Essays in Science

The Immense Journey: From the Birth of the Universe to the Rise of Intelligence

This book is an attempt to show the majesty of the immense journey from the coming into being of the universe to the emergence and evolution of life. While it begins with the birth of the universe and the subsequent formation of the matter making up the stars and planets, it is the four and a half billion years since the formation of our sun and its planets that are the main focus of the book.

Part I covers the coming into existence of the universe; Part II the beginning of life on the early Earth; Part III the emergence of consciousness and intelligence; and Part IV, the immense journey of the universe beyond Earth. Part V addresses the problems raised by the emergence of higher-order consciousness in human beings as captured by the phrase “the human condition”.


The late 19th and 20th centuries brought a revolution in the scientific understanding of the universe around us, one whose effects are still being felt around the world as it forces people to change their conception of the universe and the place of human beings within it.  Perhaps the greatest remaining mystery is the nature of consciousness itself, which has been a subject of human inquiry for at least the last several millennia. In this essay, I discuss the nature of thought and consciousness and argue that that consciousness and thought are natural biological phenomena.

Updated version (4 April 2016)



The idea that particles are the basic constituents of all matter dates back to ancient times and formed the basis of physical thought well into modern times. The debate about whether light was a wave or a stream of particles also lasted until relatively recently. It was the advent of de Broglie’s work and its implications that revolutionized the concept of an elementary particle–but unfortunately did not banish the idea of a point particle despite its difficulties in both classical and quantum physics. Some of these problems are discussed in this essay, which covers chiral oscillations, Penrose’s “zigzag” picture of particles satisfying the Dirac equation, and some ideas derived from string theory.



This essay examines our fundamental conceptions of time, spacetime, the asymmetry of time, and the motion of a quantum mechanical particle. The concept of time has multiple meanings and these are often confused in the literature and must be distinguished if any light is to be thrown on this age-old issue. The asymmetry of time also has different meanings that depend on context—although the fundamental time asymmetry is associated with the expansion of the universe. These and related issues are discussed in both classical and quantum mechanical contexts.

(This version has been expanded and reorganized)



The late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th brought with it a revolution in the scientific understanding of the universe around us, one whose effects are still being felt around the world as it forces people to change their ideas about the universe and the place of human beings within it. Even a conceptual understanding of the early origin of the universe requires an introductory knowledge of quantum mechanics. Unfortunately, the attempt to reconcile quantum mechanics with concepts brought over from classical mechanics has led to  much confusion especially among non-physicists and students of physics.  This essay is an attempt to address some of this wide spread confusion.



It is the purpose of this essay to take the reader from some elementary ideas about groups to the essence of the Standard Model of particle physics along a relatively straight and intuitive path. The idea is to give an Olympian view of this evolution, one that is often missing when absorbing the detailed subject matter of the Standard Model as presented in an historical approach to the subject.

Groups Natures Hidden Symmetry


p.58: First equation should read

p. 59: Line after 2nd equation from the bottom of the page should read, “This corresponds to a right-handed spinor and, for spin 1/2 is designated (1/2, 0).”

The end of the last line should read, ” . . . is designated by (0, 1/2).”

The Problem of the “Prebiotic and Never Born Proteins”

International Journal of Astrobiology / FirstView Article / October 2012, pp 1- 5
DOI: 10.1017/S1473550412000468, Published online.

International Journal of Astrobiology 12 (1): 94–98 (2013)

It has been argued that the limited set of proteins used by life as we know could not have arisen by the process of Darwinian selection from all possible proteins. This probabilistic argument has a number of implicit assumptions that may not be warranted. A variety of considerations are presented to show that the number of amino acid sequences that need to have been sampled during the evolution of proteins is far smaller than assumed by the argument.


Published version: Int.J.Astrobiology12(1)94-98(2013)

How to cite this article:
Gerald E. Marsh The problem of the ‘prebiotic and never born proteins’. International Journal of Astrobiology, Available on
CJO doi:10.1017/S1473550412000468

Quantum Mechanics and Motion: A Modern Perspective

Physics Essays Vol. 23, pp. 242-247 (2010)

This essay is an attempted to address, from a modern perspective, the motion of a particle. Quantum mechanically, motion consists of a series of localizations due to repeated interactions that, taken close to the limit of the continuum, yields a world-line. If a force acts on the particle, its probability distribution is accordingly modified. This must also be true for macroscopic objects, although now the description is far more complicated by the structure of matter and associated surface physics.

Quantum Mechanics and Motion-A Modern Perspective

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