Tagemergence

A New Theory of Everything

Technology Review covers Stuart Kauffman‘s work to find a mathematical model for autocatalytic sets, the process by which life may emerge from molecules:

What makes the approach so powerful is that the mathematics does not depend on the nature of chemistry–it is substrate independent. So the building blocks in an autocatalytic set need not be molecules at all but any units that can manipulate other units in the required way.

These units can be complex entities in themselves. “Perhaps it is not too far-fetched to think, for example, of the collection of bacterial species in your gut (several hundreds of them) as one big autocatalytic set,” say Kauffman and co.

And they go even further. They point out that the economy is essentially the process of transforming raw materials into products such as hammers and spades that themselves facilitate further transformation of raw materials and so on. “Perhaps we can also view the economy as an (emergent) autocatalytic set, exhibiting some sort of functional closure,” they speculate.

Could it be that the same idea–the general theory of autocatalytic sets–can help explain the origin of life, the nature of emergence and provide a mathematical foundation for organisation in economics?

Full Story: MIT Technology Review: The Single Theory That Could Explain Emergence, Organisation And The Origin of Life

(via Social Physicist)

I find this very interesting, but don’t get too excited. These sorts of grand unification theories are extremely elusive. I’m also skeptical of these sorts of models which try to find universal rules for all types of systems.

See also:

Social Physics with Kyle Findlay

Guest Post: Some resources for thinking about systems

Scientists discover missing link in the emergence of life

inorganic life

Philosophers and scientists have argued about the origins of life from inorganic matter ever since Empedocles (430 B.C.) argued that every thing in the universe is made up of a combination of four eternal ‘elements’ or ‘roots of all’: earth, water, air, and fire, and that all change is explained by the arrangement and rearrangement of these four elements. Now, scientists have discovered that simple peptides can organize into bi-layer membranes. The finding suggests a “missing link” between the pre-biotic Earth’s chemical inventory and the organizational scaffolding essential to life.

Daily Galaxy: Scientists Discover Missing Link Between Organic and Inorganic Life

(Thanks Wade)

Searching for the best initial configurations in Conway’s Game of Life

Edna

Above: Edna, the longest living soup currently known.

The Online Life-Like CA Soup Search is a collaborative online project designed to find interesting patterns in Life-like cellular automata by watching the evolution of random initial configurations (known as soups). In particular, random soups are evolved until they stabilize, and all the resulting stable patterns are uploaded to the server and catalogued. If the initial soup lived for an exceptionally long time then it is also uploaded to the server.

The Online Life-Like CA Soup Search

(via Fadereu)

Wanted: Home Computers to Join in Research on Artificial Life

In October, a small team of Silicon Valley researchers plans to turn software originally designed to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life to the task of looking for evidence of artificial life generated on a cluster of high-performance computers.

The effort, dubbed the EvoGrid, is the brainchild and doctoral dissertation topic of Bruce Damer, a Silicon Valley computer scientist who develops simulation software for NASA at a company, Digital Space, based in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Mr. Damer and his chief engineer, Peter Newman, are modeling their effort after the SETI@Home project, which was started by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, program to make use of hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected computers in homes and offices. The project turned these small computers into a vast supercomputer by using pattern recognition software on individual computers to sift through a vast amount of data to look for evidence of faint signals from civilizations elsewhere in the cosmos.

New York Times: Wanted: Home Computers to Join in Research on Artificial Life

(via Chris Arkenberg)

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