Santa Fe Institute

Reconstructing the Wiring Diagrams of Earth's Biogeochemical Cycles

Colloquium

January 08, 2013
3:30 PM
Noyce Conference Room

Paul G. Falkowski (Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Rutgers University)

Abstract.  Life is far from thermodynamic equilibrium.  Over the past decade, together with collaborators, I have been analyzing the biochemical reactions responsible for energy generation in all organisms, and we have identified a set of ~500 “core” genes which encode for the energy transduction systems on a planetary scale.  In this lecture, I will examine the evolutionary trajectory of these core reactions, culminating in the splitting of water by light and the use of oxygen as a terminal electron acceptor by aerobic microbes.  These two, and fifteen other processes, form a global electronic circuit,  where individual organisms essentially are transistors on a planetary circuit board.  The wires are the two primary geophysical fluids: the ocean and the atmosphere.  The primary power supply is solar energy.  The output is a self-replicating system that decreases entropy at the cost of increased energy dissipation; a condition that is not amenable to classical Boltzmann functions. The system has a limited number of transistor designs.  We have identified 35 basic structural elements, which appear to have a single common ancestor with a core Fe4S4 motif.  We are attempting to develop a phylogeny of the core motifs in an effort to understand the evolution of biologically catalyzed redox reactions.

Purpose: Research Collaboration

SFI Host: Rogier Braakman

More Info

  • * SFI community lectures are free, open, & accessible to the public.
  • * Seminars & colloquia are geared for scientists but free & open to the interested public.
  • * All other SFI events are by invitation only.
  • * Note: We are unable to accommodate members of the public for SFI's limited lunch service; you're welcome to bring your own.

Events News

A Mayan, a Roman, and a New Yorker walk into a bar… June 12, 2015 -

A diverse collection of social and natural scientists, archeologists, and historians are at SFI to share data and techniques for quantitatively comparing ancient and pre-modern cities.

Audio: Why goals, objectives, and metrics inhibit innovation June 11, 2015 -

In podcast interview on the Santa Fe Radio Café, SFI Sabbatical Visitor Ken Stanley discusses the role of serendipity in making great discoveries and the dangers of constraint by objective.

Watch Alan Lightman's SFI lecture on 'The World You Thought You Knew' May 28, 2015 -

In an SFI Community Lecture on May 6, novelist and physicist Alan Lightman offered his perspective on timeless topics such as God, science, the universe, and religious experiences. Watch his ...

Congrats to teacher Dave Brooks and ten high school seniors selected for SFI's High School Prize May 14, 2015 -

In a ceremony Wednesday evening in Santa Fe, SFI awarded science teacher Dave Brooks and ten high school seniors the Institute's 2015 High School Prize for Scientific Excellence.

Video: Watch Susan Murphy's SFI lecture on healing with data April 20, 2015 -

During an April 8 SFI Community Lecture in Santa Fe, statistician Susan Murphy showed how a healthcare decision approach that adapts treatment to each patient over time can improve patient ...

More News