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Origins of life, a Few Comments and an Update

Origins of life, a Few Comments and an Update

Origins of life, a Few Comments and an Update

Sandra Pizzarello, President of ISSOL

pizzar@asu.edu

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As a periodic note by an ISSOL president to researchers interested and likely involved in studies about the origin of life, I thought this would be a cheerful and easy to write update but, alas, as time goes by and research mounts it becomes more and more evident how uniquely difficult the search for origins is. Louis Lerman put it quite well recently1: ”Origins problems are the most conjectural and qualitative of scientific questions. It is hardly surprising then that the origin of life, like the origin of the universe, lacks uniquely defining quantitative assumptions and initial conditions. Individually, they are Fermi questions of a functional sort, requiring the use of a first-principle conceptual approach to a situation of fundamental quantitative ignorance”. It is this ignorance that, albeit being the search actively ongoing, has by necessity widened its scope to involve so many disciplines that reading the relevant literature today has become a bewildering experience. So, for ...

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Book Review - The Origin of Life Circus: A How To Make Life Extravaganza by Suzan Mazur

Book Review - The Origin of Life Circus: A How To Make Life Extravaganza by Suzan Mazur

The Origin of Life Circus: A How To Make Life Extravaganza

Adrian Bejan
Duke University

This is an extraordinary, timely book about what author, Suzan Mazur, considers the “greatest story” there is for a journalist to cover: the politics of the investigation into the origin and synthesis of life. Mazur describes the origin of life field as a “Big Top of exquisite conjecture,” where there’s a brilliant clash of opinion but no real experts or benchmarks. Although the fervor of the dozens of scientists interviewed in the book’s largely Q&A format does sometimes resemble a three-ring circus, it pays to walk along the high wire and view the big picture Mazur has painted of an “extravaganza” of scientific visions.

Photos and drawings of each of the scientists help to move you through the book’s 492 pages, structured in seven parts: Who Owns the Circus? The Circus Caravan (includes analysis of various origin of life conferences: Princeton, CERN, Texas and Tokyo), the Bottom Up and Top Down tents, Circus Toy Models, Rethinking the Circus, and It’s the People’s Circus (the latter questions the science establishment’s control of science that the public funds).

The Bottom ...

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