…chemistry, computer science, and materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University. He has written over 590 research publications and over 100 patents, and he is the recipient of numerous scientific awards. ... In his most recent paper, a 12,000-word essay titled 'Animadversions of a Synthetic Chemist,' Tour tackles a question that has puzzled scientists for centuries: Where did life come from? The essay was published in the most recent edition of Inference: International Review of Science. ... The chemical-synthesizing process is enormously complex, requiring intelligent, meticulous oversight. ... Tour considers must-have elements of life, including carbohydrates, DNA, and RNA. He also references the work of Albert Eschenmoser--a respected synthetic chemist who was determined to create life's ingredients in a lab but eventually decided to change direction and research other areas because his findings were unsatisfactory. ... 'Under prebiotic conditions the reaction in question is not likely to yield anything useful. With each added step, difficulties are compounded by improbabilities so overwhelming that no other field of science would depend upon such levels of faith,' he wrote. ... 'Those who think scientists understand the issues of prebiotic chemistry are wholly misinformed,' he continued. 'Nobody understands them. Maybe one day we will. But that day is far from today. It would be far more helpful (and hopeful) to expose students to the massive gaps in our understanding. They may find a firmer--and possibly a radically different--scientific theory. The basis upon which we as scientists are relying is so shaky that we must openly state the situation for what it is: it is a mystery,' he concluded.