Very impressive post. One question, has anyone been able to show these molecules turning into anything resembling a cell?
That's not the point. The transition from self-replicating molecules to cells is not thought to have been the result in a change in those molecules, but rather an accident of environment much later with the addition of an early cell membrane/wall (most hypotheses I've geard of refer to a spontaneously formed bilipid layer).
For instance, see Wiki's Abiogenesis entry:
quote:Phospholipids (of an appropriate length) can spontaneously form lipid bilayers, a basic component of the cell membrane.
The so-called "cellular machinery" (mitochondria, etc) is yet another instance of gradual addition from a variety of pathways.
We would be identifying our proto-cell as "life" long before it looked much like a modern cell. The self-replicating molecules are the truly important step, as they allow the process of evolution through natural selection to begin.