Origin of Life, Evolution of the Cosmos and Astronomy
The Origin of Life
In the natural sciences, abiogenesis, or "chemical evolution", is the study of how life on Earth could have arisen from inanimate matter. It should not be confused with evolution, which is the study of how groups of living things change over time. Amino acids, often called "the building blocks of life", can form via natural chemical reactions unrelated to life, as demonstrated in the Miller-Urey experiment, which involved simulating the conditions of the early Earth. In all living things, these amino acids are organized into proteins, and the construction of these proteins is mediated by nucleic acids. Thus the question of how life on Earth originated is a question of how the first nucleic acids arose.
The first living things on Earth are thought to be single cell prokaryotes. The oldest ancient fossil microbe-like objects are dated to be 3.5 Ga (billion years old), just a few hundred million years younger than Earth itself. By 2.4 Ga, the ratio of stable isotopes of carbon, iron and sulfur shows the action of living things on inorganic minerals and sediments and molecular biomarkers indicate photosynthesis, demonstrating that life on Earth was widespread by this time.
On the other hand, the exact sequence of chemical events that led to the first nucleic acids is not known. Several hypotheses about early life have been proposed, most notably the iron-sulfur world theory (metabolism without genetics) and the RNA world hypothesis (RNA life-forms).
Cosmic evolution is the scientific study of universal change. It is an intellectual framework that offers a grand synthesis of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of radiation, matter, and life throughout the history of the universe. While engaging the time-honored queries of who we are and whence we came, this interdisciplinary subject attempts to unify the sciences within the entirety of natural history-a single broad scientific narrative of a possible origin and evolution of all material things, from an inferred big bang to humankind. (Closely related subjects include epic of evolution, big history, and astrobiology). It makes use of ideas of information theory, chaos theory, complexity, systems, and emergence.
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. Prehistoric cultures left behind astronomical artifacts such as the Egyptian monuments and Stonehenge, and early civilizations such as the Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, and Indians performed methodical observations of the night sky. However, the invention of the telescope was required before astronomy was able to develop into a modern science. Historically, astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, the making of calendars, and even astrology, but professional astronomy is nowadays often considered to be synonymous with astrophysics.
During the 20th century, the field of professional astronomy split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of celestial objects, which is then analyzed using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented towards the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain the observational results, and observations being used to confirm theoretical results.