Sunday, December 20, 2009

Science Fiction Physics, and Biology

The January 2010 Scientific American article "Looking for Life in the Multiverse" analyzes how much the laws of physics might differ while some form of life is still possible. It specifically shows that carbon-based life is still possible when the weak nuclear force is eliminated. The authors are less supportive of non-carbon-based life popular in science fiction, and still find support for the anthropic principle ("conditions that are observed in the universe must allow the observer to exist") in the precise value required for the cosmological constant.

Also, in an earlier post I claimed that all life on earth is dependent on the sun for energy. This is incorrect. The black smoker sea vents on the ocean floor support complete ecosystems including archaea, clams, and tubeworms. Here the energy comes from the interior of the earth instead of the sun.


Gemfinder said...

I too noticed that exception, but didn't send it to you, because I decided it is not really an exception: the heat from the interior of the earth is mostly stored energy from its formation.

Eric Rollins said...

True. I mentioned it as part of the "science fiction" theme of the last 2 posts -- how life can exist in very different circumstances, and what that implies. I was reminded of it while following links about alternative biology, though I should have remembered from Cameron's IMAX 3D Aliens of the Deep.

I also updated the previous post to mention herbivores as an interesting evolutionary origin that might result in different morality.

Peter Martel said...

The earth has a large amount of radioactive material which contributes to heating effects.
As a matter of fact early estimates of the earth's age from cooling were a way offbecause of heat generated by radioactivity. Lord Kelvin did the math.