Scale, by Geoffrey West, is a thought provoking book about coarse grained quantitative network theories which concern the entire human species and its interaction with the environment. Although verbose — as I think the intended audience is upper high school and entry-level college — it is clear in its depictions and explanations. This book is an important summary of really profound work and research performed at the Santa Fe Institute. And it is a great introduction to understanding power laws and scaling in biology and network topologies.
Category: earth (Page 1 of 4)
Life’s Rocky Start gives a decent educational account of the importance of minerals to both the formation (assuming life originated on Earth) and the progressive development of life. It is one of the few documentaries I have seen that properly shines light on the importance of meteorites to the understanding of planetary formation. The documentary starts by visiting Marrakesh, Morocco to show how meteorites are obtained in the infamous Northwest Africa region. I only wished it developed more on this meteorite theme.
Know nothing about mushrooms, fungi, or mycelia? — Paul Stamet’s Mycelium Running opens a door to an exotic universe beneath your feet. Fungi and their interaction with ecosystems upturn all of what you thought you knew about the button mushrooms on your salad or pizza. Fungi, simply and truely, are incredibly important and amazing organisms. And as Stamets proves, they are a powerful tool to maintain the world for all of our descendants — not to mention their ability to provide a healthy and functioning human immune system.
Fungi Perfecti is Stamet’s family owned company for those interested in supporting mycoremediation, mycoforestry, mycofiltration, or mycopesticides.
I was curious to learn about the Whole-Earth Decompression Dynamics (WEDD) theory developed by J. Marvin Herndon after I discovered that Lynn Margulis had edited and recommended his work several years ago. After purchasing Herndon’s Earth and the Dark Side of Science and reading the foreword by Dorion Sagan, whom I respect as an excellent science writer, I began to see Herndon as a scientist who is attempting to shake the foundations of more than three distinct subject areas – Geoscience, Planetary Sciences, and Nuclear Science. Whether or not you personally think his WEDD theory is right or wrong is irrelevant to the truth. If someone thinks his theory is incorrect, then they can refute the theory with substantive evidence by publishing a paper which details the inconsistencies in logic or facts. But remember, as Feyerabend and Kuhn note repeatedly, facts are always theory laden.
Science is not a religion; scientists are not priests who defend a fixed doctrine. Scientists who simply ridicule or resort to name calling are doing a disservice to science in a time when science is being attacked on many fronts – by religions, governments, and corporations. Scientists who forsake truth for tenure, personal prestige or their own beliefs are just as dangerous to science as any external threat. And this does not exclude Herndon himself.
As a reader of science subjects, I find the ideas of Herndon to be a fresh and fascinating departure from the status-quo. This is what science is all about, proposing preposterous ideas and then proving them right or wrong. His theory is nothing short of a revolution in the subjects previously mentioned. Even if it turns out to be false, they still provide food for thought and may even perhaps result in a more developed and better understanding of the true nature of natural phenomenon.
In light of all the exoplanet discoveries of the Kepler Space Telescope there is even more reason to seriously consider investigating the theories presented by Herdon. Of the thousands of exoplanets discovered thus far, there is a large fraction of Jupiter type planets which lie within the orbit of Earth. In fact there are so many such exoplanets that the question should not be: “Why are there so many Jupiter type planets in such close proximity to their host star?” but should rather be: “Why does our Solar System not contain Jupiter type planets within Earth’s orbit?”
Even if Herdon’s theory is incorrect regarding the history of our Solar System, his proposed theory is a physical possibility, i.e. there is at least one planet or moon which has had its atmosphere stripped away in the universe. It would therefore be silly not to study the theory. Don’t mathematicians study topics which have no current application? What is the issue with studying situations that did not occur in our Solar System?
I suggest first reading: A New Basis of Geoscience: Whole-Earth Decompression Dynamics
and then reading his book mentioned earlier (his book also contains this paper, among others).
For a list of his papers – J. Marvin Herdon on arXiv.org.
After reading books which made numerous references to the ideas of Vladimir Vernadsky, I decided to read his book, The Biosphere. It is an insightful and important book which provides numerous novel insights into the interconnected nature of the entire biosphere — the biogeochemical and thermodynamic relationships between living and non-living matter. The 1998 publication with Editor M.A.S McMenamin contains hundreds of great footnotes and further references. I also enjoyed the informative introduction by Jacques Grinevald.
Vernadsky’s “Pressure of Life” concept is new to me and struck me as important. It should, theoretically, be a measurable pressure. Just as we can measure Pascals or Newtons of pressure, the same should be the case for life’s pressure. There is only the issue of determining the system’s extent and defining the measurable quantity. For example, the entire biosphere must exert a given pressure against the Earth’s geochemical resources given a flux of cosmic solar energy. The biosphere “wants” and “tries” to multiply and thus expand against the finite constraint of resources available to the current state of biospheric evolution. Copying Vernadsky’s own analogy of a farmer clearing land, the freshly cleared land has been removed of the majority of its life above the soil. Thus there exists a pressure to fill this “vacuum” of life. How can we measure this pressure?
This brings to mind the related ideas of the logistic function and the oscillations which occur due to population expansion against finite resources. Life seems to typically overshoot the carrying capacity due to rapid initial multiplication. Only to later collapse and once again overshoot in a series of oscillations. Once the cleared land has been mostly filled, this pressure changes and occurs both inter- and intra- species. See this article: A Megatheory of Human Destiny.