The laws of thermodynamics must apply to self-replicating systems.
In the past, biologists have studied the catalytic properties of RNA that are crucial for living cells and noted that DNA does not share these properties. So the thinking is that RNA must have come first in the replicating timeline, with DNA evolving later as life became more complex .
England's work backs up this idea but for completely different reasons--RNA is thermodynamically better at self replication. A fascinating result.
The work has an important limitation, however. It fails to tackle the definition of nature of life and instead defers the problem to an omniscient microbiologist who, it is assumed, can always provide an answer.
There is a tantalising hint that England's approach could one day solve this problem. By exploring the role of statistical physics in more detail, it maybe possible to define life in terms of precise thermodynamic limits.
Which is why it'll be worth watching where England takes his idea next.