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.
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.
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-
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Astrobiology- astronaut.com search:Who’s Out There
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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