Virtual Department Colloquium: Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - The Chiral Puzzle of Life

Event Date: 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - 3:45pm

Event Location: 

  • Broida 1640 and Zoom
  • Physics Department Colloquium

The Chiral Puzzle of Life

Noemie Globus
University of California, Santa Cruz / Flatiron Institute

Abstract: While biologists have not yet reached a consensus on the definition of life, homochirality - the specific handedness of biomolecules - is a phenomenon only produced by life. The unraveling of its origin requires interdisciplinary research, by exploring each of fundamental physics, modern chemistry, astrophysics, and biology. In this talk, we will consider the origin of biological homochirality in the context of astrophysics and particle physics. The weak force, one of the fundamental forces operating in nature, is parity-violating. On Earth, at ground level, most of our cosmic radiation dose comes from polarized muons formed in a decay involving the weak force. I will discuss the levels of polarized radiation due to cosmic muons at several environments that are prime targets in the search for the origin of life. I will show how this polarization could have induced a biological preference for one type of chirality over the other. An experimental program designed to explore these general ideas will be outlined.