Mark Ritchie on A New Thermodynamics of Biochemistry, Part 1


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By Santa Fe Institute and Michael Garfield. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Deep inside your cells, the chemistry of life is hard at work to make the raw materials and channel the energy required for growth, maintenance, and reproduction. Few systems are as intricate or as mysterious. For this reason, how a cell does what it does remains a frontier for research — and, consequently, theory often grows unchecked by solid data. Most of what we know about the enzymatic processes of plant and animal metabolisms comes from test tube experiments, not studies in the context of a living organism. How much has this necessarily reductionist approach misled us, and what changes when we zoom out and think about life’s manufacturing and distribution in situ?

Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and every other week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe.

This week we open a two-part discussion with ecologist Mark Ritchie of Syracuse University on how he and his SFI collaborators are starting to rethink the intersections of thermodynamics and biology to better fit our scientific models to the patterns we observe in nature. Beginning with his history of research into biodiversity, environmental science, and plant-herbivore dynamics, this conversation leads us to his latest work on photosynthesis and scaling laws in cells — an inquiry with potent implications that reach far beyond the microscopic realm, to economics and the future of sustainability.

Subscribe to stay tuned for Part Two, in which we travel even deeper into how Mark’s work relates to other SFI research — and what his new perspectives may reveal about the nature of the complex crises faced by both human beings and the biosphere at large...

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Podcast theme music by Mitch Mignano.

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Related Reading & Listening:

Ritchie Lab at Syracuse University | Mark’s Google Scholar Page | Mark’s soil ecology startup

Reaction and diffusion thermodynamics explain optimal temperatures of biochemical reactions by Mark Ritchie in Scientific Reports

Thermodynamics Of Far From Equilibrium Systems, Biochemistry, And Life In A Warming World [Mark Ritchie’s 2021 SFI Seminar + @SFIscience Twitter thread on Mark’s talk]

Complexity Podcast 17: Chris Kempes on The Physical Constraints on Life & Evolution

Complexity Podcast 35: Scaling Laws & Social Networks in The Time of COVID-19 with Geoffrey West

Mentioned in this episode:

Sidney Redner
Geoffrey West
John Harte
Pablo Marquet
Jennifer Dunne
Brian Arthur
Chris Kempes

69 episodes