The emergence of complexity in the Universe: from galaxies to planets and life.


  • Structures in the Universe and Emergent Phenomena


Exploring the intricate connections between the birth and evolution of cosmic structures and the potential emergence of life and life-sustaining environments poses a complex challenge. The vast diversity of physical processes, length scales, and time scales involved in the interactions of relevant structures adds layers of complexity to this investigation. A recurring theme in the stages of the Universe is the development of multi-component systems, characterized by a multitude of internal feedback mechanisms. These feedbacks manifest at both macroscopic levels, such as interacting components within the climate system, and microscopic levels, exemplified by the intricate interplay of molecular structures within living systems. This research initiative seeks to cultivate collaborations among diverse expertise groups, fostering a broad, multidisciplinary approach to unravel the complexities inherent in these topics.

Status of project and perspectives:

The scales of life
Conditions for habitability from galaxies to planets

co-PIs: Laura Silva (INAF-OATs), Francesca Perrotta (SISSA)

Understanding how the chemical evolution of the Universe might have led to the emergence of life is a very complex topic, because of the many scales at which structures interact with each other, and due to the very different processes occurring in the organization of matter within corresponding physical systems. Addressing such a complexity requires gathering a plurality of disciplines and, consequently, paradigms and methods – from cosmology and astroparticle physics to the astrochemistry of galaxies and stars, planetary formation, geology, climatology, and biology as prerequisites for understanding life in a broad sense. Astrobiology – the science studying the origin, development and distribution of life in the Universe starts from the Earth as the currently only known example of a habitable world to encompass distant exoplanets and backward conditions. See more.

Physical processes and environments suitable for the emergence of life

PI: Giovanni Vladilo (INAF-Trieste)

co-PIs: Ali Hassanali (ICTP, Trieste), Stavro Ivanovski (INAF-Trieste)

Reconstructing the processes that lead to the emergence of life from the abiotic world (abiogenesis) is one of the most challenging puzzles in the history of science. Shedding light on abiogenesis is extremely important given the vast resources allocated to the search for biosignatures in remote planets. Here we propose a few, multidisciplinary lines of research in which fundamental physics, astrophysics, astrochemistry and quantitative life sciences may cast light on (i) physical processes and (ii) astronomical environments suitable, or required, for abiogenesis. The specific topics are briefly summarized below. See more: (TBA).