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Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology$
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Kelly C. Smith and Carlos Mariscal

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190915650

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190915650.001.0001

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Meaning of the Living State

Meaning of the Living State

(p.91) 6 Meaning of the Living State
Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology

Cole Mathis

Oxford University Press

This chapter draws inspiration from statistical physics to describe a statistical category that can be termed the “living state.” References to a living state can be found throughout origin of life and astrobiology science. Some researchers have used the concept of the living state to explicitly place biological phenomena within the epistemological scope of statistical physics. Within this framework, biological phenomena at a given scale of organization are explained and understood by appealing to the statistical properties of the dynamics of the smaller and larger scales. This is analogous to how distinct states of matter are understood by appealing to the statistical properties of atoms, with the important distinction that statistical physicists have historically not included constraints from larger levels of organization, which are essential in determining the properties of living systems. This conception of the living state may enable astrobiologists to integrate progress from different disciplinary perspectives into a quantitative theory of life.

Keywords:   living state, astrobiology, biological phenomena, statistical physics, statistical physicists, living systems, astrobiologists

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