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Jeffrey Bada of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and colleagues re-analysed the original 50-year-old samples left by Stanley Miller of the University of Chicago, in 1953 and 1954. His was the first experiment ever to produce amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, from inorganic molecules and a spark of electricity.
Bada's team discovered more organic molecules than Miller had been able to detect, and also showed that a secondary experiment – one that Miller carried out but never published – offers the best clue to how life on Earth began some 4 billion years ago.