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Vladimir Fedorov: on 4/7/17 at 12:42pm UTC, wrote Dear Saibal, With great interest I read your essay, which of course is...

Dizhechko Semyonovich: on 4/7/17 at 3:34am UTC, wrote Dear Sirs! Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of...

Peter Jackson: on 4/6/17 at 14:03pm UTC, wrote Saibal, It may be said that your essay wasn't exactly on topic but I found...

Branko Zivlak: on 4/5/17 at 14:30pm UTC, wrote Dear Mr. Mitra You wrote very good essay, therefore rate is high. ...

Saibal Mitra: on 4/1/17 at 1:24am UTC, wrote Dear Don, Thank you for posting your comments here. Sloshing effects may...

Don Limuti: on 3/29/17 at 2:12am UTC, wrote Hi Saibal, A very interesting way of stirring the pot....the large...

Saibal Mitra: on 3/20/17 at 9:09am UTC, wrote Dear Jeff Schmitz, Thank you for your comments. These processes in cold...

Saibal Mitra: on 3/20/17 at 8:26am UTC, wrote Dear Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta, Thank you for you comments on my...


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The Entropic Price of Building the Perfect Clock: Q&A with Natalia Ares
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The Math of Consciousness: Q&A with Kobi Kremnitzer
A meditating mathematician is developing a theory of conscious experience to help understand the boundary between the quantum and classical world.

January 29, 2023

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: How life got started in our solar system by Saibal Mitra [refresh]
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Author Saibal Mitra wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 16:39 GMT
Essay Abstract

The origin of life problem has defied explanation for more than a century. There are many different aspects to this problem, the extremely complicated biochemistry of living organism playing an important role here. I argue that the complex biochemistry is obscuring the more philosophical issues which I argue are actually rather trivial. By explaining the origin of life in terms of the relevant physical processes where the very detailed biochemistry is largely disregarded, we may get to a better broad perspective of how life came into being in our solar system.

Author Bio

Saibal Mitra is an educator in mathematics and physics. He has written a few peer reviewed articles on subject such as dark matter (e.g. experimental mathematics (e.g. Photography is a big hobby of mine, I like to take big pictures like this one:

Download Essay PDF File

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 18:46 GMT
Saibal –

This is an interesting and intelligent discussion of the origins of life in the Solar System, presenting an ingenious answer to the problem of constructing complex molecules. So I’m sorry to say that I find it difficult to believe in. There are a couple of big problems I see, that I’m sure you’ve considered.

The first is that to keep a self-sustaining...

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Author Saibal Mitra replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 19:54 GMT
Thanks for your comments! There are indeed quite a few issues with my proposal that have yet to be worked out in more detail. But I gave a very general perspective on how to get to large biomolecules that can take part in interesting catalytic reactions.

I guess I could have explained things a bit better and in more detail. What happened was that two days before the deadline I took the...

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Author Saibal Mitra wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 21:04 GMT
One thing I should have explained better is the fundamental difference between my proposal and the current approach where you try to get to large molecules with interesting properties in some given environment at some uniform state (but not in thermal equilibrium; thermodynamically the creation of large molecules can be allowed, if a microbe could replicate there, then that means that the creation of a microbe lowers the Gibbs free energy, however the kinetics do not favor the creation of a microbe without a microbe being put in there from the start).

In the current approach the kinetics will keep the state of the system that initially contains only simple molecules in such a state with only simple molecules, the probability that something more interesting would appear is vanishingly small, and even if that were to happen, that fluctuation will just die down. Effectively, the state space of the system has an upper limit w.r.t. the complexity of the molecules that can be present. In my approach, there is no such upper limit. So, you're bound to stray into the real of extreme complexity. More is needed to explain how this leads to life, but should be clear that the approach is fundamentally different.

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 19:40 GMT

Explained cogently, Saibal. Done well, considering you changed your topic shortly before submitting. My essay suggests the alkaline vent process for generating multi-celled life and context-driven goals for intelligent beings coupled with mindless laws like Jeremy's England's as a new concept. Where do mindless mathematical laws enter in your picture and where does agency and intent come in the equation? This was a quick read so I may have missed it.

Best regards. Hope you get a chance to give your thoughts on my essay.

Jim Hoover

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Author Saibal Mitra replied on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 03:15 GMT
Jim, thanks for your comments. It sounds like your essay is going to be very interesting to read, I'll give you my comments as soon as I've read it.

The question of where these higher level phenomena like intent come from was skimmed over a bit, it's in the introduction. So, the issue is then that the laws of physics seems to lack a notion of intent. But there is, of course, no doubt that humans act with intent, and that humans are also subject to the laws of physics. One can then argue that what is going on here is that a living organism is a higher level system that, while instantiated by the laws of physics, is able to implement its own algorithm.

It's not all that different from saying that your computer does not violate the laws of physics and yet is able to run whatever algorithm fits in its memory, even if it looks like running some particular program would give the computer a property that doesn't seem to exist at the level of the fundamental laws of physics.

To be able to run some arbitrary algorithm requires the system to have enough control over its immediate environment, there will be feedback loops making sure the programmed commands are indeed executed. So, what must then happen is that information at the higher level where the system exists, feeds back to control the state at lower levels to make sure the system keeps on working. Walker and Davies that I've cited in the introduction have written quite a few papers on this topic.

Then what remains to be answered is how a system that isn't in such a state to begin with can start to exhibit such properties, so explaining how life started will automatically address the theme of the essay contest.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 14:15 GMT
This is an interesting hypothesis. I am not much of a planetary science maven so I can't judge its merits very easily. I did read a while back an idea for why the inner solar system has a lack of large planets. The idea stated the inner solar system had two Neptune sized or super-Earth planets. These ended up in a collision that send most of this material into the sun with a small percentage remaining to form Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. I do not know how that would fit into the idea of there being an early planet or proto-planet with highly eccentric orbit.

Maybe the highly eccentric orbit planet was Mars. Its eccentricity is a bit large as it is, but by gravitational interactions maybe it has become less eccentric. So this might have been the terrestrial planetary left over from this smash-up that served this role.

Again I can't judge this very well because I am not highly knowledgeable in this area. However, your paper seems worthy of being in the running.

Cheers LC

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William B Goodwin wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 16:55 GMT

Your essay is very interesting. It has always been a great mystery to me regarding how Earth proceeded from random chemicals into the simplest life form with the ability to replicate and capture the sun’s energy. Your well written essay outlines one possibility.

Given the difficulty of explaining how life began, I skipped this step and instead started with the existence of that first cell, and then worked up life’s chain to aims and intentions. Two other milestones in the development path are the ability to recall past events and the ability to imagine.

William Goodwin

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Author Saibal Mitra wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 22:48 GMT
Lawrence and William, thank you both for your comments. I have seen Lawrence's essay a while back here, and I'll read William's essay as soon as I get the opportunity. It's interesting to address the essay theme from various starting points, William from the first cell, I tried to shed some lights on abiogenesis, but then Lawrence starts way at the beginning to explain why the universe is open, which is a crucial ingredient needed to make the universe habitable.

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Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 23:06 GMT
Dear Saibal Mitra

I invite you and every physicist to read my work “TIME ORIGIN,DEFINITION AND EMPIRICAL MEANING FOR PHYSICISTS, Héctor Daniel Gianni ,I’m not a physicist.

How people interested in “Time” could feel about related things to the subject.

1) Intellectuals interested in Time issues usually have a nice and creative wander for the unknown.

2) They usually enjoy this wander of their searches around it.

3) For millenniums this wander has been shared by a lot of creative people around the world.

4) What if suddenly, something considered quasi impossible to be found or discovered such as “Time” definition and experimental meaning confronts them?

5) Their reaction would be like, something unbelievable,… a kind of disappointment, probably interpreted as a loss of wander…..

6) ….worst than that, if we say that what was found or discovered wasn’t a viable theory, but a proved fact.

7) Then it would become offensive to be part of the millenary problem solution, instead of being a reason for happiness and satisfaction.

8) The reader approach to the news would be paradoxically adverse.

9) Instead, I think it should be a nice welcome to discovery, to be received with opened arms and considered to be read with full attention.

11)Time “existence” is exclusive as a “measuring system”, its physical existence can’t be proved by science, as the “time system” is. Experimentally “time” is “movement”, we can prove that, showing that with clocks we measure “constant and uniform” movement and not “the so called Time”.

12)The original “time manuscript” has 23 pages, my manuscript in this contest has only 9 pages.

I share this brief with people interested in “time” and with physicists who have been in sore need of this issue for the last 50 or 60 years.


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Shaikh Raisuddin wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 05:13 GMT

To explain is to use precise concepts.

What is your definition of life?

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Author Saibal Mitra replied on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 20:39 GMT
The word "life" in the title of the essay refers to microbes, basically the first lifeforms we know existed on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago. But, this cannot be the fundamental definition of life, defining life is part of the problem one has to tackle in order to explain how it arose (a point frequently made by researchers in this field).

George Ellis explains in his essay and in some of his other writings that top down causation is a key feature of living organism. Suppose e.g. that you are in a car, there is a red traffic light, you slow down your car to stop at that traffic light. Then because you consist of molecules, what happened should be describable in terms of the molecules you consist of.

Then apart from the sheer complexity making such an explanation not so practical, there is a more fundamental problem. If you trace down the processes at the molecular level that are involved in the chain of events in your brain that makes your brain give the command to hit the brake, that does not really provide for an explanation of why you decided to stop your car. It does not reproduce the higher level explanation in terms of you sticking to the traffic rules.

Now, it's still true that everything that happens must in principle be explainable from the molecular level, but you then need to go beyond a simple tracing down of some key triggers that caused the brain to hit the brake. You need to reproduce the algorithm that the brain is actually running, the traffic rules are encoded in that algorithm. So, in the end all you would be doing is using the information at the molecular level to establish the fact that it was a person who knows about the traffic rules who was sitting in the car, and from that it follows that the higher level explanation is valid. So, the molecular level explanation ended up giving the same reason for why you hit the brakes.

So, this then motivates defining life as a higher level system where the relevant information processing happens at that higher level. It is running algorithms that are only visible at that higher level. You may reduce it to its parts, but to understand why it did something you need to frame that in terms of the algorithms that are implemented.

Now, I take a different view. The algorithm itself, of course, didn't come into existence just out of thin air. So, a complete explanation involves explaining where the information that defines the algorithm ultimate originated from. So, there does exist in principle in a meaningful explanation in terms of fundamental physics concepts.

For life this means that I find the reverse of what I said at the start more appealing, i.e. an explanation of where what know is life (e.g. microbes) came from, will also provide for a definition of life. And then you are led to autocalytic processes. Now the people in favor of an algorithmic view at higher levels have made the point that there are trivial reproducing systems such as fire. But if you take a very deep look at such systems you'll find that it's not actually 100% trivial, a fire can only maintain itself and spread if there exists a region of stability. Compared to what we normally call "living organisms", it is indeed very trivial, but there are still feedback processes here that will make it going.

So, being alive or not is framing things in the wrong way, it's much more a matter of the degree to which some system is alive. And there then does exist a huge difference between a fire and a microbe. Also, there is exists a class of systems ranging from animals down to microbes and even simpler system such that the simplest of such systems could eventually give rise to all the of the other systems in that class. This may have involved a special environment like a proto-planet where you have both warm and cold environments as I've argued in my essay.

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Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 15:35 GMT
Dear Saibal Mitra,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Author Saibal Mitra replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 08:21 GMT
Dar Joe, I'll read your essay and give my comments on your essay page.

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 08:47 GMT
Nice essay Dr Mitra ji,

Your ideas and thinking on life formation on earth are excellent for eg…

‘1. Similarly, the solution I propose to get to the large biomolecules needed to kick start a system in the DKS state is to consider a natural process that leads to much larger molecules than the ones we're interested in.

2. But, of course, life did not start on Earth, it...

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Author Saibal Mitra replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 08:26 GMT
Dear Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta,

Thank you for you comments on my essay. I'll read your essay and give any comments I may have on your essay page.

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Jeffrey Michael Schmitz wrote on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 21:46 GMT
Saibal Mitra,

Your essay is on the topic (there are many essays that are off topic), your writing is clear, concise and can be understood by a general readership. Those points alone should make you one of the top ranked essays.

If you look at Pluto and some of the comets, there appears to be complex organic compounds produced without the need for any warm places within the proto-planet. The building blocks of life can be produced in warm pools of water, but also appeared to be produced in the solid state in vacuum conditions at very cold temperature due to UV radiation breaking the bonds in methane. The process is slow, but seems to be common. Long chain molecules should similar to DNA could be a result of such a cryo (sp?) process. This process does fit in with thermodynamics because the stronger bond and folding of the long chain molecule is at a lower energy state.

Best of luck with the contest,

Jeff Schmitz

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Author Saibal Mitra replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 09:09 GMT
Dear Jeff Schmitz,

Thank you for your comments. These processes in cold near vacuum conditions under the influence of radiation are very interesting. This recent article:

ports on the synthesis of ribose from water, methanol, and ammonia exposed to UV radiation. So, I agree that such processes seem to be very important, you can't just have only a warm environment where life is ultimately going to take hold, because then the essential molecules won't get synthesized ab initio. I suspect that for quite a while when life is in the processes of developing in the warm environment, the processes in the cold environment will be essential to fill in the missing gaps of the biochemistry in the warm environment.

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Don Limuti wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 02:12 GMT
Hi Saibal,

A very interesting way of stirring the pot....the large protoplanets with large elliptical orbits approach the Sun and get hot and cold. If I may add to this the added gravitation change effect, causing a sloshing effect.

A short interesting and logical possibility. I like it.

You may want to take a look at my website ( In particular the sections on gravity, dark matter and dark energy. I think you will find them cosmologically interesting.

Thanks for your essay, (and visit my page if you get a chance)

Don Limuti

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Author Saibal Mitra replied on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 01:24 GMT
Dear Don,

Thank you for posting your comments here. Sloshing effects may play a role too, but you then need forces that don't uniformly accelerate the object. You can think about impacts, or strong tidal forces. Who knows, if there is life on Jupiter's moon Europa, such sloshing effects due to tidal forces may be important for the biology there.

I'll certainly take a look at your website!

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Branko L Zivlak wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 14:30 GMT
Dear Mr. Mitra

You wrote very good essay,

therefore rate is high.



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Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 14:03 GMT

It may be said that your essay wasn't exactly on topic but I found it a rather more interesting related topic than the vaguely ridiculous one set, so a quite valid response. I'll take it you're not particular a fan of the 'mathematical universe' then!

Also nicely written and argued with all the attributes of an excellent essay. Well done. Good score coming.

I hope you may get to read and comment on mine pre scoring deadline.

Best wishes


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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 03:34 GMT
Dear Sirs!

Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of Newton returned as the New Cartesian Physic and promises to be a theory of everything. To tell you this good news I use spam.

New Cartesian Physic based on the identity of space and matter. It showed that the formula of mass-energy equivalence comes from the pressure of the Universe, the flow of force which on the corpuscle is equal to the product of Planck's constant to the speed of light.

New Cartesian Physic has great potential for understanding the world. To show it, I ventured to give "materialistic explanations of the paranormal and supernatural" is the title of my essay.

Visit my essay, you will find there the New Cartesian Physic and make a short entry: "I believe that space is a matter" I will answer you in return. Can put me 1.


Dizhechko Boris

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Vladimir Nikolaevich Fedorov wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 12:42 GMT
Dear Saibal,

With great interest I read your essay, which of course is worthy of high rating. Excellently written.

I agree with you

«It’s similar to trying to get someone to understand how random thermal motion can be converted to macroscopic work using a heat engine.»

«while interesting don’t have i.m.o. any bearing on actually understanding how life generically arises. It’s similar to discussing how and why the universe started out in a low entropy state which ultimately does underpin the Second Law of thermodynamics. However, that issue should not distract from understanding how an heat engine works.»

We complement each other, because I tried to explain the details of this heat engine in the universe.

I wish you success in the contest.

Kind regards,


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