Where did life come from

Astrobiology: Where do life, the universe and all the rest come from?

The standard model of cosmology describes a universe that emerged from nothing with the Big Bang and has been expanding ever since. Biology assumes that life in this universe emerged from non-living matter by chance and continues to develop according to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. And each religion has its own explanation. But there are also alternative philosophical models, two of which are particularly interesting for computer scientists.

They are based on the assumption that not only matter and energy, but also information are among the basic components of the universe. Accordingly, the emergence of intelligent life was not a coincidence, but is favored by the universe itself or an intelligence outside the universe. One of the models could even lead to the conclusion that computer scientists are wanted by the universe.

The standard model of cosmology

Both models emerged from the examination of some aspects of the standard model of cosmology, which I would therefore like to briefly explain first. After that, time and space were created at the same time as the Big Bang. The universe has been expanding ever since.

Normally, because of the force of gravity, one would expect that space would expand more and more slowly and that there could even be a reversal: the collapse of all mass to a center, which is known as the big crunch. In the course of time, all matter would have to fall into black holes, which in turn merge into a single huge black hole due to the forces of gravity and condense the total mass of the universe at one point. It is conceivable that afterwards another big bang will take place and a new universe will be born.

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However, observations indicate the opposite: space itself is expanding ever faster, which can be observed from distant galaxies through the red light shift. To explain these observations mathematically, dark energy was invented. According to calculations, it must make up around 68 percent of the total mass of the universe. What exactly dark energy is, however, is unknown - it has not yet been measured directly.

In addition to dark energy, there is what is known as dark matter. It was also derived mathematically from the observation that there is far too little visible matter (stars, star nebulae and so on). Because this does not generate enough gravitational force so that the outer areas of the galaxies have the shapes that we observe. Therefore, one assumes the existence of dark matter, which is so named because it is difficult or impossible to observe or measure.

According to calculations, the universe consists of about 95 percent dark matter and dark energy. Everything we see - the galaxies, stars and also the measurable energy in the form of electromagnetic waves such as light - are only about five percent of the universe.

Why the big bang took place and why there is more matter than antimatter cannot yet be explained with the standard model of cosmology. Ordinary matter in our universe consists of atoms whose nuclei are positively charged and around which negatively charged electrons move in certain orbital orbits. There are also free-flying electrons and ionized atoms that only consist of the positively charged nucleus. Antimatter is very rare in the universe and consists of negatively charged nuclei and positively charged electrons called positrons. Antimatter is electrically charged in the opposite way to matter.

When you bring them together, both transform into pure energy, which Einstein described with the famous formula E = mc². A mind game: If you were to combine one gram of antimatter with one gram of matter, around 1.8 x 10 to the power of 14 joules of energy would be released. This corresponds roughly to the chemical calorific value of four million kilograms of crude oil. This is why many science fiction films use antimatter as an energy source for spaceships.

Statistically, it is to be expected that after the Big Bang the same amount of matter and antimatter would have been created and these would have canceled each other out, i.e. converted into pure energy.

Life - Just Happiness?

Fortunately for us there was apparently more matter than antimatter, so we live in a universe that contains matter - and this in turn is a prerequisite for the formation of stars, planets, molecules and thus life. Also lucky is that the universe is neither too hot nor too cold. Many other factors are calibrated to enable our existence, such as the force of gravity.

The question arises as to whether the universe came into being by chance and was randomly parameterized in such a way that intelligent life forms could develop that can think about the universe. Some scientists suggest that there are many universes and that most of these universes do not allow life. So we would simply be lucky enough to exist in a life-friendly universe.

The philosopher and astrophysicist Nick Bostrom is not satisfied with this explanation. Primarily a philosopher, he also studied astrophysics and has a Masters in Computational Neuroscience from King's College (University of London). He developed an alternative hypothesis.

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