Cryptobiosis research?

George Hammond ghammond at mediaone.net
Fri Dec 8 01:25:04 EST 2000

Richard Norman wrote:
> The notion of "life-capable" or "life-incapable" seems more useful
> than a flat declaration of "live" vs. "dead".  The fact is that "life" is
> not
> a "hard science" question but really is a philosophical construct.

GH:  Thanks for you philosophical notions.  As a physicist I
     still hold out hope that eventualy a hard scientific
     definition of "Life" will be found.  In the meantime,
     I have adopted as a working definition the criteria that
     "any being derived from a DNA molecule is a Lifeform" and
     that all else is non-living.  That, at least, seems
     "hard science" rather than "philosophical".
       As far as "alive or dead" is concerned for a DNA
     Lifeform... I am not in favor of positing a  3rd
     catagory.  In my opinion animals in the Cryptobiotic
     state are still "alive"... if and when we find the
     hard scientific criteria that seperates alive from dead
     for a DNA Lifeform.
> A living thing requires more than molecular structure.  It needs the
> cellular structure to mechanize the life processes.  That is, without
> the organized presence of the cellular structures (which in eukaryotes
> are rather complex indeed) that can interpret the molecular
> information and make use of the metabolic energy, the purely
> biochemical macromolecules are not truly "living".

As I said, "alive or dead" appears to be a matter of "definition"
and obviously, the "definition" is unknown.  You have
posited an arbitrary definition above.. but there is no reason
one would have to accept it.

> The current state of metabolism is not really pertinent.  What is
> important is the potential to metabolize and to reproduce using
> the internally generated information and metabolic energy.

Eventually the latter may be defined in terms of
the former.  At least, specific defiects in the
former may preclude the latter, thus "death" might
eventually be able to be determined at the molecular
rather than the cellular level.

> Dormant life stages have that potential.  Dead ones do not.

A truism obviously.
Anyway, discussions of alive or dead sui generis, without
reference to specific biomolecular facts are largly
polemical at this point.
  I am purely interested in gathering such biomolecular
data w.r.t. the cryptobiotic state. 

> "George Hammond" <ghammond at mediaone.net> wrote in message
> news:3A302B80.FBDB4526 at mediaone.net...
> > John Hunter wrote:
> > >
> > > Gee, I didn't know you were going to get philosophical on me.  But
> > > since you did....  I think it presents an interesting case, one that
> > > I'll think about for a while and get some advice from my philosophy of
> > > science friends.  But my off-the-cuff opinion is that these organisms
> > > are 'not alive' (I don't use 'dead').  I think they are life capable,
> > > but I don't see any reason to call them alive if they have no
> > > metabolic processes, and in the absence of external imposition
> > > (somebody finally gets around to watering the plant), they will remain
> > > 'not alive'.  Thus they lack the ability to act as agents on their own
> > > behalf, manipulating the environment in one way or another.  I think
> > > that is a necessary condition for a living thing.  So perhaps we
> > > have three categories: dead, life capable, and alive.
> > >
> > > Then a person on the operating table who has just lost a heart beat
> > > (or whatever the appropriate standard for clinically dead is) is life
> > > capable, but a person 30 years in the grave is not.  A cryogenically
> > > preserved animal is life capable.
> > >
> > > What do you think?
> >
> > GH: Thanks for the Philosophy input.. but I think the answer lies
> >     in physical investigation of the molecular structures involved.
> >     For instance, is there still water trapped inside the cytoskeletal
> >     microtubule structure inside the cells?  Are there still
> >     configurational dimer transition oscillations in the microtubule
> >     structure?  These are the hard questions that need answers..
> >     one can jawbone all afternoon about Philosophy of course, but
> >     it isn't really worth much.
> >       When I say "dead or alive", I'm hardly asking a "Philosophy"
> >     question, I'm asking a hard science structural question viz the
> >     points just mentioned.
> >

George Hammond, M.S. Physics
Email:    ghammond at mediaone.net
Website:  http://people.ne.mediaone.net/ghammond/index.html

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