Light Reflections

Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, most current definitions in biology are descriptive. Life is considered a characteristic of something that preserves, furthers or reinforces its existence in the given environment. This characteristic exhibits all or most of the following traits:

Death is the permanent termination of all biological processes which sustain an organism, and as such, is the end of its life. Extinction is the term describing the dying out of a group or taxon, usually a species. Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of organisms.

Others take a systemic viewpoint that does not necessarily depend on molecular chemistry. One systemic definition of life is that living things are self-organizing and autopoietic (self-producing). Variations of this definition include Stuart Kauffman definition as an autonomous agent or a multi-agent system capable of reproducing itself or themselves, and of completing at least one thermodynamic work cycle.

These complex processes, called physiological functions, have underlying physical and chemical bases, as well as signaling and control mechanisms that are essential to maintaining life.

Living systems are open self-organizing living things that interact with their environment. These systems are maintained by flows of information, energy, and matter.

The exploration of the Americas revealed large numbers of new plants and animals that needed descriptions and classification. In the latter part of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th, careful study of animals commenced and was gradually extended until it formed a sufficient body of knowledge to serve as an anatomical basis for classification.

In the late 1740s, Carl Linnaeus introduced his system of binomial nomenclature for the classification of species. Linnaeus attempted to improve the composition and reduce the length of the previously used many-worded names by abolishing unnecessary rhetoric, introducing new descriptive terms and precisely defining their meaning. The Linnaean classification has eight levels: domains, kingdoms, phyla, class, order, family, genus, and species.

The fungi were originally treated as plants. For a short period Linnaeus had classified them in the taxon Vermes in Animalia, but later placed them back in Plantae. Copeland classified the Fungi in his Protoctista, thus partially avoiding the problem but acknowledging their special status.

Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, most current definitions in biology are descriptive. Life is considered a characteristic of something that preserves, furthers or reinforces its existence in the given environment. This characteristic exhibits all or most of the following traits:

Death is the permanent termination of all biological processes which sustain an organism, and as such, is the end of its life. Extinction is the term describing the dying out of a group or taxon, usually a species. Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of organisms.

Others take a systemic viewpoint that does not necessarily depend on molecular chemistry. One systemic definition of life is that living things are self-organizing and autopoietic (self-producing). Variations of this definition include Stuart Kauffman definition as an autonomous agent or a multi-agent system capable of reproducing itself or themselves, and of completing at least one thermodynamic work cycle.

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