What or who created us? Why do we exist? How did life, in general, emerge on Earth? Is life only the outcome of a hazardous turn of cosmic events, or is it part of an organized and intelligent plan? Is there a divine being beyond our Universe? Is there any objective meaning of life? Why does Earth have so many features that allow it to sustain life?
We may never find the answers to all of these age-old questions, but we have the duty to try. A new study from the University of Tokyo offers a hint of how life began on Earth.
Abiogenesis is the key
Professor Tomonori Totani analyzed the hypothesis of some of the building blocks of life spontaneously appearing in the Universe, a process called abiogenesis. Scientists still do not know some things about the theoretical process, but that can change soon.
Researchers decided to seek further insights on the most basic component that is common to all living things we know: RNA. Hence the RNA molecule is far more complex than those that can be found floating around in space. However, there is a good chance to find a functioning replicating ribozyme that is longer than 40-60 nucleotides. Professor Totani said:
Current estimates suggest that magic number of 40 to 100 nucleotides should not have been possible in the volume of space we consider the observable Universe,
But according to the latest claims regarding The Big Bang Theory, the Universe expanded a lot faster than scientists initially thought, even faster than the speed of light. This is also known as the Inflationary Universe, and it provides hope for Professor Totani because he also declared:
However, there is more to the Universe than the observable. In contemporary cosmology, it is agreed the Universe underwent a period of rapid inflation producing a vast region of expansion beyond the horizon of what we can directly observe. Factoring this greater volume into models of abiogenesis hugely increases the chances of life occurring.
The Observable Universe is a lot smaller than the Inflationary Universe. Therefore, the chances for RNA structures ideal for life to appear are much higher as well.
The study paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports. However, figuring out how an RNA polymer developed so much as to trigger evolution is the next huge challenge for scientists.