Wednesday, 25 May 2016

“Sun Kickstarted Life on Earth”: New Attempt to Solve the Faint Young Sun Paradox

A new hypothesis tries to get past Earth’s magnetic field. Image courtesy of NASA.

Joel Kontinen

Popular science journalism tends to produce eye-catching headlines. Reporting on a recent attempt by Vladimir Airapetian at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to solve the faint young Sun paradox is no exception.

Cranky young sun could have kickstarted life on Earth, New Scientist informs us.

Belief in a billions of years old solar system is fraught with problems that don’t easily go away.

A major puzzle is the faint young Sun paradox. Let us listen to New Scientist:

About 4 billion years ago, the sun was only 70 per cent as bright as it is today, which should have made the Earth a frozen snowball. But geological evidence shows that ancient Earth was warm enough for liquid water.”

Some have proposed that a habitable Earth is the result of many lucky turns, but that hardly counts as a scientific view.

Now, Airapetian proposes that giant solar flares might somehow have got passed Earth's magnetic field. Having reached the atmosphere, they could destroy molecular nitrogen:

Nitrogen is an essential component for life on Earth, but the young Earth probably only had its molecular form, N2, which is useless for life. Solar particles from flares could split these molecules apart, allowing nitrogen to take more biologically useful configurations. Nitrous oxide, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, could have kept the climate cosy, for example.”

Here the worldview of the researcher (and the reporter) runs the show. And more is to come:

As a bonus, similar reactions would have also made hydrogen cyanide, which can further react to form organic molecules like amino acids.”

However, chemicals don’t turn into life. Every attempt to solve the naturalistic origin of life dilemma has been an utter failure, as life only comes from life.


Sokol, Joshua. 2016. Cranky young sun could have kickstarted life on Earth. New Scientist (23 May).