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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nov. 24 - Why Life Is Physics, Not Chemistry‏

Dear Friends,

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http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26059/?ref=rss

Be Well, Be Love.

David


arXiv blog

Why Life Is Physics, Not Chemistry

The idea that life boils down to chemistry is being usurped by a much more ambitious idea, says two of the world's leading biophysicists.

kfc 11/22/2010

  • 14 Comments

In the history of science, there are many examples of simple changes in perspective that lead to profound insights into the nature of the cosmos. The invention of the telescope is perhaps one example. Another is the realisation that chemical energy, thermodynamic energy, kinetic energy and the like are all manifestations of the same stuff. You can surely supply your own favourite instances here.

One of the more important examples in 20th century science is that biology is the result of evolution, not the other way round. By that way if thinking, evolution is a process, an algorithm even; albeit one with unimaginable power. Exploit evolution and there is little you cannot achieve.

In recent years, computer scientists have begun to exploit evolution's amazing power. One thing they have experienced time and time again is evolution's blind progress. Put a genetic algorithm to work and it will explore the evolutionary landscape, looking for local minima. When it finds one, there is no knowing whether it is the best possible solution or whether it sits within touching distance of an evolutionary abyss that represents a solution of an entirely different order of magnitude.

That hints at the possibility that life as it has evolved on Earth is but a local minima in a vast landscape of evolutionary possibilities. If that's the case, biologists are studying a pitifully small fraction of something bigger. Much bigger.

Today, we get an important insight into this state of affairs thanks to a fascinating paper by Nigel Goldenfeld and Carl Woese at the University of Illinois. Goldenfeld is a physicist by training while Woese, also a physicist, is one of the great revolutionary figures in biology. In the 1970s, he defined a new kingdom of life, the Archae, and developed a theory of the origin of life called the RNA world hypothesis, which has gained much fame or notoriety depending on your viewpoint.

Together they suggest that biologists need to think about their field in a radical new way: as a branch of condensed matter physics. Their basic conjecture is that life is an emergent phenomena that occurs in systems that are far out of equilibrium. If you accept this premise, then two questions immediately arise: what laws describe such systems and how are we to get at them.

Goldenfeld and Woese say that biologists' closed way of thinking on this topic is embodied by the phrase: all life is chemistry. Nothing could be further from the truth, they say.

They have an interesting analogy to help press their case: the example of superconductivity. It would be easy to look at superconductivity and imagine that it can be fully explained by the properties of electrons as they transfer in and out of the outer atomic orbitals. You might go further and say that superconductivity is all atoms and chemistry.

And yet the real explanation is much more interesting and profound. It turns out that many of the problems of superconductivity are explained by a theory which describes the relationship between electromagnetic fields and long range order. When the symmetry in this relationship breaks down, the result is superconductivity.

And it doesn't just happen in materials on Earth. This kind of symmetry breaking emerges in other exotic places such as the cores of quark stars. Superconductivity is an emergent phenomenon and has little to do with the behaviour of atoms. A chemist would be flabbergasted.

According to Goldenfeld and Woese, life is like superconductivity. It is an emergent phenomenon and we need to understand the fundamental laws of physics that govern its behaviour. Consequently, only a discipline akin to physics can reveal such laws and biology as it is practised today does not fall into this category.

That's a brave and provocative idea that may not come as a complete surprise to the latest generation of biophysicists. For the others, it should be a call to arms.

We'll be watching the results with interest.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1011.4125: Life Is Physics: Evolution As A Collective Phenomenon Far From Equilibrium



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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:


Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:




Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.

MUFON.COM

ESOTERIC



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