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AMBRA VIDAL FELT a flood of exhilaration as the antique computer pinged happily after Langdon’s second attempt to enter the line of poetry.


Thank God, she thought as Langdon stood up from the desk and turned to her. Ambra immediately put her arms around him and squeezed him in a heartfelt embrace. Edmond would be so grateful.

“Two minutes and thirty-three seconds,” Winston chimed.

Ambra let go of Langdon, both of them turning to the LCD screens overhead. The center screen displayed a countdown clock she had last seen in the Guggenheim.

Live program begins in 2 minutes 33 seconds
Current remote attendees: 227,257,914

More than two hundred million people? Ambra was stunned. Apparently while she and Langdon were fleeing across Barcelona, the entire world had taken notice. Edmond’s audience has become astronomical.

Beside the countdown screen, the live security feeds continued to play, and Ambra noticed a sudden shift in the police activity outside. One by one, the officers who had been pounding on doors and talking on radios stopped what they were doing, pulled out their smartphones, and stared down into them. The patio outside the church gradually became a sea of pale, eager faces illuminated by the glow of their handheld displays.

Edmond has stopped the world in its tracks, Ambra thought, feeling an eerie sense of responsibility that people around the globe were preparing to view a presentation that would be streaming out of this very room. I wonder if Julián is watching, she thought, then quickly pushed him from her mind.

“The program is now cued,” Winston said. “I believe you’ll both be more comfortable watching in Edmond’s sitting area at the other end of this lab.”

“Thank you, Winston,” Langdon said, ushering Ambra barefoot across the smooth glass floor, past the blue-gray metallic cube, and into Edmond’s sitting area.

Here, an Oriental carpet had been spread out on the glass floor, along with a collection of elegant furniture and an exercise bike.

As Ambra stepped off the glass onto the soft carpet, she felt her body begin to relax. She climbed onto the couch and pulled her feet up beneath her, looking around for Edmond’s television. “Where do we watch?”

Langdon apparently didn’t hear, having walked to the corner of the room to look at something, but Ambra got her answer an instant later when the entire rear wall of the chamber began glowing from within. A familiar image appeared, projected out from inside the glass.

Live program begins in 1 minute 39 seconds
Current remote attendees: 227,501,173

The entire wall is a display?

Ambra stared at the eight-foot-tall image as the lights in the church slowly dimmed. Winston, it seemed, was making them at home for Edmond’s big show.


Ten feet away, in the corner of the room, Langdon stood transfixed—not by the massive television wall, but by a small object he had just spotted; it was displayed on an elegant pedestal as if it were part of a museum exhibition.

Before him, a single test tube was ensconced in a metal display case with a glass front. The test tube was corked and labeled, and contained a murky brownish liquid. For a moment, Langdon wondered if maybe it were some kind of medicine Edmond had been taking. Then he read the name on the label.

That’s impossible, he told himself. Why would this be here?!

There were very few “famous” test tubes in the world, but Langdon knew this one certainly qualified. I can’t believe Edmond owns one of these! He had probably purchased this scientific artifact under the radar for an enormous price. Just like he did with the Gauguin painting in Casa Milà.

Langdon crouched down and peered at the seventy-year-old glass vial. Its masking-tape label was faded and worn, but the two names on the tube were still legible: MILLER-UREY.

The hair on the back of Langdon’s neck stood up as he read the names again.


My God … Where do we come from?

Chemists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey had conducted a legendary scientific experiment in the 1950s attempting to answer that very question. Their bold experiment had failed, but their efforts had been lauded worldwide and been known ever since as the Miller-Urey experiment.

Langdon recalled being mesmerized in high school biology class to learn how these two scientists had attempted to re-create the conditions at the dawn of earth’s creation—a hot planet covered by a churning, lifeless ocean of boiling chemicals.

The primordial soup.

After duplicating the chemicals that existed in the early oceans and atmosphere—water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen—Miller and Urey heated the concoction to simulate the boiling seas. Then they shocked it with electric charges to mimic lightning. And finally, they let the mixture cool, just as the planet’s oceans had cooled.

Their goal was simple and audacious—to spark life from a lifeless primal sea. To simulate “Creation,” Langdon thought, using only science.

Miller and Urey studied the mixture in hopes that primitive microorganisms might form in the chemical-rich concoction—an unprecedented process known as abiogenesis. Sadly, their attempts to create “life” from lifeless matter did not succeed. Rather than life, they were left with nothing but a collection of inert glass vials that now languished in a dark closet at the University of California in San Diego.

To this day, Creationists still cited the Miller-Urey Experiment’s failure as scientific proof that life could not have appeared on earth without help from the hand of God.

“Thirty seconds,” Winston’s voice boomed overhead.

Langdon’s thoughts spun as he stood up and stared into the darkened church around them. Just minutes ago, Winston had declared that science’s greatest breakthroughs were those that created new “models” of the universe. He had also said that MareNostrum specialized in computer modeling—simulating complex systems and watching them run.

The Miller-Urey Experiment, Langdon thought, is an example of early modeling … simulating the complex chemical interactions occurring on primordial earth.

“Robert!” Ambra called from across the room. “It’s starting.”

“On my way,” he replied, moving toward the couch, suddenly overwhelmed by the suspicion that he might just have glimpsed a part of what Edmond had been working on.

As he crossed the floor, Langdon recalled Edmond’s dramatic preamble above the Guggenheim’s grassy meadow. Tonight, let us be like the early explorers, he had said, those who left everything behind and set out across vast oceans. The age of religion is drawing to a close, and the age of science is dawning. Just imagine what would happen if we miraculously learned the answers to life’s big questions.

As Langdon took his seat beside Ambra, the massive wall display began broadcasting a final countdown.

Ambra was studying him. “Are you okay, Robert?”

Langdon nodded as a dramatic soundtrack filled the room, and Edmond’s face materialized on the wall before them, five feet tall. The celebrated futurist looked thin and tired, but he was smiling broadly into the camera.

“Where do we come from?” he asked, the excitement in his voice rising as the music faded. “And where are we going?”

Ambra took Langdon’s hand and gripped it anxiously.

“These two questions are part of the same story,” Edmond declared. “So let’s start at the beginning—the very beginning.”

With a playful nod, Edmond reached into his pocket and pulled out a small glass object—a vial of murky liquid bearing the faded names Miller and Urey.

Langdon felt his heart race.

“Our journey begins long ago … four billion years before Christ … adrift in the primordial soup.”