The Boundary of Life

The harder we look at the border between life and non-life, the more elusive does the distinction become. Life, the animate, was supposed to have some sort of vibrant, throbbing quality, some vital essence - made to sound yet more mysterious when dropped into French: elan vital. Life, it seemed, was made of a special living substance, a witch's brew called 'protoplasm'. Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger, a fictional character even more preposterous than Sherlock Holmes, discovered that the Earth was living, a kind of giant sea urchin whose shell was the crust that we see, and whose core consisted of pure protoplasm. Right up to the middle of the twentieth century, life was thought to be qualitatively beyond physics and chemistry. No longer. The difference between life and non-life is a matter not of substance but of information. Living things contain prodigious quantities of information. Most of the information is digitally coded in DNA, and there is also a substantial quantity coded in other ways, as we shall see presently.


Different attempts to define it over the years.

Folksonomies: history life

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Conan Doyle:Person (0.941848 (neutral:0.000000)), Sherlock Holmes:Person (0.883426 (negative:-0.600530)), Professor Challenger:JobTitle (0.852962 (neutral:0.000000))

Sherlock Holmes (0.949948): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Arthur Conan Doyle (0.913164): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Professor Challenger (0.817146): dbpedia | freebase | yago
English-language films (0.563354): dbpedia
A Study in Scarlet (0.539240): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Adrian Conan Doyle (0.523249): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Earth (0.522120): dbpedia | freebase
Professor Moriarty (0.516943): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dawkins, Richard (2010-08-24), The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, Free Press, Retrieved on 2011-05-19
Folksonomies: evolution science