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A New Physics Theory of Life

RATE THIS! +32
Posted in Science on 23rd Jan, 2014 03:34 AM by AlexMuller

Why does life exist? Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

 
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.
 
“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.
 
England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which provides a powerful description of life at the level of genes and populations. “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.”

Tags: lifenaturephysicsorigin of lifeprimordial soupatomsenergyevolution

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-23
+3
It would be interesting to see a wider reaction to this proposal from scientific community. Also, it seems that one implication is that we should expect to see quite a lot life forms in the universe Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-23
+1
New ideas are always difficult to endorse. It takes time, and importantly, a lot of supporting data to move to the next stages- hypothesis and theory Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-23
+1
I understand that already there are ideas about how to test England's formula in the lab. One idea is to comparing cells with different mutations and look for a correlation between the amount of energy the cells dissipate and their replication rates Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-01-23
+3
Natural selection doesn’t explain certain characteristics of life and clearly new views are welcome. This is a broad thinking and deserves to be examined extensively Reply


 

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