The Universe in 10 Features: 10. Life

The final feature for this series is Life. The Universe is such mind-boggling huge place that we are most definitely the best that random chances and selfish genes can produce.

NASA defines life as a: “Self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”.

“Self-sustaining” specifies that given an environment with the correct and sufficient resources, the organism can survive by itself.

“Chemical system” implies the need for the system to perform chemical processes to survive. The key word here is ‘systems’: the cells in your body are living, they perform respiration for example, but if they were taken out of you they’d die.

And finally “capable of Darwinian Evolution” simply means that the species of the system needs to be able to adapt through the changes of the environment and transmit those changes through reproduction.

So, why am I dedicating the final feature of the universe to life? Because we think we are special, and we are not. Astrophysics has been proven since its inception that us humans are not special in the great scheme of things. We are not at the centre of the Solar System or the Milky Way or the Universe. We are still animals dominated by instinct through and through. Yes we are pretty spectacular. We were supposed to scavenge the Savannah and yet we can paint Guernica and do 5 dimensional calculus, but that shouldn’t make us special on a cosmological term. Life is resilient and stubborn, and it always finds a way – so there must have been, and are, aliens on a distant planet somewhere pondering about this right now just like us. The truth, as they say, is out there.

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