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Introduction
& Prolog
Part 1.
Metabolic Metaphysics
Part 2.
Star Larvae
Part 3.
Space Brains
Addenda
Epilog

The Star Larvae HypothesisAsian Illumination
Nature's Plan for Humankind
Part 2. Star Larvae

The Stellar Organism

Their stable disequilibria, catalytic metabolisms, periodic physiological cycles, and homeostatic feedback controls qualify stars as living organisms.


 

In In the Beginning, physicist and science writer John Gribbin argues on behalf of "the living universe." The phrase is meant to capture similarities between cosmic and biological processes. If the Earth’s biosphere can be considered a discrete living unity—the Gaia concept—then so too can the Milky Way, or any other spiral galaxy, Gribbin argues. Like Gaia, a spiral galaxy maintains itself in a state of stable disequilibrium through the use of feedback controls. Like an organism, it manages its internal physical processes in the way needed to maintain its characteristic form.

Spiral galaxies in this way exhibit a managed degree of homeostasis—an essential characteristic of living organisms.

However, as eager as Gribbin is to classify the Milky Way as an organism, he is less generous when it comes to individual stars. As dynamic and lively as they are in terms of their internal processes, stars don't make the cut. "The life processes that create and maintain the spiral structure in disk galaxies start with stars," Gribbin acknowledges, and he concedes that stars possess a trait distinctive of living things: "A star like our sun is itself, of course, in a state far from equilibrium." But we should not be misled by that fact: "Not even the keenest enthusiast for the Gaia hypothesis would argue that the sun is alive in the way that the Earth and the Milky Way are alive, because the sun is doing the best it can to reach equilibrium."

Astrotheology and Alchemy "The most useful tool astronomers have for studying the way stars change as they age is called the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, after the two astronomers who pioneered its use. Stars live for so long and change so slowly, by and large, that there is no hope of studying stellar evolution by watching an individual star or two age. But the H-R diagram enables astronomers to do the equivalent of a botanist who studies a forest of trees that includes seedlings, saplings, and mature specimens and uses those studies to work out the life cycle of a tree."

— John Gribbin
Blinded By the Light

Gribbin’s dismissiveness reveals a bias. The sun might be succumbing to entropy—rolling down the slope of potential energy toward equilibrium—despite its best efforts, just as are all of us who find ourselves past mid life. But one would not likely characterize a healthy, growing child as "doing the best it can to reach equilibrium." Why would one characterize a healthy, growing young star that way? The suitability of the characterization—heading toward equilibrium—depends on life-cycle stage, not on the particular organism, biological or stellar, under consideration.

Stars embody such a striking number of organismic traits that a reclassificication is called for. The star larvae hypothesis extends the notion of being alive specifically and explicitly to stars. The stellar organism exhibits the following traits.

Catalytic Metabolism

Stars maintain themselves by releasing nuclear energy from the smaller atomic nuclei that they fuse into larger nuclei. Animals maintain themselves by releasing chemical energy from the foods they eat to produce the chemical constituents of their bodies. Plants exploit freely available solar energy to produce the bodily constituents that they need. Like biological metabolism, a stellar metabolism uses energies released by its internal processes to maintain itself in a state of stable disequilibrium.

Stellar metabolism consists of interwoven processes of nuclear fusion and fission that maintain the gross structures and processes of the star's anatomy and physiology. These processes correspond to the anabolic (building up) and catabolic (tearing down) processes, respectively, that compose biological metabolism. Newborn stars consume hydrogen nuclei (unattached protons), exclusively. The processes that fuse these protons into the nuclei of larger atoms occur by various, specific nuclear reactions. Inside stars, reactions, such as the proton-proton chain, the triple alpha process, and the CNO cycle, build up larger atomic nuclei from individual protons. The term for this process is nucleosynthesis.

The prevalence among the above listed and other reaction pathways, relative to one another, varies with the age of a star, a situation that parallels metabolic changes that occur in aging biological organisms. A newborn star fuses individual protons (hydrogen nuclei) into proton pairs (helium nuclei) during the star's hydrogen burning stage. Eventually too few free protons remain to keep the process going, but sufficient numbers of helium nuclei have been created for the star to shift into a hotter, helium-burning phase. This nucleosynthetic process fuses helium nuclei into carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other larger atoms. Eventually a star will burn carbon and larger atoms and fuse them into yet larger ones, with iron defining the upper size limit of atoms that are formed through the metabolic processes that dominate the life of a typical star. Shorter-lived but more energetic processes produce the atoms that are heavier than iron. These processes take place during the explosive, high-energy events that constitute the death throes of a star.

In a star bigger than the sun, a peculiarity during the hydrogen burning phase underscores a shared behavior of stars and biological organisms. If the particle cloud that gives birth to a star contains enough carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, then the star will initiate a mode of hydrogen burning called the CNO cycle, in which it fuses hydrogen nuclei into helium nuclei through a catalytic process. Catalysis is a transformative process that relies on intermediaries that participate in reactions but emerge unchanged once the reactive cycle completes. Enzymes provide an example from biology. Certain enzymes will bond to particular molecules, introduce those molecules to others, then detach themselves from the molecules that they have joined together. Catalytic enzymes emerge unchanged by the reactions that they catalyze.

The catalytic CNO cycle of stellar metabolism includes nuclear fusion and fision processes. During the catalytic CNO cycle, isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen exchange protons, and emit subatomic particles through radioactive decay, in a specific sequence of transformations that yields helium from an initial union of hydrogen and carbon. Each time a helium nucleus is emitted from the process it leaves behind the original carbon isotope, which is then free to bond with another hydrogen nucleus—proton—and begin the cycle again. The process is a true catalysis. When the manufactured helium is released, the initiator of the process is regenerated and begins the cycle again.

Notice the elements involved in this catalytic process: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. This group of elements, sometimes designated by the abbreviation CHON, constitutes up to 90 percent of the mass of biological protoplasm. Surely it is s a strange coincidence that these elements also play starring roles in the catalytic metabolisms of stars. No reason exists, a priori, to expect that the nuclear and chemical properties of these elements would dovetail so neatly. The star larvae hypothesis sees in the coincidence evidence of familial descent.

Stellar Anatomy and Physiology

In addition to exploiting catalysis, stars exhibit a list of attributes readily couched in biological language. A star comprises internal arrangements of stable yet dynamically interacting subsystems that constitute its anatomy. The material and energetic exchanges within and among the subsystems constitute the star’s physiology.

Despite appearances, a star is an organized structure of discernible components arranged and interacting with one another in definite ways. It is not a homogeneous blob of hot gas. The anatomy of our sun, for example, comprises, an inner core within which nucleosynthesis occurs, a radiative layer that carries energy out from the core by radiation, and a convective layer that carries the energy further by convection. This onion-like structure continues outward from the core to the periphery, through the photosphere, the chromosphere, and, at the outer fringes, the diffuse corona.

This layered body plan is maintained physiologically. The photosphere, for example, includes structures that solar physicists call granules, which are the tops of convection cells that cover the sun. The convection cells underlying the granules constitute a circulatory system that shuttles material between the interior and the surface of the solar body. At the surface the fluid material circulates according to multiple flow components (rotation, cellular convection, oscillations, and meridional flows).The granules themselves compose supergranules, whose fluid motions concentrate magnetic fields to produce a weblike pattern of field lines—the chromospheric network—that continually evolves over the sun’s surface. The photospheric circulatory system includes magnetic field markers—the familiar sunspots—and the smaller, brighter spots called faculae. A system of interlocking processes is at work here to maintain a discernible, complex structure in a state of stable disequilibrium and which exhibits a level of complexity highly suggestive of a living organism.

Stellar Periodicity

As with other organisms, a star's internal processes are cyclic. In biological organisms, cyclic processes include the familiar circadian, ultradian and infradian rhythms of animals, such as sleep/wake, respiratory and estrus cycles. Gaia, too, pulses rhythmically, with tidal, seasonal, glacial, and other cycles. The sun exhibits the same tendency. Its rhythms include the well-studied eleven-year sunspot cycle, along with a 76-year oscillation in its volume. NASA’s orbiting SoHo observatory during the 1990s revealed a rapid five-minute cycle of helioseismographic activity—of sound waves resonating through the body of the sun (for details, see "Solar and Stellar Activity Cycles" by Peter R. Wilson).

Stellar Homeostasis

Stars and biological organisms both also depend on feedback to maintain homeostasis, or internal stability. The sun uses feedback controls specifically to maintain its internal temperature, which must remain within a limited range to keep the sun viable. If it were to cool excessively, the sun would implode under its own gravity. If it were to heat up excessively, it would fly apart. The sun keeps blazing because its tendency to expand—an effect of its heat—is countered precisely by its tendency to contract—an effect of its gravity. The temperature range at which these two countervailing forces remain balanced corresponds to the range that keeps nucleosynthesis proceeding in the way required for the sun to continue doing what it does.

Despite the foregoing parallels between stellar and biological life, at least one essential biological process has no obvious counterpart in the lives of stars. That process is reproduction. The star larvae hypothesis fills the gap by accounting for the stellar reproductive cycle.

Stellar Reproduction

Stellar reproduction is addressed, ostensibly, by the standard scientific model of the stellar "life cycle."

When stars die, they do so explosively, expelling their bodily material into the space around them. The death leaves behind a dense core, which persists as a brown dwarf, neutron star, or black hole, depending on the size of the original star. The material that is ejected into space enriches nearby particle clouds, from which new stars form. This recycling of material from one generation of stars to the next resembles reproduction. But it resembles the fertilization of roots more than it does the production of seeds. It is a reproductive pseudo-cycle. The recycling of material from old stars into new ones does not produce new unattached protons, which are the spores/seeds from which new stars develop.

The star larvae hypothesis proposes that stars reproduce in a way that more nearly resembles biological reproduction, insofar as it comprises discernible stages, each transitioning into the next in a predictable developmental sequence. The hypothesis proposes that stars constitute only the adult phase of the organism's life cycle and that the cycle also includes a larval phase. As with some biological organisms, star larvae bear little resemblance to their adult form.

Once bacteria and viruses arrive on a suitable planet the larval phase of the stellar life cycle—biology—unfolds. The larvae exploit the planetary resources, and their population over time differentiates to include a type that on Earth goes by the name Homo sapiens and that is equipped by its nature to initiate the next vital phase of the stellar life cycle. This avant-garde type constructs from the material resources of the incubator planet complex niches—cities. It evolves symbiotically with its evolving technologies and becomes highly domesticated—neotenous. Eventually, the larvae migrate to new ecological niches that they construct in the orbital space around the incubator planet. The move to orbital —weightless—niches triggers a mutation/metamorphosis in the larvae. They develop into the next stage of the stellar life cycle, what might be called the angelic stage.

Researchers, called anthropologists, who study the habits of Homo sapiens testify to a peculiar behavior that betrays an intuition of stellar metamorphosis. As if by precognition, the larvae fashion images of themselves as glowing and airborne. Larval lore points to the sky as the abode of "enlightened" fellows, a place and condition to which larval institutions called religions admonish adherents to aspire. While the drive to join the celestial illuminati of myth expresses itself through religious art and lore, the drive to join the celestial illuminati of the physical sky—the stars—expresses itself through aerospace engineering,

NEXT > Astrolatry, Astrotheology and Astral Religion

Cutaway view of stellar anatomy

Solar/stellar Anatomy from CWRU -- http://burro.cwru.edu/Academics/

 

 

The Star Larvae Hypothesis:

Stars constitute a genus of organism. The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase. Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.

Elaboration: The hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which

 

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