At first glance the nucleic acids and proteins that are the basis of life do not stand out in any way among all the possible polymeric structures. If we look at their functions, however, we find one unique feature of these biological polymers: self‐replication, the distinctive property of living systems. What is self‐replication, and how could this biologically primordial property have originated in an unorganized medium? The solution to the problem of life's origin lies in resolving the paradox of how polymers of rather common structure can exhibit such a distinctive function.

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