BIOLOGY AT MACH 88 ?
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The Copernican Project seeks to provide a 21st-Century framework for modeling metabolic processes that occur aboard our Earth as it revolves around the sun at MACH 88 - roughly 30,000 m/s. Biological modeling and molecular simulations are currently referenced to a laboratory frame that is treated to be at rest. However, Copernicus taught us long ago that the true reference frame for all earthbound laboratories is one that possesses rotation, orbital velocity, and a host of periodic stress-strain cycles. Why identify the earth’s orbital motion and not, say, the collective motion of the solar system, or the galaxy? Because the orbital velocity of the earth changes at a much more rapid rate than those other large scale velocities - and it is reversed every 6 months. Accordingly, all reference frames co-moving with the earth fundamentally possess acceleration cycles with seasonal variation and 12-month periodicities. Further, the earth’s rotation about its own axis causes all earthbound objects to oscillate back and forth within the sun’s gravitational field (by two earth radii) - this motion injects circadian strain cycles into a biological framework currently treated as homogeneous, isotropy, and static. While it is reasonable to believe that the effects are ‘likely to be so small that they make no difference’, it is equally reasonable to inquire whether - after 3-billion years of evolution - metabolic processes might have coupled to these very small but periodic stress-strain cycles. There is a growing database of biological evidence linking periodicities observed at the cellular level with natural periods associated with the Earth’s motion.
The goal of The Copernican Project is to re-frame the physics which defines equilibrium for metabolic systems co-moving with an orbiting, rotating earth. We believe that such an inquiry will help us better understand how biological order is maintained at the cellular level, and thus, by extension, give us a better understanding of metabolic disorders. Before our space programs send biological systems into regions of the solar system that are devoid of these stress-strain cycles, we will need to understand the metabolic implications.
Below is a partial list of the scientific studies needed to improve our understand of what defines equilibrium in earthbound systems.
The Ideal Gas Equation. One essential step is to re-visit the two-century old gas laws which treated their laboratory reference frame to be at rest both from a global perspective and from an internal perspective. All accelerations possessed by the earth, and thus shared by the gas particles described by these laws, were excluded. So too was the energy associated with all (monoatomic) rotation and with all coupled periodic/oscillatory motions. We need to understand the limit of error for these omissions. (See the expanded discussion at: Gas Laws & Biology.)
Improved Parametric Equations for Epitrochoid Pathways. An improved parametric formulation is needed to define the full set of accelerations produced by the rotational and orbital motion of the earth. These equations need to express latitudinal, seasonal, and lunar-position variations. (See the expanded discussion at: Epitrochoid Pathways.)
Noon-Midnight Kinetic-Energy Change. Between noon and midnight a mass located near the equator must be accelerated by approximately 900 m/s as the Earth swings that mass around and adds its rotational velocity to the orbital velocity. For a molecule with the mass of oxygen-2, that equates to a kinetic energy increase that is over 200 times as large as the thermal energy it is assigned using the ideal gas equations. Energy changes of similar magnitude are experienced by each of the other molecules along a metabolic pathway. We need to better model the forces which must act to produce this energy change. (See the expanded discussion at: Circadian Change in Kinetic Energy.)
Noon-Midnight Potential-Energy Change. Between noon and midnight a mass located near the equator must be ‘lifted’ by one earth diameter in the reference frame of the sun. By coincidence, it is found that the work expended to lift the mass of an ATP molecule one earth diameter equates to the energy observed to be released during hydrolysis. A similar coincidence of values is found between the work required to lift the mass of a typical person and that person’s Basal Metabolic Rate (~ 1200 Calories for a 68 kg person). We need to ascertain whether this is purely coincidental or whether there is a correlation with the strain energy naturally injected into fluid bodies rotating within the sun’s gravitational field. (See the expanded discussion at: Circadian Change in Potential Energy.)
Latitudinal Dependence. The definition of equilibrium of any earthbound fluid or gas body must possess a latitudinal dependence; we need to better understand the magnitude of the effect. Many correlations have been identified between latitude and differences in metabolic processes within earthbound organisms; but there are other numerous latitudinal differences which likely swamp the acceleration correlation (temperature, duration of sunlight, migration patterns…). But there exists an anti-correlated (seasonal) north-south effect due to the 23.5 degree tilt of the earth’s axis relative to the orbital plane; we need to better model this and understand the metabolic ramifications. (See the expanded discussion at: Latitudinal Change in Strain Energy.)
Seasonal Dependence. The definition of equilibrium of any earthbound fluid or gas body must also include a seasonal dependence due to both a variation in the strength of the sun’s gravitational field when traveling along an elliptical orbit, and to the associated changes in velocity and centrifugal acceleration. This can result in a variation of roughly 7% between winter and summer. This seasonal variation needs to be better modeled. (See the expanded discussion at: Seasonal Change in Strain Energy.)
Chirality and Equilibrium. Chirality is a critical property associated with the molecular configuration in earthbound biological organisms. It has been observed that ‘equilibrium’ in an orbiting rotating fluid also possesses a chiral sense to it. The magnitude of such chiral strain is weak, but the effect needs to be better quantified to assess whether or not it can be a contributing factor to metabolic order. (See the expanded discussion at: Chirality and Orbital Motion.)
Tidal & Centrifugal Forces. An improved knowledge of how tidal gradients effect metabolic systems is needed. Tidal effects on the earth are the result of small periodic variations in the relative strength of the gravitational force of order only 10^-7. Across the diameter of a typical cell, there exists a gradient of roughly 6x10^-11 m/s^2. While seemingly small, this equates to 130 microns-per-hour^2. A free particle with such an acceleration would travel the length of a cell in 20 minutes, which is not out of the range of metabolic timelines. When that particle is constrained by a viscoelastic fluid, the stress results in strain deformations and the injection of potential energy into fluid. These are likely on the lower limit of any possible influence, but we need to quantify it. (See the expanded discussion at: Tidal Forces & Biology.)
Relativistic Effects. (Special) Relativistic effects associated with seasonal changes in the earth’s velocity and with noon-midnight velocity changes are small - but they are not zero. For example, in the frame of the sun, between noon and midnight the speed of a mass located near the equator accelerates from roughly 29,340 m/s to 30,260 m/s. That equates to a relativistic mass increase of .2x10^-9. We need to understand if this has any influence on metabolic processes. A more difficult but important undertaking is to resolve the century-old debate that goes back to Bohr and Einstein about how temperature is affected by relative motion. (See the expanded discussion at: Relativistic Effects & Biology.)
The home office for The Copernican Project will be centered in Berkeley, California - but this is intended be a collective effort. You can help advance the scientific reach of this project by contributing your expertise in mathematics, physics, biology, or the visual arts. Let us know how you would like to contribute. We seek full transparency and have a critical need for assistance from peers to provide scientific support, scientific criticism and suggestions. Progress will be published as results obtain peer support.
Library of Metabolic periodicities
The Copernican Project seeks to build a library of links to research identifying both the metabolic processes which express periodicities shared by the earthbound organisms and the biophysics used to analyze them. Look for content to appear on this site before the end of this year. You can help build this library by sending notice of research you believe is relevant to Library@TheCopernicanProject.org.
As The Copernican Project identifies more specific quantitative predictions, we hope to engage in experiments that will help confirm or refute of the theoretical side of this project. If you would like to participate in such experiments, or have a suggestions for experiments for us to perform, please contact us.
funding & schedule
The Copernican Project is privately funded. If you would like to advance the scientific reach of this project by expanding the funding, please contact us. The research will begin in January 2019.
To journey to Mars has many engineering challenges, but there is one possible major obstacle related to metabolic order and gravitational strain cycles that we believe needs to be studied. The findings of The Copernican Project will help clarify that need. For an advance discussion of this topic, please send us a note (or watch the Video Summary)
(Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)