Biosphere

Here I present an argument for a new paradigm for the biosphere based on the
thermodynamic theory of open systems (known as non-equilibrium or irreversible,
thermodynamics) and in particular, on the statistical mechanics of open systems which
eventually must provide the foundation for the thermodynamic theory. There are good
reasons to believe that life and evolutionary processes occurring within the biosphere can be grounded in thermodynamic theory. First, thermodynamic laws are the most universal of all laws, often referred to as the “laws of laws”; they are derived from fundamental symmetries existing in Nature. There is no doubt that these laws apply to biological processes, since biological processes are composed of chemical, electrical, mechanical, and transport, processes, all of which, indisputably, are under the dominion of these basic symmetries and therefore under the imperative of thermodynamic law. Second, there is empirical evidence for a natural evolution of biological systems to particular stable end states which depend on both the boundary and the initial conditions of the system, similar to the very dynamics driving the evolution of abiotic non-equilibrium processes. Moreover, these end states, known as stationary states in non-living systems and as stasis in living systems, share similar stability characteristics (Michaelian, 2005).

It is argued that biotic and abiotic irreversible processes thermodynamically couple in such a way so as to increase the overall entropy production of Earth in its solar
environment. It is suggested that the biosphere arose as a thermodynamic imperative that
coupled life and biotic evolution to abiotic irreversible processes in order to remove
impediments to greater global entropy production of Earth. It analyzes how biological
processes are thermodynamically coupled with abiotic processes within the biosphere. (The term “biosphere” in this chapter is taken to mean that greater entity composing the
processes of life, the lithosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere.) Examples of biotic-abiotic
coupling are; biology catalyzing the hydrological cycle (Michaelian, 2009a, Michaelian,
2011b), and biology catalyzing ocean and wind currents, and the carbon cycle.

Such a thermodynamic view of the biosphere provides an explanation of many intriguing
biotic-abiotic associations discovered while accessing the Gaia hypothesis (Lovelock, 2005).
It also provides a framework for explaining the observed co-evolution of life with its
environment, and for the resolution of the paradox of “the evolution of a system of
population one – the biosphere” (Swenson, 1991). Perhaps most importantly, however, it
offers a simple physical reason for the origin of life based on entropy production through
ultraviolet (UV) light dissipation into heat by RNA and DNA during the Archean
(Michaelian, 2009b; 2011a).

For more details please see, Karo Michaelian (2012). The Biosphere: A Thermodynamic Imperative, in The Biosphere, Natarajan Ishwaran (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0292-2, InTech, Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/the-biosphere/the-biosphere-a-thermodynamic-imperative

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