Public Release: 

Physicist Fred Adams tackles the big questions in 'Origins of Existence'

University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR---University of Michigan astrophysicist Fred Adams is a world-renowned theorist on star and planet formation whose ideas have influenced a generation of thinkers.

His quick intellect, a gift for explaining complex, abstract phenomena in everyday language and a lively teaching style that has captivated U-M students for more than a decade has been recognized by the University, which awarded him two Excellence in Education Awards and most recently a Faculty Recognition Award.

Adams is believed to have been the first to compute accurate spectra of the planet-forming disks around newborn stars wrote the definitive review article that chronicles the long-term fate and evolution of astrophysical objects. His groundbreaking first book, "The Five Ages of the Universe," co-authored with Greg Laughlin, has been translated into eight languages. It established five eras of the universe, from the inflationary epoch during its first 10-35 seconds to its far future.

In his new book, "Origins of Existence: How Life Emerged in the Universe" (The Free Press), Adams offers a new perspective on how the laws of physics created everything, including life in the universe. Among other startling ideas, the book argues that life began inside our planet, not on its surface---and that the universe exists in a forest of universes in space-time.

One of science's new discoveries is that organisms did not originate in a primordial soup in a pond on the earth's surface, but rather deep inside the planet. This makes sense, Adams says, because primordial Earth was being constantly bombarded with explosions about 3,000 times more powerful than a global nuclear war. The only safe place was down deep.

Adams discusses how a handful of physical laws resulted in the big bang, the formation of galaxies and the creation of stars within them, to solar systems with planets such as earth. This hierarchy of creation, he argues, was absolutely necessary for all the tiny chemical structures and vast celestial landscapes required for life to emerge---and also defined what type of life did emerge.

In seven chapters, Adams takes the reader from the general subjects of physics and the universe to the appearance of life on Earth, showing how energy flowed, exploded and was harnessed in replicating structures that eventually became organisms. Adams discusses how the evolution of the universe followed a clear path toward the emergence of life and the question of whether we are alone in the universe. Life wasn't a lucky break, he says, but the result of physical laws that we can discover and understand.

"Origins of Existence" is a main selection of the Astronomy Book Club and an alternate selection of the Library of Science.


The University of Michigan
News Service
412 Maynard
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1399

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