September 7, 2018 G: Gaia (Earth is alive!)

Our two-dimensional droplet universe predicts what sort of planets will arise through natural self-ordering from a star’s accretion disk. It also predicts that cellular life is ubiquitous. But what about living cells. What constitutes life? And why do some say Earth is alive?

In ancient Greek mythology, Gaia represents Mother Earth. Modern ecological theory of life on Earth is given by Wikipedia as: 

The mythological name was revived in 1979 by James Lovelock, in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth; his Gaia hypothesis was supported by Lynn Margulis. The hypothesis proposes that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamical system that shapes the Earth‘s biosphere, and maintains the Earth as a fit environment for life. In some Gaia theory approaches, the Earth itself is viewed as an organism with self-regulatory functions. Further books by Lovelock and others popularized the Gaia Hypothesis, which was embraced to some extent by New Age environmentalists as part of the heightened awareness of environmental concerns of the 1990s.

For us, on The Union of Opposites website, we are looking for evidence that our Earth which teams with life, is somehow itself, alive.

A bit of data that most of us aren’t taught in biology class, or from our biology books, is that over half of all life on Earth is not on its surface, but in its crust. Most of life in Earth exists in quasi-stasis (sometimes in statis/sometime found living), some yet to be discovered (could these be the missing links to how life arose on Earth or elsewhere? Or how Earth’s atmosphere was formed?)

Let’s come back to the possible reason for so much life/biomass  in Earth’s crust and go back to how genetic material (that tells living cells how to operate) got into living cells, helping them reproduce in a myriad of ways. 

Many archeo biologists and astrobiologists believe that genetic material formed either on slopes of early active volcanoes, or through panspermia (raining down on the Earth from an outer planet or intergalactic clouds). Nucleotides that can develop into genetic material have been found on the before-mentioned places. If a large, failed sun like Jupiter is required in a solar system with a living planet, then smaller M-class suns (like Trappist I with its seven Earths) will not have enough energy to produce Jupiter-like planets. And, so, if a Jupiter-sized planet is required to rain down genetic material on an Earth-like planet in its Goldilocks orbit around its sun (orbit at a distance where heat is enough to produce liquid water), then the star required to produce a living Earth must be larger than M-class (G-class like our sun) for its accretion disk to produce initially close and large planets. Once the large Jupiter-like planets are formed in log-jams close to their star, then they move outward, and, possibly rain their soup of complex molecules down on the inner planets. 

Okay, so now we have an idea for the conditions necessary to produce life on an inner planet: natural division of inner water-based droplets, coated in an oil-based environment (as in our droplet experiment). We know that approximately 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water and that water can be found in water tables within the crust. So we should not be surprised that so much life coats Earth. We know about life cycles of single and multicellular organisms on Earth’s surface and in its oceans, but what about the over 50% of all living material in stasis within the crust. What can be its possible use?

Just now scientists are discovering that these ancient single-celled organisms have very large life cycles. Some the length of the ice age cycle (every 100, 000 years). On a regular basis, three things interact in order to start each ice age: the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun (eccentricity (zero eccentricity is a circular orbit/an eccentricity of one (1) is an ellipse)), the precession of the Earth’s axis (Earth leans over about 23 and 1/2 degrees toward or away from the sun), and insolation from regular or freak solar cycles.

Today the Earth’s orbit is almost perfectly circular (same distance from the sun in summer and winter), but if in 80,000 years the Earth’s orbit become elliptical and its north pole angles away from the sun (the winter), and it’s farther from the sun, and the sun is cooler (no sunspots), then is when an ice age will initiate. Some scientists think those conditions are not severe enough to cause or stop ice ages from freezing Gaia. The more that is learned about the primitive one-celled spores that are in abundance in Earth, the more clues we’ll have about how the climate Earth changes, perhaps even due to life deep within its rocks.

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