III. An Organic, Genomic, Conducive UniVerse
This extensive chapter highlights an interrelated constellation of findings as documentation as to why the universe is becoming ever more understood, once again, as innately biological in kind. A vision of conducive, amniotic spacescape for the emergence of ovular worlds, embryonic life, mind and self-aware, intelligent, creative beings on fertile bioplanets appears in our midst.
A grand convergence and unification of atomic and cosmic physics at the singularity origin of the universe has occurred over the past two decades. After the initial big bang and inflationary expansion, primordial quarks, muons, baryons and many other particles formed over eons into to nuclear elements and compounds. The slightest gravitational ripples led to coalescing galaxies and solar systems. Today, after centuries of observation and experiment from Galileo to satellite telescopes, a sensate earth through humankind achieves a comprehensive, “precision” understanding from the infinities of bosons and strings to a hypothetical multiverse. This fractal image is from the luminous Lunar Archives site: www.lunararchives.com and is titled Beginnings.
Most scientific other fields have made the turn from reduction to emergence such as Systems Biology, Genetics, Neuroscience, and even Systems Chemistry, as this website reports. While also having cataloged the myriad pieces and linear laws of its cosmic and material realms, physics seems stuck in the depths of matter, space and time. A Systems Physics or Cosmology turn has not similarly arisen to reassemble. A curious inversion occurs whence the pursuit that initiated human inquiry seems to be the last to reinvent itself. Twentieth century physical research expanded when black body radiation could not fit a Newtonian frame, which led Max Planck, Albert Einstein and colleagues into quantum and relativistic realms. At the same while, the particulate descent, due much to Niels Bohr, went from atoms, orbital electrons, to muons, leptons, bosons, quarks, on down.
As our worldwide humankind proceeds to learn on her/his own, credibly filling in an episodic development from universe to us, new phases of integral clarity are being achieved. The realm of subatomic phenomena was dubbed “quantum,” from the Latin for “amount,” by way of Max Planck’s realization, circa 1900, that energy waves are composed of discrete units akin to matter. For over a century, as physicists have tried to study and comprehend, with a stellar cast of Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Bohm, and more, quantum “mechanics” became daunted with arcane such as entanglement, decoherence, double-slit experiments, dead or alive cats, uncertainty, and so on.
I began these musings in the early 1960s when even a point of cosmic origin was not known, starry galaxies were just found a few decades before. In the mid 2010s, a sign of worldwide scientific progress is a nascent ability to begin to quantify an infinite constellation of stochastic cosmoses. This new December 2015 section will collect and report upon novel theoretical entries to consider other universes in the most part for parameters and propensities to contain living entities like us. We include some lengthy Abstracts for a sense of the expertise and technical vernacular.
A continuous thread seems to link together the events of the history of the Universe, from the Big Bang to the advent of Homo sapiens. The striking continuity of the general pattern of evolution suggests that the Universe was pregnant with life since beginning, and the biosphere was right from the start pregnant of mankind. Francesco Gaeta
This new section was added in 2013 to cover a growing flow of research papers across these sciences that find an integral affinity between quantum, condensed matter, many-body, statistical mechanics, and other physical fields, with life’s origin, organic physiology, anatomy, neural architecture and cognizance, and onto to dynamic ecosystems and human societies. An advocate is Nigel Goldenfeld who announced that “biology will become physics for the 21st century.” As a working phrase, Active Matter from Siram Ramaswamy is being used, for example, by Andrea Cavagna and Irene Giardina (2014) to describe bird flocks. A common aspect seems to be an implicate mathematical source that serves to structure and guide the gravid material spontaneity of a procreative evolution and history.
A section added in 2007 to gather novel advances in the nascent field of “supramolecular chemistry,” aka “constitutional dynamic and adaptive chemistry.” These terms, along with systems chemistry, are from the Nobel laureate Jean-Marie Lehn and colleagues to represent new appreciations of how the universal self-organizing principles are similarly being found to foster an emergent, nested complexity across chemical and biological precursor materialities.
This is a new section in Autumn 2014 to gather some concurrent viewpoints which study nature’s apparent method of local stochastic contingency with globally predictable lawfulness, aka blind variation and selective retention. What distinguishes these entries is an expansive application of this evolutionary process across the temporal dynamic cosmos. The endeavor is generally known as Universal Darwinism – search the phrase for John O. Campbell’s website for entries such as Richard Dawkins, Lee Smolin, Susan Blackmore, Wojciech Zurek, along with links. Our subtitle draws from Milan Cirkovic’s 2012 innovative work herein.
Into the 21st century, in tandem with computer science, the concept of information, broadly conceived from algorithms to knowledge, is becoming recognized as a primary creative quality, along with and prior to physical matter and energy, space and time. As a rush of references from the mid 2000s attest, such as James Gleick's opus, the such a textual dimension brings critical support for an organic genesis uniVerse. In a variety of ways, cosmic nature to human culture gains a robust informational-computational identity. A general perception from Alan Turing to Stephen Wolfram and Gregory Chaitin to Gordana Dodig-Gordana, Luciano Floridi and Wolfgang Hofkircher, many others, is a universe that seems to independently program, compute and iterate into a vital, emergent, cognizance. By some analogous soft and hard ware facility, a double, generative mathematical domain appears again. A further aspect is an informational essence found to distinguish quantum phenomena, which is covered in the next section.
This 2017 subsection grew out of Quantum Cosmology and Information Computation entries and elsewhere as it became evident that along with Complex System features (prior section) quantum realms possess a distinct informational quality. While intimated in the 1980s and 1990s by the sage physicist John Archibald Wheeler, Rolf Landauer, David Deutsch, and others, initial 21st century perceptions were of two kinds. The 2000 work Quantum Computation and Quantum Information by Michael Nielsen and Isaac Chuang was mainly about mechanics, qubits, Shannon communications and so on. This school continues apace with many volumes such as Quantum Computer Science by David Mermin (2007) and Quantum Information Theory by Mark Wilde (2nd ed. 2017).
.…western science is changing very rapidly now, toward an understanding of nature as alive, self-organizing, intelligent, conscious or sentient and participatory at all levels from subatomic particles and molecules to entire living planets, galaxies and the whole Cosmos…. Elisabet Sahtouris
The sterile, mechanical universe of 19th century theories was conceived as a closed, isolated system tending to quiescent equilibrium. As predicted by the second law of thermodynamics, it must inexorably expire as all available energy is spent doing work and converted to entropy. The “noonday brilliance” of the human moment is thus for naught as philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote early in the 20th century. But a major revision is underway by which life has become known as an open system infused and organized by a sustaining flow of energy and information. The gloomy pronouncement has been superseded by far-from-equilibrium version, due much to Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine and colleagues, which can describe and qualify the florescent rise of life and its human phase. An effort to articulate a “fourth law of thermodynamics” counter to the second law is now in progress. Altogether these efforts explain a vital "physical" source for and impetus to biological and cultural evolution, which again serves to reunite organic beings with a conducive cosmos.
As I have noted on occasion, my 1960 degree is in engineering thermodynamics from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, now NYU Poly. Back then long ago the field was mainly about the three laws for steam power plants. In 1987 I had lunch at a complexity conference with Ilya Prigogine, the prime founder of a later turn to nonequilibrium thermodynamics. This Thermodynamics of Life section seeks to report and document such 20th century advances as they continued to flourish in the 2000s. Since around 2010, aided by Internet worldwide collaborations, such studies of energy source, usage, dissipation, and began to merge with quantum mechanical physics via common theoretical convergences. Into the later 2010s, these composite endeavors have spread to an extent and depth to now merit their own subsection.
This new section (January 2018) is added to gather and report into the later 2010s an increasing notice of how a natural universe to human evolutionary genesis ought to be appreciated in some way as containing deep, intrinsic propensities for life’s self initiation, emergent organization, and sentient procreation. As popularly known, a catalyst is a chemical agent which can effect a reaction without being changed in the process. An autocatalytic term has become a general identifier for this procedure, and has gained wide usage because something like this is actually seems to be going on. A premier, pioneer theorist since the 1970s is Stuart Kauffman (search) which he has articulated in many books and collegial papers to this day. Lately the concept is being advanced by biomathematicians such as Wim Hordijk and Michael Steel, along with Liane Gabora, Nathaniel Virgo, Guenther Witzany, Sara Walker, Leroy Cronin, Addy Pross, and other advocates herein. We will collect in this dedicated subsection entries about a self-making natural genesis as it reaches our worldwide realization.
In addition to many scientific entries since the section went online in 2004, in these later 2010s we can report a topological turn in condensed matter physics, see Natalie Wolchover’s survey, and the 2016 Nobel Physics Prize. A clever mathematics and geometry variously known as Fractons (Jonathan Haah, et al) is commencing to theorize and represent nature’s intrinsic, heretofore elusive, structural forms and interconnections. Thus a systems cosmology phrase is posed akin to biology and all else. Some four centuries later Galileo Galilei would be quite pleased.
Since the 1970’s scientists have observed that many cosmic, atomic, chemical, and biomolecular parameters and constants seem to have precise values so that complex, sentient life can appear and evolve into observant human beings. These findings have led to an Anthropic Principle such that the presence of people in the universe serves to define and constrain the inherent properties it must have. Various “weak” or “strong” versions depend on how much credence or interpretation is given to these curious qualities. The term Biotropic is added to note realizations that beyond exact nebulae and nuclear forces, the periodic table of some 100 stable elements, along with myriad chemicals, seems quite tailored for an innately uniVerse to human genesis. We suggest Terratropic for an increasingly uniqueness in the 2010s of this own Earth within a planet-filled cosmos, see Part VII, Section C for more. Image Credit: MoonRunner Design UK at http://brattahlid.tripod.com/sw3-21web.htm.
As our special bioplanet Earth through cerebral humankind begins to explore its heavenly environs in space and time, this integral vista now implies a creative biological universe rich with emergent life and sentience. The section includes proceedings for international conferences on this field of study, which has converged upon the term Astrobiology. As the range of conditions where “life” can exist ever widens, a consensus is a celestial propensity for the presence of complex precursor biochemicals and pervasive microbial, unicellular life forms. But as ExoEarths also notes, contingent evolutionary pathways to intelligent, human-like observers remain under discussion. The section also documents the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence. The image is from the NASA Ames Research Center posted at http://amesnews.arc.nasa.gov/releases/2002/02images/astrobiology/astrobio.html. On this webpage NASA states its vision: To Improve Life Here, To Extend Life There, To Find Life Beyond.
As a starter, for web reference sites you can Google: NASA Kepler Satellite, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and other centers, along with Exoplanet encyclopedias, some listed here, for a wealth of information. By virtue of space and Earth telescope searches, braced by instrumental and computational analysis, in the past years a grand new cosmos has been revealed that is filled with as many orbital planets as there are sunny stars. A universal, innate propensity to form and evolve solar systems and exoworlds of every possible variety now seems prolifically evident. Circa 2012, it was predicted that bio-friendly Earth analogs in galactic and stellar habitable zones will soon be found.