LIFECLOUD: The Origin of Life in the Universe by Fred & N. C. Wickramasinghe Hoyle
Kirkus Star

LIFECLOUD: The Origin of Life in the Universe

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Not the primordial soup, but interstellar dust, may be the source of life on Earth, say Hoyle and friend in this tour de force on origins. Their theory is based on spectral examinations of dust clouds in space, a review and analysis of earlier findings concerning carbonaceous chondrites (a type of meteorite), and speculations on the role and constituents of comets. Hoyle finds, untenable the current widely held Haldane-Oparin theory of how life began. This theory argues that electrical energy from thunderstorms striking a primitive earth atmosphere composed of hydrogen, methane, ammonia, and water, led to the formation of macromolecules which condensed in water, coalesced, eventually replicated. According to Hoyle, spatial dust composed of prebiotic and possibly even primitive living forms--derived lathe course of stellar evolution--could be swept up by comets in journeys across galactic space. Eventually a comet cutting across a solar system would give up some of its substance in interactions with planets and a sun. Thus we are a seeded planet, and so, of course, may others be in this galaxy or the next. Much of the data adduced derives from recent technology or above-earth observations which have permitted fine analyses of materials especially at radio frequencies, so the theory has a ring of excitement and maybe even truth about it. Undeniably, too, there is a very Hoyleian intuition at work. Having all but conceded his steady state hypothesis to the big-bang theory of the origin of the universe, he now emerges with a kind of steady-creation-of-life idea. As long as new stars condense from interstellar matter, and with them new planetary systems, his theory proclaims that there will be an evolution of molecules, which, by a kind of survival of the fittest, may be the very mixtures of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus. . . which are the alphabet soup of life as we know it. Certainly there is a metaphysical charm to the idea, but is it true? Hold tight for the next exciting round.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row