MIT Physicist Proposes New "Meaning of Life"

Jeremy England explains how simple physical laws make complex life more likely than not. In other words, it would be more surprising to find no life in the universe than a place like Earth.

MIT Physicist Proposes New "Meaning of Life"

MIT physicist Jeremy England claims that life may not be so mysterious after all, despite the fact it is apparently derived from non-living matter. In a new paper, England explains how simple physical laws make complex life more likely than not. In other words, it would be more surprising to find no life in the universe than a buzzing place like planet Earth.


What does all matter—rocks, plants, animals, and humans—have in common? We all absorb and dissipate energy. While a rock absorbs a small amount of energy before releasing what it doesn't use back into the universe, life takes in more energy and releases less. This makes life better at redistributing energy, and the process of converting and dissipating energy is simply a fundamental characteristic of the universe.

[S]imple physical laws make complex life more likely than not.

According to England, the second law of thermodynamics gives life its meaning. The law states that entropy, i.e. decay, will continuously increase. Imagine a hot cup of coffee sitting at room temperature. Eventually, the cup of coffee will reach room temperature and stay there: its energy will have dissipated. Now imagine molecules swimming in a warm primordial ocean. England claims that matter will slowly but inevitably reorganize itself into forms that better dissipate the warm oceanic energy.

[T]he second law of thermodynamics gives life its meaning.

The strength of England's theory is that it provides an underlying physical basis for Darwin's theory of evolution and helps explain some evolutionary tendencies that evolution cannot. Adaptations that don't clearly benefit a species in terms of survivability can be explained thusly: "the reason that an organism shows characteristic X rather than Y may not be because X is more fit than Y, but because physical constraints make it easier for X to evolve than for Y to evolve."

Here is Michio Kaku's concise explanation of the entire physical universe:

COVID-19 amplified America’s devastating health gap. Can we bridge it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.

Willie Mae Daniels makes melted cheese sandwiches with her granddaughter, Karyah Davis, 6, after being laid off from her job as a food service cashier at the University of Miami on March 17, 2020.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
  • Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
  • To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
Keep reading Show less

Decades of data suggest parenthood makes people unhappy

Decades of studies have shown parents to be less happy than their childless peers. But are the kids to blame?

(Photo by Alex Hockett / Unsplash)
Sex & Relationships
  • Folk knowledge assumes having children is the key to living a happy, meaningful life; however, empirical evidence suggests nonparents are the more cheery bunch.
  • The difference is most pronounced in countries like the United States. In countries that support pro-family policies, parents can be just as happy as their child-free peers.
  • These findings suggest that we can't rely on folk knowledge to make decisions about parenting, on either the individual or societal levels.
Keep reading Show less

Lonely? Hungry? The same part of the brain worries about both

MRI scans show that hunger and loneliness cause cravings in the same area, which suggests socialization is a need.

Credit: Dương Nhân from Pexels
Mind & Brain
  • A new study demonstrates that our brains crave social interaction with the same areas used to crave food.
  • Hungry test subjects also reported a lack of desire to socialize, proving the existence of "hanger."
  • Other studies have suggested that failure to socialize can lead to stress eating in rodents.
Keep reading Show less

A Chinese plant has evolved to hide from humans

Researchers document the first example of evolutionary changes in a plant in response to humans.

Credit: MEDIAIMAG/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • A plant coveted in China for its medicinal properties has developed camouflage that makes it less likely to be spotted and pulled up from the ground.
  • In areas where the plant isn't often picked, it's bright green. In harvested areas, it's now a gray that blends into its rocky surroundings.
  • Herbalists in China have been picking the Fritillaria dealvayi plant for 2,000 years.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast