Re: Evidence for "Big Bang Theory"

Rodney Wines (R_WINES@TRZCL1)
24 May 1995 14:13:44 GMT

I'm a computer geek (with apologies to no one, BTW), and most of the
reading outside of my field that I did while mis-spending my misspent youth
was Science Fiction. Therefore, I don't claim to know what I'm talking
about below, and most flames for the following will probably be deserved.
I do hope I'll get some serious comments and corrections, however, so I can
learn something.

In <3ptkml$> writes:

> Aren't we forgetting that there are 100 billion stars in a galaxy, a large
> fraction of which have planets, and 100 billion galaxies in the
> universe?

My favorite definition of "life" is, "Life is a local reversal of entropy."
I don't know who said it.

As I understand it, it's simple to create the basic building blocks of
life. You take one jar of Primordial Soup, pass an electric arc through
it, come back in a day or so and you'll have amino acids.

My understanding (based upon an article by Isaac Asimov I read while in
high school) is that "life" requires a delicate balance. If compounds are
too stable, they won't grow and change as required to be "alive". If
they're too reactive, they won't form the necessary complicated chains of
molecules. We're based upon carbon. Asimov speculated that other elements
might work, and gave the temperature range over which they'd exhibit the
required characteristics. There was SOMETHING that'd work at temperatures
from almost absolute zero to "real hot" (but I can't remember what "real
hot" was). So, I assume that if you mixed up a batch of Primordial Soup
based upon another element, brought it to the right temperature and
pressure, and excited it with SOMETHING, then you should get amino acid
equivalents in a few days. This leads one to speculate that "life" might
exist under a wide variety of conditions under those billions of suns.

But, to get "life" to arise under natural conditions, you need something to
keep stirring the pot. Carbon as a basic building block is rather nice,
because over the tempurature range where it'll work, water can be a solid
or a liquid. The neat thing about that is that solid water is lighter than
the liquid, and floats. If that didn't happen, then since cold liquid
sinks anyhow, solids would just sink to the bottom and the system would be
quite stable and uninteresting.

So, we're on a water planet far enough from Sol III that the place is at
the right temperature for carbon-based life to evolve. You've still got to
stir the pot a bit, get rid of a lot of the early atmosphere, etc. The
moon did a nice job of that.

In addition, it's rather convenient (according to a good SF novel I read
many years ago) that North and South America are joined so that there's no
simple way for water to flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This gives
rise to the Gulf Stream and a lot of interesting weather.

All this stirring and sloshing about is important for a couple of reasons.
Yes, it stirrs the pot and gives the chemicals a chance to interact. After
life has evolved, however, this sloshing about helps "intelligent" life to
evolve. Best I can tell, intelligence thrives when there is survival value
in recognizing patterns and/or dealing with the unexpected.

Early civilizations evolved in areas where the seasons were regular as
clockwork, and there were easy ways to recognize when things would change,
and great survival potential in doing so ("When the sun rises with Acquarius
the Nile will flood", etc). This brought us Astrology, among other things.

As human life moved away from the tropics, intelligence helped cope with
the harshness and uncertainty of the new environments. And the uncertainty
kept promoting change.

Why'm I showing my ignorance like this? What's my point?

> Is too hard to believe that the miracle happened once somewhere?

No, it's not hard for me to believe it. I suspect that the conditions for
SOME kind of life (perhaps not all of it carbon-based) exist on many
planets. I also suspect, however, that there are a lot of very subtle
factors required for any kind of "higher" life forms to evolve, and that
"intelligent" life will be a very special case indeed. I eagerly await
your comments and corrections.

I'm still not religious, however.

| Internet: | "I always wanted roots, |
| X.400: c=CH a=arCom p=Alcatel | but if I can't have roots |
| s=Wines g=Rodney | I'll have wings." |