Thursday, May 17, 2007

Survival of the likeliest?

There's a feature by me in the current PLoS Biology (and it's free!) on whether natural selection can be explained by the laws of physics, specifically thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. This looks at work of Roderick Dewar on Maximum Entropy Production (MEP), Adrian Bejan's constructal theory, work by Eric Smith at Santa Fe on self-organization and metabolism, and a few other things. The basic idea is that, by looking at the flows of energy and matter, we can predict and quantify the path and results of evolution.

This is something I've been thinking about for a couple of years — I put a bit about it in the first draft of ITBOAH, but took it out, 'cos it wasn't really working. And I wrote a piece for Nature looking at MEP from a more climate- and ecological viewpoint, which didn't go so much into the evolutionary implications. So I'm very glad that this is finally seeing the light of day.

2 comments:

Philip Dorrell said...

John, have you seen my article Evolution and the second law of thermodynamics (Evolution by natural selection is a real-life example of Maxwell's demon)?

Misha said...

If life is just the quickest way to level out energy gradients, do humans then is the chosen best way to unlock some of Earth's nuclear energy (from in uranium ores, heavy water and suchlike)? You know, we can do it very quickly...