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Math Model Explains Origin of Life

Mar 11, 2013 09:08 AM EDT

Researchers have now used a math model to describe how non-living things, the elements that make up life, actually crossed the threshold of being inanimate to "living beings". They have explained the process using energy waves called solitons.

Now, researchers have known about solitons or soliton waves since the 19th century. The solitary waves were first observed by a young engineer called John Scott Russell while he was conducting experiments to make canal boats more efficient.

Solitons have application in many fields like fluid mechanics, optical physics and biophysics. Soliton was used to explain energy flow in protein alpha-helices (Davydov soliton)

"A soliton - which is a solitary energy wave that doesn't change shape over time - can be used as a model for life because it displays the simplest and most essential functions of life," said professor Nail Akhmediev from The Australian National University.

The model, Akhmediev, said is alive and in constant ossification. And, the model propagates like life, but dies when there is no matter or energy left.

"We can apply this model to complex biological systems such as the transport of nerve and muscle pulses, the processes that occur in biological membranes, and similar phenomena. Having a better understanding of solitons will in turn help us understand how our bodies work," said Akhmediev in a news release

For the study, Akhmediev collaborated with professor Helmut Brand of the University of Bayreuth in Germany and professor Jose Soto-Crespo of the Instituto de Optica in Spain.

"At a fundamental level, we are trying to understand how life may have appeared through very simple physical processes. Using this model is a powerful approach that will help in analysing more complex situations," Akhmediev said.

The study is published in the journal Physics Letters A.                

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