The Origin of Life Just Became a Little Clearer

When worldbuilding for a fictional planet around another star, eventually, I have to get to how life arises and evolves on that planet. I will get to that in a future worldbuilding post. But the question remains, how did life start?

It’s not easy to answer because we don’t really know yet. But thanks to the work of two scientists at the University of North Carolina, we’re closer to understanding how life started becoming more complex. You can read the full article here.

This research doesn’t necessarily give us the full picture of how RNA controlled the production of proteins in the earliest stages of life, but it gives us a start, and could lead to more studies on how this process happened.

What does this have to do with worldbuilding? Well, the question is, does this same process happen on another planet? Or does it happen through another process but with similar results? Or are there different nucleotides than the ones we have in our DNA? That’s one thing that makes creating fictional life interesting.

What do you think?

13 thoughts on “The Origin of Life Just Became a Little Clearer”

  1. Interesting post, and leads me to a question I’ve been mulling over… In my rather grand scale, Dune-ish sci fi saga, the characters spend significant amounts of time on 5 or 6 Terraformed planets. I do NOT want to spend a lot of time with all the world-building myself. I don’t have the experience and don’t want to dedicate the pages to it. And to the extent that I have done it they all seem rather simple and too much like Earth. I would much rather use something that exists, because the worlds are just backdrops, though they should have some distinct aspects. By analogy it is kind of like I enjoy vacationing in Berlin and Paris even though I don’t understand their entire history. So, much as I can out source music for videos (eg: Pond5) and art for my covers, I’m wondering if there is a market where creative people sell their prebuilt worlds and systems? I would enjoy being able to flip through a catalog of systems that are tagged and can be sorted. Does any such thing exist? If not…maybe I should set up such a market…hmm…

    1. Interesting idea. I know that pen and paper RPG games like Dungeons and Dragons and others have worlds already created for players. But I’d wonder if it would work for novels. Maybe copyright would be a bit of a tricky thing.

  2. It’s all just chemicals, really? Or didn’t just God – or a god – plop some people down and told them to go forth and multiply?

    Here’s the beauty for world-building, though – while the real world is still trying to work out what chromosome came first; we, ie the world-builders, can make up whatever kinda shit we want!

    And I think that’s the great thing about writing: making shit up. 🙂

    1. Oh, of course. Making it all up is perfectly fine 🙂

      I’m a big fan of realistic sci-fi, though. I like real science to be behind a lot of what goes on. And you know what? It’s just fun for me to create this world of mine from scratch.

  3. Since we’re not 600% clear on the details of how life started here but somehow go ahead and live it anyway, this doesn’t strike me as one of the questions that demands to be answered in the process of world building. Answering it might bring up some really interesting information, but not having an answer? As a reader I’m not sure I’d notice the absence.

    Having said that, I might as well admit that I set my fiction on this planet. Where I’ve been able to not address the question of how we got here, but just assume we did.

    1. Much of my worldbuilding will never be known by anyone. However, it’s more for my own enjoyment that I do it. What people will read is the result, not how it was created. And that’s fine by me. At least I’ll have a deep knowledge of my world and know that I had fun creating it.

  4. Recently when I went to worldbuilding on the side, I found articles about hypothetical biochemistry I found interesting. In particular was one for my beings based on plasma, apparently there is a study about plasma charged dust particles in space that self organize and replicate themselves.

    1. Plasma-based life? That would be interesting. And totally different than life as we know it. At least silicon-based life is a hypothesised form of life that is similar to carbon-based life.

  5. As I have a fantasy world, my job is somewhat easier — but as I’m science-minded and always want to know how things happen, I went ahead and did a lot of biology-studying myself. Thus why, in a ‘modern’ age of my world, characters can talk about a skinchanging gene that lets certain people shapeshift but gets deactivated by crossbreeding. I have a rougher idea about the scientific origin of life (I know the mythology), but I’ve had some story revelations recently that make me think current biological life on this world was somewhat copied from extinct forms that existed previously. This plus shapeshifting gave life a big evolutionary boost/shortcut, which is important in the grand plan.

    I think half my worldbuilding is going back to stuff I’ve had in place since I was a teen and reexamining it with an eye to the possible scientific underpinnings.

    1. Fantasy has things easier scientifically, that’s for sure. As a fan of both sci-fi and fantasy, I have different expectations. When reading sci-fi, I want the science to at least be plausible. I have a science background, so glaring mistakes make it hard for me to believe. But as for fantasy, I don’t care. It’s not scientific, and it doesn’t need to be, because of magic.

      Although I’m currently writing science fiction, I have a couple fantasy ideas where I did some worldbuilding, but not scientifically. I have to think about it differently.

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