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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

A. A Survey of Common Principles

Nakamura, Eita and Kunihiko Kaneko. Statistical Evolutionary Laws in Music Styles. arXiv:1809.05832. Kyoto University and University of Tokyo complexity theorists perceive and quantify the same stochastic motifs and movements within musical compositions as those that are constantly present across life’s developmental course. See also Higor Sigaki, et al (below) for similar appearances throughout artistic schools.

If a cultural feature is transmitted over generations and exposed to stochastic selection when spreading in a population, its evolution may be governed by statistical laws, as in the case of genetic evolution. Music exhibits steady changes of styles over time, with new characteristics developing from traditions. Recent studies have found trends in the evolution of music styles, but little is known about quantitative laws and theories. Here we analyze Western classical music data and find statistical evolutionary laws.. The model reproduces the observed statistical laws and its predictions are in good agreement with real data. We conclude that some trends in music culture can be formulated as statistical evolutionary laws and explained by the evolutionary model incorporating statistical learning and the novelty-typicality bias. (Abstract)

Norris, Vic. What Properties of Life Are Universal? Substance-Free, Scale-Free Life. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. Online March, 2015. The University of Rouen biologist posts a succinct list of eight properties that serve to distinguish living systems. As the Abstract notes, they are a balance of stability and change, diversity, dual survival and growth, complementary biomolecules, nested hierarchies, pervasive networks, sensory perceptions, and subjective experience. The especial point is made that these qualities appear repeatedly for every sequential stage or species entity. In regard, the paper is a good instance of an ability to specify life’s constant lineaments, which can then be seen to have a common independence of their own. So these insights are another advance to realizations of a natural genetic endowment which would be present and exemplify in just this fashion.

One approach to answering the question of what properties of life are universal is to try to answer the question of what are the essential properties of biology’s best understood model organism, Escherichia coli. One of these properties is competitive coherence whereby E. coli reconciles the generation of a coherent cell state with the generation of a coherent sequence of cell states. The second property is differentiation which occurs ineluctably when E. coli divides. The third property is dualism which is how E. coli navigates between the two main attractors of phenotypes – survival and growth – which are based on quasi-equilibrium and non-equilibrium structures, respectively. The fourth property is complementarity: the interactions between the molecules and macromolecules that constitute E. coli protect them from degradation and confer new properties. The fifth property is multi-scale existence: E. coli exists at levels extending from the bacterium to the global super-organism.

The sixth property is maintenance of connectivity; growth alters connectivity and, in the case of E. coli, alters the phenotype. The seventh property is the combination of intensity sensing (the constituents can work no harder) and quantity sensing (too much unused material has been made); this combination is used by E. coli to drive its cell cycle and thereby generate an environmentally adapted population of cells. The eighth property is subjective experience which exists even at the level of a single E. coli but which only becomes important at higher levels of organisation. I propose that the search for life at other times and in other places be based on the above eight universal properties and be independent of both particular substances and spatio-temporal scales. (Abstract)

Competitive coherence is a universal property of life insofar as the systems in which competitive coherence occurs are either alive themselves or comprise elements that are alive. At the level of a bacterium, growth and survival require selection of an active subset of macromolecules in response to external and internal conditions; such responses entail both the generation of a coherent cell state, in which the cell’s content work together efficiently and harmoniously, and the generation of a coherent sequence of cell states. (2)

Nowak, Martin. Evolutionary Dynamics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006. An array of technical chapters by the Harvard mathematical biologist which collect and expand on applications of game theory, broadly conceived, to fitness strategies in evolving populations from microbes to language-based societies. As noted in a New York Times article for July 31, 2007, by these insights an innate propensity for cooperation can be added to mutation and selection. Nowak is also co-director with Sarah Coakley of the Evolution and Theology of Cooperation Project at Harvard, Google name to reach its Templeton Foundation website.

Oltvai, Zoltan and Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. Life’s Complexity Pyramid. Science. 298/763, 2002. A synoptic report on new research results and evidence about how nature is arrayed in an emergent scale where the same form and dynamics are in effect everywhere.

At the lowest level, these components form genetic-regulatory motifs or metabolic pathways (level 2), which in turn are the building blocks of function modules (level 3). These modules are nested, generating a scale-free hierarchical architecture (level 4). Although the individual components are unique to a given organism, the topologic properties of cellular networks share surprising similarities with those of natural and social networks. This suggests that universal organizing principles apply to all networks, from the cell to the World Wide Web. (763)

Palese, Luigi and Fabrizio Bossis. The Human Extended Mitochondrial Metabolic Network. BioSystems. Online April, 2012. University of Bari, Italy, physicians find an organism’s broad class of lipid biochemicals, in their systemic physiology, to similarly exhibit nature’s universal interactive geometries.

One of the most striking aspects of complex metabolic networks is the pervasive power-law appearance of metabolite connectivity. However, the combinatorial diversity of some classes of compounds, such as lipids, has been scarcely considered so far. In this work, a lipid-extended human mitochondrial metabolic network has been built and analyzed. It is shown that, considering combinatorial diversity of lipids and multipurpose enzymes, an intimate connection between membrane lipids and oxidative phosphorilation appears. This finding leads to some biomedical considerations on diseases involving mitochondrial enzymes. Moreover, the lipid-extended network still shows power-law features. Power-law distributions are intrinsic to metabolic network organization and evolution. (Abstract, 1)

Perez Velazquez, Jose. Finding Simplicity in Complexity: General Principles of Biological and Nonbiological Organization. Journal of Biological Physics. 35/209, 2009. As many disparate scientific fields converge on the same patterns and processes, a University of Toronto, Hospital for Sick Children, neurophysician muses that a common, infinite iteration must inhere as their source. To illustrate it is shown that neuronal dendrites, tree branches, river beds, lung bronchioles, gene phylogenies, blood capillaries, and lightning strikes exhibit the same network structure. See Towards a Statistical Mechanics of Consciousness at arXiv:1606.00821 with JPV as a coauthor for a further entry.

What differentiates the living from the nonliving? What is life? These are perennial questions that have occupied minds since the beginning of cultures. The search for a clear demarcation between animate and inanimate is a reflection of the human tendency to create borders, not only physical but also conceptual. It is obvious that what we call a living creature, either bacteria or organism, has distinct properties from those of the normally called nonliving. However, searching beyond dichotomies and from a global, more abstract, perspective on natural laws, a clear partition of matter into animate and inanimate becomes fuzzy. Based on concepts from a variety of fields of research, the emerging notion is that common principles of biological and nonbiological organization indicate that natural phenomena arise and evolve from a central theme captured by the process of information exchange. Thus, a relatively simple universal logic that rules the evolution of natural phenomena can be unveiled from the apparent complexity of the natural world. (Abstract)

Perez-Mercader, Juan. Scaling Phenomena and the Emergence of Complexity in Astrobiology. Gerda Horneck and Christa Baumstark-Khan, eds. Astrobiology. Berlin: Springer, 2002. Deep in the scientific literature a new universe is being described which arises by emergent, nested sequential stages. Perez-Mercader contends that these phases from biomolecules to human persons to galactic networks are distinguished by a universality whereby the same, invariant form and process recurs over and over.

Finally, among the main patterns we can identify a systematic presence of systems within systems, within systems: planetary systems, within galaxies, within clusters of galaxies, or bases within DNA molecules, within chromosomes, within cell nuclei, within cells, etc. (339)

Picoli, S., et al. Scale-Invariant Structure of Size Fluctuations in Plants. Scientific Reports. 2/Article 328, 2012. Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Brazil, physicists untangle nature’s floral profusion by way of complex systems science to lately decipher this recurrent, recursive, “analogy of proper proportion” (Aquinas) scripture. See also Picoli and Mendes in Religion and Science.

A wide range of physical and biological systems exhibit complex behaviours characterised by a scale-invariant structure of the fluctuations in their output signals. In the context of plant populations, scaling relationships are typically allometric. In this study, we analysed spatial variation in the size of maize plants (Zea Mays L.) grown in agricultural plots at constant densities and found evidence of scaling in the size fluctuations of plants. The findings indicate that the scaling of the probability distribution of spatial size fluctuation exhibits non-Gaussian behaviour compatible with a Lévy stable process. The scaling relationships were observed for spatial scales spanning three orders of magnitude. These findings should provide additional information for the selection and development of empirically accurate models of pattern formation in plant populations.

Potirakis, Stelios, et al. Dynamical Analogy between Economical Crisis and Earthquake Dynamics within the Nonextensive Statistical Mechanics Framework. Physica A. Online February, 2013. University of Athens physicists drawn upon these thermodynamic theories of Constantino Tsallis to discern across disparate realms the presence of deep similarities, which are extended to seizures, magnetic storms and solar flares. So are we closing on a great historic realization, as other ages and cultures long aver, of an infinitely recurrent natural creation which so springs as if by universally applicable, genetic-like code. See also in regard “The Earth as a Living Planet” at arXiv:1210.4804 (October 2012) by Y. Contoyiannis, with Potirakis, whence more analogies are noted between geological criticalities and human physiology.

The field of study of complex systems considers that the dynamics of complex systems are founded on universal principles that may be used to describe a great variety of scientific and technological approaches of different types of natural, artificial, and social systems. Several authors have suggested that earthquake dynamics and the dynamics of economic (financial) systems can be analyzed within similar mathematical frameworks. We apply concepts of the nonextensive statistical physics, on time-series data of observable manifestations of the underlying complex processes ending up to these different extreme events, in order to support the suggestion that a dynamical analogy exists between a financial crisis (in the form of share or index price collapse) and a single earthquake. (Abstract)

Proekt, Alex, et al. Scale Invariance in the Dynamics of Spontaneous Behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109/10564, 2012. Physician Proekt, physicists Jayanth Banavar and Amos Martin, and neurobiologist Donald Pfaff, find animal activities to exhibit the same nested recurrence of self-organized phenomena as everywhere else in nature and society, as this site documents, from galaxies to genomes, brains, language, and our noosphere.

Typically one expects that the intervals between consecutive occurrences of a particular behavior will have a characteristic time scale around which most observations are centered. Surprisingly, the timing of many diverse behaviors from human communication to animal foraging form complex self-similar temporal patterns reproduced on multiple time scales. We present a general framework for understanding how such scale invariance may arise in nonequilibrium systems, including those that regulate mammalian behaviors. Our analyses reveal that the specifics of the distribution of resources or competition among several tasks are not essential for the expression of scale-free dynamics. Rather, we show that scale invariance observed in the dynamics of behavior can arise from the dynamics intrinsic to the brain. (Abstract)

Radicchi, Filippo, et al. Complex Networks Renormalisation. Physics Review Letters. 101/148701, 2008. In our midst today, if we might inquire, is an imminent discovery via the sum of myriad contributions such as this finding of an invariant resonance whose nested nets from universe to human repeat the same archetypal pattern and process. Renormalization group theory, from 1982 physics Nobel laurate Kenneth Wilson, is yet another window upon nature’s innate universality, but is said to need better terminologies that could aid such a translation.

Generally speaking, an object is self-similar if any part of it, however small, maintains the general properties of the whole object. Self-similarity is a characteristic feature of fractals and it expresses the invariance of a geometrical set under a length-scale transformation. Many complex systems such as the World-Wide-Web (WWW), the Internet, social and biological systems, have a natural representation in terms of graphs, which often display heterogeneous distributions of the number of links per node (the degree k). These distributions can be described by a power law decay, i.e. are scalefree: they remain invariant under a rescaling of the degree variable, suggesting that suitable transformations of the networks’ structure may leave their statistical properties invariant. (148701)

Ramstead, Maxwell, et al. Answering Shrodinger’s Question: A Free-Energy Formulation. Physics of Life Reviews. Online September, 2017. Canadian, Australian, and British neurosciences including lead author Karl Friston post a new response to the 1944 What is Life? book by the Nobel laureate Erwin Schrodinger which has inspired the scientific quest for an integral definition grounded in physical principles. While ranging over a wide area, there is a growing confidence in the later 2010s that this essential rooting and explanation is within reach. In this journal, papers come with peer reviews, we note Michael Levin, John O. Campbell, Leot Leydesdorff, and others (14 men). But the whole project might benefit, it seems, from a toning down and clarity of technical terms.

The free-energy principle (FEP) is a formal model of neuronal processes that is widely recognised in neuroscience as a unifying theory of the brain and biobehaviour. More recently, however, it has been extended beyond the brain to explain the dynamics of living systems, and their unique capacity to avoid decay. The aim of this review is to synthesise these advances with a meta-theoretical ontology of biological systems called variational neuroethology, which integrates the FEP with Tinbergen's four research questions to explain biological systems across spatial and temporal scales. We exemplify this framework by applying it to Homo sapiens, before translating variational neuroethology into a systematic research heuristic that supplies the biological, cognitive, and social sciences with a computationally tractable guide to discovery. (Abstract)

In other words, an organism does not just encode a model of the world, it is a model of the world – a physical transcription of causal regularities in its eco-niche that has been sculpted by reciprocal interactions between self-organization and selection over time. On the basis of these distinctions, we turn next to defining a fully generalizable ontology for biological systems based on a multiscale free energy formulation, which we call “variational neuroethology.” (5)

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