Book of Abstracts: Albany 2011

category image Albany 2011
Conversation 17
June 14-18 2011
©Adenine Press (2010)

Towards origin of life and... what is life, after all?

Recent literature is full of sensations opening eyes on the origin of life problems, such as creation of artificial bacteria (1), arsenic DNA (2), cyanobacteria in meteorites (3), not mentioning, the constantly advancing chemical systems aimed at the life origin. Each of the overtures brings us closer to something apparently simple, almost trivial, but elusive as well, since nobody knows what we are, actually, getting to. There is no established definition of life to be guided by. In perception of many the phenomenon of life is beyond the perception limits. However, if in the classical Cartesian body/mind dualism of life only material part is taken, one finds himself at the brink of this something simple, almost trivial. Over hundred definitions are suggested by philosophers and scientists of many generations. The fact that the list continues to grow only attests to actual lack of a convincing consensus. The author humbly suggests one definition of life that appears to be a “principal component” of all definitions. It is derived by a linguistic (word count) analysis of the large corpus of the definitions. It turns out identical to the one introduced earlier (4) on the basis of developing theory of early molecular evolution. And the definition is:

Life is self-reproduction with variations.

Irrespective of whether it is correct or any close to final, the formula allows one to critically overview all known approaches to the problem of origin of life, and, perhaps, enthuse researchers to further converge on the very point of origin, if only its elusiveness is not due to yet another uncertainty principle.


  1. D. G. Gibson, et al. Science 329, 52-56 (2010).
  2. E. Pennisi and F. Wolfe-Simon, Science 330, 1734-1735 (2010).
  3. R. B. Hoover, J Cosmology 13, in press.
  4. E. N. Trifonov, Res Microbiol 160, 481-486 (2009).

Edward N. Trifonov

Genome Diversity Center
Institute of Evolution
University of Haifa
Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel
Department of Functional Genomics and Proteomics
Faculty of Science
Masaryk University
Kotlarska 2
CZ-61137 Brno, Czech Republic

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