Physics Department Seminar University of Alaska Fairbanks

J O U R N A L    C L U B

On three fundamental transitions in the Universe Parts 2 and 3: From Non-life to Life and from Animal to Human Brain
Juan G. Roederer
Geophysical Institute, UAF

This is the continuation of a seminar last fall dealing with three fundamental transitions, which represent truly irreversible, non-causal discontinuities in the chain of events from the Big Bang to humans. We discussed the first transition (1) quantum to classical, and showed that a quantum system continuously and subtly interacts with its environment and gets entangled with it; if decoherence occurs, the state of the quantum system will be reduced to some specific eigenstate, and a correlated change in the macroscopic state of the environment will occur somewhere, information about which may eventually be extracted by an observer. Today we will address the other two fundamental transitions: (2) the appearance of information-driven interactions, with energetically equivalent complex molecules (e.g., nucleic acids) interacting with their environment based on order and form rather than the linear sum of forces; and (3) the appearance of a neural processing system (the human brain) that can work “off-line” on its own output without any concurrent external information input.

Given what we know today about the earliest microorganisms from RNA sequencing, and about brain function from the latest animal and human brain imaging experiments, we shall speculate about the fundamental steps an “intelligent designer” would have to take to convert a “primordial soup” into a cauldron of living organisms, and a subhuman primate brain into a self-conscious human thinking machine, respectively. We shall show how important it is for all this to have a clear and objective definition of the concept of information.

Friday, 26 March 2010
Globe Room, Elvey Building
3:45 PM