VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
1. Geosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere
Peters, Ole and David Neelin. Critical Phenomena in Atmospheric Precipitation. Nature Physics. 2/5, 2006. From UCLA’s Climate Systems Interactions Group, mathematical quantifications that rainfall similarly conforms to and exemplifies nonlinear topologies and dynamics, as most folk already know. See also “Universality of Rain Event Size Distributions” by Peters, Neelin, et al in the Journal of Statistical Mechanics (P11030, 2011).
Critical phenomena occur near continuous phase transitions. As a tuning parameter crosses its critical value, an order parameter increases as a power law. At criticality, order-parameter fluctuations diverge and their spatial correlation decays as a power law1. In systems where the tuning parameter and order parameter are coupled, the critical point can become an attractor, and self-organized criticality (SOC) results. Here we argue, using satellite data, that a critical value of water vapour marks a non-equilibrium continuous phase transition to a regime of strong atmospheric convection and precipitation with correlated regions on scales of tens to hundreds of kilometres. Despite the complexity of atmospheric dynamics, we find that important observables conform to the simple functional forms predicted by the theory of critical phenomena. Our study indicates that the attractive quasi-equilibrium state, postulated long before SOC, is the critical point of a continuous phase transition and is thus an instance of SOC. (Abstract, 393)
Phillips, Colin and Douglas Jerolmack. Self-Organization of River Channels as a Critical Filter on Climate Signals. Science. 352/694, 2016. University of Minnesota and University of Pennsylvania earth systems scientists enter one more finding to evince that every domain of nature and society, in this case riverine phenomena, displays and is guided by such a common mathematical source.
Spatial and temporal variations in rainfall are hypothesized to influence landscape evolution through erosion and sediment transport by rivers. However, determining the relation between rainfall and river dynamics requires a greater understanding of the feedbacks between flooding and a river’s capacity to transport sediment. We analyzed channel geometry and stream-flow records from 186 coarse-grained rivers across the United States. We found that channels adjust their shape so that floods slightly exceed the critical shear velocity needed to transport bed sediment, independently of climatic, tectonic, and bedrock controls. The distribution of fluid shear velocity associated with floods is universal, indicating that self-organization of near-critical channels filters the climate signal evident in discharge. This effect blunts the impact of extreme rainfall events on landscape evolution. (Abstract)
Phillips, Jonathan. Soils as Extended Composite Phenotypes. Geoderma. 149/1-2, 2009. A University of Kentucky, Tobacco Road Research Team, geographer proposes that growing insights to earth’s grounded surface as formed by and exhibiting the same dynamic self-organization as everywhere else, along with systemic microbial presences and influences, merits its view as a viable “biomantle.” Indeed what "Geoderma" means. From Vladimir Vernadsky’s living matter to current biogeomorphologies, a true organismic, biosphere continuity for evolutionary life is revealed.
Several recent theories and conceptual frameworks in pedology, ecology, geomorphology, and evolutionary biology, taken together, suggest the notion that earth's soils are not just strongly influenced by biota, but represent selective pressures. These ideas point in the direction of many aspects of soils as expressions of the effects of genes through the effects of organisms (i.e., extended phenotypes). The cumulative, interacting, overlapping effects of these extended phenotypes as manifested in the soil represent an extended composite phenotype. If this is the case, then we should expect major changes in biological evolution to be reflected in major changes in the types of soils. (143) The notion of genetic signatures in soil morphology also has implications for the search for extraterrestrial life, and extends the notion of Earth as a set of tightly-coupled, densely interwoven systems. (143)
Quattrochi, Dale and Michael Goodchild, eds. Scale in Remote Sensing and GIS. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, 1997. Many papers find Geographic Information Systems GIS in both environmental and social domains to be based on a fractal, scale-invariant nature.
Rak, Rafal, et al. Universal Features of Mountain Ridge Networks on Earth. Journal of Complex Networks. May, 2019. We cite this entry by Polish systems geophysicists including Jaroslaw Kwapien and Stanislaw Drozdz (search) as another instance of how every phenomenal aspect is being found to exhibit the generative presence of fractal, self-similar, multiplex topologies. These late 2010s abilities strongly imply and represent an independent mathematical source program which manifests at every scale and instance from quantum inflation to our deep bicameral brains.
In this paper, we analyse different mountain ranges by means of a network approach so to reveal grasp essential features of their branching structure. We employ a fractal method as especially good at describing properties of rough objects and surfaces. We study ridge network structure by way of empirical elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission across mountain ranges from different geological periods and geographical locations. We observe that the topographic networks do display fractal scales of the mountain ranges and by another view show the power-law degree distributions. Since the various aretes differ in many properties, these values seem to be universal for Earthly mountainous terrains. (Abstract excerpt, edits)
Rinaldo, Andrea, et al. Evolution and Selection of River Networks: Statics, Dynamics, and Complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111/2417, 2014. Environmental scientists Rinaldo, University of Padova, with Riccardo Rigon, University of Trento, Jayanth Banavar, University of Maryland, Amos Maritan, National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Padova, and Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, Princeton University, quantify how riverine courses and currents can be seen to exemplify nature’s universal self-organizing propensities. So to wax, the one same river seems to roll and run on through cosmos, earth, and evolution as it flows to and carries us.
Significance: Our focus is on a rich interdisciplinary problem touching on earth science, hydrology, and statistical mechanics — an understanding of the statics and dynamics of the network structures that we observe in the fluvial landscape, and their relation to evolution and selection of recurrent patterns of self-organization. It is an exemplar of how diverse ideas, numerical simulation, and elementary mathematics can come together to help solve the mystery of understanding a ubiquitous pattern of nature.
Rinaldo, Andrea, et al. Trees, Networks, and Hydrology. Water Resources Research. 42/W06D07, 2006. For some background, Andrea Rinaldo of the University of Padova wrote in his 1994 paper On Landscape Self-Organization in this journal: A new quantitative characterization of landscape-forming processes in the general framework of self-organized criticality and of fractal analyses is proposed. A decade or so later, now with Amos Maritan of Padova, and Jayanth Banavar of Penn State University, the accepted presence of such mathematical dynamics can be articulated and understood.
This paper reviews theoretical and observational material on form and function of natural networks appeared in somewhat disparate contexts from physics to biology, whose study is related to hydrologic research. Moving from the exact result that drainage network configurations minimizing total energy dissipation are stationary solutions of the general equation describing landscape evolution, we discuss the properties and the dynamic origin of the scale-invariant structure of river patterns and its relation to optimal selection. (Abstract) We thus conclude that one recurrent self-organized mechanism for the dynamic origin of fractal forms is the robust strive for imperfect optimality that we see embedded in many natural patterns, chief and foremost hydrologic ones. (Abstract)
Ripl, Wilhelm. Water: The Bloodstream of the Biosphere. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B. 358/1921, 2003. In this analogy, human society is adversely interfering with its indispensable flow. By proper ecological and complex system understandings, we need to intentionally restore this global aqueous resource and its cycles.
Rodriguez-Iturbe, Ignacio and Andrea Rinaldo. Fractal River Basins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Fractals are an ubiquitous property of branching systems such as rivers, streams and estuaries. The book also provides a good introduction to self-organization and criticality concepts.
Rodriquez-Iturbe, Ignacio, et al. Metabolic Principles of River Basin Organization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108/11751, 2011. Over the past decade, as this section reports, researchers have found dynamical earth systems to exemplify self-organizing processes and geometries. Here Princeton University and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne hydrologists attest to a natural self-similarity for riverine phenomena, which the authors liken to an organic physiology, indeed much akin to a circulatory system.
The metabolism of a river basin is defined as the set of processes through which the basin maintains its structure and responds to its environment. Green (or biotic) metabolism is measured via transpiration and blue (or abiotic) metabolism through runoff. A principle of equal metabolic rate per unit area throughout the basin structure is developed and tested in a river basin characterized by large heterogeneities in precipitation, vegetation, soil, and geomorphology. This principle is suggested to have profound implications for the spatial organization of river basin hydrologic dynamics, including the minimization of energy expenditure known to control the scale-invariant characteristics of river networks over several orders of magnitude. (11751)
Rowan, Linda and Jessie Smith. The Terrestrial Web. Science. 288/1983, 2000. A summary of findings about Earth’s atmosphere, broadly conceived, from outer space to its crustal mantle and liquid core.
sarker, Shiblu, et al. Critical Nodes in River Networks. Nature Scientific Reports. 9/11178, 2019. By way of a novel application of network theory even to this geological realm, University of Central Florida civil engineers are able to perceive their inherent presence. Once again nature’s universal mathematical program can be seen in formative effect.
River drainage networks are important landscape features that have been studied from a range of geomorphological and hydrological perspectives. However, identifying the most vital (critical) nodes on river networks and their relationships with geomorphic and climatic properties has not yet been addressed. In this study, we use an algorithm that determines the set of critical nodes whose removal results in network fragmentation and apply it to simulated and natural river networks. Our results indicate a power-law relationship between the number of connected node pairs in the remaining network and the number of removed critical nodes. (Abstract excerpt)