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Pure Appl. Chem., 2009, Vol. 81, No. 10, pp. 1843-1855

Published online 2009-09-26

Biological calorimetry and the thermodynamics of the origination and evolution of life

Lee D. Hansen1*, Richard S. Criddle1 and Edwin H. Battley2

1 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA, Provo, 84602, USA
2 Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA

Abstract: Calorimetric measurements on biological systems from small molecules to whole organisms lead to a new conception of the nature of live matter that has profound consequences for our understanding of biology. The data show that the differences in Gibbs energy (ΔG) and enthalpy (ΔH) are near zero or negative and the difference in entropy (ΔS) is near zero between a random mixture of molecules and live matter of the same composition. A constant input of energy is required to maintain ion gradients, ATP production, and the other functions of living matter, but because cells are organized in a spontaneous process, no energy input is required to maintain the structure or organization of cells. Thus, the origin of life and evolution of complex life forms occurs by thermodynamically spontaneous processes, carbon-based life should be common throughout the universe, and because there is no energy cost, evolution can occur relatively rapidly.