Table of Contents
Life and persistence
Function and Metabolism
The Thought Experiment
Life as a dynamic system
What is catalysis?
What are solitons?
Solitons in biology
Scale invariance in biology
Structure, energy, unity and resonance
Application of catalysis 1
Application of catalysis 2
Life as catalysis
Ontology of consciousness
Fractal catalysis and autopoiesis 1
Fractal catalysis and autopoiesis 2
Fractal Catalysis - explaining persistence
and coherence in complex living processes
In order to illustrate how a scale invariant catalytic model of living processes helps us to understand how life maintains its structure and coherence, let us consider the problem by using an analogy. Let us suppose that we wish to construct a tall building. The architect of this building decides to employ different architectural principles. For example, he uses the principle of the cantilever on the first floor. On the second floor he employs crossbeams and pillars. Before long however, our architect hits a snag. The problem stems from the fact that architecture can be considered as the art of combining forces and structure to achieve a stable result. But, because he uses different architectural principles he soon finds that the forces he is dealing with are becoming increasingly complex. With every new floor that he wishes to build the problem becomes exponentially worse. This problem arises because force and structure are two different things. The way in which force moves through a building cannot be intuitively apprehended from a simple consideration of structure.
To illustrate the point let us examine the two structures below:
The transom on the left is under strain, and a crack is developing. The weight placed on top of the transom is causing a force of compression at the top and a force of tension at the bottom. It so happens that stone (the material used here) is very good at withstanding compressive forces but very bad when under tension. The force of tension arises because the load upon the structure is translated into forces that do not follow the lines of the structure. On the right, the arch is quite happy to carry the load placed upon it because it is a peculiarity of the arch that it can 'channel' the load as a force of compression along the curve of its structure. By discovering a principle (the arch) by which two ostensibly different things (force and structure) could be brought together, the way became clear for an architectural revolution.
Significantly, bringing together force and structure this way allows for structures to be built where the integrity of the entire structure depends upon the same principle as its individual components.
By proposing that life is a scale invariant process of catalysis and by demonstrating that there is no distinction between function and metabolism (i.e. catalysis), we can understand how the entire organism, with its many dynamic processes, maintains its integrity. Each and every biological process, be it a heart or a cell, maintains its integrity by mediating transitions in the same way that a catalyst does.
The challenge then is to understand how the seemingly diverse processes that comprise an organism may actually all be examples of the same kind of process -- catalysis. We must identify a common principle at the heart of the catalytic process that can be applied at multiple levels of scale and within different physical contexts.