Prebiological Emergence

Several examples of emergent properties can be found in physical and chemical sciences. They form an important prerequisite for protobiology and evolutionary processes. Within the area of physics some examples are nearly classical: Water (e.g., its wetness), which is a simple molecule with a rather complex behavior, that is unpredictable from knowledge about oxygen and hydrogen alone, has often been used to demonstrate emergent properties. Similarly, the sense of colors by the eyes is not predictable by knowing a certain wavelength of light.

Two famous chemical examples related to self-organized behavior of systems may also be mentioned, the Benard cells and the Bhelusov-Zabotinsky (BZ) reaction. In the case of Benard cells, during specific conditions, hexagonal, convective cells (the emerging structures) form a fluid when a thermal gradient is imposed on the experimental setup containment. In the BZ-reaction a special ratio of chemicals causes a mixture to perform a pulsing pattern in colors with a period of about one minute. The structure of these physico-chemical processes, gradients resulting in convective cells, pulsing patterns, together with other observations like the occurrence of Turing structures in chemical fluids, spontaneous formation of lipid coacervates, might be crucial to our understanding of the emergence of life.

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