The relationship between biology and geology

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Ranvier
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Ranvier » September 15th, 2017, 6:34 pm

Steve3007

I will violate my modesty in stating that I rarely have a difficulty in understanding anything, which of course makes me "guilty" of delusion of self importance and hubris.

However... it shouldn't take much effort in perceiving an error in "explaining" an error:
No. The clue is in the fact that I didn't say that. I said that energy is a numerical quantity, measured in Joules (in the MKS system of measurements) that is the left hand side of various mathematical equations.

If I had meant to say:

Here is the problem... what you meant to say and what you said, are two different things. Simply saying that "it couldn't had been what I said because I would just say it in that way", is not a justification of a "wording" error. Sure, I infer from the context the "meaning" of what you wish to convey, which you often have a difficulty in achieving yourself. However, such explanation is a self indulgent proposition but not an actual explanation.

"Energy is" = "kinetic energy"

then I would have said

"Energy is" = "kinetic energy".
Especially, since the "bold type" in the quote, indicates that "Energy is" measured in Joules, which is actually a unit for "Work" done by "Force" moving an object in "distance" by 1 meter. It actually has nothing to do with "kinetic energy", calories, volts... or the "concept" of "Energy" as in "Dark Energy", which actually "describes" most of our universe.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Greta » September 15th, 2017, 8:03 pm

Steve. I'd written a fair bit and then clicked the wrong button so I am starting again ... oh well, it will at least encourage more brevity :)

In a nutshell, what I see are relatively homogeneous groupings of things - anything - which eventually develop irregularities, areas of concentration and sparseness. This applies as much to the CMB as to the development of atoms in the soup of subatomic particles in the early universe, or the formation of molecular clouds, galaxies, stars, planets, complex chemistry, life, multicellularity, encephalisation and brains and, of course, human civilisation and wealth distribution.

I suggest that the growing wealth disparities accompanied by high tech capabilities point to the next concentration, bifurcation and emergence from the otherwise relatively homogeneous bulk of humanity. Like the CMB, there will be "clusters" (emerging empowered entities) and voids (cultural extinctions).

What I find especially fascinating is the seeming likelihood that biology is just a phase of a larger evolution. Biology is simply unsuited to long haul space travel and, given the Sun and Earth's impending demises, that aspect of the future would seem fairly clear. If humans are to persist in the long term at all then they will become largely or completely synthetic.

Where it gets more interesting still is, should our non-biological descendants manage to continue life's story elsewhere, might a new form a biology emerge again on that new base? Or might something even more left field emerge - that is neither technology nor life as such, but as relatively empowered as early life would have been as compared with the surrounding non-living chemicals that life no doubt freely consumed.

I know you are not always keen on speculating, but it's all logical, isn't it? Of course it's all on the proviso that there's no guarantees for populations any more than individuals. An asteroid or nuclear war could wipe us out collectively as surely as being hit by a bus can snuff out an individual life.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Ranvier » September 15th, 2017, 9:08 pm

Greta

Very good points, especially in the context of the "larger evolution". However, I wouldn't immediately conclude that organic life is doomed in this universe and inconsequential to that "larger evolution". As species, we have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, relative to the geological history of our planet. It's logical to stipulate, with the current "path" towards the AI and possible future of the "synthetic" silicon based life, that the "larger evolution" will mostly "select" for such synthetic life. Yet, we already have the "code" for the conscious life but are still subject to a "selfish" egocentric perspective of being the "center" of the universe, which in the way is true but it would take this topic on a tangent in an attempt to justify such claim.

We can easily design a "monolith" for "creation of life" and "human knowledge", to be "sent" into the "future" in a capsules of "time" to germinate and take foothold elsewhere in space and time to continue the "human evolution", after we "leave" the existence on this planet. Perhaps, this is how we came to existence in the first place?

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Steve3007 » September 16th, 2017, 9:22 am

Greta:
Steve. I'd written a fair bit and then clicked the wrong button so I am starting again
For long posts I always think it's safest to write it in notepad first and then paste it into the website.
In a nutshell, what I see are relatively homogeneous groupings of things - anything - which eventually develop irregularities, areas of concentration and sparseness. This applies as much to the CMB as to the development of atoms in the soup of subatomic particles in the early universe, or the formation of molecular clouds, galaxies, stars, planets, complex chemistry, life, multicellularity, encephalisation and brains and, of course, human civilisation and wealth distribution.
Yes indeed. And in physics this phenomenon is known as "unstable equilibrium". It is the state of affairs in a system whereby a small change in the position of the constituents of the system leads to a force which increases that change. This is in contrast to "stable equilibrium", where small changes tend to result in a restoring force - a force that tends to push the system back to its original state.

Conceptually, "unstable equilibrium" can be thought of as a boulder on a mountain top and "stable equilibrium" can be thought of as a boulder in a valley.

In an system which is in a state of unstable equilibrium, vanishingly small changes in earlier states, or initial states, can lead to large changes in later state. This can mean chaotic systems. It can also mean that changes that are due to quantum fluctuations can manifest as macroscopic differences.

In the field of economics, wealth distribution is in this state if the acquisition of wealth makes it easier to aquire more wealth and if poverty makes it harder. Or, to put it in the form of a well known cynical joke:

"A bank is a place that will lend you money as long as you can prove you don't need it."
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Greta » September 16th, 2017, 9:40 am

Steve3007 wrote:Greta:
Steve. I'd written a fair bit and then clicked the wrong button so I am starting again
For long posts I always think it's safest to write it in notepad first and then paste it into the website.
In a nutshell, what I see are relatively homogeneous groupings of things - anything - which eventually develop irregularities, areas of concentration and sparseness. This applies as much to the CMB as to the development of atoms in the soup of subatomic particles in the early universe, or the formation of molecular clouds, galaxies, stars, planets, complex chemistry, life, multicellularity, encephalisation and brains and, of course, human civilisation and wealth distribution.
Yes indeed. And in physics this phenomenon is known as "unstable equilibrium". It is the state of affairs in a system whereby a small change in the position of the constituents of the system leads to a force which increases that change. This is in contrast to "stable equilibrium", where small changes tend to result in a restoring force - a force that tends to push the system back to its original state.

Conceptually, "unstable equilibrium" can be thought of as a boulder on a mountain top and "stable equilibrium" can be thought of as a boulder in a valley.

In an system which is in a state of unstable equilibrium, vanishingly small changes in earlier states, or initial states, can lead to large changes in later state. This can mean chaotic systems. It can also mean that changes that are due to quantum fluctuations can manifest as macroscopic differences.

In the field of economics, wealth distribution is in this state if the acquisition of wealth makes it easier to acquire more wealth and if poverty makes it harder. Or, to put it in the form of a well known cynical joke:

"A bank is a place that will lend you money as long as you can prove you don't need it."
I always plan to write brief, to-the-point posts, so it never occurs to me to open a text editor. Oh well, it's a character building exercise :)

Thanks for the technical information. "Stable equilibrium" sounds like an oxymoron to me but of course the term is relative. Given the current series of major storms, a little butterfly effect talk would seem pertinent. It's the same principle, of course - a perturbation in the air that is large enough to build upon itself rather than quickly dissipating, thus creating a relatively stable airflow system that absorbs, destroys and generally "out competes" smaller surrounding air perturbations and dominates its local "environment". Multinational companies do the same.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Steve3007 » September 16th, 2017, 10:39 am

Greta:
"Stable equilibrium" sounds like an oxymoron to me but of course the term is relative.
I think "unstable equilibrium" sounds more like an oxymoron to me because we normally associate the word "equilibrium" with stasis. But I guess the point is that a system can be stationary but unstable, like that boulder perched on a mountain that I mentioned.
What I find especially fascinating is the seeming likelihood that biology is just a phase of a larger evolution. Biology is simply unsuited to long haul space travel and, given the Sun and Earth's impending demises, that aspect of the future would seem fairly clear. If humans are to persist in the long term at all then they will become largely or completely synthetic.
That's an interesting idea. In science fiction, the problem of long haul space travel always seems to be solved by humans getting into little capsules and going to sleep. It's become a bit of cliche. I haven't heard your idea here explored much.
Where it gets more interesting still is, should our non-biological descendants manage to continue life's story elsewhere, might a new form a biology emerge again on that new base? Or might something even more left field emerge - that is neither technology nor life as such, but as relatively empowered as early life would have been as compared with the surrounding non-living chemicals that life no doubt freely consumed.
Yes, it seems conceivable that there could be some form of life that evolves in that way.
I know you are not always keen on speculating, but it's all logical, isn't it? Of course it's all on the proviso that there's no guarantees for populations any more than individuals. An asteroid or nuclear war could wipe us out collectively as surely as being hit by a bus can snuff out an individual life.
True. But if you consider the pace at which technology develops compared to the frequency with which major extinction events occur, maybe we have more chance than we think.
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Greta » September 16th, 2017, 9:33 pm

Steve3007 wrote:Greta:
"Stable equilibrium" sounds like an oxymoron to me but of course the term is relative.
I think "unstable equilibrium" sounds more like an oxymoron to me because we normally associate the word "equilibrium" with stasis. But I guess the point is that a system can be stationary but unstable, like that boulder perched on a mountain that I mentioned.
Ha! Yes. My muddled point was that "equilibrium" does not exist, other than relatively. Shades of Leo again :)
Steve3007 wrote:
What I find especially fascinating is the seeming likelihood that biology is just a phase of a larger evolution. Biology is simply unsuited to long haul space travel and, given the Sun and Earth's impending demises, that aspect of the future would seem fairly clear. If humans are to persist in the long term at all then they will become largely or completely synthetic.
That's an interesting idea. In science fiction, the problem of long haul space travel always seems to be solved by humans getting into little capsules and going to sleep. It's become a bit of cliche. I haven't heard your idea here explored much.
Yes, I think it's because readers need humans to relate to along with the difficulty of humans portraying anything that is more sophisticated than humans.

Even if deep space explorers survived their cryosleep, they'd still be captives on alien, hostile worlds. More likely, bit by bit, perhaps at times via nano robots, biological human parts will increasingly be replaced by more functional and robust synthetics. There's already talk of brain, vision and other damage suffered by astronauts by radiation and low gravity. Consider the growing evidence that bacteria in low gravity will present unprecedented problems. Further, there could be the risk of alien bacteria and viruses.

If interstellar space is to be conquered, and that would seem logically inevitable by some species, somewhere, sometime in the future of the universe, it must be beings that have transcended or hugely altered their biology.
Steve3007 wrote:
I know you are not always keen on speculating, but it's all logical, isn't it? Of course it's all on the proviso that there's no guarantees for populations any more than individuals. An asteroid or nuclear war could wipe us out collectively as surely as being hit by a bus can snuff out an individual life.
True. But if you consider the pace at which technology develops compared to the frequency with which major extinction events occur, maybe we have more chance than we think.
I'm personally optimistic about the long term but pessimistic about the interim.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Steve3007 » September 17th, 2017, 12:20 pm

Greta:
Consider the growing evidence that bacteria in low gravity will present unprecedented problems.
Of the things you've mentioned, that's not one that I'd heard about before. Interesting.

On the subject of replacing our biological bodies with robotic parts for the purpose of long haul space flight and other environments in which our bodies did not evolve and are therefore not suited to:

I suppose there's nothing fundamentally special about the parts being robotic or mechanical. The key feature is simply their ability to withstand hostile environments. So perhaps another option is some kind of enhancement of our biology, while keeping the same general "design". Perhaps changes to our DNA which leave our essential characteristics but protect against (for example) cancers.

Also, at the other end of the scale: The other alternative is to do away with both human bodies and robotic bodies and just transmit the "software". Install it in new hardware at the other end. I guess really I'm then talking about a form of teleportation, but with an explicit recognition that the body at the other end is not the body that was transmitted.
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Alan Jones » September 18th, 2017, 9:59 am

Hello Greta,
I like your posts about biogeochemistry. The story of how life and geology have interacted on our planet fascinates me. A crude example: The recycling of chemicals that are vital for Earth life is effected by plate tectonics which would be shut down if the mantle were not hydrated (compare Venus). Relatively early in Earth's history cyanobacteria began to produce huge amounts of oxygen that combine with hydrogen, reforming water, and mitigating the removal of hydrogen (and water) by the solar wind (as apparently occurred on Mars). Those interested in biogeochemistry should like the first half of Nick Lane's "Oxygen" and Peter Westbroek's "Life as a Geological Force". Other suggested reading?
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by JamesOfSeattle » September 18th, 2017, 12:39 pm

I just wanted to inject a few thoughts into Greta and Steve's discussion:

1. I see no reason that the human race will end after our artificial progeny colonize the galaxy. Why can't we just go along for the ride, albeit a few steps behind? On a related note, I think the Earth will last a lot longer than people think. I don't think the sun will expand and engulf the Earth on schedule. Why would we let that happen?

2. Instead of adapting our bodies to the harsh conditions of space, why don't we just fix the harsh conditions? I have every intention of visiting Mars, but not until the intelligent robots have made it safe and comfortable. (No pioneer, I.)

3. I still see the concept of "transferring the software", either for the purpose of teleportation or "uploading", as an extreme form of vanity. In neither case is the result "you". It's a copy of you. Kinda like a full-length portrait.

*

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Steve3007 » September 18th, 2017, 5:36 pm

James:
I don't think the sun will expand and engulf the Earth on schedule. Why would we let that happen?
So rather than solving the problem by moving away from the Earth we could solve it by extending the life of the Sun? That's an interesting solution to the problem. Although I would have thought that moving would be easier.
Instead of adapting our bodies to the harsh conditions of space, why don't we just fix the harsh conditions? I have every intention of visiting Mars, but not until the intelligent robots have made it safe and comfortable. (No pioneer, I.)
That's Mars, not space. If you're suggesting that we "terraform" the whole of space to make it habitable by humans, that really is thinking outside the box.
I still see the concept of "transferring the software", either for the purpose of teleportation or "uploading", as an extreme form of vanity. In neither case is the result "you". It's a copy of you. Kinda like a full-length portrait.
I think this has been discussed in its own thread at some point. The copy would presumably think it was really you.

-- Updated Mon Sep 18, 2017 11:02 pm to add the following --

If the copy is not really you, then what exactly is really you? We could be being copied all the time. I might have been copied 5 minutes ago and the original destroyed. Since I'm a copy, with all that that entails, my memories continue seamlessly back through that 5 minute barrier. So would that mean that I'm now not really me?

Doesn't the fact that the cells in my body are constantly replaced almost, kind of, make this true?
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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Ranvier » September 18th, 2017, 6:11 pm

JamesOfSeattle wrote:I just wanted to inject a few thoughts into Greta and Steve's discussion:

1. I see no reason that the human race will end after our artificial progeny colonize the galaxy. Why can't we just go along for the ride, albeit a few steps behind? On a related note, I think the Earth will last a lot longer than people think. I don't think the sun will expand and engulf the Earth on schedule. Why would we let that happen?

2. Instead of adapting our bodies to the harsh conditions of space, why don't we just fix the harsh conditions? I have every intention of visiting Mars, but not until the intelligent robots have made it safe and comfortable. (No pioneer, I.)

3. I still see the concept of "transferring the software", either for the purpose of teleportation or "uploading", as an extreme form of vanity. In neither case is the result "you". It's a copy of you. Kinda like a full-length portrait.

*
1. I agree, there is no reason for not having the capability to artificially create a nuclear fusion is space, or perhaps even a miniaturized version here on Earth, even within this century. Certainly, we will be able to keep our own Sun stable for as long as we're around.

2. True, I was thinking myself about the feasibility of constructing an electromagnetic ring in Earth's orbit that would generate free renewable energy using Earth's magnetic field. Such undertaking could begin by constructing a Super LHC in orbit. It should be possible within the next 30 years by propelling the components using an electromagnetic rail "catapult". The greatest danger of space is the cosmic radiation but I'm quite sure that we will not only find a material that will absorb such radiation but actually use it for propulsion.

3. This is not only theoretically possible but most likely will become a common means of transportation or medically applicable in organ "renewal", perhaps within the next 300 years.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Greta » September 18th, 2017, 6:13 pm

Alan Jones wrote:The recycling of chemicals that are vital for Earth life is effected by plate tectonics which would be shut down if the mantle were not hydrated (compare Venus). Relatively early in Earth's history cyanobacteria began to produce huge amounts of oxygen that combine with hydrogen, reforming water, and mitigating the removal of hydrogen (and water) by the solar wind (as apparently occurred on Mars).
That's an extraordinary and deep connection. I didn't realise that the great oxygenation maintained plate tectonics.
Steve3007 wrote:On the subject of replacing our biological bodies with robotic parts for the purpose of long haul space flight and other environments in which our bodies did not evolve and are therefore not suited to:

I suppose there's nothing fundamentally special about the parts being robotic or mechanical. The key feature is simply their ability to withstand hostile environments. So perhaps another option is some kind of enhancement of our biology, while keeping the same general "design". Perhaps changes to our DNA which leave our essential characteristics but protect against (for example) cancers.
Genetic engineering may be an interim measure but even extremophile humans will be more vulnerable than synthetics. Consider the Venera lander that survived for almost an hour on Venus's surface. Not even tardigrades could cope with that kind of punishment.
Steve3007 wrote:Also, at the other end of the scale: The other alternative is to do away with both human bodies and robotic bodies and just transmit the "software". Install it in new hardware at the other end. I guess really I'm then talking about a form of teleportation, but with an explicit recognition that the body at the other end is not the body that was transmitted.
Yes, that makes sense. Digital representation again poses the question as to whether the copy is "you". In the absence of "the original", I'll say yes. No one else would be closer ... and if it walks and quacks like a duck ... :)

-- Updated 18 Sep 2017, 17:27 to add the following --
JamesOfSeattle wrote:I just wanted to inject a few thoughts into Greta and Steve's discussion:

1. I see no reason that the human race will end after our artificial progeny colonize the galaxy. Why can't we just go along for the ride, albeit a few steps behind? On a related note, I think the Earth will last a lot longer than people think. I don't think the sun will expand and engulf the Earth on schedule. Why would we let that happen?

2. Instead of adapting our bodies to the harsh conditions of space, why don't we just fix the harsh conditions? I have every intention of visiting Mars, but not until the intelligent robots have made it safe and comfortable. (No pioneer, I.)
I'm no pioneer either. I won't upgrade Windows until it's had a couple of updates - let the early adopters act as canaries in the cyber coal mine :)

It is true that our models of the future don't tend to take into account the most profound part of reality - the emergence of sentient, intelligent life with the ability to change ecosystems and environments. Still, humans had best hurry because the heating effects will be felt long before the Sun starts to bloat. Changing Earth's orbit in a controlled way will require enormous advances on the current state of play.

Also, the word "we" almost certainly won't apply to the future, alas. I can't see Homo machina (ultra wealthy, highly technologically enhanced) granting the far poorer, simpler and weaker Homo sapiens equal rights. "We", or our descendants, will be chattel, about as disregarded as animals are by humans.

-- Updated 18 Sep 2017, 17:58 to add the following --
Ranvier wrote:Greta

Very good points, especially in the context of the "larger evolution". However, I wouldn't immediately conclude that organic life is doomed in this universe and inconsequential to that "larger evolution". As species, we have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, relative to the geological history of our planet. It's logical to stipulate, with the current "path" towards the AI and possible future of the "synthetic" silicon based life, that the "larger evolution" will mostly "select" for such synthetic life. Yet, we already have the "code" for the conscious life but are still subject to a "selfish" egocentric perspective of being the "center" of the universe, which in the way is true but it would take this topic on a tangent in an attempt to justify such claim.

We can easily design a "monolith" for "creation of life" and "human knowledge", to be "sent" into the "future" in a capsules of "time" to germinate and take foothold elsewhere in space and time to continue the "human evolution", after we "leave" the existence on this planet. Perhaps, this is how we came to existence in the first place?
Arthur C. Clarke's monolith idea was an interesting one - the man was a genius. Then again, is such a dedicated and advanced monolith needed? Any advanced machinery left lying around (that is robust enough to avoid being pulled apart to make simple tools) could function similarly. Fledgling intelligent species would surely work to reverse-engineer it. Imagine if an advanced alien space craft was found in the 1800s. Scientists and generals would be falling over themselves to be the first to understand how it worked.

I didn't mean to downplay organic life - nothing is even close to as complex and advanced, so far. For all we know, biology may be an essential step between simple geology and sentient geology. Or there could be a toggling between the modes, eg. if AI settled on another planet after the Earth went kaput, maybe they would evolve increasingly biological features, starting a new round of evolution?

Another possibility is that biology is actually "the main game in town". Maybe all the AI and structures that encapsulate and protect the precious biological kernel within are just helpful structures, akin to the non living protective structures and resources within seeds?

Another possibility is that the marriage of humans and their machines, biology and geology, will create a new emergence of multicellularity, but this time at a sentient level. So we'd have human families of "mitochondria" who are captive within and powering a "cell", ie. home/office (since the traffic, air and climate outside will be unfriendly), and they would be fed energy and information by the "organism".

People talk about AI taking over humanity but I don't see machines ever being motivated to do it, or anything, with the main danger seemingly the "paperclip maximiser" scenario (out of control AI designed to turn any material into paper clips reduces the planet's surface to a layer of every recycling paper clips). Motivation, as far as I can tell, is something that animals have. The greater risk would seem to be how humans use AI than what AI may do of its own accord.

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Re: The relationship between biology and geology

Post by Steve3007 » September 28th, 2017, 1:58 am

Greta:
People talk about AI taking over humanity but I don't see machines ever being motivated to do it, or anything, with the main danger seemingly the "paperclip maximiser" scenario (out of control AI designed to turn any material into paper clips reduces the planet's surface to a layer of every recycling paper clips).
This reminds me of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" - the poem by Goethe that was re-imagined in the Disney film Fantasia where the apprentice (Mickey) ends up having to chop the broom up and creating more and more brooms. Kind of. I suppose the poem/film was a warning to humans (Mickey) not to mess with powerful forces they don't understand and to leave that to the sorcerer (Deity?).
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