Thermodynamic Origin of Life

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Jeremy England, Assistant Professor at MIT, proposed that when an external energy source is applied, local structures will form that facilitate global entropy increase. They do so, because they can dissipate the externally applied energy much easier than a lump of disorganized atoms. Plants, for example, can absorb sunlight and dissipate the energy more effectively. Making copies of yourself may be attributed to the same principle.

The underlying suggestion is, that given externally applied energy, under certain conditions it is entropically feasible for something as life to emerge. Prior experiments had shown that under application of energy flashes, amino acids will form in a tank from their constitutent elements. The organisation into RNA may be an optimal starting point for an elaborate process. This theory would promote life that consumes and expends a lot of energy.

However, the theory does not only apply to life. Other phenomena, like sand dunes and some crystalline structures likely follow the same principle. Life may thus be an emergent pattern of optimized energy dissipation in the universe.

England’s hypothesis is exciting and worth following in the years to come.

Source: Quantamagazine



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