Definition of Life

James J. Herlburt jjh37997 at
Wed Feb 9 08:15:05 EST 1994

On 9 Feb 1994, Julian Blanc wrote:

> The best definition I heard was given by John Maynard Smith. A living
> thing must a physical dissipative structure having the following
> characteristics:
>       - Variation
>       - Reproduction
>       - Heredity
> This definition excludes fire, vortexes, planets, replicating clay crystals,
> priests and cellular automata. It includes, however, free replicating
> informational molecules such as nucleic acids, which is pretty neat.
> Julian Blanc

This definition also allows us to include computer virues and the like. As long
as we don't mind excluding the need for a physical structure. Can a computer
program have a physical structure? Free-flowing electrons, perhaps?

James J. Hurlburt - University of Illinois at Urbana- jjh37997 at

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