© 2000

Astronomical Origins of Life

Steps Towards Panspermia

  • F. Hoyle
  • N. C. Wickramasinghe

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Panspermia 2000

    1. F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 1-17
  3. General Considerations

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 19-19
    2. F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 33-41
    3. F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 55-75
    4. F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 77-88
    5. F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 89-102
    6. N. C. Wickramasinghe, F. Hoyle
      Pages 103-107
  4. Cosmic Organic Polymers

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 109-109
    2. N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 111-114
    3. V. Vanysek, N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 115-124
    4. D. A. Mendis, N. C. Wickramasinghe
      Pages 125-128
    5. A. Sakata, N. Nakagawa, T. Iguchi, S. Isobe, M. Morimoto, F. Hoyle et al.
      Pages 133-135
  5. Cosmic Micro-Organisms: Infrared Characterisation

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 155-155

About this book


Living material contains about twenty different sorts of atom combined into a set of relatively simple molecules. Astrobiologists tend to believe that abiotic mater­ ial will give rise to life in any place where these molecules exist in appreciable abundances and where physical conditions approximate to those occurring here on Earth. We think this popular view is wrong, for it is not the existence of the building blocks of life that is crucial but the exceedingly complicated structures in which they are arranged in living forms. The probability of arriving at biologically significant arrangements is so very small that only by calling on the resources of the whole universe does there seem to be any possibility of life originating, a conclusion that requires life on the Earth to be a minute component of a universal system. Some think that the hugely improbable transition from non-living to living mat­ ter can be achieved by dividing the transition into many small steps, calling on a so-called 'evolutionary' process to bridge the small steps one by one. This claim turns on semantic arguments which seek to replace the probability for the whole chain by the sum of the individual probabilities of the many steps, instead of by their product. This is an error well known to those bookies who are accustomed to taking bets on the stacking of horse races. But we did not begin our investigation from this point of view.


Galaxy astronomy evolution micro-organism phosphorus polymer space exploration stellar temperature

Editors and affiliations

  • F. Hoyle
    • 1
  • N. C. Wickramasinghe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Applied Mathematics and AstronomyUniversity CollegeCardiffUK

Bibliographic information