Write for My Friends! (Dept. of Signal Amplification)

August 7, 2012
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(This article was originally published at Three-Toed Sloth , and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Attention conservation notice: A call for academic papers on what entropy can say about the origins of life, two subjects you almost certainly don't care about.

Well, not exactly for:

Special Issue of Entropy: Equilibrium and Non-Equilibrium Entropy in the Origin of Life
Guest Editor: Dr. Eric Smith
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 December 2012

Boltzmann (Populäre Schriften, 1905) characterized the Darwin/Malthus struggle for existence as a struggle for free energy, and Schrödinger (What is Life?, 1944) centered the physics of life around rejection of entropy from biomass to the nonliving environment. The rise of the paradigms of self-organization and dissipative structures have since led to proposals that the emergence of life might be understood as a spontaneous rejection of entropy, perhaps carried out by processes related to those that maintain life today.

The half-century since Schrödinger has seen major advances of two kinds in our understanding of entropy as it might pertain to the origin of life. The first is within equilibrium thermodynamics: more is known about sources of free energy that sustain life on earth, and more diverse and complete quantitative models exist for biochemistry, physiology, and ecology. In parallel, advances in non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and its large-deviation theory have shown how the concept of entropy maximization continues to explain the emergence and robustness of non-equilibrium ordered states, in cases where the rate functions defining the appropriate entropies (now, effective actions) differ from the equilibrium free energies. The latter advances show how kinetics may preempt equilibrium thermodynamics as the source of relevant constraints on the formation and persistence of ordered non-equilibrium states.

In this volume we seek to bring together mathematical insights from both equilibrium and non-equilibrium thermodynamics with expertise from empirical domains relevant to the emergence and early evolution of life, including planetary and space chemistry, biochemistry, evolutionary dynamics ranging from physical self-organization to population processes, the dynamics of both chemically homogeneous (e.g. RNA) and heterogeneous populations of molecules, and separations of time and spatial scales that lead to the emergence of memory, compartmentalization, control systems, individuality, or levels of development and selection. Collaborations that unify such domains are especially solicited.

For more, see the full prospectus for the special issue — which will be open access.

Signal Amplification; Biology; Complexity; Physics



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