News Origin Of Life

The beauty of computer simulations of the origin of life is that they need never be life

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Now researchers from the Center for Fundamental Living Technology (FLINT), Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Southern Denmark, describe in the journal Europhysics Letters, how they, in a virtual computer experiment, have discovered information strings with peculiar properties.

Professor and head of FLINT, Steen Rasmussen, says: “Finding mechanisms to create information strings are essential for researchers working with artificial life.”

Steen Rasmussen and his colleagues know they face two problems:

Firstly long molecular strings are decomposed in water. This means that long information strings “break” quickly in water and turn into many short strings. Thus it is very difficult to maintain a population of long strings over time.

Secondly, it is difficult to make these molecules replicate without the use of modern enzymes, whereas it is easier to make a so-called ligation. A ligation is to connect any combination of two shorter strings into a longer string, assisted by another matching longer string. Ligation is the mechanism used by the SDU-researchers.

“In our computer simulation — our virtual molecular laboratory — information strings began to replicate quickly and efficiently as expected. However, we were struck to see that the system quickly developed an equal number of short and long information strings and further that a strong pattern selection on the strings had occurred. We could see that only very specific information patterns on the strings were to be seen in the surviving strings. We were puzzled: How could such a coordinated selection of strings occur, when we knew that we had not programmed it. The explanation had to be found in the way the strings interacted with each other,” explains Steen Rasmussen.

Okay, if this can just happen, why isn’t it happening all around us?

Why can’t life just come into existence randomly? (One reason could be that other life forms cabbage all the information/nutrients quickly, but that can’t be the whole story.)

Does nature just “naturally” produce life?

The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (origin of life)

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9 Replies to “The beauty of computer simulations of the origin of life is that they need never be life

  1. 1
    tjguy says:

    GREAT! Now let’s test it in the real world!

  2. 2
    News says:

    Real world? You mean, where everything wants to cabbage the materials for their own “life” projects?

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    “Finding mechanisms to create information strings are essential for researchers working with artificial life.”

    Mechanisms to create information. And then making choices. Information Guru Dembski predicted this.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    On Algorithmic Specified Complexity by Robert J. Marks II – video
    paraphrase (All Evolutionary Algorithms have failed to generate truly novel information including unexpected and ‘interesting emergent behaviors’) – Robert Marks
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=No3LZmPcwyg

  5. 5
    Bob O'H says:

    Okay, if this can just happen, why isn’t it happening all around us?

    How do you know it isn’t? 🙂

  6. 6

    In answer to “Okay, if this can just happen, why isn’t it happening all around us?”

    Molecular self-assembly and more complex self-organization are very common everywhere but we cannot normally see it happen with our eyes. Their model for molecular strings is in my opinion demonstrating a relatively simple process like this that becomes very complex when many kinds of molecules and conditions influence what self-organizes in a system:

    http://learningcenter.nsta.org....._074_07_72

    Since others already made the demonstration freely available online this is my personal copy as published by the NSTA:
    https://sites.google.com/site/garysgaulin/home/NSTA2007.pdf

    All cell organelles on their own self-assemble, just like they did billions of years ago. Therefore this is not something that evolved it simply happens when molecular conditions exist (including microenvironments inside cells that are kept just right for the self-assembly of a multitude of useful molecular machines that build and maintain their cellular world like build and maintain cities).

    I would say all this applies to the origin of life because of all cellular organelles being a product of common unintelligent self-assembly, which are controlled by molecular level (genetic) intelligent systems that inherently learn over time how to control all they can including each other but that’s something their virtual molecular laboratory model does not (at least yet) seem to demonstrate. The researchers might still be on the right track.

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    Why should an organism assembled by chance be able to replicate?

  8. 8
    ppolish says:

    It probably IS happening all around us – after all we are talking about a computer simulation. Lots of simulations humming as we speak.

  9. 9

    Axel, self-assembly is more like the opposite of chance. It’s something that always happens, absolutely repeatable.

    In the self-assembly of membranes demonstration vesicles are replicated by simply shaking. A genetic system automatically replicates their vesicle membrane in the process of replicating all that’s inside it that then goes off on its own.

    It might at first seem counterintuitive but self-assembling cellular organelles already replicate on their own very well, without needing to be alive or intelligent. Living things are structurally made of what already very easily self-replicates. What makes them alive is an intelligent process added to it that does not leave replication of its outer or inner vesicles or anything else up to chance (therefore we don’t need to by chance shake or churn cells so they can replicate that’s fully controlled by them instead).

    It is common for intelligence to take a random guess when no action response to a new experience is yet known. At any level a living thing sometimes has to try something new or may perish. But that too is a relatively well controlled (I would expect better overall than random) guess process that keeps it itself in control of its destiny, not outside random accidents that would more like just scramble its genetic memory.

    Modern cells have plenty of proofreading and repair mechanisms to further reduce accidents, which helps show how leaving things up to chance is as much as possible prevented from happening.

    I would say that an organism cannot be assembled by chance. Living things are the product of an intelligent process that emerges from the behavior of matter. Or in context for ID theory its premise holds true and can be tested on into physics by stating:

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause whereby in biology (behavior of matter self-assembles) a collective of intelligent entities at the molecular level (self-replicating genetic systems) combine to cause emergence of intelligence at the cellular level, which combine to cause the emergence of intelligence at the multicellular level, to create us who are thereby a trinity of self-similar intelligence levels at different size scales each systematically and behaviorally in its own image, likeness.

    More information is at: http://theoryofid.blogspot.com/

    With no “natural selection” in how the model works it’s not at all from Darwinian theory, which is not for explaining how intelligence and intelligent cause works anyway. Thinking in terms of “evolution” does not help either. The only way I know to get past existing generalizations is via ID. Most of a cell is then made of what on its own self-replicates and did not evolve while the rest (the part that makes a cell special) is the intelligence that makes it a living thing, which at all levels learns over time (even where that must be measured in billions of years).

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