2010 Annual Science Report

Montana State University Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

The ABRC Philosophy of Astrobiology and the Origin of Life Discussion Group

Project Summary

At Montana State University we have developed a think tank that involves Philsophers and Scientists and different points in their careers (Professor, Graduate Students, and Undergraduate Students) for the discussion of aspects of Origin of Life Theories. The think tank team has tackled a number of interesting problems and has presented there findings at national and international meetings and published their findings in the journal “Origin of Life and Evolution or Biospheres”.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
1 Publication
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

The Philosophy of Astrobiology and the Origin of Life focus group is entering its fourth year of existence and uniquely gathers scientist together with philosophers on a weekly basis. The mission of its weekly meetings addressing the philosophical implications of the Origin of Life issues, writing joint papers together between Astrobiology philosophers and science students, and disseminating the information learned in these weekly meetings about the origin of life theories and their philosophical bearings to a larger community in the form of offering courses. This interface between philosophy and science has been the foundation for publishing several collaborative papers and joint poster presentations. Three student’s from this group Shawn McGlynn (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Olin Robus (Philosophy), and Nathan Haydan (Philosophy & Physics major) teamed up to examine catalysis and substrate catalyst interactions as a quatum mechanical problem. Prasanta Bandyopadhyay, Gordon Brittan, Trevor Beard and Shawn McGlynn presented a poster on the emerging nature of Astrobiogy as a new discipline focusing on the RNA world and Metabolism first theories. This paper has discussed some of the difficulties of the competing paradigms of the origin of life theories presently face when they are subjected to strict criteria of theory-choice. This group is now working on its publication. Both Bandyopadhyay and Beard have also been working on some of the bearings of the well-known paradox called “Simpson’s Paradox” on synthetic biology and the Origin of Life.

The Dependence and Emergence of Classical Behavior as Affected by Environmental Constraints.

The greater the degree of entanglement and environmental interaction, the shorter the exhibited coherence time of a quantum system. From a given superposition of states, mathematically possible classical solutions emerge on a time scale based on resultant environmental interaction. Classical outcomes that reflect potential causal chains quickly become entangled with their environment, effectively bringing about a more rapid transition to the classical world. In the figure, differing quantum systems immersed in differing environments are portrayed in paths (a) through (d). The curved lines represent the decay of off-diagonal terms whose convergence reflect the effective classicality of the quantum system. This process occurs on a time scale resulting from the level of environmental interaction and entanglement where the onset of decoherence and classicality is brought about on a shorter time scale according to increased environmental interaction. The top dashed line represents zero interaction in which case the system does not decohere, and therefore the superpositional state does not have a transition to the classical. Through the environment acting on nascent quantum possibilities, the transition to the classical world is effected by the potential of environment interaction