Skip to main content

the living snowflake

The definition of what constitutes a living thing is not as cut and dried as many would think. If we define a living thing as something that takes materials from its environment , consumes them to make energy and reproduce themselves, and then excretes waste...then stars are alive and most chemical reactions can also said to be living ones, so how do we distinguish what we familiarly call "life" from ordinary chemical processes. Can we add in the restriction that the interactions must be performed by multicellular organisms to be alive then we have just removed many types of archaic bacteria and viruses from the category of "life" and we know that these organisms are capable of reproducing themselves. Maybe the problem is the question, maybe we have used a much too narrow definition of "life", I propose that instead of defining life in terms of resource utilization and reproduction that we define it in terms of one thing that life does that non life does not. Life has the unique ability to continue to change despite the fact that the required resources for its survival do not, this is the result of the nearly random effects of mutation. All cells are subject to mutation by virtue of their existence on a planet, near a highly radiating Sun. The effects of UV radiation on our cells introduces mutations in the genetic structure of even the smallest organisms and changes over time how those organisms relate to the outside environment. In the billions of years that have elapsed since the first signs of life on Earth, mutation has played its part in the development of increasingly more complex systems from blind chemical processes. The formation of the cell wall is said to arise from the combination of having simple replication molecules trapped insides lipid bodies which naturally, in their mindless acquiesence to conservation of energy, form into spherical shapes. The process of genetic transcription also occurs from the blind chemistry of the simple sugars which are themselves nothing more than energy conservative combinations of elemental molecules like Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon and Hydrogen which have known (but probabilistically certain) affinities for bonding and attraction.

In living systems contrary to those of low level chemical systems (reactions) the failure of elements to bond is expressed as an improbability of the occurance coupled with the brevity of the survival of the new species (the atomic scientists word ...not mine!) what is not energy conservative ceases to exist after brief periods. Life on the otherhand persists through mutations and macroscopically results in a materially different system that can then propagate its particular mutation set to its progeny. Viruses do this, the most archaic Bacteria do this, plants and people do this. Stars do not do this, snow flakes do not do this, a catalyzing reaction between two elements or more complex chemicals does not do this. The evolution of what I propose as non life is rigid and fixed once the energy regime for a reaction is set, once oxygen and hydrogen meet under the right temperature and pressure constraints water WILL form. Abberant species of hydrogen/oxygen molecules are probabilistically denied to exist for any important (meaning allowing continued reaction) duration. Similarly, stars are not alive because they do not have the ability to continue their stellar burning beyond the limits of their acquired Hydrogen fuel, the initial mass value or addition of new material does lead to a change in the evolutionary trajectory of the star (will it be a white dwarf? a neutron star or a black hole? or will it go NOVA?) but these changes are precisely predicted ones. Unlike true life, who's evolved state under mutation holds the possibility for highly unpredictable changes in the final entity, particularly after generations of mutation and propagation.

So formerly my proposal for a new definition of "life" is:

Life, any entity that under the process of internal random mutation changes how it interacts with the outside environment from generation to generation despite having at any given moment the resources (even if fixed in quantity) required for its survival.

How's that?


Popular posts from this blog

On the idea of "world wide mush" resulting from "open" development models

A recent article posted in the Wall Street Journal posits that the collectivization of various types of goods or services created by the internet is long term a damaging trend for human societies.

I think that the author misses truths that have been in place that show that collectivization is not a process that started with the internet but has been with us since we started inventing things.

It seems that Mr. Lanier is not properly defining the contexts under which different problems can benefit or suffer from collectivization. He speaks in general terms of the loss of the potential for creators to extract profit from their work but misses that this is and was true of human civilization since we first picked up a rock to use as a crude hammer. New things make old things obsolete and people MUST adapt to what is displaced (be it a former human performance of that task or use of an older product) so as to main…

Highly targeted Cpg vaccine immunotherapy for a range of cancer


This will surely go down as a seminal advance in cancer therapy. It reads like magic:

So this new approach looks for the specific proteins that are associated with a given tumors resistance to attack by the body's T cells, it then adjusts those T cells to be hyper sensitive to the specific oncogenic proteins targeted. These cells become essentially The Terminator​ T cells in the specific tumor AND have the multiplied effect of traveling along the immune pathway of spreading that the cancer many have metastasized. This is huge squared because it means you can essentially use targeting one tumor to identify and eliminate distal tumors that you many not even realize exist.

This allows the therapy for treating cancer to, for the first time; end the "wack a mole" problem that has frustrated traditional shot gun methods of treatment involving radiation and chemotherapy ...which by their nature unfortunately damage parts of the body that are not cancer laden but …

First *extra Galactic* planetary scale bodies observed

This headline

So every so often I see a story that has me sitting at the keyboard for a few seconds...actually trying to make sure the story is not some kind of satire site because the headline reads immediately a nonsense.
This headline did just that.
So I proceeded to frantically click through and it appears it was a valid news item from a valid news source and my jaw hit the floor.
Many of you know that we've been finding new planets outside of our solar system for about 25 years now.
In fact the Kepler satellite and other ground observatories have been accelerating their rate of extra-solar planet discoveries in the last few years but those planets are all within our galaxy the Milky Way.
The three major methods used to detect the bulk of planets thus far are wobble detection, radial transit and this method micro lensing which relies on a gravitational effect that was predicted by Einstein in his general theory of relativity exactly 103 years ago.