2010

Physics of Life: A Model for Non-Newtonian Properties of Living Systems

New analytical tools focus on the geometry and kinematics of behavior of living things.

This innovation proposes the reconciliation of the evolution of life with the second law of thermodynamics via the introduction of the First Principle for modeling behavior of living systems. The structure of the model is quantum-inspired: it acquires the topology of the Madelung equation in which the quantum potential is replaced with the information potential. As a result, the model captures the most fundamental property of life: the progressive evolution; i.e. the ability to evolve from disorder to order without any external interference.

The mathematical structure of the model can be obtained from the Newtonian equations of motion (representing the motor dynamics) coupled with the corresponding Liouville equation (representing the mental dynamics) via information forces. All these specific non-Newtonian properties equip the model with the levels of complexity that matches the complexity of life, and that makes the model applicable for description of behaviors of ecological, social, and economical systems.

Rather than addressing the six aspects of life (organization, metabolism, growth, adaptation, response to stimuli, and reproduction), this work focuses only on “biosignature”; i.e. the mechanical invariants of life, and in particular, the geometry and kinematics of behavior of living things. Living things obey the First Principles of Newtonian mechanics. One main objective of this model is to extend the First Principles of classical physics to include phenomenological behavior on living systems; to develop a new mathematical formalism within the framework of classical dynamics that would allow one to capture the specific properties of natural or artificial living systems such as formation of the collective mind based upon abstract images of the selves and non-selves; exploitation of this collective mind for communications and predictions of future expected characteristics of evolution; and for making decisions and implementing the corresponding corrections if the expected scenario is different from the originally planned one. This approach postulates that even a primitive living species possesses additional, non-Newtonian properties that are not included in the laws of Newtonian or statistical mechanics. These properties follow from a privileged ability of living systems to possess a self-image (a concept introduced in psychology) and to interact with it.

The proposed mathematical system is based on the coupling of the classical dynamical system representing the motor dynamics with the corresponding Liouville equation describing the evolution of initial uncertainties in terms of the probability density and representing the mental dynamics. The coupling is implemented by the information-based supervising forces that can be associated with self-awareness. These forces fundamentally change the pattern of the probability evolution, and therefore, lead to a major departure of the behavior of living systems from the patterns of both Newtonian and statistial mechanics.

This innovation is meant to capture the signature of life based only on observable behavior, not on any biochemistry. This will not prevent the use of this model for developing artificial living systems, as well as for studying some general properties of behavior of natural, living systems.

This work was done by Michail Zak of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-44903