Journal of Modern Physics, 2011, 2, 587-594
doi:10.4236/jmp.2011.226068 Published Online June 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JMP
Origin and Evolution of Life Constraints on the
Solar Model
Karo Michaelian1, Oliver Manuel2
1Instituto de Física, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cto. de la Investigación Científica, Cuidad
Universitaria, Mexico City, Mexico
2Associate, Climate & Solar Science Institute, Former Apollo PI for NASA, Cape Girardeau, USA
Received February 18, 2011; revised April 1, 2011; accepted April 26, 2011
Life arose as a non-equilibrium thermodynamic process to dissipate the photon potential generated by the hot
Sun and cold outer space. Evidence from the geochemical record of the evolutionary history of life on Earth
suggests that life originated in a hot aqueous environment dissipating UV light and evolved later to dissipate
visible light. This evidence places constraints on models of solar origin and evolution. The standard solar
model seems less compatible with the data than does the pulsar centered solar model.
Keywords: Pulsar Centered Solar Model (PCS), Standard Solar Model, Origin of Life, Ultraviolet and
Temperature Assisted Replication (UVTAR), Constraints on Solar Model
1. Introduction
Life is an out of equilibrium, thermodynamic process. As
such, its origin, persistence, and evolution are strictly
dependent on the dissipation of an external thermody-
namic potential (entropy production) and the evolution of
this potential in time. By far the most important thermo-
dynamic potential which has promoted the existence of
life on Earth is the temperature gradient provided by the
hot photosphere of the Sun (~5,800 K today) and the
cool volume of outer space (2.7 K). Life arose as an en-
tropy producing thermodynamic process in response to
the Earth being located between the Sun's hot photo-
sphere and the cool space environment. The origin and
evolution of life on Earth must, therefore, in some way
(to be explored below) parallel the origin and evolution
of our Sun. The evolutionary history of life on Earth thus
provides constraints on models for the origin and evolu-
tion of our Sun. Here we show that these constraints
yield convincing arguments for distinguishing between
competing solar models.
2. Appearance of Life Constraints on
Earth’s Solar Environment
The most probable first molecules of life, RNA or DNA
[1,2], are transparent to visible light. However, in the
ultraviolet, in a region centered on 260 nm of width of
100 nm, the aromatic rings of the nucleic acid bases
(adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil) absorb
light very strongly [3,4]. If RNA and DNA are in water,
they dissipate this photon-induced collective electronic
excitation energy extremely rapidly (sub pico-second) [5]
and efficiently to heat that can be easily absorbed by the
water. These molecules when exposed to ultraviolet light
are thus very efficient producers of entropy. Therefore, if
RNA and DNA were the first molecules of life, and if
indeed life arose as a response to dissipating the photon
potential generated on Earth by the Sun and outer space,
then the solar spectrum in the ultraviolet between about
200 and 300 nm arriving at the surface of the Earth at the
beginning of life (~3.8 billion years ago) must have been
sufficiently intense for nature to have embarked on a
program of constructing uphill, endergonic, organic mo-
lecules for the dissipation of these photons.
Furthermore, since water is an important solvent for
the formation of the nucleic acids from more simple or-
ganic molecules such as hydrogen cyanide under electric
discharge or UV light sources [6], and since the dissipa-
tion of the electronic excitation energy of the nucleic
acid bases only occurs efficiently in the presence of liq-
uid water (non-radiatively to mainly the vibrational de-
grees of freedom of the water molecules), the incident
intensity and absorption of sunlight at the surface of the
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JMP
Archean Earth must have been such as to maintain water
in its liquid phase.
Today, ozone and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere
block all but one in 1030 photons from the Sun at 250 nm
[7]. During the Archean, however, there was very little
oxygen or ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere, and the most
likely atmospheric gases, CO2, N2, H2O, and methane are
transparent to UV photons in this wavelength region [8].
High surface temperatures (see below) would have im-
plied a much greater amount of water vapor in the at-
mosphere than today, effectively blocking most solar
infrared radiation from reaching the surface. Also, UV
photochemical reactions on the most common volcanic
gasses, carbon dioxide, water vapor and sulfur dioxide,
would have produced a thin layer of sulfuric acid clouds
very reflective in the visible (as on Venus today, albedo
0.77). Ultraviolet light in the 200 - 300 nm region could
thus have been the most important (enthropically speak-
ing) part of the solar spectrum reaching the Earth’s sur-
face and would have been responsible for a large part of
surface heating during the Archean.
3. Evolution of Life Constraints on Models
for the Evolution of Earth’s Solar
The most copious life in the biosphere today, both in
terms of number and mass, are the photosynthesizing
cyanobacteria and plant life. These phototrophic organ-
isms employ chlorophyll to absorb sunlight in the visible
and utilize the free energy in this light to fix carbon from
the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the process of
photosynthesis. However, photosynthesis utilizes only
about 0.1% of the free energy available in sunlight inci-
dent on the plant [9]. By far the greatest amount of free
energy available in sunlight is utilized in transpiration
(evaporation of water) from the leaves of the plant or
from phytoplankton floating on the surface of bodies of
water. In most phototrophic organisms, a large array of
organic pigments absorb in a continuous spectrum from
about 200 nm (far ultraviolet) to 700 nm (red). Therefore,
the most important thermodynamic function that these
autotrophs perform is the absorption and dissipation of
photons from the most intense region of the Sun’s spec-
trum. Still other irreversible thermodynamic process,
such as the water cycle, hurricanes, and ocean and wind
currents, are spawned in the process, dissipating estab-
lished heat gradients and thereby promoting still further
entropy production [10].
There is evidence that while the organic pigment in-
ventory was increasing over the evolutionary history of
life on Earth, the absorption maxima of the newly added
pigments was also increasing in wavelength. RNA and
DNA were probably the first pigments, absorbing strongly
at 260 nm. The three aromatic amino acids, phenyla-
lanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan have strong absorption
maxima at 260, 280, and 295 nm respectively [8]. These
amino acids are generally believed to have appeared
shortly after RNA and DNA in life’s history. The reac-
tion center of anoxic purple bacteria, the most ancient
photosynthesizing organisms known, contains bacterio-
chlorophyll and the aromatic amino acids and thus also
absorb strongly at 280 nm [11]. Recently discovered
pigments absorbing over the range 310 to 400 nm, my-
cosporines, appeared early in the history of life but are
less ancient than the amino acids [12]. The earliest
porphyrins (e.g. chlorophyll) and phycobilins, absorbing
in the visible, 400 to 700 nm, have been discovered in
Precambrian rock dating from 1.7 to 2.6 Ga [13]. Besides
chlorophyll, there exist other contemporary visible ab-
sorbing pigments such as the carotenoids in green plants
and the phycobilins in phytoplankton, also absorbing
over the range 400 to 700 nm.
If indeed the primordial function of life was, and is, to
dissipate the imposed photon gradient, then the apparent
gradual incorporation in phototrophic life of pigments of
ever increasing wavelength of maximum absorption sug-
gests a gradual increase in wavelength of the peak inten-
sity of the spectrum of sunlight reaching the Earth’s sur-
face. This light would, of course, be dependent on, not
only the solar spectrum, but also on the absorption prop-
erties of Earth’s atmosphere. However, a thermodynamic
perspective on life would suggest that life has continu-
ally adjusted the gases of the atmosphere (in the sense of
Gaia [14]) in such a manner so as to lead to transparency
for the most intense (enthropically speaking) part of the
solar spectrum. This situation is, indeed, what we ob-
serve today for our present atmosphere.
4. The Sun
Harkins reported that seven elements with even atomic
numbers (Fe, O, Ni, Si, Mg, S and Ca) comprise 99% of
the material in ordinary meteorites and concluded “... in
the evolution of elements much more material has gone
into the even-numbered elements than into those which
are odd ...” [15]. Later Payne [16] and Russell [17] re-
ported high abundances of hydrogen, an odd numbered
element, in the solar atmosphere. They did not suggest
that the interior of the Sun is hydrogen. The Standard
Solar Model (SSM) came later, after Goldschmidt sug-
gested [18] in 1938 that rocky planets and ordinary me-
teorites lost volatile elements. However, Hoyle [19] ac-
knowledges that he, Eddington, and other astronomers
thought “... the Sun was made mostly of iron ...” until the
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JMP
end of World War II [19]. Then in 1946 Hoyle wrote at
least 99% of the initial mass of stars “must be in the form
of hydrogen [20] and he tried to show how heavier ele-
ments were made from hydrogen [21], as originally sug-
gested by Prout [22].
Hoyle [19] expressed surprised at sudden, worldwide
acceptance of the idea “that the high-hydrogen, low-iron
solution was to be preferred for the interiors as well as
for the atmospheres” of stars [19]. Hoyle’s 1946 papers
[20,21] and the 1952 hydrogen bomb explosion greatly
impacted opinions on the Sun. According to the classical
B2FH [23] paper on element synthesis: “It seems prob-
able that the elements all evolved from hydrogen [23],
and “Hydrogen burning is responsible for the majority of
the energy production” [23].
4.1. The Standard Solar Model (SSM) of a
Hydrogen-Filled Sun
Textbooks of astronomy and astrophysics [24-26] and
research reports [27-30] generally assume the standard
solar model (SSM) of a hydrogen-filled Sun, produced
by the collapse of an interstellar cloud of primordial hy-
drogen and helium and contaminated with a small por-
tion of heavier elements from previous generation stars.
Bethe suggested [31] that 12C might serve as a catalyst
for fusion of hydrogen into helium in stars via the CNO
cycle. But the low flux of solar neutrinos reported in
1968 [27] showed that H-fusion via the CNO cycle gen-
erates little if any solar energy. Subsequent measure-
ments in the 20th Century [28,29] confirmed less solar
neutrinos than expected from any known path for
H-fusion. H-fusion via the proton-proton chain generates
the least amount of energetic neutrinos and thus gained
popularity as the main source of solar luminosity
According to the SSM, the Sun now generates energy
in the core mainly via the proton-proton chain reaction at
T ~ 15,000,000 K. After a significant fraction of hydro-
gen was consumed, the fusion rate decreased and gravi-
tation caused the density and temperature in the core to
increase. Then the fusion rate and the luminosity of the
star increased. Thus our star is predicted to be about
30% more luminous now than at the time of the origin of
life on Earth [32,33].
Neutron repulsion was recognized as an energy source
near the start of the 21st Century and it was suggested
that the solar neutrino puzzle might indicate a neutron
star in the Sun's core [34-36]. The SNO group [37,38]
proposed that solar neutrinos instead oscillate into three
flavors because neutrinos have mass and transmute on
passing through matter. A later study [39] casts doubt on
the SNO group’s interpretation of solar neutrino data
[37,38], but most members of the solar physics commu-
nity accept the SSM and seem confident of its ability to
describe the evolutionary history of our Sun correctly.
However, early questions about an interstellar cloud col-
lapsing gravitationally to form the Sun [40] were kept
alive by space age observations that seemed to conflict
with the standard solar model.
4.2. The Model of a Pulsar Centered Sun (PCS)
Analysis of meteorites, planets, the Moon and the Sun
revealed evidence that our Sun may have formed on a
pulsar—the collapsed core of the star that gave birth to
the solar system [41]. Baade and Zwicky [42] suggested
that a collapsed supernova core might change into a neu-
tron star, and Wolszczan and Frail [43] reported Earth-
like planets orbiting a pulsar in 1992. Exotic, superfluid
material has been suggested in the centers of ordinary
stars and neutron stars [44,45]. Below is a summary of
implications for the early Earth and the evolution of life
a) The precursor star exploded axially ~5 Gyr ago,
based on 244Pu and 238U age dating [46], probably driven
by neutron repulsion.
b) Neutron repulsion causes continuous emission of
neutrons from the pulsar. These decay into the glowing
ball of hydrogen seen in the photosphere.
c) Layers of elements and isotopes from the precur-
sor star were still present in the equatorial plane when
solids started to condense.
d) Flash heating, perhaps from ignition of H-fusion
partially melted early solids to produce chondrules—the
aerodynamically quenched droplets seen in meteorites.
The photosphere slowly evolved into its current mix of
hydrogen and helium.
e) Earth accreted in layers, beginning with the for-
mation of an iron core.
f) Beneath the photosphere the Sun also formed a
mantle of mostly Fe, O, Ni, Si, S, Mg and Ca—like the
material in rocky planets and ordinary meteorites.
g) Following neutron-emission and neutron-decay, H+
ions are accelerated upward by the pulsar’s magnetic
field. The upward flow of this “carrier gas” maintains
mass separation in the Sun [47].
h) Circular polarized (CP) light from the pulsar sepa-
rated the d- and l-amino acids in meteorites [48] before
CP light from the pulsar itself was blocked by radiation
from the solar photosphere.
i) Early radiations from the pulsar were more ener-
getic (shorter wavelength) than current solar radiation.
Pulsars release a greater proportion of γ-rays, x-rays and
ultraviolet (UV) radiation [49], and a very old pulsar (~5
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JMP
× 109 years old) was reported to still be observable in the
extreme ultraviolet [50].
j) Based on current solar luminosity and the emission
rate of neutrons from the solar core, we estimate that
solar luminosity was higher by ~1% - 4%, rather than
being lower by ~30%, in the critical origin-of-life period
when the SSM predicts frozen oceans and a “faint early
Sun” [32,33].
In the following section, we present arguments from
the life sciences for reconsidering the standard solar
model in favor of the pulsar centered solar model.
5. Arguments for a New Solar Model
5.1. The Faint Young Sun Paradox
18O/16O ratios found in cherts of the Barberton green-
stone belt of South Africa suggest that Earth had liquid
water and a temperature of around 80˚C at the time of
the origin of life at 3.8 Ga [51] and (70 ± 15)˚C during
the 3.5 - 3.2 Ga era [52]. Surface temperatures of
around 80˚C would have allowed a polymerase chain
reaction (PCR) type of mechanism for RNA and DNA
reproduction (Ultraviolet and Temperature Assisted
Reproduction—UV-TAR) to have been operating at the
beginning of life [2], thereby avoiding the difficulty of
early RNA or DNA reproduction fidelity necessary for
the codification of complicated denaturing enzymes.
However, the standard solar model predicts that at 3.8
Ga the solar luminosity should have been from 25% -
30% less than at present [33]. For such a luminosity,
under reasonable assumptions for greenhouse gases and
other atmospheric conditions, the Earth’s surface
should have been completely frozen over, a “snow ball
Earth”, in stark contradiction to the evidence. This has
become known as the “faint young Sun paradox” [33].
Furthermore, evidence for liquid water on Mars at 3.0
Ga is a fact even more difficult to reconcile with the
faint young Sun of the standard solar model [53].
The faint young sun paradox has been addressed by a
number of ingenious, but evidence lacking, hypothesis,
such as the possible migration of the planets from ear-
lier more inner orbits due to early large solar mass loss
[54]. The suggestion receiving the most attention until
recently, however, has been that of a greenhouse gas
early atmosphere [55]. An upper limit exists for at-
mospheric carbon dioxide determined by the prevalence
of magnetite in the Archean sediments [56], and it was
later shown that neither ammonia (NH3) nor methane
(CH4) could have weathered the intense UV radiation
during the Archean [57,58]. Most importantly, however,
after years of searching, there is now a conspicuous
lack of evidence for high greenhouse-gas concentra-
tions on early Earth [58,60-62]. Recent attempts to re-
solve the issue have recurred to even less evidence sub-
stantiated theories, such as more extent heat absorbing
oceans and a lack of cloud forming seeds leading to
reduced Earth albedo during the Archean [56] and frac-
tal shaped smog which purportedly blocks methanelys-
ing UV light while permitting visible light to penetrate
to the surface [63].
The standard solar model remains inconsistent with
the data. The pulsar centered solar model predicts that
the solar luminosity at the origin of life on Earth would
have been up to 4% greater than that of today, and not
the 25% - 30% less predicted by the standard solar model,
and thus resolves the “faint young Sun paradox”.
5.2. Early Life Metabolized UV Light
Besides the proliferation of organic pigments in the ul-
traviolet and conservation of the codification for these
in the genomes of present day phototrophs, there is also
evidence of a period when life may have been depend-
ent upon UV-C dissipation. Bacteriochlorophyll and its
associated reaction center, used by the most ancient
purple bacteria, strongly absorbs at 280 nm [11]. It is
also a remarkable fact that the protein bacteriorhodop-
sin, that promotes ATP production in Archaea by acting
as a proton pump through the absorption of a photon at
568 nm in the visible, also works perfectly well by ab-
sorbing at 280 nm in the ultraviolet [64]. The UV pho-
ton energy is absorbed on the aromatic amino acids
tyrosine and tryptophan and the energy transmitted to
the chromophore.
Pigments based on rhodopsins used by bacteria to
perform anoxygenic photosynthesis were shown
through phylogenetic analyses by Xiong and Bauer [65]
to have already been present when oxygenic photosyn-
thesis developed. These pigments are all are robust to
far ultraviolet (UV-C) light, while this does not appear
to be the case for more recent oxygenic photosynthetic
pigments associated with chlorophyll [66].
This life history of phototrophs thus suggests an early
high UV-C environment on Earth. An analysis of young
proxy G-type stars near the main sequence has shown
that the young Sun was probably much more active in
the extreme UV and X-ray region [67]. The strong ab-
sorption of these short wavelengths in the atmosphere
by N2, CO2, and other Archean gases would have im-
plied significant degradation into the 200 - 300 nm
window of atmospheric transparency. This data requires,
at the very minimum, a re-thinking of the standard solar
model but may be completely consistent with a pulsar
centered solar model.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JMP
5.3. Incorporation of Organic Pigments of Ever
Longer Wavelength Absorption
The evidence that the peak in absorption of newly added
organic pigments gradually increased in wavelength over
the evolutionary history of life on Earth (see Section 3) is
consistent with the gradual increase in wavelength of the
peak in the intensity of the spectrum from a cooling pul-
sar star centered Sun. To be compatible with the standard
solar model, in which the peak wavelength of emission
instead decreases over the lifetime of the Sun (as the Sun
became hotter), would require an unexplained shift in the
atmospheric window of transparency in the opposite di-
rection, towards longer wavelengths, and a fortuitous
coincidence of the window of transparency coinciding
with the maximum of intensity of the solar spectrum to-
day. It seems more probable that the overlap that we see
today is not at all a coincidence, but rather the result of a
biotic-abiotic coupling of irreversible processes operat-
ing to increase the overall entropy production of the
Earth in its solar environment through photon dissipation
5.4. Amino Acid Handedness in Meteorites
The molecules of life are chiral, i.e. they come in two
mirror images that absorb light of either right- or left-
handed circular polarization preferentially within a given
wavelength region. Abiogenisis of these molecules shows
no preference for one enantiomer over the other. How-
ever, almost all amino acids used by life are left-handed
(L), while the nucleotides and RNA and DNA are
right-handed (R). How life acquired such homochirality
has been the subject of much controversy (see Micha-
elian [68] for a review), but one suggestion has it that the
Earth was seeded with left-handed amino acids from
space. One possibility being that highly circularly polar-
ized light of a pulsar preferentially photo-lysed the right-
handed amino acids existing in one of its hemispheres
Up to 15% L-enantiomer excess has been claimed for
some non-biological α-methyl amino acids delivered to
the Earth in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites such as
Murchinson. Biological amino acids found in these me-
teorites, however, have little, if any, enantiomer excess
[71]. High temperatures, cosmic rays, and UV light all
cause racemization (the equilibration of any initial enan-
tiomer excess). The α-methyl amino acids found with
non-negligible enantiomer excess in meteorites have
significant stability against racemization [72], but the
α-hydrogen amino acids composing the 22 natural amino
acids of today’s proteins do not [73].
The pulsar star centered solar model may thus explain
the abundance of L-enantiomer non-biological amino
acids found in meteorites. Whether some of the initial
L-enantiomer excess in the less stable biological amino
acids (α-hydrogen) could have survived the radiation
environment of space and the heat of entry into the
Earth’s atmosphere and thereby provided the seeds for
the homochirality of life today remains to be investigated
in more detail.
6. Conclusions
Data from the life sciences indicates a warm Earth with
liquid water at the origins of life ca 3.8 Ga. It appears
that life began dissipating UV light and gradually incur-
porated pigments of ever greater wavelength, probably
following the peak in the emission spectrum of the
evolving Sun. If life’s origin and evolution is indeed
concerned with solar photon dissipation, then this evi-
dence becomes very difficult to reconcile with the SSM
(standard solar model). The PCS (pulsar centered sun)
model [41] seems more compatible with the concurrent
evolution of life on Earth and nuclear evolution in the
Sun, as three reactions there successively release ~1.2%,
~0.1% and ~0.7% of nuclear rest mass (m) as
photo-energy (E), ΔE = Δmc2 [41].
7. Acknowledgements
K. Michaelian is grateful for financial support from
DGAPA-UNAM, grant IN-112809.
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