
– So that’s okay. That’s pretty close.
– Yep. – Metabolism is harder, believe it or not, even though it’s sort of
the most obvious thing, but you want some sort
of controlled metabolism. And the actual cellular
machinery in our bodies is quite complicated, it’s hard to see it just
popping into existence all by itself, it probably took a while, but we’re making progress. In fact, I don’t think we’re spending nearly enough money on it. If I were the NSF, I would
flood this area with money, ’cause it would change
our view of the world if we could actually make life in the lab and understand how it was
made originally here on Earth.