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Thread: Viruses and Computer Viruses

  1. #1 Viruses and Computer Viruses 
    Forum Professor Daecon's Avatar
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    I'm curious to know whether people think of a virus as being "alive" or at the very least, a lifeform?

    Actually, I'm more interested in people's reasoning for their position on the life status of a biological virus.

    Now, with that in mind, I'm also interested in what people think about computer viruses and their status as compared to a biological virus.

    If you consider a virus to be alive, would you theoretically hold the same position for a compter virus or not, and why do you have the same or the opposite view?

    Of course, if you don't consider a biological virus to be a living thing, I guess it doesn't matter. Unless you consider compter viruses to be living and not biological ones, but that's a highly unorthodox opinion. (Cue the woo?)


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    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    A virus shows some aspects that defines life, like containing genetic material, a method of replication, it can evolve and it can die.

    A computer virus is simply a task which activates without your consent. A computer virus is as complicated as a picture, or an sound clip.

    I can't understand who would call a computer virus anything...


    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  4. #3  
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    There is a relationship. In both senses, a virus is a packet of information, with no supporting mechanism to do anything by itself. To have an effect, they must be inserted in a machine that has facilities the virus can take over. A classic "biological" virus inserts itself into a living cell and takes it over. A computer virus gets inserted into a computer's memory and takes over the computer.

    The differences are in the sort of machine the virus can take over, a cell versus a computer. And in the source -- biological viruses are presumed to have evolved naturally, through random mutation of genetic code filtered by the evolutionary need to survive and reproduce. The biological virus's prime imperative is to reproduce, damaging the host cell is not deliberate and in fact detrimental to the virus's reproduction. Computer viruses however, are created deliberately by humans, and though often designed to replicate and spread themselves to many computers, ultimately have some other purpose than simple replication, often deliberately destructive to the host computer or its human owner(s).
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    from the coding point of view, a computer virus is not any different from any other code - it's just that it makes your computer do things you didn't want it to do
    in that respect the definition of a computer virus has more to do with the intent than its content

    in a way, i suppose that's what viruses do in real life as well, i.e. make a cell do things that serve the virus's purposes rather than its own
    although of course there's no designer (yet?) and the only purpose a virus has (just like any other life form) is to propagate itself
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  6. #5  
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    I think that viruses are alive but I have doubts about prion's. They manage to replicate without having genetic material. Very scary disease causing , um , "stuff"..?
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    Forum Professor astromark's Avatar
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    The human DNA is riddled with viruses.. they are a essential part of our lives.. some of our body functions would fail without virus interventions.. Talk with a medical practitioner. A coal face emergency room triage specialist.. (they are great astronomers too.) . because it's about the science.. But as for my computer.. a concerning intervention that can lead to a melt down of your processor.. or total memory lose.. but dust and a spider can destroy the cooling fans and kill your PC.. dead. They have been labeled as a viruses, but are not the same as what lurks within us...
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  8. #7  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    I think that viruses are alive but I have doubts about prion's. They manage to replicate without having genetic material. Very scary disease causing , um , "stuff"..?

    Prions (proteinaceous infectious particles) are misfolded protein(s) (clusters).
    I would not classify prions as alive, as they miss several key characteristics to be classified as such.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    I think that viruses are alive but I have doubts about prion's. They manage to replicate without having genetic material. Very scary disease causing , um , "stuff"..?
    A virus is not alive, nor is a prion. However a virus is a life form, and a prion is not. A prion is no more than a chemical crystallizing, but then on a protein level. A prion can only "flip" proteins of a very limited type.

    A virus contained in an organism is a symbiotic/parasitic living organism, however, outside of the organism, a virus is just a pocket of DNA, nothing more alive then a bullet, or a bottle of coke. So basically, it is only alive when it is in its parasitic/symbiotic form. Thus it can't be called alive on its own, thus it can't be alive.
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  10. #9  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    A virus is not alive, nor is a prion. However a virus is a life form, and a prion is not. A prion is no more than a chemical crystallizing, but then on a protein level. A prion can only "flip" proteins of a very limited type.

    A virus contained in an organism is a symbiotic/parasitic living organism, however, outside of the organism, a virus is just a pocket of DNA, nothing more alive then a bullet, or a bottle of coke. So basically, it is only alive when it is in its parasitic/symbiotic form. Thus it can't be called alive on its own, thus it can't be alive.

    What is the difference between a lifeform and being alive?
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    A virus is not alive, nor is a prion. However a virus is a life form, and a prion is not. A prion is no more than a chemical crystallizing, but then on a protein level. A prion can only "flip" proteins of a very limited type.

    A virus contained in an organism is a symbiotic/parasitic living organism, however, outside of the organism, a virus is just a pocket of DNA, nothing more alive then a bullet, or a bottle of coke. So basically, it is only alive when it is in its parasitic/symbiotic form. Thus it can't be called alive on its own, thus it can't be alive.

    What is the difference between a lifeform and being alive?
    Alive, means independent, a life form is everything that can multiply itself somehow. A prion can't replicate itself, it can only deform original matter to itself. Which is very specific..
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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