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'Order From Nothing'

A physicist has begun to test his idea that life on Earth isn't a result of random chance, but of thermodynamics, Quanta Magazine reports.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Jeremy England posited in 2103 that atoms would eventually align themselves in a configuration that burns more energy, which he says would lead to the development of complex structures and, perhaps, life, it adds.

In two papers, one appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and one in Physical Review Letters, England and his colleagues conducted a series of in silico simulations that showed that, every so often, the chemicals would combine in such a way that they could extract the most energy from their environment. That, the researchers argue, supports England's dissipation-driven adaptation idea.

"What Jeremy is showing is that as long as you can harvest energy from your environment, order will spontaneously arise and self-tune," Dartmouth College's Rahul Sarpeshkar tells Quanta, noting that life does more than what these simulations have shown.

"But this is about how did life first arise, perhaps — how do you get order from nothing," he adds.