Nine Real NASA Technologies in 'The Martian'
He must improvise and innovate to survive
The twin ideas of efficiency and resilience are important. Efficiency is about getting more for less, particularly energy. Although aerobic respiration’s energy efficiency allowed for to develop, they end up creating interactions and dependencies, and the entire structure can lose its resilience when compared to simpler systems. Remove one part of the food chain and the entire ecosystem can collapse, and it can be part of the chain, from top to bottom. Making systems more efficient, as the last bits of energy are wrung from the system, reduces their resilience to the real world’s surprises. That dynamic is probably a key contributing factor of mass extinctions during the eon of complex life. Modern ecosystems studies are making the connections clear and are being applied to the dynamics of human civilizations; work has been seminal in this regard. Complex ecosystems pass through of exploitation, conservation, release, and reorganization, and three dimensions of interaction are involved: potential, connectedness, and resilience. In general, simple systems are more stable than complex ones, which is another reason why any , if there were any, would have been far less cataclysmic than those of complex life.
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All species live within their niches, which are always primarily energy niches, in which an organism can obtain enough energy and preserve it for long enough to produce viable offspring. There are usually energy tradeoffs; efficiency could be sacrificed for rate of ingestion, so that efficiency was reduced but input was increased enough so that the increased cost of obtaining it was worthwhile, such as with . The primary measure of an organism’s success is its energy surplus, which is related to resilience. As an example, today a trout can live in a fast-moving current where food quickly arrives, which is efficient from an input perspective, but the energy spent swimming to maintain a presence in the current reduces the net energy surplus. A slower stream will provide less food per unit of time, but it also takes less energy to live there. In trout studies, the dominant trout will live where the optimal energy tradeoff exists, which leads to the greatest energy surplus. Less dominant trout will be pushed into the faster water, and the least competitive trout will be pushed into calm water and slowly starve. No species will last for long if it does not have a high enough energy surplus so that it can survive the vagaries of existence. The energy surplus issue has not been emphasized in biology during the past century, as the “” of a species has been emphasized, but it is the variable for understanding species fitness.