Rolling stones, turbulence connect evolution to physics

February 17, 2016 by Ken Kingery
Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke University Credit: Duke University

A law of physics explaining why larger animals live longer and travel further also extends to the simplest forms of mass migration on the planet—like rolling stones and turbulent eddies in water and air currents, according to research at Duke University.

The finding demonstrates that evolution doesn't apply only to biological things, but any physical system in motion, says Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke.

Ten years ago, Bejan developed a physical law called the constructal law, which states that any flowing system allowed to change freely over time will trend toward an easier flowing architecture. For rivers, roots and vascular systems, this means a few large channels carry massive flows to numerous smaller branches for dispersal. Similarly for animals, a few large species with extensive, long-range impacts on the environment act together with many smaller species affecting smaller regions, but in greater numbers.

In a paper published February 17, 2016, in the journal Scientific Reports, Bejan shows this idea can be generalized even further. He posits that the most basic processes that have shaped the planet's landscape for billions of years—rolling stones and turbulent water currents—also adhere to these physical laws.

"I'm defining evolution literally to mean what the word implies, which is continuous change in a discernible direction over time," said Bejan. "It's a movie. What Darwin imagined for animals and called 'evolution' is actually a physical description, and it applies to everything else that morphs freely while flowing, whether it's biological or not. So my 'aha' is that evolution is everything, because everything is in motion and is free to change while moving."

In his thought experiment, Bejan went through a series of simple physics equations showing that both the time spent moving and the distance traveled of a rolling stone should increase with its mass. He then demonstrated that an eddy of turbulence can be thought of as a fluid eye rotating in a fluid socket, and that its lifespan and traveling distance also increase with its size.

Both processes have been responsible for moving objects across the Earth's surface for billions of years. Bejan also points out that rolling stones evolve to have less friction so that they can travel further. That is, they become rounder over time.

"All vehicles—both animate and inanimate—subscribe to the same rules of lifespan and life travel," said Bejan. "I've previously shown this is true for everything from river basins to plumes of smoke. But if that wasn't thinking 'outside of the biology box' enough, these are things even simpler and much more obvious that exhibit the same size effect."

In his previous work on animal size, lifespan and travel distance, Bejan also demonstrated that, despite their differences, all animals should have roughly the same number of breaths per lifetime. In much the same way, Bejan shows in his new work that, all other things being equal, all rolling stones and eddies have the same number of revolutions before their energy dissipates through friction.

"These three characteristics—life span, life travel and the constancy of the number of breaths or revolutions of bodies that move mass—unite the animal, the eddy and the rolling stone," said Bejan. "Traditional camps believe that evolution is only biological and has already been explained to the hilt. I'm showing that evolution is actually based in physics and that it is simply design change over time. To the origin of life in non-living matter, abiogenesis, rolling stones and turbulence add the physics of evolution."

Explore further: Bigger creatures live longer, travel farther for a reason

More information: Adrian Bejan. Rolling stones and turbulent eddies: why the bigger live longer and travel farther, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep21445

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humy
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 18, 2016
I think what the link says is badly flawed because it isn't 'evolution' in the Darwinian sense of the word as it deviates far too much from that precise meaning and thus the word is used far too loosely here. For example, it says:

" Bejan also points out that rolling stones evolve to have less friction so that they can travel further. That is, they become rounder over time. ..."

yes but that isn't due to natural selection now, is it? It is because of them being worn down by impact and friction.
In addition, they don't evolve via genetically inheritable mutations.

I think it is important to distinguish and avoid confusion here between the more generic but vaguer English dictionary meaning of the word 'evolve' which means just 'change', not necessarily via Darwinian evolution, and the more specialized and specific meaning of the word 'evolve' as in change specifically via Darwinian evolution.
humy
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2016
-continued-

In addition, I am very unimpressed where it says:

"... In his previous work on animal size, lifespan and travel distance, Bejan also demonstrated that, despite their differences, all animals should have roughly the same number of breaths per lifetime. In much the same way, Bejan shows in his new work that, all other things being equal, all rolling stones and eddies have the same number of revolutions before their energy dissipates through friction...."

a totally arbitrary and irrelevant connection between the two things since, unlike animals, stones don't tend to have that property as a result of natural selection and genetically inheritable mutations thus this is not an indicator of 'evolution' in the same sense of the word.
humy
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 18, 2016
Darwinian evolution is already a well established scientific fact for living things.
So, ignoring the fact just for one moment that what this link says is very badly flawed anyway, what 'need' do we have for or what is the 'point' of saying it applies to 'everything' i.e. also including none living things? -I see no point or need for that whatsoever.
The theory of evolution will be exactly just brilliant without that.
bluehigh
5 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2016
What Darwin imagined for animals and called 'evolution' - Adrian Bejan (Article)


I'd have to reread 'The Origin of Species' again as it's been a very long time but I don't believe Darwin used the word 'evolution'. Some say it appeared one time. Others say it was added by editors later and was not in the original. The Google brain mostly suggests he used 'descent with modification' but 'transmodification' also is possible.

In any case Mr Bejan your hypothesis outlined in the article is rubbish.

(Shields up - IMHO)

viko_mx
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 18, 2016
"The finding demonstrates that evolution doesn't apply only to biological things, but any physical system in motion, says Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke."

I can see only deevolution of all material things over time know as entropy. It does no exist even one material thing that is cappable to escape the entropy.

For me is intersting to hear how fictional eviolition process works. The evolutionist do not know and can not be helpfull. They have no idea how can emerge the simplest autonomous living cell which DNA cantain more that 1 milion base pairs and several hundred of genes, to ensure basic functionality for the living organism, from the fictional primordial soup.
What is the chance this simplest but enough complex organism to evolve thanks to random changes that cause more negative than positive efect on it? How long will continue to function the machine with complex sturcture and funtionality if we make rondom changes on it?
viko_mx
1 / 5 (7) Feb 18, 2016
The simpest living cell is more complex than the semiconductor factory. I do not believe to be passible a semiconductor factory to emerge thank tho random events. The is no reason, will and intelect in random events.
kaddak
3.5 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2016
what 'need' do we have for or what is the 'point' of saying it applies to 'everything'


I'd look at this from another perspective. Entropy and emergence are the key terms here, look also for The principle of least action in terms of Darwinian evolution. Entropy is the fundamental and Darwinian evolution is the emergent phenomenon. I say fundamental only because the iteration of stars in order to create massive chemical elements (among other things of cource) is nessesary before the Darwinian evolution can kick in. Once this is done the same principle applies now in the emergent living systems, but it has gained exponentially bigger "feeding ground" for new and even more complex systems to emerge. Change marches on relentlessly.

How do the living systems emerge from the non living ones? The latter is undoubtedly absolutely dependent on the former. Entropy (and negentropy) applies to everything.

It's a great topic in my humble oppinion.
viko_mx
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 18, 2016
You also can look from the perespective of ireducible complecity.
What is the smallest number of necessary parts that is enough for the building of funtional of electric motor? Or combustion engine?
What is the smalest number of part for the complex synchronized mechanisms for reading and copying of fragments of DNA information and the subsequent synthesis and 3D folding of proteins for the needs of organimsms? These mechanisms exist in all living organisms without exception.
viko_mx
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 18, 2016
How can you simplify visual organ without losing it functionality? All organs in all living organisms are completed structurally and functionally, and when any problems occur in them, we does not call this evolution but disease state. How random changes can make changes in one organ or system without to influence negatively the work of other organs and systems iof the organism that works in full harmony with each other. How unconscious random phenomena can cause an increase in genetic information in the living organisms that is compatible with the existing information and managing and synchronizing mechanisms in the cell? Making such changes require parallel changes in each of other organs and systems of the organisms. But this requires intelligence aproach.
anonieme_x
3 / 5 (1) Feb 18, 2016
Great article! Zoom in on life and the emergent quality 'life' disappears. Entropy really is about free energy /matter going from being local to becoming spread out. Think of order appearing after energy spreads (entropy production) over a guitar string, of turbulence eddies, walking sand dunes, humans or human society as a whole.

So, what about selection then? Stones do not 'want' to roll off a mountain. There is no purpose, there is no selector. Selection is apparent and emergent,

SELECTION HAPPENS WHEN EVOLUTIONARY BRANCHES DIE OUT.

Some evolutionary lines of change in compositon of matter -like eddies in streams, a tone in a guitar string or rolling stones- just die out real fast. Others are sustained (weather by the sun) or self sustaining /metabolising feedback mechanisms (= life). To me, FROM AN EVOLUTIONARY POINT OF VIEW, if a rolling stone starts an avalanche killing many people, this is not fundamentally different from a disease cutting off the 'tree of life'.
humy
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2016


I can see only deevolution of all material things over time know as entropy. It does no exist even one material thing that is cappable to escape the entropy.

viko_mx

Thermodynamic entropy has nothing whatsoever to do with living things evolving greater complexity.
Thermodynamic entropy doesn't in anyway imply some thing cannot become more complex in structure and anyone who has studied and gained the basic concept of thermodynamic entropy like I have would tell you this. You are talking irrelevant creationist propaganda crap derived from common misunderstanding ( or deliberate misrepresentation? ) of basic physics.
humy
4 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2016


SELECTION HAPPENS WHEN EVOLUTIONARY BRANCHES DIE OUT.

anonieme_x

The whole link is full of nonsense based on ridiculously flawed reasoning.
However, that just doesn't compare to the crap you spew out in your post:
You are not only no better; you are even worse!
You should not shout out baseless nonsense claims like this without premise or inference.
anonieme_x
1 / 5 (1) Feb 18, 2016
If this subject interests you, you might also like to watch the 2009 video lecture 'Water, Energy and Life: Fresh Views From the Water's Edge' by Dr. Gerald Pollack, UW Professor of Bioengineering (lecture available online).

promile
Feb 18, 2016
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promile
Feb 18, 2016
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promile
Feb 18, 2016
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viko_mx
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2016
""Thermodynamic entropy has nothing whatsoever to do with living things evolving greater complexity."

Why you are think so? Wishful thining? Why living organisms get older? May be entropy is the reason. From what matter are made human bodies? Something special?

Is the evolution passible when random events cause more negative than positive effects in living organisms? Is it possible to make changes in a single organ or system without to affect theproper functioning of other organs and systems in the living organisms?
humy
5 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2016
Why living organisms get older? May be entropy is the reason.

No; Not thermodynamic entropy. This shows your complete ignorance of basic physics.
The causes of aging are biological such as shortening telomeres etc.

Is the evolution possible when random events cause more negative than positive effects in living organisms?

Yes. Sometimes a mutation is beneficial to a living thing; such as a mutation that gives an insect pest insecticide resistance or an adaptation to a change in its natural environment etc.
And what has this got to do with thermodynamic entropy?
Is it possible to make changes in a single organ or system without to affect the proper functioning of other organs and systems in the living organisms?

Yes. Why not? Having extra large lungs to cope with the thin air on mountains want stop the proper function of your heart, brain, liver etc.
And what has this got to do with thermodynamic entropy?

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2016
The principle of least action in terms of Darwinian evolution. Entropy is the fundamental and Darwinian evolution is the emergent phenomenon.

I don't think least action captures it all. If you look at the search space available to an evolving organism it is not a given that the organism will follow the "path of least resistance" (it's more likely that it does, but mutation does, occasionally, throw up something radically different, e.g. by adding an entirely new feature).

How do the living systems emerge from the non living ones?

The problem here is one of semantics (i.e. the non-sensical distinction between 'alive' and 'not alive'). Are self replicating chemical compounds alive?
Alive/not-alive is just a quantitative difference (i.e. set at an arbitrarily defined complexity/size limit) - not a qualitative one.
promile
Feb 22, 2016
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humy
5 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2016
I should add that mutations usually occur as a result of DNA exposed to damaging free radicals and/or radiation exposure thus will occur whether there is thermodynamic entropy or not thus, the fact that there IS thermodynamic entropy has little to do with the causes of mutations that drive evolution.
In fact, thermodynamic entropy neither hinders nor helps evolution in particular.
Thermodynamic entropy has little or no relevance to evolution.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2016
Why living organisms get older?

You have to look at it from the line of gene's point of view. A line of genes is selected for if it can survive. But a static line of genes is not able to adapt to a changing environment.
So there's a certain variability needed - which in turn necessitates a minimum number of new generations per time interval.

Environmental changes are cumulative so it's not enough that one, long-lived individual continually produces offspring. The mutations would remain close to the individual's genes.

But to survive in a *cumulatively* changing environment you need cumulatively changing genes (generation A spawning generation B spawning generation C...)

As individuals compete most with members of the same species a long-lived individual of generation A would lessen the survival chance of generation C (by taking away from needed resources to spawn generation D).

Death is an evolved (and beneficial) trait.
promile
Feb 22, 2016
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promile
Feb 22, 2016
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promile
Feb 22, 2016
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torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2016
humy is correct, Bejan's ideas has little if anything to do with biological evolution and its forcing constraints. Bejan just claims it has, and with little or no evidence he is riding on the good work of biology. This was boring a decade ago, and it remains boring.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2016
@kaddak: "How do the living systems emerge from the non living ones?"

The question is imprecise.

If we look at modern cells, they have no problem with thermodynamics. They are opportunists, who decrease (heterotrophs, say) or increase (oxygenating photosynthesis, say) free energies in the environment. The driver for life is the planet's radiation of heat into space (mostly from the Sun).

If we look at life emergence, the jury is still out. (E.g. Russell et al looks at thermodynamic engines in the context.) But I think it is fairly obvious that biology borrowed its opportunism from geology, who also can decrease (crystals into solution, say) or increase (iron ores, say) free energies in the environment. Its main driver is also the Sun.

If we want a pity description for biology (and geology) it could be: "If it works."
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2016
@a_x: "Dr. Gerald Pollack".

That is the homeopath cook. It is true that water is anomalous, but it isn't non-stochiometric or 'structured' as he claims. [ http://www.struct...-science ]

@promile: "AWT model".

There is no such thing, the aether was rejected over a century ago.

The claim that life (or evolution?) is based on climbing gradients of concentration hangs loose. Do you have an example? As I noted above, how biology (or geology) handles free energy is complex. It is only as a system that we can study where the entropy flows out of it (to space).
anonieme_x
not rated yet Feb 27, 2016
@ humy
A quote out of context is easy to burn.

My point was that many people think that 'natural selection' is about choice (eg male choosing female).

It is far more abstract. The branches of self sustaining /metabolising feedback mechanisms (= life) that produce offspring are 'the selected'. The branches of life that do not reproduce die out. Hence 'selection happens when evolutionary branches die out'. Because when all variations reproduce evenly succesful, then selection does not happen.

This 'selecting mechanism' that cuts off the branch can be an avalanche of stones, bad adaptation to environment, not selected by a potential partner etc, doesn't matter.

Evidently you and others (your 'likers') think this view on evolution is false /outragious enough for a personal attack full of aggression and contempt. But I really do not see what is wrong here, so please enlighten me.

kaddak
not rated yet Feb 28, 2016
...perespective of ireducible complecity.
What is the smallest number of necessary parts that is enough for the building of funtional of electric motor? Or combustion engine?


Exactly. I think this is analogous to another form of Entropy. Shannon Entropy in Information theory is essentially saying while Bolzmann (thermodynamic) E rises, information about the system is being lost. So an efficient system is also a simplification of sorts. Not much information is needed about the system to describe it. Interestingly, it has now also added a new function into the environment (in case of a motor for example)!

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