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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

1. Geosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere

Nkono, Collin, et al. Fractal Analysis of Lineaments in Equatorial Africa: Insights on Lithospheric Structure. Open Journal of Geology. 3/157, 2013. A team of French and Belgian geoscientists, including Annick Lesne, describe an aerial photography technique as a novel perspective for studying geological strata in remote, ravaged regions such as Cameroon and the Central African Republic. By virtue of aviation and satellite imaging, along with computer analysis, spatial desert and plateau landscapes, and temporal histories to the Paleozoic, can be constructed that are not possible otherwise. And one cannot help but perceive a collaborative humanity who returns to study the fraught regions from whence homo sapiens came. Might such a worldwise progeny also be able to attain a palliative knowledge, akin to African organic wisdom, that could save and heal these war-torn lands. Indeed, as I write in April 2014, Nigeria has just sent a plea to the whole world to help find a way to release their peoples from its consuming ignorance and violence. Indeed, the same abilities can now be applied to study extraterrestrial planets.

In this paper, the complexity in the spatial distribution of the lineaments was investigated from on remote sensing topographic (SRTM DEM) and multispectral (Landsat) data. Lineaments in equatorial Africa were chosen to apply the fractal analysis methodology. The good correlations of the obtained data with some geophysical data from the same area allow that the complexity in the spatial distribution of the lineaments can give qualitative information on the interior of the earth (or on other planets). This method can provide a bridge between classical geology and geophysics, and particularly powerful for studying large and inaccessible regions. (Abstract)

As the geoid is a complementary source of information about the earth’s (planets) internal structure, and in areas where geological information are not abundant, the complexity in the spatial distribution of the lineaments can give the same information in a qualitative way. This approach can provide a bridge between classical geology and geophysics, and particularly powerful for studying large and inaccessible regions. The approach proposed is thus very effective in gathering basic information for exploration geology in remote areas on Earth and for investigations in planets. (165)

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)

V. I. Vernadsky, a pioneer of biogeochemistry, saw the biosphere as a web of biogeochemical feedback mechanisms connecting organisms and environment in a single system. In his view, life has a natural tendency for expansion through intensification of biogeochemical cycles and natural selection favors individuals and species capable of increasing cycling of elements. (145) These ideas, together with those of the biosphere and soils as planetary skins or membranes which capture and transform energy, collectively point to a view of soils as reflecting the cumulative genetics effects of multiple generations of multiple organisms – soils as extended composite phenotypes. (150)

UK Faculty Website: Phillips is also interested in theory and methodology related to studying Earth systems as complex, nonlinear dynamical systems. He has developed, and continues to attempt to develop, new ideas and methods for complex systems analysis of rivers, soils, landscapes, and ecosystems. Teaching interests include introductory and upper-level physical geography, geomorphology, and biogeography. A majority of Phillips’ students grudgingly concede that he is not the worst professor they ever had.

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.

Moving from the exact result that drainage network configurations minimizing total energy dissipation are stationary solutions of the general equation describing landscape evolution, we review the static properties and the dynamic origins of the scale-invariant structure of optimal river patterns. Optimal channel networks (OCNs) are feasible optimal configurations of a spanning network mimicking landscape evolution and network selection through imperfect searches for dynamically accessible states. OCNs are spanning loopless configurations, however, only under precise physical requirements that arise under the constraints imposed by river dynamics—every spanning tree is exactly a local minimum of total energy dissipation. It is remarkable that dynamically accessible configurations, the local optima, stabilize into diverse metastable forms that are nevertheless characterized by universal statistical features. Such universal features explain very well the statistics of, and the linkages among, the scaling features measured for fluvial landforms across a broad range of scales regardless of geology, exposed lithology, vegetation, or climate, and differ significantly from those of the ground state, known exactly. (Abstract)

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)

The empirical evidence suggests that river basin metabolic activity is linked with the spatial organization that takes place around the drainage network and therefore with the mechanisms responsible for the fractal geometry of the network, suggesting a new coevolutionary framework for biological, geomorphological, and hydrologic dynamics. (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.

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