“Rerun the Tape of Evolution” –DNA, RNA, ATP, Krebs Cycle– and Life Would Probably Arise Again (Here or In Distant Worlds)



Charles Cockell, an astrobiologist at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the UK Center for Astrobiology and author of The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution views the topic of life’s construction through the lens of someone who is trying to understand how life on Earth can serve as a test case for the nature of possible life elsewhere in the universe.

No matter how different the conditions on distant worlds, all presumably have the same laws of physics — from quantum mechanics to thermodynamics and the laws of gravity reports the New York Times. And life, as Cockell puts it, is simply living matter, “material capable of reproducing and evolving.” If there is biology elsewhere in the universe, we would find it strikingly familiar not only in appearance but down to the carbon-based machinery in its cells.

There are equations and rules that are not limited to living systems that underly the way that life operates. These equations are consistent, so far as we can tell, anywhere in the universe. To understand what life might look like elsewhere, it is critical that we have a thorough understanding of how it works here.

Rerun the tape of evolution, and DNA, RNA, ATP, the Krebs cycle — the rigmarole of Biology 101 — would probably arise again, here or in distant worlds, writes George Johnson in the New York Times: Single cells would then join together, seeking the advantages of metazoan life, until before you know it something like the earthly menagerie would come to be.

We consider “life as we know it” as being the breathing of oxygen and the ability to walk under blue skies. While there are likely many worlds out there much like our own, conditions elsewhere in the universe can easily be very different. Yet so long as the equations work out right, life may well have an infinite number of variations – each different – yet each similar due to the equations that underlie the physical universe.

Atoms combine to form ever more complex structures that comprise living systems that are designed to capture energy from the environment and create copies of itself to continue to do so over the course of life’s history on our planet – adapting to changes in the environment all the while.

The Daily Galaxy via Astrobiology and New York Times 

Image credit top of page: With thanks to photographer Mark van Collier 

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