Scientists Hope to Solve The Mystery of The Origin of Life by Using a Computer

With 8.7 million eukaryotic species living on Earth, life is certainly the most incredible thing we know about nature. One of the reasons it is so incredible is that science is far from understanding how it began in the first place and how it was possible to lead to the overwhelming diversity that we’re all aware of.

There are currently two scientific theories that explain how life began on Earth. One of them is panspermia, stating that the first amino-acids (practically the building blocks for life) were brought to our planet by asteroids and comets. The other theory is the so-called ‘primordial soup’, claiming that the first amino-acids could have formed themselves under the right natural conditions. But for certain responses and not just theories, scientists have to dig deeper into the problem.

The chemical synthesis software Allchemy could be the key

Scientists have published a new research in the journal Science, and they’re pretty confident that Allchemy will solve the mystery once and for all. Focusing on the main compounds of the early Earth, such as water, cyanide, nitrogen, methane, sulfur, and ammonia, scientists tried to uncover the main aspect that led to the formation of the amino acids.

While scientists know a lot about how individual molecules or organic chemical reactions could have emerged, they can’t see too much about what the picture looked like as a whole. That’s where Allchemy comes in handy, as it uses a prediction algorithm to explore thousands of different potential pathways for how primordial molecules could have led to the creation of life.

One of the official statements writes:

“Although hundreds of organic reactions have been validated under consensus prebiotic conditions, we still have only a fragmentary understanding of how these individual steps combined into complete synthetic pathways to generate life’s building blocks,”

“[And] which other abiotic molecules might have also formed.”

The researchers were able to identify three main patterns that contributed to complex molecules’ evolution:

  1. Molecules from the network can be catalysts for the downstream reactions
  2. Molecules are able to produce surfactants, which are compounds that lower surface tension. Surfactants are relevant to primitive forms of biological compartmentalization.
  3. Molecules can undergo self-replicating cycles.

By identifying these patterns, scientists could better understand why some synthesis pathways can lead to life, while others do not.

The Allchemy software can grow via crowd-sourcing

If you’re passionate about science, it’s good to know that the Allchemy software was made available for free towards the public and research groups. The scientists are hoping that the software will improve via crowd-sourcing. Such an initiative shouldn’t be overlooked, as understanding for sure where we come from and how life began in the first place are crucial mysteries that had been boggling humanity for millennia. Nobody has been able to come with irrefutable answers for everyone to understand, although many have tried. Perhaps the ultimate explanation for existence in general, a so-called ‘theory of everything’ wouldn’t even fit in the human brain. The very notion of an ultimate theory of existence would need to reconcile classical physics with the odd realm of quantum mechanics, which is practically impossible at the moment. Scientists couldn’t even fully understand how a single atom works, as great physicists like Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac, Albert Einstein, Murray Gell-Mann, and others struggled for many years to come anywhere close. The atom itself has been proven to be far more stubborn than anyone could ever imagine, as it can be represented only by using purely abstract mathematics.

In the end, finding out how a conscious being was able to emerge and ask itself what life is and how it began remains a huge challenge for science.