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Front Physiol. 2012 Oct 5;3:366. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00366. eCollection 2012.

Field-Control, Phase-Transitions, and Life's Emergence.

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  • 1Independent Researcher, St.Denis Reunion, France.


Instances of critical-like characteristics in living systems at each organizational level (bio-molecules to ecosystems) as well as the spontaneous emergence of computation (Langton), do suggest the relevance of self-organized criticality (SOC). But extrapolating complex bio-systems to life's origins, brings up a paradox: how could simple organics - lacking the "soft-matter" response properties of today's complex bio-molecules - have dissipated energy from primordial reactions (eventually reducing CO(2)) in a controlled manner for their "ordering"? Nevertheless, a causal link of life's macroscopic irreversible dynamics to the microscopic reversible laws of statistical mechanics is indicated via the "functional-takeover" of a soft magnetic scaffold by organics (c.f. Cairns-Smith's "crystal-scaffold"). A field-controlled structure offers a mechanism for boot-strapping - bottom-up assembly with top-down control: its super-paramagnetic colloidal components obey reversible dynamics, but its dissipation of magnetic (H)-field energy for aggregation breaks time-reversal symmetry. The responsive adjustments of the controlled (host) mineral system to environmental changes would bring about mutual coupling between random organic sets supported by it; here the generation of long-range correlations within organic (guest) networks could include SOC-like mechanisms. And, such cooperative adjustments enable the selection of the functional configuration by altering the inorganic dipolar network's capacity to assist a spontaneous process. A non-equilibrium dynamics could now drive the kinetically oriented system (trimming the phase-space via sterically coupled organics) toward a series of phase-transitions with appropriate organic replacements "taking-over" its functions. Where available, experiments are cited in support of these speculations and for designing appropriate tests.


feedback; field-controlled colloids; long-range correlation; organic “takeover,” phase-transition; proto-metabolic cycle; slow driving

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