In mapping the chemical pathways to life's emergence, the researchers touch on a more existential question: How likely was it for life to have developed at all? Extraordinarily so, says Braakman. "Metabolism appears to be an 'attractor state' within organic chemistry, where it was likely to be selected regardless of earlier stages of chemical evolution" in the chaotic, high-energy conditions of prebiotic Earth, he says.
Can it happen elsewhere? Possibly, even probably, he says. Rocky planets usually have cores chemically similar to ours, so if a planet is volcanically (and perhaps tectonically) active and has an ocean, it will probably have hydrothermal vents that spew chemicals, creating the potential conditions for life, Braakman says. In fact, the physics of star and planet formation make the chances of such conditions pretty reasonable.We should expect to find life in lots of places.