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Are viruses life?

by SpaceGuy50
Tags: life, viruses
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ViewsofMars
#19
Jun8-09, 08:42 PM
P: 463
Quote Quote by SpaceGuy50 View Post
Are viruses life?
Good question. Thank you. (A nice break from what I had planned to do.) What came to my mind is a quote, "Viruses today spread genes among bacteria and humans and other cells, as they always have... We are our viruses " by Lynn Margulis, 1998, Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution, Basic Books, 1998. p 64. This link tells you about Lynn Margulis. If you would like more information about her I can provide it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Margulis

And what a fasinating and awe inspiring world it tiss even when one is flat out tired from a four day wedding event of a good friend.
mgb_phys
#20
Jun8-09, 09:10 PM
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Quote Quote by DaveC426913 View Post
Logical phallacy: hasty conclusion. That is not the only criteria for life.
No - but it's a good one

The question is of course - what is life? I was just putting forward one definition.
philnow
#21
Jun9-09, 12:33 AM
P: 83
That's more of a definition of one of the factors in a list of criteria for life. That sole statement has never been a definition of life in itself.
Moridin
#22
Jun9-09, 06:42 AM
P: 858
Quote Quote by granpa View Post
what is your point exactly?
Reproduction is already included in the criteria for evolution, so it is uncalled for to state it a second time.
ViewsofMars
#23
Jun9-09, 11:06 AM
P: 463
Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
The question is of course - what is life? I was just putting forward one definition.
Good answer. The question is too. What is life?

Here's an excerpt from NASA-Astrobiology Roadmap, Goal 3: Understand how life emerges from cosmic and planetary precursors, Perform observational, experimental and theoretical investigations to understand the general physical and chemical principles underlying the origins of life:

Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules. Life can be understood as a chemical system that links a common property of organic molecules—the ability to undergo spontaneous chemical transformation—with the uncommon property of synthesizing a copy of that system. This process, unique to life, allows changes in a living molecular system to be copied, thereby permitting Darwinian-like selection and evolution to occur. At the core of the life process are polymers composed of monomeric species such as amino acids, carbohydrates, and nucleotides. The pathways by which monomers were first incorporated into primitive polymers on the early Earth remain unknown, and physical properties of the products are largely unexplored. A primary goal of research on the origin of life must be to understand better the sources and properties of primitive polymers on the early Earth, and the evolutionary pathway by which polymerization reactions of peptides and oligonucleotides became genetically linked.
http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/roadmap/g3.html
Science is my baby! I just love it!
DaveC426913
#24
Jun9-09, 12:35 PM
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Quote Quote by ViewsofMars View Post
Life can be understood as a chemical system that links a common property of organic molecules—the ability to undergo spontaneous chemical transformation—with the uncommon property of synthesizing a copy of that system. This process, unique to life, allows changes in a living molecular system to be copied...
Except that it is a definition of organic life.
mgb_phys
#25
Jun9-09, 01:46 PM
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Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules. Life can be understood as a chemical system that links a common property of organic molecules—the ability to undergo spontaneous chemical transformation—with the uncommon property of synthesizing a copy of that system. This process, unique to life, allows changes in a living molecular system to be copied,
There are self-catalysing chemical reactions for which this is true.
there are even a couple of them that take different pathways depending on external conditions and so can be said to adapt. But they don't pass on the 'chosen' properties so don't have inheritance.
ViewsofMars
#26
Jun9-09, 07:52 PM
P: 463
Ahhh, a meeting of the minds! Remember it wasn't me that brought up this sub-topic, What is Life?. I admit it is a worthy pursuit and am grateful for the input and our ability to learn by sharing. By far, that is highly important to me and other interested parties. I'm not in the mode to critique only examine pertinent material while enjoying what I love - Science.

Let’s continue onward and further explore by reading the Nobel Prize Organization’s 'perspectives' of What is Life? Erwin Schrödinger's idea that physics could help solve biological riddles was the spark that led many researchers to try to unlock the secrets behind our book of life, the structure of DNA.
http://nobelprize.org/educational_ga..._med_1962.html

As well as WHAT IS LIFE? , ERWIN SCHRODINGER, published 1944. What is life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell. Based on lectures delivered under the auspices of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, in February 1943.
http://whatislife.stanford.edu/Homep...at-is-Life.pdf

I discover something new each time I open a new door. I did wholeheartedly agree with what the Nobel Prize Organization noted "Looking at heredity from his perspective, Schrödinger argued that life could be thought of in terms of storing and passing on biological information. Understanding life, which would invariably involve discovering the gene, could possibly go beyond the laws of physics as was known at the time, he stated."
//:phoenix:\\
#27
Jun9-09, 09:50 PM
P: 10
Quote Quote by Moridin View Post
One of the main issues with discussions whether viruses are living or not, is that we are trying to establish a discontinuous, essentialist barrier on what is most probably a continuous transition. None of the proteins, carbohydrates or lipids in your body are alive, however, in certain configurations together with other building blocks, something we call life emerge on a higher level of analysis (but of course completely explicable from these basic building blocks; no particular elan vital or life force).
Wouldn't that mean they are just pseudo life, in that they cannot live on their own? I would say viruses weren't living things but rather a type of false life as they can't live without infecting a host organism.
philnow
#28
Jun10-09, 09:12 PM
P: 83
Erm, so you're implying that they're "alive" when they infect a host but "false alive" when on their own?
DaveC426913
#29
Jun10-09, 09:43 PM
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Quote Quote by philnow View Post
Erm, so you're implying that they're "alive" when they infect a host but "false alive" when on their own?
Yes. Without a host, they do not metabolize at all; they are nothing more than fragments of DNA in a shell. (Caveat: My facts may be out-of-date and this may be oversimplifying.)
CRGreathouse
#30
Jun10-09, 09:57 PM
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Quote Quote by //:phoenix:\\ View Post
Wouldn't that mean they are just pseudo life, in that they cannot live on their own? I would say viruses weren't living things but rather a type of false life as they can't live without infecting a host organism.
Wouldn't this mean that no parasites are living?
DaveC426913
#31
Jun10-09, 10:03 PM
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Quote Quote by CRGreathouse View Post
Wouldn't this mean that no parasites are living?
Parasites are still living creatures when they're not parasitizing. Phoenix's definition is too broad.

If I understand correctly, viruses are chemically inert when they're not in a cell.
mgb_phys
#32
Jun10-09, 10:48 PM
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Quote Quote by DaveC426913 View Post
If I understand correctly, viruses are chemically inert when they're not in a cell.
Viruses are just a length of DNA (or RNA) with a sugar coating.

A similair problematic example is mitochondria, they exist in all our cells, but they have their own DNA and their own evolutionary history. They are probabaly originally bacteria that were absorbed into the first cells.

Since we can't live without them I suppose mitochondria could argue wether people are really alive!
DaveC426913
#33
Jun10-09, 11:05 PM
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Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
Since we can't live without them I suppose mitochondria could argue wether people are really alive!
There's a definite line between:
- organisms that metabolize by parasitizing off other organisms and, denied those other organisms, will sooner or later die
and
- virii that do not metabolize at all on their own

See, it's not that virii "can't live without a host" it's that virii do not live absent a host. They're inert.
ViewsofMars
#34
Jun10-09, 11:20 PM
P: 463
Quote Quote by //:phoenix:\\ View Post
Wouldn't that mean they are just pseudo life, in that they cannot live on their own? I would say viruses weren't living things but rather a type of false life as they can't live without infecting a host organism.
If you are implying that a virus is a pseudo life then I would say "no" because "pseudo" implies false or fraudulent such as pseudoscience.

Let's examine this closer.
Virus - An infectious microbe that requires a host cell (plant, animal, human, or bacterial) in which to reproduce. It is composed of proteins and genetic material (either DNA or RNA).
http://publications.nigms.nih.gov/th.../glossary.html
What is a Microbe? You may next ask. Here is an excerpt from a larger article that can be helpful:

Microbes are single-cell organisms so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle.

They are the oldest form of life on earth. Microbe fossils date back more than 3.5 billion years to a time when the Earth was covered with oceans that regularly reached the boiling point, hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Without microbes, we couldn’t eat or breathe.

Without us, they’d probably be just fine.

Understanding microbes is vital to understanding the past and the future of ourselves and our planet.

Microbes <my-crobes> are everywhere. There are more of them on a person's hand than there are people on the entire planet!
Microbes are in the air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the food we eat—they're even inside us!
http://www.microbeworld.org/microbes/
Now here is something very interesting from MIT, Volume 53, Number 21, Wednesday, April 8, 2009, TechTalk, Article VIRUS: New battery, built with bacteriophages, could power cars, electronic devices by Anne Trafton News Office by Anne Trafton - FANTER Researchers at MIT have found a way to use benign viruses and nanotubes to create high-powered batteries.(VIRUS, PAGE 5)

Here's an excerpt from that article:
... MIT Professor Gerbrand Ceder of materials science and Associate Professor Michael Strano of chemical engineering, genetically engineered viruses that first coat themselves with iron phosphate, then grab hold of carbon nanotubes to create a network of highly conductive material.

Because the viruses recognize and bind specifically to certain materials (carbon nanotubes in this case), each iron phosphate nanowire can be electrically “wired” to conducting carbon nanotube networks. Electrons can travel along the carbon nanotube networks, percolating throughout the electrodes to the iron phosphate and transferring energy in a very short time.
The viruses are a common bacteriophage, which infect bacteria but are harmless to humans.
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/techtalk53-21.pdf
Learning is great fun! it and your world will sparkle.

p.s. Dave, looking up at you. I really like your signature! Yee gads, I can't stop chuckling. Thanks!
Phrak
#35
Jun10-09, 11:28 PM
P: 4,513
What are the distinguishing characteristics that would tell us that a tobacco mosaic virus is a living thing and that a mineral crystal of any sort is not?
DaveC426913
#36
Jun10-09, 11:29 PM
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Quote Quote by ViewsofMars View Post
p.s. Dave, looking up at you. I really like your signature! Yee gads, I can't stop chuckling. Thanks!
Glad to know someone finally appreciates it...


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