One of the great goals in physics is to discover whether gravity and the three other fundamental forces in the Universe — strong, electromagnetic, and weak — can be united into a single force, and many superstring and grand unified theories have been created that assume this is possible. But no such grand unified theory has ever been proposed that would unite the characteristics of life — until now.

SFI External Professor Juan Perez-Mercader (Harvard University), together with Alberto Muñuzuri (Universidad de Santiago and Harvard University), started with four fundamental characteristics all living systems possess: they handle information, metabolize, self-reproduce, and evolve. They created equations describing each of these processes and then combined them into three. They could then examine the various solutions to these equations on a computer, and for particular parameter values, they could watch the phenomena we see in living systems emerge, including the generation of a cell membrane, competition between individuals, chemistry-driven motion, and adaptation.

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