The biophysicist Jeremy England made waves in 2013 with a new theory that cast the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics. His equations suggested that under certain conditions, groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so as to burn more and more energy, facilitating the incessant dispersal of energy and the rise of “entropy” or disorder in the universe. England said this restructuring effect, which he calls dissipation-driven adaptation, fosters the growth of complex structures, including living things. The existence of life is no mystery or lucky break, he told Quanta in 2014, but rather follows from general physical principles and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”


These papers are quite interesting, but I find the controversy angle kind of contrived. I don’t reallly see where he ever made wild claims about how applicable his simulations are to the beginnings of life.

I quite like how he used a very simple system to answer some possibly relevant questions. I would love to see what happens as the complexity of these types of simulations increased and become more biologically relevant.

posted by thenewgreen: 171 days ago