WHAT IS LIFE? BIO-PHYSICAL PERSPECTIVES

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Life arises and develops in gravitationally bound atomic systems, under certain conditions, in the presence of the inflow of energy. A condition of structural dynamic reactivity to the energy inflow qualifies what are anthropomorphically considered as ‘alive objects’.

Alive objects, in this perspective, can be quantified further as thermodynamic quasi-closed supramolecular systems, which are a part of natural open systems.
These systems appear and evolve in periodic conditions near to internal equilibrium. This systems attribute of dynamic life can be understood further by the determination and use of mathematical ‘state functions’, which are functions that quantify the state of a system defined by the ensemble of physical quantities: temperature, pressure, composition, etc., which characterize the system, but neither by its surroundings nor by its history.
In this view, the phenomenon of a life is easily understood as a general consequence of the laws of the universe, in part…

Introduction

 

 The term ‘life’ is modern conception, an etymological adaption of the Old English libban ‘to live’ from before the 12thcentury. Into the late 18th century, with the advances in the sciences of chemistry and biology, life came to be divided generally into three mutually exclusive categories: non-life, plant-life, and animal-life. With the 1859 publication of the Origin of Species, by English naturalist Charles Darwin, a more unified view soon emerged [11]. In particular, in an 1871 letter written by Darwin to English botanist Joseph Hooker, Darwin made the suggestion that the original spark of life may have begun in a: “warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, lights, heat, electricity, etc. present, so that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes.”

This passage set forth a great divide, in the minds of the scientific community, that life is a result of the interaction of heat with chemical systems and that a certain description of this ‘heat interaction’ with systems of atoms can be found so as to exactly quantify the term life [12-15].

 

Although this assumed description is yet to be agreed upon, the concept of ‘biological life’ or simply ‘life’ is central in all divisions of the biological and related sciences [9]. Terminological examples include: life, lifetime, healthy life, lifespan, lifestyle, etc., the use of which can be found predominately in the science of gerontology, the comprehensive study of aging and the problems of the aged. The term ‘life’, however, is sufficiently ambiguous, since there does not exist a strict universal determination of this concept [9, 10-15].

 The definition of the mentioned term, from the position of the general laws of nature [1-4] and in view of the motive power of heat in the development of biological material, would allow from this united position, a more in depth study of the great diversity of biological systems and phenomena. This work is dedicated to the attempt to formulate an idea about life as bio-physico-chemical phenomenon, taking into account the results the thermodynamic theory of evolution and aging of living systems, whose bases were placed by the author, beginning in the late 1970’s. [2-5].

 

Variety of the life

 

There are many different determinations of the phenomenon of biological life as one of the forms of existence of material. The number of these determinations uses the data about the chemical composition of living objects, the exchange of substances of living material, storage and transmission of genetic information and different signs, which characterize the phenomenon of life [9-11].

There are sufficiently many such ‘signs’. One will sometimes note that none of the existing determinations of life are universal. It is possible, however, to give the determination of life on the basis of the general laws of nature, relying on contemporary achievements in the region of exact science: physics, physical chemistry, and physical chemistry biology.

If one takes into account, that life, as an inherent component of the heat-driven evolution of material, then it is expedient to determine the phenomenon of life from the position of what is called the ‘motive power’ of the evolution of material systems. The term motive power, from French physicist Sadi Carnot’s 1824 On the Motive Power of Fire, represents the mechanical effect of heat or the useful movement driven by such interaction [12].

This motive power, in the systems-within-systems point of view, seems to act as a ‘double force’. The motive power determines the overall directivity of processes in the system, such as in the total evolution the biosphere, movements induced due to the inflow of energy into the system from without, and the action of individual multi-directional spontaneous processes, which take place strictly in locations (or subsystems) of the greater system itself [2, 6-8]. The processes indicated are observed at the nano-level (atomic level) and the highest hierarchical levels (social levels) of the organization of living material. 

Thus, taking into those laws of science, which determine the laws of nature, in particular the laws of thermodynamics, life can be characterized as a manifestation of one of the forms of existence of material, inherent with the rotation of the substance, which takes place under the action of energy flow, predominately solar energy.

 

The motive force of the non-spontaneous processes of the cycle of matter, first of all, is connected with the Sun.

In the early stages of this dynamic life manifestation, smaller atomic structures and systems interaction, under the action external energy input, in such a manner that the synthesis of larger structure results, from higher stable chemical components.  An example this process being photosynthesis, in which the larger structure glucose C6H12O6 is synthesized from the more energetically stable components of carbon dioxide C02 and water H2O.
However, it should be remembered that in addition to solar power, there are other sources of energy.

Black smokers

In this view, life is a phenomenon caused by the synthesis of comparatively low-stability chemical substances. It is characterized by the appearance, under the effect of the physical factors, such as pressure, temperature, and volume, etc., and by the action of thermodynamic forces, particularly enthalpy (reaction heat) and entropy (dissipation heat), of poly-hierarchical structures, which consist of diverse natural organic and inorganic compounds, such as water.

This view substantiates, in contrast to the older Prigoginean view of life as a far-from-equilibrium dissipative structure, that real living structures appear and function, in essence, under periodic close-to-equilibrium conditions, a state which exists inside most living objects. Moreover, life is possible only in the specific ranges of temperatures, pressures and other thermodynamic environmental parameters. Life, subsequently, appears and is developed in the close-to-equilibrium range and can be viewed as dynamic molecular structures, considered as quasi-closed systems in the thermodynamic sense, which form part of natural open systems [2-6].

In addition, in specific ranges of changes in the thermodynamic and physical environmental parameters, and also under the effect of various mechanical factors, notable gravitational effects, e.g. Coriolis “force”, the formation of chiral molecular and supramolecular formations actuates. One should emphasize that organisms, populations and other higher structures are also complex supramolecular formations; the ‘human molecule’ (human being), and its social collectives, for instance, are the molecular subjects of study in the science of human chemistry [12-14]. Environmental conditions force the exchange of substances for all hierarchical levels of living material, which contributes to appearance and retention of the living beings. In the compressed general formulation, life can be defined as the phenomenon of existence of the energy-dependent dynamic hierarchic structures, mandated by thermodynamics.

Life or its phenomenon is thus claimed by kinetic hierarchical thermodynamics, which assumes that the functions of state of evolving systems being investigated make real physical sense. In other words, from the position of thermodynamics, most living systems exist in their close to equilibrium range of evolutionary development and their conversion in time can be characterized with the aid of the appropriate functions of state of the formation of these systems. It is for these purposes convenient to use the specific Gibbs free energy function, which is the thermodynamic potential unique to closed isothermal-isobaric systems, in the determination of the formation of living near-equilibrium systems.

In this logic, living systems, using a comparative methodology from chemistry, can be viewed as types of growing or fanning, beginning at the nano-level, poly-hierarchical ‘chromatographic columns’, in the sense that components that enter and evolve in a system, moving through hierarchies, migrate along paths of minimum free energy towards the most stable bonding or reaction sites.

An example of the ‘chromatographic column’ model is a social hierarchy in which the ‘locality’ of the population, where the selection of the most stable organism structures is observed. This selection is initiated by physical factors by means of interaction of the supramolecular receptors of organism, which receive the inflows of substance and energy on the nano and macrolevels. As is well known, similar living columns are the quasi-equilibrium quasi-closed systems. The laboratory (inanimate) columns, widely utilized in the molecular equilibrium (quasi-equilibrium) chromatography, are similar systems. Thus, the inflow of energy from without, and also the thermodynamics of the processes of the formation of close to the equilibrium hierarchical systems, determines appearance and maintenance of life. Chromatographic life, similar to our life, can appear only under specific conditions on the celestial bodies. However, the separate molecular and supramolecular components of living systems can appear and exist in diverse conditions, such as, for example, under the space conditions.

Functions of state and directivity of processes, according to the general laws of nature, which control the processes of development and self-reproduction of living systems, significantly simplifies because of the known ideas about the functions of state.

Insects mating

Functions of state have the total differentials and unambiguously are characterized systems at the assigned points of space with the constancy of the known physical and thermodynamic parameters. The use of functions of state opens the way of realizing the unity of evolutionary development and conversion of material on a strict physical basis [2-14].

With the inflow of energy into the system a change of the functions of state characterizes the transformation of this system as a result of the processes. Functions of state also make it possible to establish the direction of spontaneous processes and to determine the degree of their perfection inside strictly the system itself. Changes in the specific functions of state in the characterization of the formations of systems, characterizes changes in the thermodynamic stability of these systems. Thus, change in the time of the specific value of the Gibbs function of the formation of a living system, as a result of a variation in its chemical composition, is connected with the thermodynamic mechanism of a change in the structural stability of this system.

The mentioned stability approach to the process of directional maximum sublimity, which corresponds to the minimum value of the Gibbs function of the formation of the mentioned supramolecular system. With the reaching of this maximum value of stability the process of the vital activity of the matching system completes, and the mentioned system degrades with the formation of other chemical substances comparatively stable, under the environmental conditions, substances newly included in rotation.

The thermodynamic description of the rotation of substance for the thermodynamic description of the processes of the appearance of life and its evolution, as has already been indicated, is convenient to use the Gibbs function (free energy of Gibbs) the formation of the system, whose specific value in the ontogenesis and the phylogenies (evolution) to approach the minimum. Aging organisms and evolution of living systems flow in accordance with the law of temporary hierarchies and the principle of the stability of substance. The thermodynamic mechanisms, i.e. mechanisms of a change of the functions of state of systems in time, of evolutionary transformations in the living systems, and in the rotation of substance as a whole, are examined in the numerous publications of the author [2-8]. 

Diagrams of the rotation of substance, from the position of hierarchical thermodynamics [2, 10], are represented various publications. The condition for existences of life must correspond to temperatures, pressures and other physical chemistry environmental parameters, when the strength of chemical bonds in the molecules of the metabolites, being of comparatively high, however, is nevertheless commensurate with the strength of the connections, which appear with the formation of the structures of organisms.

Supramolecular thermodynamics or nano-thermodynamics, according to the principle of the stability of substance, makes the selection of comparatively chemically low-stability molecules with the formation of the supramolecular structures, which are united in organelle, cell, organisms, population, etc As has already been indicated, living systems are the growing fanned chromatographic columns, in cells of which undergo the chemical transformations of molecule, which enter the organism. The part of the substance is accumulated in the organism, which is accompanied by its increase. However, the majority of the products of vital activity is derived from the organism. Those removed from molecular system of metabolites are replaced by new similar molecules, which contributes to retention, although transformed, formations in the living systems.

This article is made to suggest that life can exist under the conditions of our planet, which exists when three states of aggregation of water are present. On other planets are possible other forms of life, in essence, primitive. It is possible that a similar primitive life can exist on liquid hydrocarbons or other substances, where it can be claimed by hierarchical thermodynamics.

 

Conclusions

 

The phenomenon of life is easy to realize within the framework the general laws of nature without the use of Prigoginean ‘non-equilibrium thermodynamics’ descriptions of systems at great distances from equilibrium states, which cannot be, in principle, described by means of the functions of state. Life can be studied without the use of ideas of synergetics, nonphysical mathematical models, and known, physically unjustified, eclectic concepts.

Life, then, is the phenomenon of existence of the varied energy-dependent molecular dynamic near equilibrium structures, claimed by hierarchical thermodynamics. Life, in various forms of its manifestation, is an inherent component of the evolutionary development of material. 

The author expresses the deep gratitude to professor V. N. Anisimov, Libb Thims and K. V. Sudakov for the councils and the support.

 

Literature

 

1. Gibbs J.W. The Collected Works of J. Willard Gibbs: Thermodynamics.- New York : Longmans, Green and Co., 1928.-Vol. 1.- P. 55-349.

2. Gladyshev G.P. On the Thermodynamics of Biological Evolution // Journal of Theoretical Biology.- 1978.- Vol. 75.- Issue 4.- Dec 21.-P. 425-441.

3. Gladyshev Georgi P. Thermodynamics Theory of the Evolution of Living Beings.- Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.- 1997.- 142 P.

4. Gladyshev G.P. Supramolecular thermodynamics is a key to    understanding phenomenon of life. What is Life from a Physical Chemist’s   Viewpoint.- Second Ed., Regular and Chaotic Dynamics.- Moscow-Izhevsk.- 2003.-  144 P. (In Russian).

5. Gladyshev G.P. The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Evolution of Living Systems.- Journal of Human Thermodynamics.- 2005.- Vol. 1.- Issue 7. – December.- P. 68-81. Georgi Gladyshev http://www.humanthermodynamics.com/JHT/Second-Law-Systems-Evolution.html

6. Gladyshev G.P. Life is inalienable component of matter evolution // Adv. Gerontol. – 2005.- Vol.16. – P.21-29.Gladyshev Georgi P. The Principle of Substance Stability is Applicable to all Levels of Organization of Living Matter // Int. J. Mol. Sci.-  2006.- 7.- P. 98-110.

7. Gladyshev Georgi P. The invited speaker and guest. Lecture.  The thermodynamic theory of aging in action: medical nutrition recommendations for patients of any age. Anti-Aging Therapeutics.- Ed. Dr. R. Klats and Dr. R. Goldman,- Volume IX, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine  (A4M),- 2007, Chicago,- IL, USA.- Chapter 20, P. 135-152. Copyright © 2007.- American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.- ISBN 978-1-934715-00-0 (print & CD-ROM)              http://www.worldhealth.net/p/catalog-product- detail;catalogproducts,0e652ed1bdc93000d4acdf76487e2542.html

8. Gladyshev G.P. Leonhard Euler’s methods and ideas live in the thermodynamic hierarchical theory of biological evolution // International Journal of Applied Mathematics and Statistics – (IJAMAS).- 2007.- Vol. 11.- N07, November.- P. 52-68.            http://www.ceser.res.in/ijamas.html http://www.ceser.res.in/ijamas/cont/2007/ams-n07-cont.html

9. Green N., Stout G., Taylor D. (Ed. Soper R.).- 1993.- Biological Science.- Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.- Russian translation.-  Mir.- Moscow.- Vol.3.- 374 P.

10. Hierarchical thermodynamics http://www.eoht.info/page/Hierarchical+thermodynamics

11. Life   http://www.eoht.info/page/Life  http://www.eoht.info/page/Aginghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life http://www.bazaluk.com/conference/files/33.doc

12. Thims Libb. The Human Molecule.- Morrisville, NC: LuLu.- 2008.- 120 P.
13. Thims Libb. Human Chemistry.- Volume 1.- Morrisville, NC: LuLu.- 2007.- 392P.

14. Thims Libb. Human Chemistry.- Volume 2.- Morrisville, NC: LuLu.- 2007.- 438P.

15. Thims Libb. Life.  http://www.eoht.info/page/Life The Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics (EoHT) ; Molecular Evolution Table – Institute of Human Thermodynamics .

Additional articles:

Georgi Gladyshev. Thermodynamic theory answers the questions: What is driving force behind evolution, and why we age? http://www.endeav.org/evolut/text/tstwdwa2001/ http://www.endeav.org./?id=36&lng=eng

Gladyshev G.P. Thermodynamic self-organization as a mechanism of hierarchical structures formation of biological matter // Progress in Reaction Kinetics and Mechanism (An International Review Journal. UK, USA). – 2003. – V. 28. – No. 2 – P. 157-188.

Robert M. Hazen (http://torrents.ru/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1279140 )

Comments

The definition of life from different points of view

Last edited May 6, 2011 10:00 AM

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How can life arise from non-life?

A very interesting article. But how can life magically arise from non-life? An living system is made of matter. Matter is a form of energy. So a living system is a system of energy. Life is energy. Your article is about organic life which is a subset of Life.
Last edited Feb 15, 2011 5:35 AM

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