We’ve all heard about Mandelbrot sets – fantastically complex structures that can be created from a single equation and a very short program. Why, some people ask, couldn’t life be like that? And wouldn’t it be more mathematically elegant if it was? Physics types are especially prone to feel this way. Many of them might want to echo Louis IX’s famous remark on the Ptolemaic system, that if the Almighty had consulted him, he could have told Him a simpler way to make the cosmos.
I would ask these people to take a good look at the two pictures above. What I’m claiming is that life is not like a Mandelbrot set. It’s like an origami bull. The reason is that it embodies lots of instructions for making many different kinds of folded shapes (e.g. in proteins) which all work together. That’s why cell-based life cannot be simple. If you want to build simple life, make sure you don’t use proteins.
What do readers think?