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origins of life

Photo of Stromatolites
Abstractions blog

World’s Oldest Fossils Now Appear to Be Squished Rocks

Evidence for life in 3.7-billion-year-old rocks appears to be crumbling away.

Photo of a diver between two tectonic plates in Silfra. reykjavik. Iceland
geophysics

Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life

Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The findings carry major consequences for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

520px for Heavy Late Bombardment
geophysics

Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start

A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar system’s beginnings.

Illustration: altered DNA in bears
synthetic biology

Is a Bigger Genetic Code Better? Get Ready to Find Out

Evolution settled on a genetic code that uses four letters to name 20 amino acids. Synthetic biologists adding new bases to DNA will be free to improve on nature — if they can.

RNA Peptide 520
origins of life

The End of the RNA World Is Near, Biochemists Argue

For decades, an origin-of-life story starring RNA has prevailed. New research may be shaking that theory’s hold on our understanding of life’s beginnings.

origins of life

Life’s First Molecule Was Protein, Not RNA, New Model Suggests

Which mattered first at the dawn of life: proteins or nucleic acids? Proteins may have had the edge if a theorized process let them grow long enough to become self-replicating catalysts.

origins of life

First Support for a Physics Theory of Life

Take chemistry, add energy, get life. The first tests of Jeremy England’s provocative origin-of-life hypothesis are in, and they appear to show how order can arise from nothing.

Illustration: life as a computation efficiently storing & using predictive info
information theory

How Life (and Death) Spring From Disorder

Life was long thought to obey its own set of rules. But as simple systems show signs of lifelike behavior, scientists are arguing about whether this apparent complexity is all a consequence of thermodynamics.

Photo of raindrops on a window by Philip Kraaijenbrink
Abstractions blog

Droplets That ‘Come to Life’

Life might have originated in droplets that behave surprisingly like living cells.