Cell biology Intelligent Design

Researcher: Smartest engineers would be “totally stumped” by a cell

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structure of an animal cell/royroydeb (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From an article about Greg Johnson, a computer vision and machine learning researcher at the Allen Institute for Cell Science, on seeing inside living cells:

In short, understanding what cells look like on the inside — much less the myriad interactions among their parts — is hard even in the 21st century. “Think of a cell as a sophisticated machine like a car — except every 24 hours, you’ll have two cars in your driveway, and then four cars in your driveway,” said Greg Johnson, a computer vision and machine learning researcher at the Allen Institute for Cell Science. “If you found the smartest engineers in the world and said, ‘Make me a machine that does that,’ they would be totally stumped. That’s what I think of when I think of how little we know about how cells work.”

John Pavlus, “His Artificial Intelligence Sees Inside Living Cells” at Quanta

Hat tip: Heather Zeiger

See also: Yet another new type of intercellular communication discovered


Researcher asks, is the cell REALLY a machine?

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One Reply to “Researcher: Smartest engineers would be “totally stumped” by a cell

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “Think of a cell as a sophisticated machine like a car — except every 24 hours, you’ll have two cars in your driveway, and then four cars in your driveway,”

    Even that metaphor fails to capture the complexity of the cell. Michael Denton’s metaphor of a factory is a lot closer to the reality of the situation:

    “To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometres in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the portholes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings with find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus of itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometer in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of the DNA molecules. A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell. We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines. We would notice that the simplest of the functional components of the cell, the protein molecules, were astonishingly, complex pieces of molecular machinery, each one consisting of about three thousand atoms arranged in highly organized 3-D spatial conformation. We would wonder even more as we watched the strangely purposeful activities of these weird molecular machines, particularly when we realized that, despite all our accumulated knowledge of physics and chemistry, the task of designing one such molecular machine – that is one single functional protein molecule – would be completely beyond our capacity at present and will probably not be achieved until at least the beginning of the next century. Yet the life of the cell depends on the integrated activities of thousands, certainly tens, and probably hundreds of thousands of different protein molecules.
    We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction. In fact, so deep would be the feeling of deja-vu, so persuasive the analogy, that much of the terminology we would use to describe this fascinating molecular reality would be borrowed from the world of late twentieth-century technology.
    What we would be witnessing would be an object resembling an immense automated factory, a factory larger than a city and carrying out almost as many unique functions as all the manufacturing activities of man on earth. However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours. To witness such an act at a magnification of one thousand million times would be an awe-inspiring spectacle.”
    Michael Denton PhD., Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, pg.328

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