• Question: how are we liveing

    Asked by coolskeleton to Dalya, Derek, Sarah, Tim, Tom on 19 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      There are so many different ways to answer this question!

      Ok I think life comes down to a series of chemical reactions. Without them we wouldn’t be alive.

      The first is respiration. This is where we take in gaseous elements, they are diffused into our bloodstream and carried to where they are needed. Basically our bodies need oxygen to be able to release energy.

      Then there’s the nervous system, how the brain sends messages through the body. Nerve impulses are conducted from one neuron to the next to the next… This works by the nerve cells setting up an ion gradient. The ions are sodium and potassium ions and these move in and out of the nerve cells which makes them polarised and this is how they conduct the signal.

      Another important chemical reaction in the body is metabolism. This is basically how your body converts the food you eat into energy and the building blocks it needs to grow and repair. Most of metabolism is controlled by enzymes.

    • Photo: Derek McKay-Bukowski

      Derek McKay-Bukowski answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Definitely a question for the biologists, but I’ll have a shot at it.

      Firstly… what is “living”. What makes something “alive”? Well, it is the ability to grow, adapt, reproduce and respond to its environment. These are all biological processes but if you look at them closely, they are actually electro-chemical processes. We, as living things, are also huge, complicated chemical reactions. Chemical reactions, in turn, are based on the physics of the fundamental particles that make up the atoms and molecules. It is the intricate physical laws that make this possible, and hence the chemistry for life.

    • Photo: Tim Millar

      Tim Millar answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Its carrying out those seven functions of life

      Most organisms do all seven at some point in their life cycle. Viruses are an exception so you could argue that they are not alive, but its a tough question no doubt.

    • Photo: Tom Crick

      Tom Crick answered on 19 Jun 2011:

      I will leave this to the biologists, but this is an interesting question in computer science, especially with regards to artificial intelligence: what does being alive mean? There are definitions for biological systems, but some of these could equally apply to computer programs…