Origins of life: A problem for physics, a key issues review

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51 Scopus citations


The origins of life stands among the great open scientific questions of our time. While a number of proposals exist for possible starting points in the pathway from non-living to living matter, these have so far not achieved states of complexity that are anywhere near that of even the simplest living systems. A key challenge is identifying the properties of living matter that might distinguish living and non-living physical systems such that we might build new life in the lab. This review is geared towards covering major viewpoints on the origin of life for those new to the origin of life field, with a forward look towards considering what it might take for a physical theory that universally explains the phenomenon of life to arise from the seemingly disconnected array of ideas proposed thus far. The hope is that a theory akin to our other theories in fundamental physics might one day emerge to explain the phenomenon of life, and in turn finally permit solving its origins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number092601
JournalReports on Progress in Physics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 14 2017


  • astrobiology
  • autocatalytic network
  • information
  • non-equilibrium thermodynamics
  • origins of life
  • prebiotic chemistry
  • top-down causation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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