Does interstellar dust form the largest primordial soup in the universe?
In the abiogenesis hypothesis, self-replicating RNA is generally assumed to have arisen out of a primordial soup of amino acids no later than 500 million years before life on Earth. Recently, prebiotic molecules such as glycolaldehyde and amino acetonitrile were found to be abundant in nebulas such as Sagittarius B2. In this paper I propose that icy grains within nebulas can act as tiny primordial soups, and I investigate the consequences of such. I further argue that a typical nebula would be astronomically more likely to create a self-replicator than the combined iterative power available in Earth’s primitive oceans. Finding the first self-replicator could be a problem significantly more difficult than previously envisioned, requiring the contribution of a larger primordial soup spread across a nebula and operating for billions of years prior to life on Earth. Finally, we discuss the Fermi paradox in the context of a mechanism by which life could be expected to lag the Big Bang by 10 billion years, hence suggesting that we may not only be alone, but also not inconceivably the first.