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Inorganic life now likely? (Its life, Jim, but not as we know it)

  1. Aug 15, 2007 #1
    In this month's "New Journal of Physics" we find an exciting paper on the possibility that space is filled plasma-based forms of, well, "life". Or as Bones said to Kirk on "Star Trek", "Its life, Jim, but not as we know it." I know that people have loosely speculated on plasma based forms of life previously, but as far as I know this is the first time someone has seriously shown that it is possible, and perhaps very likely. More problematic is what we should call these dynamically evolving plasma structures. In the present form they seem to exist in the ill-defined regions between "certainly living" and "certainly not living", like viruses.

    The website for the journal is listed below; the article may be freely viewed in HTML or PDF formats.


    From plasma crystals and helical structures towards inorganic living matter

    V N Tsytovich, G E Morfill, V E Fortov, N G Gusein-Zade, B A Klumov and S V Vladimirov

    Complex plasmas may naturally self-organize themselves into stable interacting helical structures that exhibit features normally attributed to organic living matter. The self-organization is based on non-trivial physical mechanisms of plasma interactions involving over-screening of plasma polarization. As a result, each helical string composed of solid microparticles is topologically and dynamically controlled by plasma fluxes leading to particle charging and over-screening, the latter providing attraction even among helical strings of the same charge sign. These interacting complex structures exhibit thermodynamic and evolutionary features thought to be peculiar only to living matter such as bifurcations that serve as `memory marks', self-duplication, metabolic rates in a thermodynamically open system, and non-Hamiltonian dynamics.

    We examine the salient features of this new complex `state of soft matter' in light of the autonomy, evolution, progenity and autopoiesis principles used to define life. It is concluded that complex self-organized plasma structures exhibit all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter that may exist in space provided certain conditions allow them to evolve naturally

    Last edited: Aug 15, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2007 #2


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    Thanks, Robert. Ivan (I think) posted a link about this in Biology, but it was more of a 'Popular Science' feature. A lot of us have been hoping for a more detailed examination.
  4. Apr 28, 2011 #3


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    I'd like to bump this thread to include a link to the illustrated full text of the Tsytovich paper referenced above:

    Along the same lines, I found this similar but earlier article: http://www.dapla.org/pdf/Lozneanu1.pdf [Broken]
    "Thus, similar to biological cells, the boundary of a self-assembled gaseous cell provides a selective enclosure of an environment that qualitatively differs from the surrounding medium. The boundary appears as a spherical self-consistent electrical double layer (DL) able to sustain and control operations such as: (i) capture and transformation of energy, (ii) preferential and rhythmic exchange of matter across the system boundary and (iii) internal transformation of matter by means of a continuous ‘‘synthesis’’ of all components of the system."

    And from my own backyard,

    A recent video lecture on Water, Energy and Life by University of Washington Professor Gerald Pollack. I hope the 60 minutes or so you spend watching this proves to be well justified. New laboratory experiments are shown.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  5. Aug 5, 2012 #4
    The article is at
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