I’ve quoted Adrian Bejan numerous times in books and articles about evolution, about academic mafias and peer review, but somehow we never got around to having a full conversation. So I called him recently at Duke University, where he is now J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, to chat about both his constructal law of design in nature — which he considers one of the few laws of physics — as well as his formative years in the 50s and 60s in communist Romania.
Suzan Mazur: There continues to be some debate about which came first in origin of life — metabolism or genetics. Some scientists, like Ricardo Flores, think a viroid-like entity may have played a role as the first replicon.
Adrian Bejan: The beginning of your question is not in the direction of my thinking. Because with the constructal law life is defined as a phenomenon of physics. Therefore life originated on Earth before the biosphere ever existed. Life was from the beginning with all these freely morphing, flow configurations. Evolution from winds to thunder to river basins and turbulent flow from the beginning.
The biosphere came later with its myriad of designs moving and morphing into more designs as an add-on, in a way in which to allow the Earth’s crust to flow more easily and make itself faster and faster, with a more and more complex this, and a more and more efficient that all the way to technology evolution today.
Suzan Mazur: You’ve said origin of life is 100% physics. Do you see a difference between origin of life and evolution?
Adrian Bejan: In my work, life is defined as a phenomenon of physics. So is evolution. Evolution in physics means design change, meaning changes in a drawing that happens in a predictable, discernible direction in time. So life is the flow system that morphs freely and persists. Evolution is, literally, from the dictionary design change over time in a discernible direction, which is the opposite of random. Discernible is the opposite of chaotic.
I know the river basin will evolve in order to vehicle its way more and more easily. That’s river basin evolution. Because of the constructal law I know that everything including my own daily activity or that of the United States of America is to evolve over time through highly complicated superimposed flow designs in order to vehicle the respective bodies more and more easily on the landscape. More.
See also: Other origin of life theories
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