Arrow of Time, by Vladimir Kush.
Yesterday, I blogged about Deepak Chopra's efforts to link problems related to theories of gravity to the Arrow of Time problems in physics. This kind of speculation on the meaning and direction of time, if locked into the mysteries of how gravity works at macro- and microcosmic levels, will lend itself to debates on aging, consciousness and death - and thus to issues of spirituality and religion. This is all pretty dicey. Now enter the biologists.
Chris Lee explains the Arrow of Time problems in physics thusly: "all the laws of physics are time agnostic. You can run time forward or backwards, and it makes no difference at all. Literally, as far as physics is concerned, there is no reason why we experience time in the direction we do. The exception to this rule is entropy, which always increases in a closed system. Entropy is based on irreversible physical processes, where running time backwards doesn't get you back to where you started, despite the fact that there are no physical laws that allow this to occur. So, although we observe experimentally that entropy always increases, there are no known irreversible processes that can drive entropy."
Wiki on the Arrow of Time Problem: "What do the phenomena that differ going forward and backwards in time tell us about the nature of time? How does time differ from space? Why are CP violations observed in certain weak force decays, but not elsewhere? Are CP violations somehow a product of the Second Law of Thermodynamics [i.e. entropy], or are they a separate arrow of time? Are there exceptions to the principle of causality? Is there a single possible past?"
These questions are connected to research on matter and anti-matter, and the generation of multiple universes. Now physicists are trying to look at their unsolved problem in terms used by other scientists. In March 2010, John Timmer of Ars Technica reported here that the time-driven core concept of biology, the Theory of Evolution, has captured physicists' attention. Timmer: "If physics isn't sure what to make of the arrow of time, biology faces no such issues. Its foundational theory, evolution, seems to be a one-way street: once something useful evolves, like photosynthesis, there seems to be no going back without sterilizing the planet. Evolution has also produced brains that seem extremely adept at navigating a world in which time's arrow is real."
One physicist is now relating the direction of biological systems' evolution over time to physical laws: "Michael Lässig [of the Research Group on Statistical Physics and Quantitative Biology at the University of Cologne] ... is looking into whether we can map evolutionary concepts onto thermodynamics ... Using the classical population genetics equations, Lässig focused on deriving a figure that he called the fitness flux. It's not entirely clear what this is analogous to in the natural world, but, as it appears in the equations, it's squared, which means that the impact of fitness flux can never be negative. Lässig argues that this helps drive the system to ever increasing fitness. He also thinks that it can be measured at the genomic level, as a signal within the background of random base changes in non-conserved sequences. "
In other words, genetics is the quantifiable and verifiable map for the physicists' unsolved problems of cosmology? The genome is supposed to resolve the Theory of Everything, quantum gravity, so-called quantum consciousness - and the Arrow of Time? Splitting the atom isn't the answer, and splitting the gene is? This line of thinking comes dangerously close to incorporating the old trope of history as progress, a familiar ideal of Marxists.