Waiting “forever” for something to happen for the “first” time
November 1, 2012 | James Kohl
The Higgs, Boltzmann Brains, and Monkeys Typing Hamlet by Amir D. Aczel in Discover Magazine “The Crux”
Excerpt: “And there are theorems in the theory of probability where an event (a recurrence of a state, such as in a random walk or a Markov chain) will occur infinitely often–however, the waiting time for even the first recurrence can be proved to be infinite! This means that, yes, something can happen infinitely many times, but for it to occur the first time, you have to wait until “forever.” How does this fact affect “infinity” considerations in the practical realm of physics?
My comment: For comparison to the theoretical complexity of our physical realm, we can embrace the actual complexity of any cell. At some point in time, the first cell, “happened.” That’s a fact! The first cell did not need to happen infinitely many times, and cells do not exist only in theory.
We embrace cellular complexity when we recognize that the first cell contained the molecular mechanisms that allowed it to adaptively evolve into the different cell types of every different organism that ever existed. The existence or extinction of any individual cell or organism is nutrient chemical-dependent. For example, the nerve cells in our brain are dependent on glucose.
Nutrient chemicals enter the cell and cause intracellular changes that result in intermolecular changes in the genes of the cell (and in genes in the cells of all organisms). The intermolecular changes caused by the metabolism of the nutrient chemicals inside the cell or organism result in stochastic gene expression.
Stochastic gene expression is not random. As I just said, it results from nutrient chemicals like glucose entering the cell. Simply put, the cell or organism eats the nutrient chemicals (e.g., food), its genes are changed, and the cell or organism adapts to the changes or dies.
If the cell or organism adapts, the metabolism of the nutrient chemicals allows it to send signals to other cells or organisms. Signals to other organisms are nutrient chemical-dependent pheromones. These pheromones also cause intracellular changes that result in intermolecular changes in the genes of the cell (and in genes in the cells of all organisms). Their effect on the cell or organism controls its reproduction. Thus, nutrient chemicals and pheromones control cell survival and species survival.
The effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones on intracellular signaling, intermolecular changes, and stochastic gene expression are referred to as epigenetic effects in the context of “biological embedding” or adaptive evolution. Adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction is how biological embedding occurs. However, the epigenetic effects on adaptive evolution (or biological embedding) are not theoretical and need involve no physicists in attempts to explain cause and effect.
Is it best to embrace the actual biological complexity of the cell and of all organisms before attempting to embrace the complexity of the universe in which all organisms exist? The alternative to this bottom-up approach to understanding the biology of our behavior, is to start from the top down and first decipher the complexity of the universe.