Who’s Out There–The Santa Fe Institute3 min read

The Santa Fe Institute is well-known for bringing together experts from diverse fields to tackle difficult problems. They love best, I suspect, to seek answers to age-old questions. Hence it’s not surprising that the Institute is now in its second year of the Research Collaboration Network for Exploring Life’s Origins.

The Santa Fe Institute is an independent research center pursuing the big questions on the frontiers of science.

By focusing on life origins, their hope is to find the scientific laws governing life, where the “physical and chemical world” departs from the “history-dependent living world.” In their newsletter, the Institute faculty has noted seven articles listed in “Re-conceptualizing the origins of life” in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (November 13, 2017).

The emphasis of these studies so far has been on such topics as bioenergetics (See Downward Causation 11/16/17), thermodynamic efficiency, statistical mechanics and “translation: processing information from a genome and writing that into proteins.”

In the SFI themed issue “Reconceptualizing the origins of life,” the thermodynamic efficiency of the above mentioned “translation” is studied and found to be highly efficient. They ask how do the “laws of thermodynamics restrict biological function…?” The good news is that DNA replication is not as efficient as biological translation but thousands of times more efficient than a computer.

The Santa Fe Institute • Science for a complex world

Their next questions are how efficient are thought and natural selection, and does computer science have anything to tell us about cells. A look at more recent tweets from the SFI studies reminds us that SFI offered a course In June 2018 on the origins of life. They noted the possible finding of methane on Mars, suggest a look atthioester chemistry, and suggest that blockchains might model primitive life

But the most intriguing finding was microbes spotted in “polyextreme” hot springs in Ethiopia. Tiny spherical organisms were found by astrobiologist Felipe Gomez of Madrid in January 2017. Such extremeophiles tell us that life might exist in more places than we have imagined–in near-boiling water full of colored minerals, like sulfur and brine

The DNA that Gomez’s team found was extracted from scraped salt precipitates on a chimney one meter tall. The DNA was a “close match with the class Nanohaloarchaea, also spotted in salty ponds in Spain. Spherical objects 50 to 500 nanometers in size had a high carbon content, suggesting that they were biological.

The SFI insists that we don’t make too many assumptions about life and what it needs in order to evolve. On the other hand, it makes sense to recognize the most likely chemical interactions that have the most probability on their side.–

Author of The Archives of Varok
The View Beyond Earth (Book 1.)
The Webs of Varok (Book 2.)
Nautilus Silver Award 2013 YA
ForeWord IBPA finalist 2012 adult SF
The Alien Effect (Book 3.)
An Alien’s Quest (Book 4. Released Nov.21, 2016)

Excerpts, Synopses, Reviews, On Writing, Characters and More-
Reviews of significant books- www.goodreads.com/Cary_Neeper
How the Hen House Turns- www.ladailypost.com
Complexity, Bio, Bibliography and Links- caryneeper.com
Astrobiology- astronaut.com search:Who’s Out There


Cary Neeper is an avid student of complexity theory, sustainability, steady-state economics, and the impact of cosmology on issues of science and religion. She grew up in the foothills of Hayward, California, where she helped rack dried fruit on her father’s 40-acre apricot ranch. After studying zoology/chemistry and religion at Pomona College and medical microbiology at the University of Wisconsin, she moved with her husband to northern New Mexico, where they raised their family. The Neepers still live in the Southwest with a friendly menagerie of dogs, fish, chickens, geese, ducks and a turkey called Little Bear. Cary plays string bass with local folk, symphony and jazz groups and tennis with local retired physicists. She paints landscapes in acrylics, including the cover art for her first Penscript title, The Webs of Varok. Cary's first novel and Webs of Varok prequel A Place Beyond Man was originally published in 1975 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, Dell, and Millington, London. Cary re-released A Place Beyond Man as an Author’s Guild Backinprint edition, now available from online booksellers. Its themes of sustainability and interspecies cooperation have now grown into new adventures for its human, elll and varok family as they travel the alternate 21st century Solar System in the five-volume Archives of Varok, coming from Penscript Publishing House in 2012–2014. Cary’s other works include two musical science fiction comedies “U.F.F.D.A.!” and “Petra and the Jay,” as well as newspaper and magazine articles, essays, short stories, and book reviews for The Christian Science Monitor.

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