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Victor Gorshkov: a life for the biosphere.

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The basic concept of the biotic regulation of Earth's temperature according to Gorshkov et al, 2002. The figure shows the potential function U(T) for the global mean surface temperature. Stable states correspond to pits, unstable states to hills. The modern value of +15°C (288 K) approximately corresponds to an unstable state (2, thin line). Physically stable states correspond to a frozen Earth (state 1) and a red-hot Earth (state 3). We are precariously living in a shallow minimum of potential energy that defines the habitable zone for the biosphere. This state can be created and maintained only by a healthy biosphere. On May 10th, 2019, Victor Gerogievic Gorshkov died in St. Petersburg after a life dedicated to scientific research that he continued to perform up to nearly the last moment. One year later, I thought I could publish this small homage to his figure and his work. His longtime coworker and companion, Anastassia Makarieva, was also kind enough to write a summary of Victor's life and work for this blog. In many ways, science follows the 20/80 rule, sometimes called the "Pareto's rule," which tells that 80% of the work is performed by just 20% of the performers. Maybe Pareto was an optimist and it may be that science works because, as Newton said long ago, a small number of "giants" emerge out of the general mediocrity. One of these creative people, a true giant of science, was Victor Gorshkov (1935-2019), researcher at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, in Russia.Understanding Gorshkov's work and ideas takes some time and patience. He was trained as a theoretical physicist and his approach was very different from the way most western scientists operate. I would say that it was exactly this difference that attracted me and made me tackle the non-trivial effort to read one of two main books: Biotic Regulation of the Environment, 2000.  (see also Physical and Biological Bases of Life Stability, 1995). Reading Victor's work is a. . .

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