18 December 2008

I Am the Slime...

According to two Scandinavian scientists, asking where or how life grew out of lifeless matter is like asking "when and where did the first wind blow that quivered the surface of a warm pond.” Rather, the important question is "why" it developed. And they've put forth a theory consistent with known physical laws.

According to the two scientists, son and father Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki and Erkki Annila of the Finnish Forest Research Institute in “Why did life emerge?” International Journal of Astrobiology 7 (3 & 4 ): 293-300 (2008)
"life is a very natural thing, which emerged simply to satisfy basic physical laws. Our “purpose,” so to speak, is to redistribute energy on the Earth, which is in between a huge potential energy difference caused by the hot Sun and cold space. Organisms evolve via natural selection, but at the most basic level, natural selection is driven by the same thermodynamic principle: increasing entropy and decreasing energy differences. The natural processes from which life emerged, then, are the same processes that keep life going – and they operate on all timescales.

“According to thermodynamics, there was no striking moment or no single specific locus for life to originate, but the natural process has been advancing by a long sequence of steps via numerous mechanisms so far reaching a specific meaning – life,” the researchers explained.

And because thermodynamics recognizes no specific moment, particular place, compound or reaction that would distinguish animate from inanimate, a search for ‘the birth of life’ seems like an ill-posed project, Arto Annila explained.
We are part of the natural cooling mechanism of the universe. We process energy from the sun and recycle/redistribute it into the environment:
when systems (e.g. molecules) become entities of larger systems (e.g. cells) that participate in larger ranges of interactions to consume more free energy, entropy increases. Genetic code might have served as another primordial mechanism, acting as a catalyst that could increase energy flow toward greater entropy. Today, complex organisms have cellular metabolism, which is another mechanism that increases entropy, as it disperses energy throughout the organism and into the environment. The food chain in an ecosystem is another example of a mechanism for transferring energy on a larger scale.
So, as my kids say, CHILL!


You can read more here, here, here, or here without getting too esoteric.

No comments: