Dimension/Next*, Miller-Urey Bong

7th October – 13th November, 2010

* a collaboration between Paul B. Davis and AIDS-3D

In 1952 Stanley L. Miller, working in the laboratory of Harold C. Urey at the University of Chicago, attempted to clarify the chemical reactions that gave rise to organic compounds on primitive Earth. The experiment ran as a closed loop connecting two flasks. One flask contained water that represented Earth’s ocean, a second flask contained a mixture of methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), and hydrogen (H2) that represented a hypothetical “reductive” atmosphere. Miller heated the water to simulate evaporation and rainfall, and used electrodes to simulate lightning, guessing that lightning was a likely energy source for ancient chemical reactions. After running the experiment for one week Miller found that as much as 15% of the carbon in the system now existed in the form of organic compounds. While the Miller-Urey Experiment did not conclusively prove the chemical makeup of primordial Earth, it became a classic experiment on the origin of life.

“We really don’t know what the Earth was like three or four billion years ago. So there are all sorts of theories and speculations. The uncertainty concerns what the atmosphere was like. This is the major area of dispute.” – Stanley L. Miller

Miller-Urey Bong allows experimentation with genesis models of the early Earth atmosphere by re-creating the Miller-Urey experiment with the additional functionality of adding any combustive material to the atmospheric simulation. The material is heated using a high-powered laser and the vaporized remnants are drawn into the experimental apparatus through the combined use of a specially designed stem system, carburetion port, and user provided suction. Employing the same suction, users can also orally sample the experiment’s contents at any time for further analysis.

Dimension/Next specifically proposes that the addition of C21H30O2 to the existing Miller-Urey hypothesis of CH4 + NH3 + H2 + H20 has a high chance of producing exceptional results. However, in the interest of scientific objectivity, Miller-Urey Bong is BYOW (Bring Your Own Whatever).

Due to the inherent dangers of Class 4 laser technology, stringent controlled conditions and safety procedures govern the interaction of Miller-Urey Bong. The work will be fully interactive only at specific periods during the installation, however performance documentation will be on view at all times. 


Dimension:Next, Miller-Urey Bong, 2010Miller-Urey Bong, 2010
Dimension:Next, Miller-Urey Bong2Miller-Urey Bong, 2010 (detail)
Dimension:Next, Miller-Urey Bong3Installation View, 2010
Stanley L. Miller