Are Planets ‘Living Super-Organisms’?

Daily Galaxy: Japan’s Maruyama Shigenori, one of the world’s leading geophysicists, is working on a global formula for a new field of study that would include dozens of disciplines collaborating to produce an overall picture of the Earth. As he connects the links from astronomy to life sciences, an outline emerges of an all-encompassing image of entire planets which appear as living super-organisms.

Shigenori believes that expanding the study of life sciences to the core of our world and the depths of outer space will help us find distant relatives of our own Earth — planets that could also sustain life.

Maruyama is creating a new institute called the Center for Bio-Earth Planetology will be launched in 2009 and fully dedicated to creating a new conception of life in space.He wants to find out if the continents will merge again in 250 million years to form a single super-continent; how meteorites change the chemical composition of the Earth; and what the connection is between the temperature of a planet and its magnetic field, which protects plants and animals from being bombarded with cosmic radiation, which in turn influences the rate of mutations and thus the development of new forms of life.

Maruyama is also provoking controversy in the with his new theory on the lifecycle of the Earth’s crust. To explain why contintental plates drift on the surface of the Earth’s molten mantle, Maruyama argues that continents actually have life cycles. Old, cold plates on continental fringes sink to “plate graveyards” deep in the Earth’s mantle, and then rise again, creating volcanoes fueled by three-dimensional convection movements deep below the surface.

Maruyama is taking the ideas of continental-drift pioneer Alfred Wegener to a new level. Wegener was a German explorer and meteorologist who believed back in 1912 that the continents roamed about on the surface of the Earth — an idea that was ridiculed by even his most supportive research colleagues as a “delirious vision” and “the wonderful dream of a great poet.” It wasn’t until the 1960s that studies of the ocean floor finally provided irrefutable proof that Wegener had been right after all.

Today, we all know that the continents are enormous plates that drift on the Earth’s red-hot mantle like icebergs on the ocean. Yet to this day, the hypothesis still lacks a logical and convincing foundation. Nobody has been able to explain the actual mechanics behind the motor that drives the drifting and breaking-up of the continental plates.