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Re: [evol-psych] Re: Essay: How to bring life to your newly acquired holiday planet [First tentative (and incomplete) draft]

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  • Robert Karl Stonjek
    ... From: Don Zimmerman To: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2012 10:46 AM Subject: [evol-psych] Re: Essay: How to bring life
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 31, 2011
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      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2012 10:46 AM
      Subject: [evol-psych] Re: Essay: How to bring life to your newly acquired holiday planet [First tentative (and incomplete) draft]

      --- In evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com, "Robert Karl Stonjek" <stonjek@...> wrote:

      > How to bring life to your newly acquired holiday planet

      > The very first life may well have set the agenda for all life that followed, but what was the first life and how was it any different to the non-life that came before it?

      DWZ:
      That essay has the great merit of staying squarely in the realm of chemistry. Gone are the days when life was thought to be a one-time, unique, chance event that just happened on the earth. That once-popular scenario was only slightly more plausible than the notion of a mystic special creation. As in the case of any scientific theory, we need to begin by drawing upon what we already understand about similar or related phenomena.

      Life is special or unusual in the same sense that petroleum or sugar or cellulose are unusual. Those long complex chains of atoms do not form naturally in
      space or in stars, but only on relatively cool planets long after the Big Bang. Life is even more special or unusual than those organic polymers, but just as inevitable as any chemical process when conditions are suitable for its formation.

      Or to put it another way, life is special in the same sense that the "dilute, hot soup" of the early oceans of the primitive earth was special. Instead of asking "How common is life in the universe?" we could just as well ask "How common are dilute, hot oceanic soups in the universe?" The two questions really amount to the same thing.

      Along the same lines, the question: "Could there be radically different kinds of life capable of surviving in extreme environments?" is much the same as the question: "Are there radically different versions of organic chemistry, such that other types of polymers could form in, say, gas giants like Jupiter?" That seems questionable. Perhaps carbon and its compounds is the whole story for the formation of life, in the same sense that hydrogen and helium are the whole story as to formation of stars and their histories.

      Best regards,

      Donald W. Zimmerman
      Vancouver, BC, Canada
      dwzimm@...
      http://www3.telus.net/public/a7a82899

      RKS:
      Diversification between (living) environment and the more independent living entity starts sometime after the first process precursory to the life we are familiar with begins.  Life is a property of the interaction between two regions of the environment, one smaller and contained and the other larger and open.
       
      This view is different to the generally accepted notion that life is a property of a thing or entity as if life were somehow contained within it.  But in all cases apart from those entities that can suspend interaction with the environment and continue it later (seeds, frozen insects etc), a cessation of interaction marks the point of death.
       
      This form of modelling resolves the folk ideas about the living environment without interfering with the biological definition of cellular based life forms.  But it does have the potential of bridging the gap between non-life processes and first cells.
       
      Note that the simplest first process I mentioned, two interdependent chemical reactions separated by a semipermeable barrier, results in two chemical environments that remain 'far from equilibrium', the simplest test of life on a planet (if atmosphere is in chemical equilibrium then life can not be present on that planet).  This observation was made by Lovelock some time ago and is, I am told, used in exobiology to determine the prospects of life outside the planet Earth to this day.
       
      This kind of non-equilibrium process must have spread, and spreading has been the number one predisposition ever since.  Spreading spatially is one form, spreading temporally is another (this requires a sufficient portion of the population to reproduce) and spreading to other processes is yet another.  The spread to at least one form of information has been noted to death by the Dawkinsonians.
       
      Adapting or responding to the environment is also a property of the simple barrier model, so that is also just as fundamental.  In fact all of the processes essential to life as catalogued by biology are present in the model, but the model also includes the environment as an essential first step.
       
      Note that when this semipermeable 'barrier' forms a ring that encloses some process then the whole enterprise becomes mobile, but unlike the simple barrier that may get longer and break off independent pieces, 'reproduction' is more complex for the enclosure.  But time is on its side :)
       
      Robert
    • Don Zimmerman
      ... DWZ: Yes, that approach seems plausible. The separation of two far-from-equilibrium chemical processes by a semi-permeable membrane may be a crucial
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 1, 2012
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        --- In evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com, "Robert Karl Stonjek" <stonjek@...> wrote:

        > Diversification between (living) environment and the more independent living entity starts sometime after the first process precursory to the life we are familiar with begins. Life is a property of the interaction between two regions of the environment, one smaller and contained and the other larger and open.
        >
        > This view is different to the generally accepted notion that life is a property of a thing or entity as if life were somehow contained within it. But in all cases apart from those entities that can suspend interaction with the environment and continue it later (seeds, frozen insects etc), a cessation of interaction marks the point of death.
        >
        > This form of modelling resolves the folk ideas about the living environment without interfering with the biological definition of cellular based life forms. But it does have the potential of bridging the gap between non-life processes and first cells.
        >
        > Note that the simplest first process I mentioned, two interdependent chemical reactions separated by a semipermeable barrier, results in two chemical environments that remain 'far from equilibrium', the simplest test of life on a planet (if atmosphere is in chemical equilibrium then life can not be present on that planet). This observation was made by Lovelock some time ago and is, I am told, used in exobiology to determine the prospects of life outside the planet Earth to this day.
        >
        > This kind of non-equilibrium process must have spread, and spreading has been the number one predisposition ever since. Spreading spatially is one form, spreading temporally is another (this requires a sufficient portion of the population to reproduce) and spreading to other processes is yet another. The spread to at least one form of information has been noted to death by the Dawkinsonians.
        >
        > Adapting or responding to the environment is also a property of the simple barrier model, so that is also just as fundamental. In fact all of the processes essential to life as catalogued by biology are present in the model, but the model also includes the environment as an essential first step.
        >
        > Note that when this semipermeable 'barrier' forms a ring that encloses some process then the whole enterprise becomes mobile, but unlike the simple barrier that may get longer and break off independent pieces, 'reproduction' is more complex for the enclosure. But time is on its side :)


        DWZ:
        Yes, that approach seems plausible. The separation of two far-from-equilibrium chemical processes by a semi-permeable membrane may be a crucial condition. But there are undoubtedly a sequence of still unknown steps between the initial appearance of complex organic chains and the far-from-equilibrium condition, and how that happened is a mystery.

        I agree that going back to the beginning, instead of looking at the present state of affairs to get at the essential characteristics of "life" may be the best plan. And considering "life" to be defined by a system encompassing both cell and its surroundings is getting close to Timo's organism-environment system.

        It may instructive to employ the concept of "spreading" for a change instead of "reproduction." That could get at what is significant in the early stages. It would avoid the idea that somehow it is the basic "purpose" or goal of organisms to reproduce their kind.

        Best regards,

        Donald W. Zimmerman
        Vancouver, BC, Canada
        dwzimm@...
        http://www3.telus.net/public/a7a82899
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