There's a host of theories and research around how life began on our planet. One of the most common is the idea of a "primordial soup"-Earth's chemical conditions were primed to turn inorganic compounds into organic ones. All that was required was a bolt of lightning to kick start the process. In the famous Miller-Urey experiment of 1952 gave this theory some considerable clout, as scientists were able to create over 20 amino acids (the building blocks of proteins and life forms) in a vacuous environment.
A physicist at MIT is making some waves, though, with a new perspective on how life began and what life forms are doing in the universe, in general. The crux of Jeremy England's theory centers on the second law of thermodynamics. Namely, all matter on Earth, rocks, trees, people, animals and everything in between, absorbs energy and releases energy that it does not need.
Imagine a pot of water on the stove. As the stove heats up, that energy is absorbed by the pot, and then transfers to the water. As the water's temperature continues to rise, it gives off steam. This process continues as long as the stove is on. When the stove is turned off, the water gradually cools, returning to room temperature. This absorption and redistribution of energy is one of the fundamental principles of our universe and England believes it holds the key to the origins of life.
This process is what scientists call entropy. England makes the case that life came to be almost inevitably, based on this principle. What if organic compounds came to be simply as a more efficient way to absorb and emit energy? Could this also tell us anything about evolution?
What do you guys think? Do you have any questions on how life began? Let us know in the comments below.
Follow Julian on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jhug00
A New Physics Theory of Life (via Quanta Magazine)
"Why does life exist? Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck."
Bacteria replicate close to the physical limit of efficiency (via Nature)
"The common gut bacterium Escherichia coli typically takes about 20 minutes to duplicate itself in good conditions."