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Institute of Biotechnology
(Visiting address: Viikinkaari 9)
00014 University of Helsinki
Tel +358 9 191 59358
Fax +358 9 1915 9366
University of Helsinki Business
Identity Code: FI-03134717
Physical foundations of evolutionary theory
- Clarification why evolution displays scale-free and non-computable characteristics
- Clarification of thermodynamic imperatives in systemic organization
E volution by natural selection is the basis of biology. Nevertheless our understanding of nature as a whole has remained obscure because Darwin's tenet, despite its broad scope and central role, is a phenomenological account without a firm physical foundation given in a mathematical form.
It is no new thought that evolution is a manifestation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. However, this conjecture was proven first when the equation of evolution was derived from statistical physics of open systems. The universal natural law states simply that energy differences will diminish in least time. Species are mechanisms of transduction that acquire energy from their respective surroundings, ultimately from insolation and eventually will transform all of it to dissipation. The flows of energy will naturally select those mechanisms that will level off energy differences most rapidly. These species are said to be the fittest.
The physical portrayal of evolution allows us to understand profound questions and puzzles, most notably: why evolution is a non-deterministic process, why nature organizes itself in a hierarchy of systems within systems and display scaling-laws and small-world patterns, why ecological succession does not necessary terminate at a state of maximum number of species. Moreover, the statistical theory of open systems has given us understanding what a society in its profound meaning is.
The holistic and scale-independent view of nature provided by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, equivalent to the principle of least action, points out that natural selection does not operate only on genes but on all matter. During evolution flows of energy naturally select the steepest descents, equivalent to the paths of least action to even out energy landscape in least time. The thermodynamic theory roots biology via chemistry to physics and widens contemporary discourse on the fundamentals of evolution.
Annila A. All in action. Entropy. 2010; 12: 2333-2358.
Annila A, Mäkelä T. Natural patterns of energy dispersal. Physics of Life Reviews. 2010; 7: 477-498
Karnani M, Pääkkönen K, Annila A. The physical character of information. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA. 2009; 465: 2155-2175.
Sharma V, Kaila VRI, Annila A. Protein folding as an evolutionary process. Physica. 2009; 388: 851-862.
Annila A, Annila E. Why did life emerge? Int J Astrobio. 2008; 7: 293-300.
Sharma V, Annila A. Natural process - Natural selection. Biophys Chem. 2007; 127: 123-128.
Photo by Veikko Somerpuro
- Annila lab
- arto.annila (at) helsinki.fi
- +358 9 191 58945