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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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III. Ecosmos: A Procreative Organic Habitable UniVerse

2. An Autocatalytic, Bootstrap EcosmoVerse

Wolchover, Natalie. Physicists Uncover Geometric “Theory Space.”. Quanta. February 23, 2017. The science writer reviews the “bootstrap” concept, which was first proposed by Geoffrey Chew in the 1960s as a theory of a self-creative cosmic emergence. While respected, it was tabled until a 2010s burst of interest gave it a new currency. This entry is well paired with a 2019 update Cosmic Triangles Open a Window to the Origin of Time by NW (Quanta, October 29), also reviewed herein. An initial entry could be The Conformal Bootstrap by David Poland and David Simmons-Duffin in Nature Physics (12/535, 2016) about its latest insightful technicalities. The luminous work of Alexander Polyakov and Nima Arkani-Hamed, both now at IAS Princeton, is profiled next, again the unfolding advance is well posted on arXiv.

In the 1960s, the charismatic physicist Geoffrey Chew espoused a radical vision of the universe, and with it, a new way of doing physics. Theorists of the era were struggling to find order in an unruly zoo of newfound particles. They wanted to know which ones were the fundamental building blocks of nature and which were composites. But Chew, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, argued against such a distinction. “Nature is as it is because this is the only possible nature consistent with itself,” he wrote at the time. He believed he could deduce nature’s laws solely from the demand that they be self-consistent. Particles, Chew said, “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” (1)

As the new generation of bootstrappers explores this abstract theory space, they seem to be verifying the vision that Chew, now 92 and long retired, laid out half a century ago — but they’re doing it in an unexpected way. Their findings indicate that the set of all quantum field theories forms a unique mathematical structure, one that does indeed pull itself up by its own bootstraps, which means it can be understood on its own terms. (2) As physicists use the bootstrap to explore the geometry of this theory space, they are pinpointing the roots of “universality,” a remarkable phenomenon in which identical behaviors emerge in materials as different as magnets and water. (2)

It’s far from clear whether our own universe holographically emerges from a conformal field theory in the way that AdS universes do, or if this is even the right way to think about it. The hope is that, by bootstrapping their way around the unifying geometric structure of possible physical realities, physicists will get a better sense of where our universe fits in the grand scheme of things — and what that grand scheme is. (5)

Xavier, Joana, et al. Autocatalytic Chemical Networks at the Origin of Metabolism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. March, 2020. Early evolution theorists posted in Germany, Austria, the USA, New Zealand and Portugal including Stuart Kauffman continue to highlight the intrinsic significance of nature’s self-activation propensity to get life going. A graphic image of a global oxygen-independent prokaryotic metabolism displays many instances where biochemical catalysts are in effect. Might we at some point gain a wider appreciation of a autocatalytic ecosmos which organizes itself at each scale? Are we peoples now the intended selves as cosmic catalysts to begin its future genesis phase by our own initiative the next step by our own initiative?

Modern cells embody metabolic networks containing thousands of elements and form autocatalytic sets of molecules that produce copies of themselves. How these self-sustaining networks arose at life's origin is an open question. Here we identify reflexively autocatalytic food-generated networks (RAFs) as self-sustaining networks that collectively catalyse all their reaction. Our studies suggest that RAFs identify attributes of biochemical origins conserved in metabolic networks. RAFs are consistent with an autotrophic origin of metabolism and indicate that autocatalytic chemical networks preceded proteins and RNA in evolution. RAFs uncover intermediate stages in the emergence of metabolic networks, narrowing the gaps between early Earth chemistry and life. (Abstract excerpt)

Xu, Zhongmin, et al. The Common Developmental Road: Tensions among Centripetal and Centrifugal Dynamics. National Science Review. Online April, 2017. In this Oxford Academic journal of advances in science, medicine, technology, and worldviews from China, a unique collaboration of five Key Laboratory of Ecohydrology of Inland River Basin researchers with the emeritus University of Maryland environmentalist and author Robert Ulanowicz (search) achieves a synthesis of Western theories with an Eastern sense of an organic, innately procreative nature. As the Abstract cites, a prime concept is an autocatalytic essence which engenders a spiral ascent via coming together and moving apart states, akin to Yin and Yang within a Tao unity. In our midst, if we could only stop fighting and globally contemplate, a palliative resolve is just becoming clear. Apropos, see also Ulanowicz’s latest papers: Process Ecology: Making Room for Creation in Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions (55/357, 2016) and Towards a More Global Understanding of Development and Evolution in Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (Online July 2017) as he presses his mission beyond a vested mechanical reduction that cannot allow an integrative reciprocity.

Western thought since the Enlightenment has been predominantly linear in scope, while Eastern philosophy has focused mostly on the cyclical. Recent advances in complex systems, however, have highlighted the importance of cycles in nature, thereby opening an avenue for new common endeavors. This analysis centers on the role of autocatalytic loops and addresses the evolutionary relationship between competition and cooperation. It posits an evolutionary chain running from individual competition, to individual cooperation, to collective competition, to deep cooperation. We identify the centripetality that is consequent to autocatalysis and define three types of centrifugalities. Development is defined in the context of the tension between these opposing directions. Finally, we propose an evolutionary process consisting of four stages: 1. autognosis, 2. autocatalytic loop formation, 3. self-control, and 4. self-realization (sensu Taoism). The developmental narrative promises to become a useful tool for facilitating communication between Eastern and Western cultures. (Abstract)

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