Federal Centre for Complexity and Exobiology


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Research Themes

Complexity (ULB, K.U.Leuven, KMI-IRM)

  • Fundamental problems in complex systems research.
  • Dynamical instability and the issue of prediction.
  • Modeling the dynamics and long term evolution of ecosystems. The stability of complex networks.
  • Modeling chemical and biological evolution: thermodynamic and statistical mechanical constraints, self-organization scenarios.
  • Energetic, thermodynamics, chemistry and fluid mechanics of planetary atmospheres. Criteria of life sustainability.

Data assimilation and operational aspects (BIRA-IASB, B-USOC, KMI-IRM, K.U.Leuven, KSB-ORB)

  • Multi-dimensional modeling of Martian atmosphere
  • Using the already existing numerical framework, inverse modeling to determine relevant surface emissions.
  • The chemical data assimilation and its advantages will be applied to the research on the chemical composition for the planetary atmospheres .
  • Data assimilation and its advantages will be applied to the research on the interior of the planets
  • Telescience and management of real time operations during space missions

 

Geobiology (ULg, ULB, VUB, B-USOC)

  • Biomaterials and living cells under microgravity conditions.
  • Experimental research on biological and inorganic pattern formation
  • Origins of life: prebiotic chemistry, origins of biomolecules and cellularity
  • Evolution of life in relation with environment changes on early Earth and adaptation to extreme environmental conditions
  • Evolution of biogeochemical cycles
  • Identification of biosignatures from samples collected on Earth or extraterrestrial environments and from remote measurements
  • Physiology of space (effects of gravity, radiation)
  • Molecular phylogeny (Were ancestors of prokaryotes and eukaryotes extremophiles? Photosynthetic or chemosynthetic organisms?)

 

Planetology (ORB- KSB, BIRA-IASB, ULg, KMI-IRM, K.U.Leuven)

  • Exoplanet detection and characterization, using new techniques such as interferometry and coronagraphy
  • Characterization of geology, geomorphology , atmospheres and oceans of solar system bodies
  • Formation and evolution of planetary systems, and habitable planets
  • Chemical composition of interstellar clouds and comets
  • Planetary protection (biological contamination of terrestrial and extraterrestrial environments)
  • Effects of extraterrestrial events on the biosphere and its environment

 

Emerging synergies

In view of existing affinities and current and/or past collaborations, immediate synergies are expected already in the structuring phase on subjects such as:

  • Fundamental problems in complex systems research.
  • Dynamical instability and the issue of prediction. Analysis and prediction of extreme events.
  • Data analysis and assimilation techniques.
  • Biomaterials and living cells under microgravity conditions.
  • Modeling the dynamics and long term evolution of ecosystems. The stability of complex networks.
  • Modeling chemical and biological evolution: thermodynamic and statistical mechanical constraints, self-organization scenarios.
  • Experimental and theoretical research on biological and inorganic pattern formation.
  • Energetics, thermodynamics, chemistry and fluid mechanics of planetary atmospheres. Criteria of life sustainability.
  • Biological, geological and chemical characterization of early biosphere evolution and biosignatures for exobiology
  • Detection and characterization of exoplanets
  • Organic chemistry of comets

 

Synergy between Exo/Astrobiology and Complexity

Environment and Space interact decisively with human activity. They constitute a frame for the large scale realization of phenomena anticipated by the laws of nature which are usually observed at the more modest scale of the laboratory and, conversely, they have constituted on several occasions a source of inspiration for fundamental scientific discoveries that could not be envisaged had one been limited to ordinary laboratory conditions.

Last but not least they are the depositories of unique information on the origin of the universe as one knows it today and, more particularly, of the evolutionary processes leading to primitive life and to its more advanced forms of intelligence, which are at the heart of exobiology.

A common theme underlying these issues is complexity as manifested by the multitude of possible outcomes of an evolution, from the molecular to the cosmological scale. This feature is in turn related to the non-linear character of the underlying laws and suggests a new attitude towards the description of nature, where the traditional deterministic view is to be complemented with probabilistic considerations.

In this respect environmental and space science meet the concerns of non-linear science, thermodynamics and statistical physics, three scientific branches which have recently experienced spectacular developments and currently constitute the basis of a systematic approach to the problematic of complex systems.

The interest for the methodology of complex systems and for the related fields of non-linear science, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics in the understanding of some basic features of atmospheric and climate dynamics was recognized some time ago and gave rise to fruitful collaborations between Belgian federal and academic institutions.

The present proposal aims at building on existing affinities in order to consolidate and to amplify the collaboration and to position favorably the Belgian scientific community at the international level.

The originality of the proposed Center is the synergy between Exo/Astrobiology - a priority area of space agencies on both sides of the Atlantic  - and Complexity theory, an area in which Belgian researchers have made widely recognized pioneering contributions.

Design by B-USOC

 

 

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