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What is life? (Seeking a physical signature for life)

Debate and discussion of any biological questions not pertaining to a particular topic.

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What is life? (Seeking a physical signature for life)

Postby ragav.payne » Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:24 pm

Let us take two organisms A and B that are capable of having life. Let us say that A has life detected in it and B hasn't. Now, assuming A and B are frozen in a frame of time, would there be any physically observable anatomical differences between the two organisms(assuming the difference can be at any level or dimension...be it the subatomic or the cellular or the intra-cellular dimensions)? Would we find a signature of life that has a physical form? Or does life have a form that reveals itself as the change (with respect to time perhaps) of states of the physical parts?

Would we be able to harness a simple connection/network of cells, or more appropriately a signature, that is unique and common to all the life possessing organisms and absent in all the non-living organisms? Is there such a thing at all?

Getting more down to earth, is there even a "fundamental" difference between entities that are classified by us as "living" and "non-living"? Is there objective proof of distinction that can act as base for such a classification? Would you be able to disprove me objectively if I told you that a particular species of frog found in southern India is a variety that is incapable of possessing life?

Is there a more profound reason for us to accept the notion of "life" than the continuation of our humble conformation to a concept that seems to have evolved out of tradition? Or Is it merely another classification system that helps us in our oh-so-dear pursuit of understanding everything?

Regards.
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Postby MrMistery » Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:54 pm

Aaah, we have discussed and re-discussed the subject. Currently, for something to be referred to as alive it has to posses certain features: to be made of cells, to be able to reproduce itself, to have its own metabolism, to carry all of the information for its reproduction and metabolism etc.
What does not meet those conditions is not alive. Seems stupid and ignorant, but you can't define life any other way
"As a biologist, I firmly believe that when you're dead, you're dead. Except for what you live behind in history. That's the only afterlife" - J. Craig Venter
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Re: What is life? (Seeking a physical signature for life)

Postby Darby » Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:07 pm

If I understand the question, the living individual would have entropy (which is physical) at a zero or decreasing point (it would be assimilating energy to sustain and increase its organization); the non-living individual's entropy would just increase.
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Postby ragav.payne » Sat Feb 02, 2008 8:38 am

So, you say that if a bounded entity can self-organize to decrease its entropy (in the forward arrow of time), it can be objectively declared as living?

That's a good try...but do you mean to say that your refrigerator is living?
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Postby ragav.payne » Sun Feb 03, 2008 3:59 am

I think, seeking for a physical signature of life, we are on a wild goose chase. I think there is no such signature and yet, our logic strives to assume that there is such a thing. Lets take a look at the concept of life with a broad spectrum and try to figure out why it exists today. Let's see how it could have emerged.

There are obvious differences between what we now call "living" and "non-living". To our ancestors, all those things that moved, fed, excreted and did everything that we did seemed to be more similar to us than they were to the unmoving stones, twigs, sand or water. So,
animals, birds, fishes etc were considered to be closer to us and deserved to be put in a category along with us (remember that plants weren't considered living until a scientist found out that there were subtle similarities between us and them...we grew, they grew etc resulting in a test to see if they had life). It also must have seemed that these similar characteristics that we observed must arise from something that we possessed inside of us (just like we have the concept of "consciousness" - an entity inside of us that enables us to think and feel; and "conscience" - an entity to enable our morality etc). So, it must have seemed that we had that thing and ones that didn't resemble us didn't have that thing. As linguistic beings, we needed a term for it...life.

These concepts were conceived, defined and linguistically identified by people who had false, baseless assumptions about what these concepts intended to represent. Their linguistic usage assumed and identified these concepts as intangible entities rather than as ideas/concepts and thus, their linguistic tradition suited better for *their* conception of what these concepts were. This can be confirmed through observation of usage of 'content locatives' to describe 'life' eg., "Life can be sensed in that animal"

Following that kind of linguistic tradition, we, even without any knowledge of the concept of life, tend to assume that life is something that is present in the body. This is because we're used to the usage of 'content locatives' to describe physical entities present inside containers e.g. - I poured water into the pit; I found pebbles in the bag etc. So, being used to such statements, when we use or get introduced to a statement where a concept is described using a 'content locative', we tend to assume that this 'life' must be some physical entity that can be sensed. Perhaps that is how our concept of a soul evolved...something that exists inside our body and signifies death of that individual upon its departure.

So, now in this age where we strive to pin down notions with physical evidence and with our quest to quantitatively analyze and tear apart individual components of an entity (aka science), we look for a clear distinction for life ( as I did when I wrote "seeking for a physical signature for life") which we intuitively identify as a physical entity...even though emperical evidence denies the validity of such an assumption. This perhaps is the reason for disagreement and ambiguity when we try to define life.

I hope I made my argument/hypothesis clear. You may perhaps need a little bit of knowledge on certain areas in linguistics to appreciate this notion. And my hypothesis isn't something that I would declare as the ultimate truth. It is merely a speculation that is open for criticism.
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Re: What is life? (Seeking a physical signature for life)

Postby Darby » Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:12 pm

I was addressing the specific question, which was about differentiating living from dead organisms. Maybe it was a poor choice of wording for the question, but that is what it asked.
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Re: What is life? (Seeking a physical signature for life)

Postby geb » Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:55 am

Good lord, must I explain everything???


Life is a breakfast cereal made of whole grain oats, distributed by the Quaker Oats Company. It was introduced during the year 1961.

Life was popularized during the 1970s by an advertising campaign featuring "Mikey," a finicky four-year-old who "hates everything." The commercials featured the catch phrase "He likes it! Hey Mikey!" The ad campaign ran from 1972 to 1984, becoming one of the longest running and popular commercials of all time. The "Mikey" character became so ingrained in the consciousness of American popular culture that urban legends began to develop surrounding the actors in the commercial. The most popular urban legend was that the actor who portrayed "Mikey" had died from eating Pop Rocks while drinking Coca-Cola. According to the urban legend, "Mikey" had a liver condition, and the mixing of Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola caused his liver to fail. In reality, John Gilchrist, who played "Mikey," is still alive and works as an advertising account manager in New York. The other kids in the "Mikey" commercial were Gilchrist's brothers in real life, and are also still alive.

In 1978, Cinnamon Life was introduced. Today Cinnamon Life comprises one third of total Life sales. Twenty five years after the release of Cinnamon Life, Honey Graham Life was added to the brand, and recently, Life has added a fourth and fifth flavor, Life Vanilla Yogurt Crunch and Life Chocolate Oat Crunch. In Canada, there is also Multigrain Life. The late 1980s saw a short-lived Raisin Life in an attempt to compete with Raisin Bran. In the early 2000's, there was also a short-lived version called Baked Apple Life.

The cereal's advertisements sport the slogan "Life is full of surprises".

Image
Last edited by geb on Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby ragav.payne » Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:08 am

aww....I wish I had been there to see all this happen. But, hey...we have you to explain things to us. I think you're doing a great job enlightening the poor "souls".
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Re: What is life? (Seeking a physical signature for life)

Postby geb » Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:25 pm

Oh, and.... I just checked..

And unfortunately my refrigerator is living.
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Postby geb » Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:26 pm

... and entropy might be putting it kindly
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