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The Gaia Fractal
By
Ian Beardsley
Copyright 2014 by Ian Beardsley
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From my earlier studies where I began to learn about fractals, and subsequent studies in
Biology, and Climate Science, I have finally been able to put into words a primitive
notion I had that was sparked by learning of the the Gaia Hypothesis of Lovelock and the
similar, but different, idea of Gaia put forward by Isaac Asimov in his science fiction
conclusion to his Foundation Trilogy, Foundation And Earth. A primitive notion is
defined in Spacetime, Geometry, And Cosmology by William L. Burke as:
A fundamental element in a physical theory that is not defined within the theory but is
presumed to be known, either by description or from a more fundamental theory.
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Energetic Equilibrium and Gaia The Fractal
Life is that which self-generates negative entropy. That is, it acquires the energy it needs
to sustain its necessary biological functions, such as metabolism, photosynthesis, and
homeostasis. Living things are organized and they cant maintain organization without
energy. Healthy life is that which is in energetic equilibrium, which is to say it loses as
much energy as it gains. We say this because if an organism does not burn the energy it
acquires, it will store the excess energy as fat, which produces a strain on the heart
because it has to pump blood through more weight. The earth is similar in this respect in
that a healthy earth is one that is in energetic equilibrium as well because if the earth
gains more energy from the sun than it is losing, then it is warming which dries up
reservoirs, and kills crops. Interestingly, when life on earth is in energetic equilibrium,
the earth tends towards energetic equilibrium, because life living in excess produces a
strain on the planets natural processes that interrupts its functionality like regenerative
cycles such as the water cycle and carbon cycle. In this sense we see that animal and
plant life mirror the way the physical aspects of the planet function in such a way that we
can say life is but a part of a greater whole. The basic unit of all of life is the cell, which
is constructed of non-living molecules. However, cells combine to form tissues, tissues
form to make organs, and organs work together to make organ systems. Just as cells are
part of life, life is part of the physical earth; if plants did not do photosynthesis, then
carbon dioxide levels would rise. Carbon dioxide is a heat retaining gas. Too much of it
and the earth would fail to lose as much heat as it receives from the sun, would be out of
energetic equilibrium, the arctic ice caps would melt, decreasing the albedo of the earth,
causing less sunlight to be reflected back into space (creating a feedback loop), and
reservoirs, rivers, and crops would dry up. This connection of life, the biosphere, to the
physical (atmosphere and water) that makes the earth like one giant organism, is called
Gaia. In a sense the organization of cells into tissues, tissues into organs, organs into
organ systems, goes beyond the organism. The organisms make populations, the
populations make communities, the communities interact with the physical environment
to form ecosystems, and the the ecosystems make the biosphere. We could say Gaia is a
fractal, but in idea not physical geometry, because the idea behind the planet is similar to
the idea behind its life components, and the life components display self-similarity as we
move from simple to complex, single cell to organized structures, but expanded. Fractals
have self-similarity as one of their properties.
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Homeostasis And Metabolism Of The Gaia Fractal
We face a crisis known as the anthropocene, wherein humans are altering the
environment in such a way that they are adding a new, but different, layer to the geologic
record. Rapid deforestation and increase in greenhouse gases are putting the Earth out of
energetic equilibrium, such that the carbon grid is saturated, which means the mechanism
which syncs heat retaining carbon dioxide is over taxed, and the earth is warming. The
key to healing the Earth is in understanding the homeostasis and metabolism of Gaia,
which is founded in the fractal nature of Gaia, that is we need to know what the proper
structure of the Gaia fractal should be, that is from its basic structure starting with single
cellular life to their organizations into organisms, to the organization of organisms into
systems of organisms, and all into the planet, which includes the physical, such as the
composition of the atmosphere. Just as cells are composed of non-living molecules, the
physical aspects of the earth, composed of biological entities, is such that the whole
planet is alive. Thus the key words to understand are metabolism and homeostasis:
Metabolism is all the chemical reactions that occur in a cell, and homeostasis, is the
maintenance of internal conditions that allow metabolic processes to occur. Thus we
must make sure the homeostasis of Gaia is such that its metabolic processes can be
carried out so that life on earth is sustainable. Thus we need to know how the Gaia
Fractal should be structured.
Ian Beardsley
October 18, 2014
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Climate
As climate science is a new science, there are many models for the
climate and I learned my climate science at MIT in a free online edX
course. One can generate a basic model for climate with nothing
more than high school algebra using nothing more than the
temperature of the sun, the distance of the earth from the sun, and
the earths albedo, the percent of light it reflects back into space.
The luminosity of the sun is:
!
L
0
= 3.9 "10
26
J / s
The separation between the earth and the sun is:
!
1.5 "10
11
m
The solar luminosity at the earth is reduced by the inverse square
law, so the solar constant is:
!
S
0
=
3.9 "10
26
4#(1.5 "10
11
)
2
=1, 370Watts/ meter
2
That is the effective energy hitting the earth per second per square
meter. This radiation is equal to the temperature,
!
T
e
, to the fourth
power by the steffan-bolzmann constant, sigma
!
(").
!
T
e
can be called
the effective temperature, the temperature entering the earth.
!
S
0
intercepts the earth disc,
!
"r
2
, and distributes itself over the
entire earth surface,
!
4"r
2
, while 30% is reflected back into space
due to the earths albedo, a, which is equal to 0.3, so
!
"T
e
4
=
S
0
4
(1# a)
(1# a)S
0
$r
2
4$r
2
But, just as the same amount of radiation that enters the system,
leaves it, to have radiative equilibrium, the atmosphere radiates back
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to the surface so that the radiation from the atmosphere,
!
"T
a
4
plus the
radiation entering the earth,
!
"T
e
4
is the radiation at the surface of the
earth,
!
"T
s
4
. However,
!
"T
a
4
="T
e
4
and we have:
!
"T
s
4
="T
a
4
+"T
e
4
= 2"T
e
4
T
s
= 2
1
4
T
e
"T
e
4
=
S
0
4
(1# a)
" = 5.67 $10
#8
S
0
=1, 370
a = 0.3
1, 370
4
(0.7) = 239.75
T
e
4
=
239.75
5.67 $10
#8
= 4.228 $10
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T
e
= 255Kelvin
So, for the temperature at the surface of the Earth:
!
T
s
= 2
1
4
T
e
=1.189(255) = 303Kelvin
Lets convert that to degrees centigrade:
Degrees Centigrade = 303 - 273 = 30 degrees centigrade
And, lets convert that to Fahrenheit:
Degrees Fahrenheit = 30(9/5)+32=86 Degrees Fahrenheit
In reality this is warmer than the average annual temperature at the
surface of the earth, but, in this model, we only considered radiative
heat transfer and not convective heat transfer. In other words, there
is cooling due to vaporization of water (the formation of clouds) and
due to the condensation of water vapor into rain droplets
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(precipitation or the formation of rain).
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Summary
The incoming radiation from the sun is about 1370 watts per square meter as determined
by the energy per second emitted by the sun reduced by the inverse square law at earth
orbit. We calculate the total absorbed energy intercepted by the Earth's disc (pi)r^2, its
distribution over its surface area 4(pi)r^2 and take into account that about 30% of that is
reflected back into space, so the effective radiation hitting the Earth's surface is about
70% of the incoming radiation reduced by four. Radiative energy is equal to temperature
to the fourth power by the Stefan-boltzmann constant. However, the effective incoming
radiation is also trapped by greenhouse gases and emitted down towards the surface of
the earth (as well as emitted up towards space from this lower atmosphere called the
troposphere), the most powerful greenhouse gas being CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and most
abundant and important is water vapour. This doubles the radiation warming the surface
of the planet. The atmosphere is predominately Nitrogen gas (N2) and Oxygen gas (O2),
about 95 percent. These gases, however, are not greenhouse gases. The greenhouse gas
CO2, though only exists in trace amounts, and water vapour, bring the temperature of the
Earth up from minus 18 degrees centigrade (18 below freezing) to an observed average of
plus 15 degrees centigrade (15 degrees above freezing). Without these crucial greenhouse
gases, the Earth would be frozen. They have this enormous effect on warming the planet
even with CO2 existing only at 400 parts per million. It occurs naturally and makes life
on Earth possible. However, too much of it and the Earth can be too warm, and we are
now seeing amounts beyond the natural levels through anthropogenic sources, that are
making the Earth warmer than is favorable for the conditions best for life to be
maximally sustainable. We see this increase in CO2 beginning with the industrial era.
The sectors most responsible for the increase are power, industry, and transportation.
Looking at records of CO2 amounts we see that it was 315 parts per million in 1958 and
rose to 390 parts per million in 2010. It rose above 400 in 2013. Other greenhouse gases
are methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O). Agricultural activities dominate emissions
for nitrous oxide and methane. A healthy earth is one that is in radiative equilibrium, that
is, it loses as much radiation as it receives. Currently we are slightly out of radiative
balance, the Earth absorbs about one watt per square meter more than it loses. That
means its temperature is not steady, but increasing.
Ian Beardsley
July 11, 2014
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Economics And The Gaia Fractal
Because Capitalism looks for the cheapest way for a person to turn the Earths resources
into profit, it goes against the optimal method of maintaining the Earths ability to sustain
life. Communism does not do any better. We have said we need to understand the nature
of the Gaia Fractal, so that we can make sure we do not interrupt the natural process it
needs to carry out to function as an organism. We need to make sure it can maintain
homeostasis. The political structure of a society determines its economic strategies, and
the economics adopted by a people determines perhaps, more than any other factor, the
homeostasis of the Gaia Fractal. Much to the credit of some great minds, we do have an
economic theory that would seem to serve such ends; it is called bioeconomics.
Bioeconomics is easy to understand, it simply uses biology to determine how we can use
natural resources in such a way that they maximize the well being of life on earth in a
sustainable way, as opposed to concentrating their value into a few hands in the form of
money that represents them, which would not sustain life very long.
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When The Terrestrial Vitality Is In Decline
The visionary H.G. Wells came up with an important phrase, or wording: Terrestrial
Vitality, in his work Mind At The End Of Its Tether. Further he said it was in decline
and that it could be that hard imaginative thinking is no longer able to keep pace with the
increasing complexity of human problems. Let us try to think of all the ways we can that
the terrestrial vitality is in decline:
1. The rotation of the earth is slowing so the days (albeit very slowly) become
longer, and thus the earth warmer.
2. The Sun, albeit extremely slow of a phenomenon, is getting warmer.
3. Human caused global warming from burning fossil fuels threatens the health of
our food crops and water supplies.
4. Poor treatment of the ecosystem seems to be driving bee populations into decline,
thus threatening the pollination of fruit bearing crops.
5. Deforestation and destruction of plankton on the ocean surface threatens the
production of breathable oxygen and interrupts the carbon cycle.
6. The more time goes by, the higher the odds of being hit by an asteroid or large
meteor that would kick up enough dirt in the atmosphere to block the suns rays
thus interrupting photosynthesis and causing the food crops to die off and all the
vegetation that farm animals feed on.
7. We could come out of the interglacial and enter an ice age.
8. The Earth's Magnetic Field becomes weaker, thus decreasing its ability to shield the
earth from the solar wind.
We can make this list much longer, and it is pretty incredible that all the necessary factors
for the success of humans remained stable for more than the 5 million years it took them
to evolve from primitive hominids. I list these threats to the terrestrial vitality, so that in
clarifying them in our mind, we can address them and thereby come up with clear
solutions that can be derived from the sciences. I think any advanced civilization and
intelligent life form, would rather than ignore these threats, would put their minds to
finding viable solutions.
Ian Beardsley
July 24, 2014
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The Human Situation
The reality of the human situation is clearly one where humanity is poised between going
in two different directions, one outlined by H.G. Wells in Mind At The End Of Its Tether
and the other as outlined by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space
Odyssey:
H.G. Wells: Humans must go steeply up or down. If he goes up so great is the
adaptation required of him that he must cease to be a man. Ordinary man is at the end of
his tether, and the odds seem all in favor of him going down and out.
Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick: Humans end their reliance with technology and
become the starchild. Humanity spreads its wings and flies through the Universe.
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Ian Beardsley