Life Is Inevitable Consequence Of Physics, According To This Research

Does life have a solar-powered origin story? Andrii Vodolazshkyi/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 31 Jul 2017, 15:42

Using cutting-edge computer simulations, England and his colleagues dumped basic chemical compounds into an early-Earth like environment and watched what happened.

The first paper, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that life-like structural arrangements of atoms spontaneously arise. Importantly, biological inputs and variables – the behavior of cells, the formation of DNA, and so on – weren’t preprogrammed into the simulations.

The second, published in Physics Review Letters, shows that when driven by an external energy source – the Sun, in this case – these atoms rearrange themselves in order to absorb and emit the energy more efficiently. Perhaps most remarkably, these life-like structures started to copy themselves in order to better handle this energy flow.

Just using the laws of physics, life appears and replicates without needing anything other than a few basic chemicals and the Sun. So – has the greatest question of all been answered? Perhaps, but this is still a nascent hypothesis, one of several.

England has also received as much praise for his inventiveness as he has attracted criticism for his lackadaisical definition of “life”. Admittedly, life is defined pretty poorly, but some are suggesting that the life-like arrangements seen in England’s work are too abstract to be properly referred to as being “alive”.

It’s a compelling hypothesis nevertheless, one that clearly shows order arising from a system trending inexorably towards total disorder. If it’s correct, then it would be the most significant addition to evolutionary theory since Darwin’s magnum opus was first released.

It's a potential answer to the ultimate question. Love the wind/Shutterstock

[H/T: Quanta Magazine via Wired]

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