A possible definition of life.
ed at MOLBIOL.UCT.AC.ZA
Tue Apr 22 02:58:51 EST 1997
> From: foster at skink.cs.uidaho.edu (James Foster)
> Subject: Re: A possible definition of life.
> The phenomenon is life: it is associated with the very act of
> replication of entities that encode themselves - like us, or viruses
> (analogue or digital).
> What is this "it" that is associated with "the very act"? You say
> you're proposing a definition, but instead give us a description of
> something associated with the thing being defined.
Life is "it": given that it is an elusive phenomenon, you shouldn't
be surprised if it is slippery to define B-)
> Your photocopier is not alive as it does
> nothing except transcribe - it certainly doesn't make more
> photocopiers. Your copy programme probably can't copy itself (you
> would almost certainly get an error to do with it being active while
> was trying to copy itself). It can copy another copy of itself, but
> that isn't the same, is it?
> Enter this on your unix workstation: mv 'which mv' new.copy.mv
> That will replicate your copy command. Or on DOS "copy copy.com
> new.copy.com". Your last question begs the quesion...how does another
> "copy of itself" arise if not by replication?
Please understand: if I copy something, I am replicating it - it is
not replicating itself. I can cause a computer program to copy
another computer programme; until it does it by itself (like a
computer virus does), then I wouldn't dignify it by the term "alive".
> btw...I used to be a philosopher, and I got out of it precisely
> because of this sort of stuff. It's easy to spend your whole life
> talking about what you should be talking about, and in the end the
> only thing that gets done is...lots of talking.
Quite...! Another definition: Life is something that goes on while
you're busy making other plans (culled off a badge I was given many
Ed Rybicki, PhD
Dept Microbiology | ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za
University of Cape Town | rybicki at uctvms.uct.ac.za
Private Bag, Rondebosch | phone: x27-21-650-3265
7700, South Africa | fax: x27-21-689 7573
WWW URL: http://www.uct.ac.za/microbiology/ed.html
"Out here on the perimeter, there are no stars..."
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