27 Sep 2011

Quantum Evolution

Posted by jofr

I like the idea of Quantum Evolution. Why has nobody tried to combine Darwin and Einstein? Some have tried a similar approach, but maybe in the wrong context. Wojciech Hubert Zurek proposed a kind of Quantum Darwinism, a theory which should explain the emergence of the classical world from the quantum world as a process of Darwinian natural selection. Lee Smolin tried to invent a method by which evolution and natural selection might operate on the grandest possible scale, the cosmic scale. According to Smolin and his book “The Life of the Cosmos”, black holes can somehow span new universes. A universe is born in a black hole. Each black hole can lead to a new universe slightly different from the current one. Thus the theory contains the evolutionary ideas of “reproduction” and “mutation” of universes.

Why don’t we try to examine if there is a method by which evolution and natural selection operate on the smallest possible scale? I know it is far-fetched, but I think this is a wonderful idea. The basic idea is that the universe is evolutionary at the deepest level, let us say the Planck scale. Space would replicate itself at each timestep, time would be linked to the replication rate of the universe, and the flow of time would be linked to the expansion of the universe. Particles somehow emerge from spacetime in this replication process, maybe like this toroidal vortices in the water (only in spacetime):

If we treat particles – esp. fermions – as an apdative unit, then a particle would be a kind of evolutionary species, and a vertex becomes a speciation event. Instead of a Feynman diagram we would have a phylogenetic tree of particles. I am not sure how bosons (the force carriers responsible for interaction) and fermions (the matter carriers which obey the Pauli exclusion principle) fit into this picture, but maybe a boson would roughly correspond to a stem cell, because it is a basic unit of replication which replicates itself while moving through space-time, and a whole organism or species to fermions, which cover a certain niche in the ecology of cosmic evolution (the real reason for the Pauli exclusion principle?).

For evolution we need three things: reproduction, inheritance and variation (in form of mutation or recombination). If the assumption that space-time itself is evolutionary is correct, then particles must someone ‘reproduce’ themselves in some sense, so that a form of inheritance can be established. Variations may depend on the exact recombination form of space-time structures, which may result in a slight different mass, spin or charge, for instance a 8_1 knot or something like that. Some particles would also have to ‘fit’ to their environment better than others. Those particles persist, the others perish.

  • The universe replicates itself in each time step, like a Cellular Automaton, which replicates itself in the next time step. Particles in each moment are ancestors of the particles in the next moment.
  • Particles are self-replicating entities that reproduce themselves as stable patterns at a certain location. A glider in the Game of Life for instance produces a copy of itself at a slighty different location.
  • Particles can propagate through space maximally at this replication rate, similar to a cellular automaton, where nothing can propagate faster than the replication rate.
  • Particles which ‘fit’ to their environment are persistent
  • A persistent particle which is able to interact with others has some kind of internal, composite structure

If the universe is really evolutionary on the deepest level, then there is an important lesson to learn from the evolution of complex systems: the most abundant, primitive and tiniest elements are often the oldest and most fundamental ones. For example algae and bacteria are countless, tiny and primitive, but they belong to the most ancient life-forms on earth. Thus the smallest particles, the insignificant neutrinos with their strange inclination to oscillate, are perhaps more important than we think, exactly because they interact only very weakly with normal matter.

Therefore if there is something revolutionary to discover, it is more likely the Neutrino than the Higgs particle which will make the really big headlines. If such a theory would somehow explain how the elementary particles have the properties (mass, spin, charge, etc.) they do, then this would be an incredible breakthrough.

(Thanks to the FRIAMGroup for interesting discussions, esp. to Marcus G. Daniels who pointed me to the work of Wojciech Hubert Zurek and Eric P. Charles).

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