the idea of the Earth as a single living superorganism James Lovelock Gaia - a new look at life on Earth, Oxford University Press, 1979.

Genesis of Lovelock’s hypothesis

Is there life on Mars? How to identify the effects of life activity on Mars?

Genesis of Lovelock’s hypothesis
Together with scientist Dian Hitchcock, Lovelock examined the atmospheric data for the Martian atmosphere in the late 1960’s and found it to be in a state of stable chemical equilibrium the Earth was shown to be in a state of extreme chemical disequilibrium. The two scientists concluded that Mars was probably lifeless; almost a decade later the Viking 1 and 2 landings confirmed their conclusion.

Living planets, dead planets

Venus CO2 N2 O2 CH4
From Lovelock (1990)

Earth 0.03% 79% 21% 1.7 ppb

Mars 95% 2.7% 0.13% 0.0

96.5% 3.5% trace 0.0

What do they have in common?

Defined boundary:

Defined boundary:

Constant properties:
Oxygen conc. Ocean salinity Surface temperature

Constant properties:
pH Osmotic pressure Ionic charge


in a sort of cybernetic feedback loop. an active control system.Main idea Lovelock began to think that such an unlikely combination of gases such as the Earth had. . indicated a homeostatic control of the Earth biosphere to maintain environmental conditions conducive for life.

The Gaia Hypothesis: 1) Earth is a self-regulating system 2) The system includes both life and the physical world 3) The system is capable of maintaining a surface environment that is suitable for life .

Only a small rim of cells along the periphery of the trunk is living. like the atmosphere. Gaia analogy http://www. The trunk of the tree is similar to the Earth's lithosphere with a thin layer of living organisms spread across its surface. protects the living tissues. The bark.htm .com/gaiaho. and allows for the exchange of biologically important gases. The wood of the trunk and the bark of the tree are dead.oceansonline. such as carbon dioxide and oxygen.Redwood trees are like Gaia because 97% of their tissues are dead.


“ Loveland states that our atmosphere can be considered to be “like the fur of a cat and shell of a snail. regulates or maintains the climate and the atmospheric composition at an optimum for itself. or the biosphere.Example: ATMOSPHERE "Life. . not living but made by living cells so as to protect them against the environment.

etc. This homeostasis is much like the internal maintenance of our own bodies. .Inherent in this explanation is the idea that biosphere. the atmosphere. the lithosphere and the hydrosphere are in some kind of balance -that they maintain a homeostatic condition. processes within our body insure a constant temperature. blood pH. electrochemical balance.

the land is the Earth's bones. the atmosphere is the Earth's lungs. therefore.the physiology of the Earth (or any other planet). and the living organisms are the Earth's senses. where the oceans and rivers are the Earth's blood.The inner workings of Gaia. can be viewed as a study of the physiology of the Earth. . Lovelock calls this the science of geophysiology .

Definition of Paradigm Scientists develop problems. Kuhn (1922 . theories.1996) At the core of each paradigm there is often an analogy. Thomas S. called paradigm. From Kuhn (1962) . models and experiments in a given frame.

Examples of Paradigm (1) The universe is like Earth-centered spheres Sun-centered spheres an infinite space .

Examples of Paradigm (2) Light is like microscopic particles microscopic waves a quantum wavefunction .

Gaia as a paradigm The Earth system is like an a electronic circuit living being .

.was chosen. while on a walk in the countryside about his home in Wilshire. and asked advise concerning a suitable name for it.Genesis of name As the story goes. The resultant term "Gaia" .eg: Lord of the Flies). England.after the Greek goddess who drew the living world forth from Chaos . Lovelock described his hypothesis to his neighbour William Golding (the novelist .

Mother of All. eldest of all beings. and all that fly: all these are fed of her store. .POETIC METAPHOR “I will sing of wellfounded Gaia.C.” --Homeric Hymn. all that go upon the goodly land and all that are in the paths of the sea. she feeds all creature that are in the world. 7th Century B.

(Example) . Recognizes emergent properties.GAIAN ATTRIBUTES Earth is a super-organism Biota and physical environment are so tightly coupled they are considered a single organism. The climate and chemical composition of Earth are kept in homeostatis at an optimum by and for the biosphere.

Examples of GAIAN PROCESSES Oxygen Air temperature Salinity Atmospheric carbon dioxide .

13 percent respectively. contain 0. The atmospheres of our two nearest neighbors.00 percent and 0. Earth is? . Venus and Mars. of free oxygen.OXYGEN Lovelock suggests that Gaia is at work to keep the oxygen content of the atmosphere high and within the range that all oxygen-breathing animals require.

between 10 and 20 C .AIR TEMPERATURE The Gaia hypothesis sees life regulating the surface temperature of Earth. the temperature would vary far more. The average surface temperature of Earth has remained within a narrow range .for over three billion years. During that time the sun's output has increased by thirty or forty percent. as it does for example every day on the surface of Mars . Even ignoring the long-term trend of the sun.

In response to this. . hardly what Lovelock was saying. Watson and Lovelock published a simple cartoon system called DaisyWorld.DAISYWORLD One of the criticisms leveled at the Gaia hypothesis was that Gaia must be an omniscient goddess. where homeostasis is maintained by simple nonlinear feedback loops.

SIMPLE RULES In DaisyWorld.5 degrees Celsius just perfect.0. . The deathrate is constant. At that temperature their birthrate is a maximal 1. Their birthrate drops off to zero at 5 and 40 degrees Celsius. daisies find 22.


0 is a perfect reflector and 0.0 is a perfect absorber. Different color daisies. have different albedos. An albedo of 1. and bare ground.AIR TEMPERATURE The determination of temperature is a bit complex.5) Dark daisies (albedo near 0) . the amount of incoming light they reflect back off into space. White daisies (albedo near 1) Bare ground (albedo about 0.

Temperature is 'normal'. .Figure 1: Equal numbers of white and black daisies. Figure 2: Mostly black daisies . Figure 3: Mostly white daisies .temperature is low.temperature is consequently high.

. since the sun's luminosity has increased gradually about 30% over 4.EXPERIMENT To run the experiment. and then slowly increase the luminosity (light reaching the planet).6 Ga. This is not unlike the case for Earth. we seed the planet with a mix of light and dark daisies.

Tair with no daisies Tair colder Tair warmer Tair with daisies .

. they maintain the living planet's temperature at a daisy-friendly 20-30 degrees in the face of the solar input doubling or tripling.DAISYWORLD SUMMARY With the daisies having no tricks at their disposal except color/albedo and birthrate.

As we learned earlier. the traditional scientific method relies on refuting a hypothesis. proving it wrong.Hypothesis One of the reasons that the Gaia Hypothesis sparked such debate in scientific circles has to do with scientists' ability to test hypotheses. as the means for eliminating possible explanations. .

No testable hypothesis The single largest complaint lodged against the strong Gaia hypothesis is that experiments can't be designed to refute it (or test it at all. At present. it may one day be possible to design an experiment to test whether life indeed manipulates planetary processes for its own purposes or whether life is just an evolutionary processes that occurs in response to changes in the nonliving world. The strong Gaia hypotheis states that life creates conditions on Earth to suit itself. Life created the planet Earth. suffice it to say that those arguments are valid. not the other way around. As we explore the solar system and galaxies beyond. we cannot falsify the Gaia Hypothesis . for that matter.) Without going into all the details.

CO2 Increase: GAIA save the earth? .


but at levels for microbes.Lovelock: Microbes rule GAIA Hypothesis may in fact act to regulate CO2 in the atmosphere. not humans .

engaging metaphor Hypotheses are ill-defined. not falsifiable .SUMMARY 1 Biological agents play a vital role in creating Earth’s physical and chemical environment Gaia suggests processes which are testable by which biota help maintain earth’s climate Emphasizes interdisciplinary work Colorful.

SUMMARY 2: Define these Homeostasis Albedo Emergent properties Daisyworld example Interdisciplinary .

.Working definition: 1 " . the physical and chemical condition of the surface of the Earth. This is in contrast to the conventional wisdom which held that life adapted to the planetary conditions as it and they evolved their separate ways.'' . of the atmosphere. and of the oceans has been and is actively made fit and comfortable by the presence of life itself..

and soil. the totality constituting a feedback of cybernetic systems which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.. oceans.[Gaia can be defined] as a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere. atmosphere.Working definition: 2 “The entire range of living matter on Earth from whales to viruses and from oaks to algae could be regarded as constituting a single living entity capable of maintaining the Earth's atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts.." .

but life goes on. The reverse is also true. and any species that adversely affects the environment is doomed. eventually the organism and the environmental change associated with it will become global in extent. then its spread will be assisted.Ecology "When the activity of an organism favors the environment as well as the organism itself." .

org/lovelock 1988 .The Gaia Hypothesis First presented in the 1970s by James Lovelock 1979 http://www.ecolo.

The Gaia Hypothesis: First presented in the 1970s by James Lovelock Lynn Margulis was an early supporter. and she pointed out the importance of microbial life .

Latest updates to Gaia 2006 2009 • Lovelock warns that humans are endangering the planet and that Gaia will get her revenge… .

including humans) is rare in the universe .The Medea and Rare Earth Hypotheses Peter Ward 2009 2000 Medea hypothesis: Life is harmful to the Earth! Rare Earth hypothesis: Complex life (animals.

The latest addition to this literature James Kasting Princeton University Press. 2010 •More optimistic than either Peter Ward or Jim Lovelock .

Lovelock. Norton & Company. 1996. Crist. Inc. Oxford University Press. W. Lynn. Miller. Massachusetts. 1992. Elisabet. Life as a Geologic Force.. Springer-Verlag New York. EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution. Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. MIT Press. New York. FREE in PDF. Great Barrington. The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth. Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution. Oxford. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. What is Life? Simon and Schuster. New York.ratical. James. Norton and Company. Myers. James. Anchor Books. Oxford University Press. Praeger. James. Lovelock. Lynn and Dorion Sagan.Reading list for the Gaia Theory: Bunyard. Lovelock. W. Gaia: An Atlas of Planetary Management. New York. 2004. Margulis.. Healing Gaia: Practical Medicine for the Planet. Freeman. HTML or text (Awaiting Re-printing) http://www. The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity. Gaia’s Body: Toward a Physiology of Earth. Inc. The Molecular Biology of Gaia. Margulis. Eds. Ed. Massachusetts Thompson. 1997. W. 2006. 2000. New York. England. New York. Pantheon Books. Basic Books. REPRINTED IN 1999 as “Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine” Lovelock. Dyson. 1991. 1949. Basic Books. New York. James. Margulis. New York. Garden City. Acquiring Genomes: The Theory of the Origins of Species. Edinburgh. Floris Book. Tyler. Oxford University Press. Cambridge.. Gaia in Action. Ed. 1987. Columbia University Press. James R. New York. University of California Press. Basic Books. Lynn and Dorion Sagan. New York. Harmony Books. Sahtouris. . A Sand County Almanac. Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scientist. Westbroek. and Sketches Here and There.html Schneider. 1984.W. Leopold. Lynn. Eileen and Penelope J. A Way of Knowing: Political Implications of the New Biology. Boston.. Steven From Eros to Gaia. Science of the Living Earth. Peter. Scientists Debate Gaia. Oxford. Margulis. Williams. Scotland. Norman. 1998. 2002. 1988. Gaia. New York. Aldo. Inc. James. 1996. 1991. New York. 1995. Lovelock.. 1979. England. New Jersey. 2000. Volk. 1998. William Irwin. Lindesfarne Press. California. Peter. George Ronald. and Dorian Sagan.

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