As the Mars Science Laboratory cruises toward the red planet, the search for other forms of life is on its mission menu. Is there a working definition for “life” among scientists? Carl Zimmer ponders:
In lieu of resurrecting dead scientists, Trifanov analyzed the linguistic structure of 150 definitions of life, grouping similar words into categories. He found that he could sum up what they all have in common in three words. Life, Trifonov declares, is simply self-reproduction with variations.
Trifonov argues that this minimal definition is useful because it encompasses both life as we know it and life as we may discover it to be. And as scientists tinker with self-replicating molecules, they may be able to put his definition to the test.
What do you think? At any rate, our search for “life” is made that much more murky by perhaps not knowing what we are looking for.
As for me, I’m in the camp of Szostak, Andy Ellington, and others: Defining it’s pretty irrelevant, it’s more about when the chemistry became biology.
UPDATE: It’s spawned some Twitter fodder, can you define #lifeinthreewords?
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