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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