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First Digital Simulation of an Entire Life Form 271

Posted by Zonk
from the who-doesn't-love-alife dept.
An anonymous reader writes "LiveScience is reporting on what appears to be the first digital simulation of an entire life form. Researchers created more than a million digital atoms to reverse engineer the satellite tobacco mosaic virus, a relatively simple organism. But is it really a life form? From the article: 'Viruses are tiny bundles of protein and genetic material that straddle the line between life and non-life. Many scientists prefer to call them "particles" because even though they contain RNA or DNA like other lifeforms, they can only replicate inside other living cells.'"
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First Digital Simulation of an Entire Life Form

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  • Story is a dupe...original story can be found here [slashdot.org].
  • by wsherman (154283) * on Monday March 27, 2006 @05:46PM (#15006239)
    But is it really a life form?

    Language is digital (as opposed to analog) in the sense that you either use a word in a sentence or you don't. You can either use the word "life" in a sentence or not but you can't use a fraction of the word ("li" or "fe" don't mean fractional life - or anything at all for that matter). This creates (willful?) confusion in the minds of people who are very focused on a literal interprtation of language based laws and moral codes that "life" is a binary distinction.

    The reality, however, is that the word "life" refers to a whole variety of concepts. There are all different ways of being alive and there are all different levels of being alive. Certainly we can find examples of things that are very "alive" just as we can find examples of colors that are very "blue" - but that doesn't mean every color is either pure blue not blue at all and it doesn't mean that something is either completely alive or not alive at all.

    Going way off topic, the whole "life begins at conception" is what we in the sciences refer to as "not even wrong". After all, it's kind of hard for dead people to have children. If you really want to talk about when life began it would be at the big bang when matter developed the properties that cause it to form into complex self-replicating patterns over very long time scales.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:01PM (#15006361) Journal
      "You can either use the word "life" in a sentence or not but you can't use a fraction of the word ("li" or "fe" don't mean fractional life - or anything at all for that matter)."

      Oh, without capital letters, they mean nothing -- but I know quite a few chemists who'd dispute that Li and Fe are meaningless. :)

      To get on-topic, I think that humans constantly categorize and assign labels to things as either a member of a group or outside it, which IS binary.

      That creature is a fish|not a fish. That creature is a mammal; or it lays eggs and has a bill, so it is a bird (ummm, bad example, on second thought). That rock is igneous; or it is not. That tree is deciduous|not deciduous.

      What is the point of defining something if the definition does not allow us to use it to categorize? Things like this virus, and viruses in general, raise the debate over what is life|not life. And that debate can stimulate greater knowledge, and greater understanding, by challenging our assumptions and our definitions... so I'm all for making distinctions when we can.
      • To get on-topic, I think that humans constantly categorize and assign labels to things as either a member of a group or outside it, which IS binary.

        My definition of science would be that it is an attempt to organize and summarize mutually agreed upon factual observations. In that sense, categorizing and assigning labels is very important. On the other hand, the organization and summarizing must be in agreement with the factual observations. If one had a collection of rational numbers (eg. floating point) a

      • That creature is a fish|not a fish. That creature is a mammal; or it lays eggs and has a bill, so it is a bird (ummm, bad example, on second thought).

        Curse those platypus...
      • Metadata tagging!

        Human - Tags: Mammal, Biped, Replicates, Respires, Significant Movement, Life Birth etc. etc.
        Sunflower - Tags: Plant, Replicates, Leafed, Fixed-Point Movement, Seeds etc. etc.
        Virus - Tags: Replicates, Movement etc. etc.
      • To get on-topic, I think that humans constantly categorize and assign labels to things as either a member of a group or outside it, which IS binary.

        I think the original point was that this distinction is usually arbitrary, and only derived from evidence so far observed; so we are constantly finding new things that do not fit neatly into the binary distinction.

        That creature is a fish|not a fish. That creature is a mammal; or it lays eggs and has a bill, so it is a bird (ummm, bad example, on second thoug

      • I think both you and the GP have valid and noncontradictory points.

        The GP makes the point that any distinction we make is artificial and arbitrary, that everything is in fact a continuum.

        You make the point that we understand things by categorizing them as X or not-X.

        There is a kind of philosophical nondualism (c.f. Taoism) which encompasses both of these concepts. It is the notion that, while there are no actual distinctions in reality as separate from our understanding of it (as Kant would say, the "noumen
      • A categorization is actually counter productive if nobody bothers to define it. The problem with the "life" label is that it has never been defined. There is a sensible definition that was basically given by the GP. However, those who want to believe that living beings have "souls" or use other excuses to assign importantance to our own form of meat cluster and similar forms do not want a simple classification for life.

        If every self replicating and evolution pattern becomes a form of "life" then "life" is n
      • To get on-topic, I think that humans constantly categorize and assign labels to things as either a member of a group or outside it, which IS binary. That creature is a fish|not a fish. That creature is a mammal; or it lays eggs and has a bill, so it is a bird (ummm, bad example, on second thought). That rock is igneous; or it is not. That tree is deciduous|not deciduous. What is the point of defining something if the definition does not allow us to use it to categorize?

        The whole drive to categorize and

    • Language is digital (as opposed to analog) in the sense that you either use a word in a sentence or you don't. You can either use the word "life" in a sentence or not but you can't use a fraction of the word ("li" or "fe" don't mean fractional life - or anything at all for that matter). This creates (willful?) confusion in the minds of people who are very focused on a literal interprtation of language based laws and moral codes that "life" is a binary distinction.

      I believe the word you are looking for is

    • "but you can't use a fraction of the word"

      you've obviously never heard one of bush's speeches ;-)

    • This is a great point, and well made. The first few paragraphs of my biology textbook expound upon that very topic, that "life" is a nearly impossible concept to define.

      For example, ask yourself this: given that a paramecium is considered "life", then which is the living organism -- you, or your cells? Is a heart cell alive, or are you? Or both? If you try to define "life" against the paramecium, the a human isn't a living thing at all, but rather a bizarre cohesive colony of trillions of living thing

    • Language is digital...

      I disagree. I think language is just mostly digital.
  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Monday March 27, 2006 @05:50PM (#15006268)
    If they can simulate something else than a virus (because I don't think viruses are intelligent) could they by this way obtain intelligence by simulating an intelligent animal?
    • I think the real difficulty here is that an intelligence (or any life form really) isn't really alive without input & output. You can't just simulate (based on any physical model) an isolated life form because it would just sit there. You need to simulate the environment it inhabits.

      The line between the organism and the environment is very blurred. I tried to write a cellular autonoma of a weather/ecology system at once stage and was overwhelmed with the sheer number of variables which would have to b
    • by egomaniac (105476) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:02PM (#15006379) Homepage
      If they can simulate something else than a virus (because I don't think viruses are intelligent) could they by this way obtain intelligence by simulating an intelligent animal?

      Of course. It would take an absolutely colossal amount of computing power, but given sufficient resources and a complete understanding of the basic physics and chemistry involved (neither of which we have yet) you could absolutely simulate a living creature, and the simulation would be intelligent. There have been many sci-fi stories that have used this basic concept. In fact I expect the first intelligent machine will attain its intelligence by simulating a living brain (although at a much higher level than individual atoms).

      If we assume that all physical processes can be simulated by a computer (given complete knowledge of the laws of physics), which seems to be a safe assumption, the question boils down to "is intelligence a physical process?" Everything we know about the brain's operation says that the answer is a resounding "yes" -- and if intelligence is merely a manifestation of the physical operation of the human brain, then there is nothing about it that can't, at least in theory, be simulated.
      • If we assume that all physical processes can be simulated by a computer (given complete knowledge of the laws of physics), which seems to be a safe assumption, the question boils down to "is intelligence a physical process?"

        I believe that we should worry about size and power consumption before we get to the rather philosophical aspects. Afterall the human brain is still by magnitudes more complex than any computer we can build nowadays (not taking into account computers bigger than our solar system and/or

        • But to get back to more basic or philosophical considerations: Maybe we're simply not able to create structures more complex than ourselves...

          I read a quote somewhere related to that idea. It was somthing to the effect of "in that case Einsteins mother must have been one hell of a physicist".
          • This just made my day. Thanks a lot.
            • You're welcome. Here's the correct quotes with attributions (from a fortune file circa 1989):

                "Anything created must necessarily be inferior to the essence of the creator."
              -- Claude Shouse (shouse@macomw.ARPA)

              "Einstein's mother must have been one heck of a physicist."
              -- Joseph C. Wang (joe@athena.mit.edu)
        • Afterall the human brain is still by magnitudes more complex than any computer we can build nowadays

          Sure, but who talked about a human brain?

          Personally I'll content myself with a virtual genuinely intelligent simulated bug.

      • Would we have to have a complete understanding of how it reacts, or just start with the simulation of an embryo with a correct and complete genome mapping as its data. Then we let the embryo behave as it would behave (assuming it has all the necessary input, read, food, oxygen molecules, etc.) You could let the embryo "come to term" naturally by letting the cells run. The program to grow a dog or human is already embedded in the cells, you just need to give them an emulator to run in.
      • > If we assume that all physical processes can be simulated by a computer (given complete knowledge of the laws of physics), which seems to be a safe assumption...

        Aha, but your given is anything but, and hence your asumption isn't so safe.
        • Aha, but your given is anything but, and hence your asumption isn't so safe.

          I never said that we had complete knowledge of the laws of physics. The point was that it seems pretty safe to assume that if we had complete knowledge of the laws of physics, we could fully simulate physical interactions on a computer.

          There's no way to know for sure, of course, but so far all of the physical laws we know are computable. There is no particular reason to suspect that any of the remaining ones aren't.
      • a complete understanding of the basic physics and chemistry involved (neither of which we have yet)

        I believe you are wrong and we already possess sufficient physical knowledge and have for years. As far as I understand it, the Schrödinger equation [wikipedia.org] (and perhaps some other quantum mechanical theories) allows us to model the behavior of electrons completely. All the interactions involved in biochemistry are simply a result of electron behavior (nuclear reactions do not affect life significantly). This

        • I believe you are wrong and we already possess sufficient physical knowledge and have for years. As far as I understand it, the Schrödinger equation (and perhaps some other quantum mechanical theories) allows us to model the behavior of electrons completely. All the interactions involved in biochemistry are simply a result of electron behavior (nuclear reactions do not affect life significantly). This is not to say that there is not still work left to be done in the field as modelling at such a low lev
        • As far as I understand it, the Schrödinger equation (and perhaps some other quantum mechanical theories) allows us to model the behavior of electrons completely

          IWAQC (I Was A Quantum Chemist), so I'll bite. In theory, this is true. All you have to do is solve the Schrodinger equation for the system and you're done. The problem is that we can only solve it exactly for a few systems, the most complex being the hydrogen atom. Even the He atom is beyond our abilities, at least in the realm of exactn

      • As Kurzweil and many others have pointed out, we don't need to simulate every single neuron and synapse, let alone every single neurotransmitter molecule, in order to simulate the operations of an intelligent brain. Rather, research now focuses on simulating cognitive processes at a much higher symbolic level. The results, from auditory simulations of human audio processing to an artificial pancreas, show that many complex biochemical processes can be simulated to the required level of detail without bother
      • by binarybum (468664) on Monday March 27, 2006 @07:45PM (#15007191) Homepage
        If they can simulate something else than a virus (because I don't think viruses are intelligent) could they by this way obtain intelligence by simulating an intelligent animal?

        Of course. It would take an absolutely colossal amount of computing power, but given sufficient resources and a complete understanding of the basic physics and chemistry involved (neither of which we have yet) you could absolutely simulate a living creature, and the simulation would be intelligent. There have been many sci-fi stories that have used this basic concept. In fact I expect the first intelligent machine will attain its intelligence by simulating a living brain (although at a much higher level than individual atoms).


              Dude, this is going to blow your mind. [tamagotchi.com]
      • Its not that easy, we not only need to simulate the creature itself, but also enough of environment to train it. If you pack a baby in a dark box and shield it from all outer influences it won't really result in something intelligent either, if it survives at all. So it wouldn't be impossible, but generating all the needed input could provide not that easy.
    • If they can simulate something else than a virus (because I don't think viruses are intelligent) could they by this way obtain intelligence by simulating an intelligent animal?

      Would you consider a bacterium intelligent? I bacterium is several orders of magnitude more complex than a virus. How about an ameoba? Again, several orders of magnitude more complex than a bacterium? Perhaps a jellyfish? A nematode?

      The pure simulation method is unlikely to ever be used in developing an artificial intelligence. An
      • You could skip the atom layer, and just code the neurons... properties of neurons could possibly eveen be easier to code than atomic simulation ('tho couldn't say for sure). You could probably learn a fair amount by doing that too, not so much about intelligence, but in the way that information passes around the brain.

    • Intelligent animals are orders of magnitude more complex than viruses. In some theories, if there was a supercomputer powerful enough to simulate all the atoms in your body, it would be conscious. Others invoke quantum uncertainty to explain consciousness, and unless the computer were some sort of quantum computer, they say it would not accurately simulate consciousness. Others claim that we don't even know what consciousness is, or why the color red looks red. These people would claim that even though a co
      • "It might even claim to have the same internal sensations we do, however, although I can program a computer to state "I feel depressed," that doesn't mean it feels the same way I do when I'm depressed."

        That is a rather ridiculous standard. We don't even know if you see the same thing I do when I see something red. We also don't know if you feel the way I do when I'm depressed. My conception of depressed could be entirely different than yours.

        Take some acid and have a conversation about the "levels" of reali
    • The equations that govern the behaviour of nuclei and electrons are extremely complex and have currently only been solved for a handful of atoms interacting with each other. For this reason, the simulation mentioned in the article can only be an approximation to real life. The same restriction would apply to larger organisms, only much more so.
    • If they can simulate something else than a virus (because I don't think viruses are intelligent) could they by this way obtain intelligence by simulating an intelligent animal?

      It is theoreticaly possible (although it would be many orders of magnitude more difficult than the virus simulation), but the real question is - would such an experiment yield much insight into the nature of intelligence or give us any foothold toward developing an artificial intelligence suited to our needs? While it would enable

    • The simple answer to your question is no. In the field of Molecular Modeling, we have a pretty good idea of how to simulate a system at the atomistic level. As the article states, we are pushing the limits of computational resources and time to complete the simulations at the level of about 1 million atoms (this is state of the art). The simulation discussed in this article is of a Satellite Virus (not even a true virus by strict definition, as it requires a cell to be previously infected by a virus) and
    • If they can simulate something else than a virus (because I don't think viruses are intelligent) could they by this way obtain intelligence by simulating an intelligent animal?

      From a philosophical perspective? Depends who you ask.

      Most of the philosophers I know of are still talking about Turing's Computing, Machinery and Intelligence [abelard.org] paper of 1950, which focuses on simulation of conversation (hence Turing Test) rather than learning systems or simulated life such as this.

      JR Searle [wikipedia.org] gives some pretty good reas
      • JR Searle gives some pretty good reasons why simulated intelligence is not real intelligence

        whoops.
    • What's amazing is that "intelligence" is kind of an emergent property. We don't have a very good idea of how it works, but we can map neurons fairly well. This implies that one day, by simply programming the basic features of neuron synaptic transmission, the system might 'come alive' even though we may not know entirely how.
  • I Hope... (Score:4, Funny)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Monday March 27, 2006 @05:50PM (#15006278) Homepage Journal
    ...Symantec/Norton, McAfee, CommandPoint, Crudpuppy, ClamAV, Grisoft and the rest are all preparing signatures, otherwise if this thing gets in the wild it will turn your data into nothing but pond scum... ;P (Aren't there ANY moderators with quirky senses of humor anymore?)
  • ...We've been able to have viruses on computers for many years now.
    • I would like to re-post what I posted the 1st time (this article is a dupe):

      This is an interesting coincidence because I used to reflect deeply on this exact subject a few years ago: what if a supercomputer could simulate a human ? I'll be honest here: I am literally _astounded_ to discover that this scientific team has successfuly simulated a virus. I didn't thought supercomputers were powerful enough for such a task. I just finished reading some articles about the experience and I now understand why thi

  • Life vs. Non-life (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Absolut187 (816431)
    This is one of those areas where any attempt to draw a line is subjective.

    Many scientists prefer to call them "particles" because even though they contain RNA or DNA like other lifeforms, they can only replicate inside other living cells.'

    Ok, so does that mean that cuckoos and cowbirds are not "lifeforms"?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brood_parasite [wikipedia.org]

    Just admit that you can't draw the line any better than to say:
    "Lifeforms move around and do stuff."

    • >> Ok, so does that mean that cuckoos and cowbirds are not "lifeforms"?

      No, Cuckoos and cowbirds have all the needed apparatus for procreation. Viruses on the other hand generally require the transcriptional "machinery" of a host cell in order to reproduce.

      Some people consider viruses to be the most complex thing which doesn't live, while others say it is the least comlex living thing.

      I say they're non living due to their lack of respiration, complete reproductive apparatus, and lack of a cell membran
    • Cuckoos and cowbirds can, in a pinch, replicate without parasitizing another birds nest. Viruses are snippets of RNA in a protein coating that, simply put, do nothing outside of a cell. Vast difference here.

      • Viruses are snippets of RNA in a protein coating that, simply put, do nothing outside of a cell. Vast difference here.

        Right. They don't "do enough stuff" to be considered "living".

        They depend on other organisms for their reproduction.

        So do human beings. We'd be dead without all of the symbiotic organisms that we depend on.

        • Right. They don't "do enough stuff" to be considered "living".

          If you want us regular slashdotters to follow your arguments, please stop using all the complex biology jargon you learned in graduate school.

      • Re:Life vs. Non-life (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pomo monster (873962) on Monday March 27, 2006 @07:45PM (#15007189)
        Human beings do nothing outside a very specific environment tailored to their needs, where temperature, pressure, oxygen content of air, gravity, radiation, &c., all lie within specific bounds. How is this different from a virus needing an environment that includes cellular structures in order to replicate?

        Me, I subscribe to structuralism.
  • by tskirvin (125859) on Monday March 27, 2006 @05:58PM (#15006344) Homepage
    The main research page [uiuc.edu] may interest some of you. And for those that it doesn't help, perhaps you want to look at our Linux clusters [uiuc.edu] instead?

  • I doubt it. Might be the first simulation that isn't forced to take any shortcuts to simulate the behavior of a life form (highly unlikely, because there's too much left regarding genes which we don't fully understand)
    But even if this is a complete simulation: Is it really that interesting to watch such a simulation if it doesn't interact with other models of the same quality? It's not that interesting to watch a allegedly perfect simulation of a virus on its own, because results are not going to vary much
    • Is it really that interesting to watch such a simulation if it doesn't interact with other models of the same quality?

      Sure. Being able to take the together the basic building blocks (atoms), arrange them into molecules (amino acid residues), which then can be chained together (macromolecules), which fold accurately depending on the various electrical, hydrophobic, and van der Waals forces (proteins), which further interact properly with their neighbors and form stable complexes (capsid subunits) which can
  • Its awesome (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mnmn (145599) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:08PM (#15006424) Homepage
    Simulating life is awesome. Now the next step is to simulate something like an Amoeba in water... let its DNA drive it to 'eat' a food particle, and see how accurate the digestion (and binary replication) is with the input being only the DNA and initial conditions. I wonder what kind of computers are required to simulate all that, in how much time? I'd more gladly donate cpu cycles to this than to SETI.

    Next I wonder if the computer can be used to run regression tests to create the ideal bacteria or virii for a given situation. Virii can be built to repair human DNA in various ways... a particularly disadvantageous gene can be switched off throughout the body once infected with the virus.

    Of course this only allows Cybernet to have more destroying power once it 'wakes up'.
    • Hey that would make a great game. Simulate an amoeba in water that eats food. We can simulate that amoeba's evolution into more and more complex organisms, watching it get bigger and deadlier. Then it can grow into a vertebrate lifeform that walks up onto land and becomes sentient, builds cities, wages war and sends spaceships into outer space!

      Oh wait... [spore.com]

  • by Expert Determination (950523) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:09PM (#15006431)
    This is such a misleading headline. It's a simulation of the dynamics of the proteins forming the outer case of the virus to understand how it maintains its structure. It's purely about studying the structure - like an engineer's finite element simulation of a bridge. It's great work from this point of view. But it's not a simulation of any kind of biological process because the time scale is something like nanoseconds. So yes, it's a simulation, but it's not a simulation of a lifeform qua a lifeform.

    And that word 'lifeform' - it brings the quality of the reporting down to the level of Star Trek psychobabble. Try 'organsim', or even 'virus', next time.

    • Or "assembly of proteins", which is a more accurate description of what is achieved. And it's no wonder it maintains its structure, as you would need far far longer timescales of simulation to see structural changes in systems of this size. The main achievement of this research is getting the research group into the main press, being on slashdot twice, and showing the people that fund your work how important it is for you to have this immense-mega-super-duper $$$ cluster. I was a bit more critical the first
  • by Roadkills-R-Us (122219) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:19PM (#15006525) Homepage
    But is it really a life form? From the article: 'Viruses are tiny bundles of protein and genetic material that straddle the line between life and non-life. Many scientists prefer to call them "particles" because even though they contain RNA or DNA like other lifeforms, they can only replicate inside other living cells.'"

    The same could be same for most species of animals; they ``contain RNA or DNA like other lifeforms, they can only replicate inside other living organisms''.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:27PM (#15006589) Homepage Journal
    "satellite tobacco mosaic virus"

    That sounds like the greatest hits of American products, all in one convenient album.
  • Hey . . . (Score:2, Funny)

    by karnifex (724937)
    This might make a cool game. Someone get Will Wright on the phone.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday March 27, 2006 @07:10PM (#15006947) Journal
    I think we can agree that bacteria are alive. But there are types of bacteria, the ones that cause leprosy and chlamydia, frinstance, that cannot reproduce outside of a living cell. (They, unlike most bacteria, invade and live inside cells.) It's fairly difficult to draw a hard line between them and some viruses that have lipid bilayers full of receptors on their outsides. Even prions self-amplify, so where do you draw the lines on what's alive?
  • Pretending for a moment that the story is what the headline said it was [slashdot.org], because that makes it much more interesting:

    Can you drop the word "simulation"? If it's simulated from the ground up, it's (in its environment) indistinguishable from the real-life version (here assuming the simulation is proper). So let's be provocative and just say it's a digital life-form.
  • they can only replicate inside other living cells.

    then what do you call us? We can only replicate at gamer and star trek conventions.
  • Come on people; remember your basic Star-Trek training: Whenever you see an alien life form where it shouldn't normally be, some sh-- is comin' down!
  • Ok, extrapolating forward a bit, how soon before simulated life forms create their own religion? Won't they be surprised when they meet their masters?
  • here is the solution to the debate.

    life must exhibit certain characteristics.

    the simplest two characteristics are

    reproductivity
    autonomous function

    so a virus must have two classifications.

    active and inactive

    active virii are those currently 'living' in a cell or some other construct that support basic life functions such as allowing autonomous function and reproduction.

    inactive virii are simply particles with a life-like construction. they have no autonomous functions and cannot reproduce even when paired wi
  • Can a complete description of the workings of physics be described finitely, or is the complexity of our universe infinite? i.e. is the study of physics a never ending rabbit hole of major discoveries and refactoring to new models, or will we hit the bottom eventually, and jump to a new realm that makes modern physics look like yesterday's alchemy? And to make this more relevant, at what level can we start ignoring details of our models to make a realistic simulation of life, or are all the details import
  • by jandersen (462034) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @05:11AM (#15009247)
    I think we have to distinguish between 'life' as a concept and 'living organisms'. Life is an abstraction - it is the 'quality' that is common to all life processes, ie the processes that we know from living organisms.

    The only thing that is reasonably clearly defined is 'living orgnism'; and as several posts have already pointed out, viruses can't quite be called living organisms; not because the don't display life, but because they are too simply to qualify as organisms. However, they do have life proceses - eg. they reproduce.

    How can one define the concept 'life'? It is a difficult one - there are many that feel it would be too narrow to define it simply as the set of chemical processes that we know from biology; among other things, there is no sharp boundary between simple non-organic chemistry and 'life-chemistry'. There are some that define life as chemical evolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_evolution [wikipedia.org]) - this theory has the advantage that it can be generalised; all that is needed is a good generalisation of 'chemistry'.
  • Life = Non-life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foxxo (262627) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @07:23AM (#15009563) Homepage
    "Life" and "non-life" are useful, but ultimately meaningless ontological distinctions that really have no purpose at the sub-microscopic level. Any sensible person can see that ultimately there is no difference between what we deem living and what we call non-living, as the quick and the dead are still naught but particles in relationship to one another. The notion of self-identical objects larger than the fundamental particles is useful, but when dealing on such a tiny scale it's best to forget about such pointless ontological nonsense.

It is not best to swap horses while crossing the river. -- Abraham Lincoln

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