The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Thermosynthesis

The Dutch chemist Anthonie Muller showed that "thermosynthesis" is a viable alternative to explain the origin of life ("Thermoelectric energy conversion could be an energy source of living organisms", 1983). Muller points out that life probably originated in conditions where photosynthesis and chemosynthesis (getting energy from light and food) were unfeasible, simply because there were not enough life and food. If life originated in an underwater volcano covered with ice, neither light nor food were abundant. What was abundant was a temperature difference. This "gradient" of temperature would cause convection currents, that would drag the early forms of life up and down in thermal cycles, from hot to cold and back to hot. The larger the temperature difference, the stronger the convection currents, the faster the thermal cycles, the more efficient the energy production. Heat was therefore the main source of energy, and heat was coming from the environment.

Photosynthesis and chemosynthesis do yield much more power, but thermosynthesis was simply the only feasible form of energy production. The early living cells were basically built around "heat engines". Some of their enzymes or membranes worked essentially as heat engines.

In a steam engine, for example, water is thermally cycled: water is heated until it turns into steam; the steam expands and performs work; the steam loses its energy and returns to liquid form; and the cycle resumes.

In a thermosynthetic cell, a protein is thermally cycled in a similar manner: it is heated until it turns into a more fluid state; this generates work in the form of ATP (the chemical which is the energy source for almost all physiological processes) while the protein returns in its original state; and the cycle resumes.

 


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