This week we conclude our two-part discussion with ecologist Mark Ritchie of Syracuse University on how he and his SFI collaborators are starting to rethink the intersections of thermodynamics and biology to better fit our scientific models to the patterns we observe in nature. Most of what we know about the enzymatic processes of plant and animal metabolisms comes from test tube experiments, not studies in the context of a living organism. What changes when we zoom out and think about life’s manufacturing and distribution in situ?
Starting where we left off in in Episode 62, we tour the implications of Mark’s biochemistry research and ask: What can studying the metabolism of cells tell us about economics? How does a better model of photosynthesis change the way we think about climate change and the future of agriculture? Why might a pattern in the failure of plant enzymes help biologists define where to direct the search for life in space?
A better theory of the physics of biomolecules — and the networks in which they’re embedded — provides a clearer understanding of the limits for all living systems, and how those limits shape effective strategies for navigating our complex world.
Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and every other week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe.
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Related Reading & Listening:
Ritchie Lab at Syracuse University | Mark’s Google Scholar Page | Mark’s soil ecology startup
Reaction and diffusion thermodynamics explain optimal temperatures of biochemical reactions
by Mark Ritchie in Scientific Reports
Thermodynamics Of Far From Equilibrium Systems, Biochemistry, And Life In A Warming World [Mark Ritchie’s 2021 SFI Seminar + @SFIscience Twitter thread on Mark’s talk]
Scale and information-processing thresholds in Holocene social evolution
by Jaeweon Shin, Michael Holton Price, David H. Wolpert, Hajime Shimao, Brendan Tracey & Timothy A. Kohler
Generalized Stoichiometry and Biogeochemistry for Astrobiological Applications
by Christopher P. Kempes, Michael J. Follows, Hillary Smith, Heather Graham, Christopher H. House & Simon A. Levin
Complexity 4: Luis Bettencourt on The Science of Cities
Complexity 5: Jennifer Dunne on Food Webs & ArchaeoEcology
Complexity 17: Chris Kempes on The Physical Constraints on Life & Evolution
Complexity 35: Scaling Laws & Social Networks in The Time of COVID-19 with Geoffrey West
Complexity 41: Natalie Grefenstette on Agnostic Biosignature Detection
Alien Crash Site 15: Cole Mathis on Pathway Assembly and Astrobiology
Podcast theme music by Mitch Mignano.
Cover artwork adapted from photos by Peter Nguyen and Torsten Wittmann (UCSF).