How did life first originate from nothing? This has been the focus of biologists, specifically astrobiologists, and popular theories have included everything from meteorites to seemingly random chemicals to luck. In 1859, Charles Darwin posited that “All organic beings that have lived on Earth could be descended from some primordial form,” in The Origin of Species. His basic idea was that chemical components and energy sources somehow spontaneously generated life in the primordial soup.
However, in 2013, MIT biophysicist Jeremy England proposed a new theory that substituted thermodynamics in place of luck. He derived a mathematical formula to explain how atoms, driven by external energy (such as that found in primordial soup) and heat (like you’d find in an atmosphere), will gradually restructure themselves to dissipate more and more energy. In other words, under the right conditions, matter naturally acquires the basic physical quality — the tendency to capture energy from the environment and dissipate it as heat — associated with life, based on the law of increasing entropy or the second law of thermodynamics, also called the “arrow of time.”