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pierredv : biology   47

Life’s secret ingredient: A radical theory of what makes things alive | New Scientist, issue 3215, Feb 2019
I couldn't figure out what he was on about.
Lots of "arguments by ethos" i.e. citing big name people to support his arguments
See also
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23030730-200-demon-no-more-physics-most-elusive-entity-gives-up-its-secret/
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23731720-400-im-building-a-machine-that-breaks-the-rules-of-reality/


maxwell demons

"Physicists and chemists use the language of material objects, and concepts such as energy, entropy, molecular shapes and binding forces. These enable them to explain, for example, how cells are powered or how proteins fold: how the hardware of life works, so to speak. Biologists, on the other hand, frame their descriptions in the language of information and computation, using concepts such as coded instructions, signalling and control: the language not of hardware, but of software."
physics  biology  NewScientist  entropy  Maxwell-demons  thermodynamics 
10 weeks ago by pierredv
Termites in Brazil have covered an area the size of Britain in mounds | New Scientist Nov 2018
In the dry forests of northeastern Brazil, an area of 230,000 square kilometres – larger than Great Britain – is covered in 200 million regularly spaced mounds, each about 2.5 metres tall. These mounds, known to locals as murundus, are the waste earth dug out by termites to create a vast network of underground tunnels, and some of them are up to 4000 years old.

The termites have excavated over 10 cubic kilometres of earth to build the tunnels and mounds, making this the biggest engineering project by any animal besides humans, according to Stephen Martin from the University of Salford, UK.
NewScientist  awesome  insects  biology 
may 2019 by pierredv
The animal economists that can wheel and deal as well as any human | New Scientist Dec 2018
"As we get to know Earth’s myriad other species better, it is becoming apparent that many animals and organisms make trades, and that some are surprisingly savvy wheeler-dealers capable of manipulating the market in their own selfish interests. From frisky baboons to fish offering spa treatments on the reef, pretty much everywhere we look in nature we find evidence of surprisingly sophisticated economic decision-making. Even fungi are at it, and according to the latest studies, these brainless soil dwellers give the impression of being more rational than us."

"... over the past few years, biologists have shown that scores of animals are capable of responding to market forces, including chimpanzees, macaques, mongooses, ants, wasps and small fish called cichlids. In one of the most recently unearthed examples of a biological market, the traders don’t have brains at all. Kiers studies the underground marketplace in which mycorrhizal fungi trade phosphorus for carbon with the roots of plants."
NewScientist  economics  rationality  biology 
march 2019 by pierredv
Niche construction: the forgotten force of evolution | New Scientist, Nov 2003
By Kevin Laland and John Odling-Smee

"Our studies have convinced us that niche construction should be recognised as a significant cause of evolution, on a par with natural selection."

"Put another way, the only relevant evolutionary feedback from extended phenotypes is to the genes that express them. So when beavers build dams, they ensure the propagation of “genes for” dam building, but that is all. Yet by constructing their own niche, beavers radically alter their environment in many ways. "

"Across the globe, earthworms have dramatically changed the structure and chemistry of soil by burrowing, dragging plant material into the soil, mixing it up with inorganic material such as sand, and mulching the lot by ingesting and excreting it as worm casts. The scale of these earthworks is vast. What’s more, because earthworm activities result in cumulative improvements in soil over long periods of time, it follows that today’s earthworms inhabit environments that have been radically altered by their ancestors. In other words, some extended phenotypes can be inherited. "
NewScientist  biology  evolution  *  ecology 
september 2018 by pierredv
A New Thermodynamics Theory Of The Origin Of Life | Quanta Magazine
Interview with Jeremy England
"From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life."
"Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, but until recently, physicists were unable to use thermodynamics to explain why it should arise in the first place. ... In the 1960s, the Belgian physicist Ilya Prigogine made progress on predicting the behavior of open systems weakly driven by external energy sources (for which he won the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry). But the behavior of systems that are far from equilibrium, which are connected to the outside environment and strongly driven by external sources of energy, could not be predicted.... Jarzynski and Crooks showed that the entropy produced by a thermodynamic process, such as the cooling of a cup of coffee, corresponds to a simple ratio: the probability that the atoms will undergo that process divided by their probability of undergoing the reverse process (that is, spontaneously interacting in such a way that the coffee warms up). As entropy production increases, so does this ratio: A system’s behavior becomes more and more “irreversible.”"
"Using Jarzynski and Crooks’ formulation, [England] derived a generalization of the second law of thermodynamics that holds for systems of particles with certain characteristics: The systems are strongly driven by an external energy source such as an electromagnetic wave, and they can dump heat into a surrounding bath. This class of systems includes all living things."
“It is very tempting to speculate about what phenomena in nature we can now fit under this big tent of dissipation-driven adaptive organization,” England said. “Many examples could just be right under our nose, but because we haven’t been looking for them we haven’t noticed them.”
<examples of self-replication in non-living systems: vortices in turbulent fluids; specially coated microspheres
physics  biology  life  evolution  information-theory  QuantaMagazine  interviews 
may 2016 by pierredv
Could this bee love? Rekindling our affection for bees - life - 21 October 2014 - New Scientist #2991
review of Bee Time: Lessons from the hive by Mark L. Winston Published by: Harvard University Press
books  biology  toread  bees  entomology  NewScientist 
november 2014 by pierredv
Faith is Torment | Art and Design Blog: Perfect Pollen: Microscopic Photos by Steve Gschmeissner
"Perfect Pollen: Microscopic Photos by Steve Gschmeissner Beautiful photos of pollen grains using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to capture details and color not seen by the human eye. - See more at: http://www.faithistorment.com/2014/08/perfect-pollen-microscopic-photos-by.html#sthash.tlh1gj26.dpuf"
Faith-is-Torment  photography  science  biology  botany 
september 2014 by pierredv
Slow Life on Vimeo - David Stoupin
""Slow" marine animals show their secret life under high magnification. Corals and sponges are very mobile creatures, but their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen. These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives."
video  timelapse  animals  invertebrates  biology  VecindadGrafica  corals  sponges  GreatBarrierReef  NatureJournal 
may 2014 by pierredv
Functioning 'mechanical gears' seen in nature for first time
"The juvenile Issus - a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe -- has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing 'teeth' that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronise the animal's legs when it launches into a jump. The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely human-made have an evolutionary precedent. Scientists say this is the "first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure.""
mechanics  biology  ex  ScienceDaily  science 
september 2013 by pierredv
Physicist Derives Laws of Thermodynamics For Life Itself - Technology Review
"How likely is it that these molecules will arrange themselves into fully-fledged living thing, a bacterium, for example? That's a tough question but Jeremy England at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge has worked out how to calculate an answer, at least in theory."
thermodynamics  physics  life  biology  x:technologyreview 
september 2012 by pierredv
The Many Emerging Roles of Astrocytes | Brain Blogger
"Astrocytes are not electrically active in the classic way that neurons are. They were, therefore, long assumed not to play any active roles in neural signalling. However, experimental methods that allowed for the measurement of calcium release from cells, demonstrated that astrocytes communicated, not through electricity and voltage, but through calcium signalling. Calcium is involved in, but not necessarily responsible for neural signalling. By altering the calcium concentrations around a cell, the astrocytes can influence, but not initiate neural signalling." "In addition to playing complex roles in the brain, scientists grossly underestimated their size and reach. . . single astrocyte in the human brain may have connections with as many as two million neurons. Their processes extend to every corner of the brain and spinal cord."
neuroscience  biology  brain  brainblogger  astrocytes 
february 2012 by pierredv
Human Genome Contaminated With Mycoplasma DNA - Technology Review
"Bill Langdon at University College London and Matthew Arno at Kings College London say they've found sequences from mycoplasma bacteria in the human genome database. "
Virtual infections "in silico" as human DNA shows up in other samples, and bacterial DNA shows up in the human genome.
"A key question is the nature of this kind of information transmission. These mycoplasma genes are clearly successful in reproducing themselves in silico. One possibility is that we're seeing the beginnings of an entirely new kind of landscape of infection. "
x:MITtechnologyreview  biology  genetics  infection 
june 2011 by pierredv
Biodiversity: More complicated than you think | The Economist
Strapline: A new, giant virus is confounding old certainties Report on discovery of Cro V by Curtis Suttle et al - about the inapplicability of categorical thinking. Applied to regulation, suggests that categories of who does what shouldn't be cut & dried, e.g. market vs. government. Rather, think of functions and assign rights/responsibilities ad hoc "... CroV is not a very viruslike virus. It has 544 genes, compared with the dozen or so that most viruses sport. And it may be able to make its own proteins—a task that viruses usually delegate to the molecular machinery of the cells they infect." "Those who like their categories cut and dried may wonder whether viruses are alive or not. Wise biologists do not struggle too much with such questions. . . As for CroV, those 544 genes . . . mean its genome is bigger than those of several bacteria—creatures which everyone agrees are alive. "The problem with categorical thinking in biology is that evolution does not work like that."
genetics  biology  biodiversity  virus  science  TheEconomist  regulation  governance 
march 2011 by pierredv
The chaos theory of evolution - life - 18 October 2010 - New Scientist - Keith Bennett
"Because of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how a given species will respond to environmental change. That is not to say that evolution is random - far from it. . . . Instead, evolution is chaotic." "I suggest that the true source of macroevolutionary change lies in the non-linear, or chaotic, dynamics of the relationship between genotype and phenotype - the actual organism and all its traits." “Macroevolution is not the simple accumulation of microevolutionary changes but has its own processes and patterns. There can be no "laws" of evolution. We may be able to reconstruct the sequence of events leading to the evolution of any given species or group after the fact, but we will not be able to generalise from these to other sequences of events. From a practical point of view, this means we will be unabl " It follows that macroevolution may, over the longer-term, be driven largely by internally generated genetic change, not adaptation to a changing environment."
evolution  biology  genetics  NewScientist  ** 
november 2010 by pierredv
Dangerous DNA: The truth about the 'warrior gene' - life - 12 April 2010 - New Scientist
"MAOA is the gene that causes aggression. Here are four reasons why that statement's wrong – like most generalisations about DNA and behaviour " About MAOA - monoamine oxidase A "Lesson 2 = Nature and nurture are inextricably linked - MAOA is not a gene "for" aggression. Instead, certain carriers may be more aggressive in certain situations" "Genes may be able to influence our behaviour, but our behaviour also influences our genes."
NewScientist  aggression  psychology  biology 
august 2010 by pierredv
The secrets of intelligence lie within a single cell - life - 26 April 2010 - New Scientist
argument that a single cell has a lot of intelligence, critique of thinking of a neuron as a transistor
neuroscience  biology  brain  intelligence  cell  NewScientist 
may 2010 by pierredv
Was our oldest ancestor a proton-powered rock? - life - 19 October 2009 - New Scientist
survey of Peter Mitchell's work on how the energy cycle got established He proposed "chemiosmosis" - not ATP cycle to begin with, but pumping protons across membranes Life may have got started in tiny pores in rocks around ocean floor alkaline vents' carbonate structure The cellular structures then go independent - twice, in the Archaea and Bacteria
evolution  life  biology  NewScientist 
december 2009 by pierredv
BBC News - Octopus snatches coconut and runs
Underwater footage reveals that the creatures scoop up halved coconut shells before scampering away with them so they can later use them as shelters.
Writing in the journal Current Biology, the team says it is the first example of tool use in octopuses.
biology  video  animals  x:bbc  via:gmsv 
december 2009 by pierredv
Tuna in peril as catches reach triple the limit - environment - 12 November 2009 - New Scientist
"According to the scientists advising the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), stocks of yellowfin are being overfished. The panel of scientists will meet later this month to discuss the available data, but it may prove futile: the IOTC's member nations rejected the panel's recommended catch limits in April. " Long history of fishing organizations being toothless
resource-management  tuna  fishing  biology  NewScientist  governance 
december 2009 by pierredv
How green is your pet? - environment - 23 October 2009 - New Scientist
Wanna be green? Ditch the dog, not the SUV. A Toyota Land Cruiser's eco-footprint is less than half that of a medium-sized dog. Says John Barrett at the Stockholm Environment Institute "Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat." Cats have a smaller eco-footprint, but decimate wildlife; each kills on average 25 birds, mammals and frogs per year.
environment  biology  pets  culture  NewScientist 
november 2009 by pierredv
Sexual selection in humans: Mr Muscle | The Economist
report on study by Lassek and Gaulin arguing that sexual selection explains men's muscles.
It's a trade-off, though, which is why there are still skinny guys. Quote: Because muscles come at such cost, Dr Gaulin thinks an evolutionary fight is going on between natural selection, which conserves metabolic expenditure and promotes longevity, and sexual selection, which willingly trades both for extra mating opportunities. This may explain why men have such a range of muscularity. In the past, the strong man would have had better mating opportunities in the short term, but the skinny guy who outlived him could have had just as much reproductive success over the course of his longer life.
evolution  sex  science  gender  biology  TheEconomist 
november 2009 by pierredv
Food allergies get curiouser and curiouser - health - 29 July 2009 - New Scientist
I suspect travel will be implicated in the rise of food allergies - all those people going from one eco-zone to another
allergy  health  science  biology  NewScientist 
august 2009 by pierredv
How Dolphins Steer Their Sonar -- Than 2009 (318): 2 -- ScienceNOW
Dolphins and their close relatives that use sound to navigate can "steer" their sonar beams by merging two sound pulses together
ScienceNOW  biology 
april 2009 by pierredv
Color-Coordinated Courtship -- Cahoon 2009 (320): 2 -- ScienceNOW
"a female Gouldian finch chooses to hatch an even number of boys and girls if she has the same head color as her mate. If there's a mismatch, mom produces more males and isn't as attentive to her offspring"
Worth doing because "When two different varieties mate, genetic incompatibility causes many of their offspring--especially the females--to die before they reach sexual maturity"
biology  ScienceNOW 
march 2009 by pierredv
Rewriting Darwin: The new non-genetic inheritance - 09 July 2008 - New Scientist
epigenetic and RNAi "In people, too, there is evidence that environmental impacts on fathers and mothers can produce changes in their children. This has led some researchers to consider a startling possibility. Could the current epidemic of type II diabetes and obesity in developed countries be related to what our parents and our grandparents ate?" "As well as controlling DNA methylation and modifying histones, these RNAi molecules target messenger RNA - much longer strands that act as intermediaries between DNA sequences and the proteins they code for. By breaking mRNA down into small segments, the RNAi molecules ensure that a certain gene cannot be translated into its protein. In short, RNAi creates the epigenetic "marks" that control the activity of genes."
science  biology  chemistry  NewScientist  genetics 
january 2009 by pierredv
A ‘miracle tree’ that could feed sub-Saharan Africa | csmonitor.com
"The moringa’s leaves and seedpods deliver extraordinary nutrition, advocates say, but aid groups await a formal study."
diet  biology  ecology  development-assistance  CSMonitor 
september 2008 by pierredv
Fish Tale Has DNA Hook - Students Find Bad Labels - NYTimes.com
inspiring story of two teens using DNA barcoding to see if fish was what the vendors claimed
biology  cooking  science  NYTimes 
august 2008 by pierredv
3 Jul 08 podcast transcript: Nature
includes conversation with Alan Hastings on extinction
biology  evolution  ** 
july 2008 by pierredv
Extinction risk depends strongly on factors contributing to stochasticity : Abstract : Nature
Melbourne & Hastings
"current estimates of extinction risk for natural populations could be greatly underestimated because variability has been mistakenly attributed to the environment rather than the demographic factors"
evolution  biology  **  complexity 
july 2008 by pierredv
Extinction risk 'underestimated' == UC Davis News & Information
Brett Melbourne & Alan Hastings: some species are at a much higher risk of extinction than assumed previously
See Extinction risk depends strongly on factors contributing to stochasticity, Nature 454, 100-103 (3 July 2008)
evolution  biology  **  complexity 
july 2008 by pierredv
Vavilovian mimicry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
a form of mimicry in plants where a weed comes to share one or more characteristics with a domesticated plant through generations of artificial selection
ecology  biology 
january 2008 by pierredv
Nets & robustness - John Doyle
Material on complex biological and engineering networks
complexity  biology 
september 2007 by pierredv
Make me a hipporoo - Freeman Dyson - New Scientist
I predict that the domestication of biotechnology will dominate our lives during the next 50 years at least as much as the domestication of computers has dominated our lives during the past 50 years.
science  biology 
march 2006 by pierredv

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