The Nature of LIFE
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The Nature of LIFE

An focus on its scientific essence and a thought work about its theoretical description

About the Book

Life. There is something strange about this term. Everybody knows what it is, but nobody can really explain what it is. In our everyday lives, the meaning of this term is somehow contained in the context we use it. In science, no theory of life exists. A huge army of teachers and researchers active in all disciplines of life sciences hardly share common ground. Life scientists are bound together by a loose band of a few interesting phenomena observable in nature. This is strange, but does not appear to be troublesome, since teaching and research work well.

The scientific lack of understanding what life actually is, is probably only an academic problem, but an interesting one! And that is where the essay "The Nature of LIFE" starts. Apparently, biologists have accepted this lack of understanding and spend no more effort to fill this gap of knowledge. Possibly, pure biological means are not enough to explain life. Possibly, a new approach from outside can help. Possibly, new insight from a discipline like Informatics can lead to a better understanding of life. And actually, there is something common in biological and computer systems: information-processing.

Learning to interpret all sorts of biological activity as information-processing uncovers a common pattern in all phenomena of life. This common pattern may show a way to a theory of life and allows to draw some interesting implications. Scientists of all biological disciplines may be able to agree. If this is really going to happen, life scientists would have a solid common ground, a better understanding for each other and would possibly collaborate even better than today.

About the Author

Reik Oberrath
Reik Oberrath

Reik Oberrath started studying biology at the University of Tuebingen in 1990. He did his diploma in 1996 after finishing his thesis about the colour change of Pulmonaria flowers and its interplay with insect pollinators. From 1997 until 2000 he did his Ph.D. at the University of Aachen. He specialised in macroecology and studied the interactions of plants and their animal seed dispersers. After his Ph.D., he finished his academic life.

In 2000 he started to work as a software developer. Gaining expertise in the field of software development and Informatics, he applied the broad view of a macroecologist to computer systems and founded with his collaborator a knowledge base called Clean Coding Cosmos.

Having intensely worked on both biological systems and computer systems, he was able to learn the meaning of their similarities: information-processing. This experience inspired and enabled him to write this essay.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. How to define the term definition ?
  • 2. The natural science point of view
    • 2.1 The physical point of view
    • 2.2 The chemical point of view
    • 2.3 The biochemical point of view
    • 2.4 The biological point of view
    • 2.5 The cosmological point of view
  • 3. The informatics point of view
  • 4. The humanities point of view
  • 5. A theory of life?
  • 6. Thoughts about Life
    • 6.1 What drives life and what is driven by life?
    • 6.2 What has information processing to do with life?
    • 6.3 What is actually the very nature, the essence, the key feature of life?
    • 6.4 Is there a more concrete and understandable definition of the term Life?
    • 6.5 Why is metabolism not the key feature of life?
    • 6.6 How is the genesis of life scientifically imaginable?
    • 6.7 To be alive, or not to be, that is (not) the (only) question!
    • 6.8 What is the relationship between lifeforms and life process?
  • 7. How to detect exotic life?
  • 8. What is artificial life and can we create it?
    • 8.1 Robotic Life
    • 8.2 Synthetic Life
    • 8.3 Virtual Life
  • 9. Lifeforms vs. Robots
  • 10. Life, Evolution and Purpose
    • 10.1 Life and Evolution
    • 10.2 Purpose and Life
    • 10.3 Evolution and Purpose
  • Afterword
  • Notes

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