Life Exists Not Despite But Because of Entropy

A young man at the Institute has come up with a novel theory for explaining the origins of life: in fact, he has developed a mathematical formula for it.
From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.
This leads him to make a small, humble claim.
“I am certainly not saying that Darwinian ideas are wrong,” he explained. “On the contrary, I am just saying that from the perspective of the physics, you might call Darwinian evolution a special case of a more general phenomenon.”
OK, but if you are right, the Fermi paradox becomes even more urgent.


E Hines said...

I explained that awhile ago: Dyson spheres.

Eric Hines

Eric Blair said...

Naah. Fermi paradox is explained by machine intelligences.

MikeD said...

Again, I believe the Fermi paradox to be of little consequence. We simply do not have a great enough sample size of planets with life to draw conclusions in the first place, nor do we have any direct evidence of any Great Filter in the second place. And moreover, it's entirely possible we've already passed through the Great Filter. We're taking the first steps to protect ourselves from another mass extinction event such as the Chicxulub impactor that killed the dinosaurs. Small steps to be sure, but we now have at least an early warning system that no life on Earth previously had.

And maybe we won't make it as a species. Who knows? But to me, I worry about the fate of humanity 10,000 years from now about as much as I worry about humanity 10,000 years ago. Which is to say "very little at all". Those people will have extremely different beliefs than we do. They certainly won't speak the same language. English itself (in the modern recognizable form) is less than 700 years old. The very genetic drift over that time frame would make a huge number of them my relatives, but on a scale so small (as a percentage of their genetic makeup) so as to be meaningless. Look at the fact that of the 44 Presidents we've had, only one (Martin Van Buren) is not related to the same common ancestor (King John "Lackland" Plantagenet). And even then, it's possible they're related somewhere further back as well.

Ymar Sakar said...

It isn't matter that has that property, although quantum mechanics is still mysterious enough for it to be feasible.

It is merely a certain type of matter, H2O.