Is the Earth actually a living ‘creature’? Chemical clues could finally prove claims our planet is a single organic system

In the 70s, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis claimed that Earth's physical and biological processes 'link' to form a self-regulating, basically 'self-aware' system

In the 70s, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis claimed that Earth’s physical and biological processes ‘link’ to form a self-regulating, basically ‘self-aware’ system.

Their book became a cult classic, and the idea that the Earth is a giant chemical system, almost like an ‘organism’ persists to this day – although it’s never been proved.

In 2010, a poll of 400 academics placed the Gaia Hypothesis the sixth greatest British academic breakthrough of all time.

Now a new chemical clue – sulphur – could allow scientists to work out whether Earth is in fact ‘alive’ – a huge chemical system that in turn sustains us all.

The Gaia hypothesis doesn’t claim that the earth is actually ‘alive’ – but that all living organisms and their non-living surroundings are bound together into a ‘system’ that maintains the conditions for life.

One of the early predictions of Lovelock’s theory – known as the Gaia – hypothesis was that there should be a sulphur compound made by organisms in the oceans that would transfer to the air and thus to the land.

Scientists are on the brink of testing this theory – and proving the existence of at least one part of a ‘system’ of the Earth.

The most likely candidate for this role was deemed to be dimethyl sulphide.

Harry Oduro of the University of Maryland has created a tool for tracing and measuring the movement of sulphur through ocean organisms, the atmosphere and the land in ways that may help prove or disprove the controversial Gaia theory.

Sulphur, the tenth most abundant element in the universe, is part of many inorganic and organic compounds.

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