Cover photo for the article. Origin of life: leading theories and development. A summary of what I learned from SF Institute.
Cover photo made by the author.

Origin of Life: Leading Theories & Developments

A summary of what I learned from the Santa Fe Institute’s Complexity Explorer online course

Contents

  • The Tree of Life
  • What do we know about LUCA?
  • Early investigations
  • Location
  • Chemical Reactions and Substrates
  • Energy
  • Complex Functions from Simple Origins
  • Life from Simple Ingredients
  • Evolution
  • Complex Life

The Tree of Life

Phylogenic tree of life
A Phylogenetic Tree displaying different organisms. Source: Evolution.berkeley
  1. The Archaes (prokaryotes)
  2. The Bacteria
  3. The Eukaryotes (e.g. animal, plant and fungi cells).
Phylogenic tree of life
A grouped Phylogenetic Tree with greater emphasis on Eukaryotes. Source: Scientific American

What do we know about LUCA?

An artist’s rendition of LUCA. Source: Pinterest
An artist's rendition of LUCA. Source: Pinterest

Early Investigations

Dr. Stanley Lloyd Miller (Mar 7, 1930 — May 20, 2007) with his experimental setup.
Dr. Stanley Lloyd Miller (Mar 7, 1930 — May 20, 2007) with his experimental setup.
  • A thorough analysis of chemical reactions
  • An understanding of the constraints on the chemical processes observed in nature.
Geologic clock of Earth starting from 4.6Ga (Giga-annum). Source: Geologic Clock

Location

A representation of the NICE model that shows the dynamical evolution of the solar system and the early configuration, befor
A representation of the NICE model. It shows the dynamical evolution of the solar system and the early configuration of the solar system before Jupiter’s and Saturn’s 2:1 resonance. Source: Wikipedia
Classical Habitable Zone and some planets.
Classical Habitable Zone and some planets. Source: Researchgate
Stromatolites in Cuarto Cienagas
Stromatolites in Cuarto Cienagas, Mexico. Evidence of Precambrian life. Source: AGU
Maze solving by chemotactic droplet. Source: Youtube
Twelve Exoplanet discoveries from Kepler that are less than twice the size of Earth and reside in the habitable zone of their
Twelve Exoplanet discoveries from Kepler that are less than twice the size of Earth and reside in the habitable zone of their host star. Source: JPL NASA

Chemical Reactions and Substrates

The catalyzed and uncatalyzed Gibbs Free Energy. This exergonic reaction is spontaneous.
The catalyzed and uncatalyzed Gibbs Free Energy. This exergonic reaction is spontaneous. Source: Bio WIKI UC Davis
Aggregation of slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum. Source: Youtube
The conservative and optimistic habitable zone.
The conservative and optimistic habitable zone. Source: astronomynotes.com

Elements that have properties favorable to living organic life are as follows:

LUCA rising from underwater vents. Source: Pinterest
LUCA rising from underwater vents. Source: Pinterest
The Central Dogma of Biology. Source: Complexity Explorer course Origin of Life

The Central Dogma of Biology and the reactants:

Animations of unseeable biology. DNA and RNA. Source: TED

Energy

The electron tower diagram for selected microbial redox couples. Source: Research Gate
The electron tower diagram for selected microbial redox couples. Source: Research Gate

Complex Functions from Simple Origins

Spatio-temporal patterns generated with a simple autocatalytic reaction diffusion system known as the Gray-Scott model. Sourc
Spatio-temporal patterns generated with a simple autocatalytic reaction diffusion system known as the Gray-Scott model. Source: Complexity Explorer
Overview of metabolic pathways. Source: KEGG
Overview of metabolic pathways. Source: KEGG
Autocatalytic sets. Source: Evolution-institute
Autocatalytic sets. Source: Evolution-institute
DNA animations by wehi.tv for Science-Art exhibition. Source: YouTube
Peeling the ribosomal onion. Source: Oxford Academic
Peeling the ribosomal onion. Source: Oxford Academic

Life from Simple Ingredients

Gene reduction from long coding phage Qβ RNA to non-coding RNA by serial passages (simplified model). Source: MDPI
Gene reduction from long coding phage Qβ RNA to non-coding RNA by serial passages (simplified model). Source: MDPI

Evolution

Error catastrophe and lethal mutagenesis. Source: Research Gate
Error catastrophe and lethal mutagenesis. Source: Research Gate

Complex life

An out take on niche differentiation. Source: BioNinja
An out take on niche differentiation. Source: BioNinja
John Conway’s Game of Life (Cellular Automata). Source: Game of life
John Conway’s Game of Life (Cellular Automata). Source: Game of life
Physical arrow of time. Source: Source: Complexity Explorer course Origin of Life
Physical arrow of time. Source: Source: Complexity Explorer course Origin of Life
Kempes, Wolpert, Cohen, and Pérez-Mercader, Phil. Trans. A, 2018. Source: Complexity Explorer course Origin of Life
Kempes, Wolpert, Cohen, and Pérez-Mercader, Phil. Trans. A, 2018. Source: Complexity Explorer course Origin of Life
Fractals in veins, slime mold and tree branching.
Kleiber ́sLaw. Schmidt-Nielsen(1984). Source: Complexity Explorer course Origin of Life
Kleiber ́sLaw. Schmidt-Nielsen(1984). Source: Complexity Explorer course Origin of Life

More from the writer

About the writer

--

--

Ontology Engineer with an immutable love for science. Subscribe to my newsletter elevate.rayyanzahid.com/signup. Mail me at connect@rayyanzahid.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store